Hiking to the Heidelberg Schloß

There are a million ways to travel, but for me they all boil down to two fundamental approaches: Stay a few days and glimpse only the highlights — or stay a lifetime and still only glimpse the highlights.

In other words, you can never see it all.

I tried to keep this in mind as Esteban and I sped through Heidelberg last December. I had only 60 hours in this beautiful little city, so I was a bit reluctant when Esteban suggested spending our only full day on a hike up to the castle (Schloß, in German).

Heidelberg castle 1020943 BLOG

There has been a castle on this spot — perched some 300 feet above the city — since the 1300s. And although Heidelberg has grown considerably since then, you can still see the Schloß from almost anywhere in the city.

I grabbed my 600mm telephoto lens for a closer look. “Well, it does look pretty impressive,” I (grudgingly) admitted.

Heidelberg castle 1020918 BLOG

And so, armed with our 3€ tourist maps, we set off on our hike.

Route to Heidelberg castle
Actual imagined route

Yes, we got lost a couple of times — but very happily so. The views from those winding roads were fantastic!

Heidelberg bridge 1030059 BLOG

Heidelberg vane 1030048 BLOG

I also stopped along the way to gawk at some of the mansions that were built into the hillside. Even the rain spouts exuded personality.

Heidelberg waterspout 1030040 BLOG

Heidelberg waterspout 1030024 BLOG

And after about an hour of leisurely strolling, we finally reached the castle.

I won’t bore you with a history lesson. Except to tell you that the term “castle” is a bit — how shall we say? — outdated. What we actually have at the top of the hill, ladies and gentlemen, is the shell of a castle.

Heidelberg castle 1030096 BLOG

Yup, that’s right. The imposing-looking fortress that towers over the city is actually just a façade, the hollow remnants of a once-glorious regal residence. (I later learned that it’s sat empty since it was struck by lightning in 1764.)

Heidelberg castle 1030122 BLOG

I should have been disappointed, but I didn’t mind. We’d had a lovely walk — and I was enjoying the relative silence and solitude of the ruins.

Plus, we soon discovered perhaps the best reason to climb up that hill: the castle gardens and, especially, the Philosophenweg (“Philosopher’s Path/Way”).

Heidelberg castle 1030228 BLOG

Heidelberg castle 1030198 BLOG

Yes, I’d given up my only full day in Heidelberg. But in exchange, I’d gained this view of the entire city. (Well done, Esteban!)

Heidel pano 30169 to 30174 BLOG

Planning your own visit? Here are some more details about the castle — and how to get there.

Up next: Freiburg.


  1. Beautiful photos. I love the colours. I had only spent a couple of hours in Heidelberg, back in 96, and I just fell in love with it

    • Just a couple of hours, Dina? I suddenly feel very ashamed for whining that I only had a couple of days! 🙂 I hope you’re able to get back someday — especially for the Christmas markets. It really was magical.

    • You really *are* a darling! 🙂 I’m very honored and happy to have you along for the ride. (And just wait until we get to Freiburg! I’ve got some extra-special posts in store for what has become one of my favorite cities. Grin.)

  2. It looks beautiful, even in murky weather. The word ‘schloss’ has always appealed to me, I think mostly because of the childish fun of wilfully pronouncing it ‘schlob’. Sigh!

    Your photo of the path under the trees, by the way, is fabulous.

    • I am so relieved (yet somehow, not surprised) that you also delight in willfully mispronouncing German words, Dancing Beastie! Hard as I may try to take my studies seriously, I somehow always find myself giggling when I come across words like “Haarschmuck” and “gute Fahrt” and “Kartoffelpuffer.” *Grin.*

      • Now that I’ve stopped giggling helplessly, I’m going to email you a pic I found on Pinterest the other day which may appeal to your sense of humour as much as it did mine. Watch that space. 😀

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