Heidelberg, along with the Allgäu region in southern Bavaria, is one of my most favorite places in Germany. This fairy tale town in southwestern Germany is completely enchanting. Filled with scalloped bridges, a hill top castle that glitters at night, sweeping views at every turn and University charm, Heidelberg is a winner of a city.
Prost Xmas Styles!
Leave it to me to find the monkey!
One of my best friends came to visit last week, and during her trip we toured themost fabulous Christmas markets around the area. Heidelberg is a very easy hour and a half hour trip from Esslingen, with one quick connection in Stuttgart, so we took an early morning train and were ready to begin our day in Heidelberg around 10:30am. The Heidelberg Christmas markets are completely magical. Scattered around the Altstadt, touring the markets is a great way to explore and get a feel for the town on the Neckar river and everything it has to offer. I will mention it was a very brisk 30 degrees, so one of the first things we did was choose a tempting traditional looking stall for gluwein! *Spoiler alert – they were all super tempting!
Altstadt Heidelberg Xmas Market
You will see gluwein mentioned many times on this blog, as it is one of the main components that has helped me survive the winter season. It is a mulled wine served in Germany during winter, and made from red wine, boiled with oranges, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. It 100% tastes like Christmas in a cup. There is something very satisfying about sipping a mug of steaming gluwein, as you enjoy the glittering Xmas lights and breathe in the frosty air. There are many different types, my favorite type this year has been plum gluwein, and stalls each provide their own mugs, which you can purchase for 3 euros. Totally worth it. We have about six of them, I believe. My favorites are the mugs that show a picture of the market and include the city name and date. They are great Xmas gifts as well, as many of my friends can attest 🙂
After some strolling and shivering, we headed to the hilltop castle – Schloss Heidelberg. It is a relatively easy, well-marked walk up to the castle, though be warned it is rather steep and provides a nice workout before all the delicious Christmas market treats you should definitely plan to eat afterwards. Built in the early 1200s, the castle is a gorgeous example of well preserved castle ruins. Cost to enter is 7 euros.
View from the castle
After our castle walk, we returned to the aforementioned Christmas markets and spent the day strolling, sampling delicious snacks, sipping gluwein and seeing the sights. I thought the food was even better than the food at the Esslingen Xmas Market, which is one of my very favorites. We tried the Kartoffelpuffer – a fried potato pancake with a creamy apple sauce, a spicy sausage in a roll with lots of mustard called chiliknacker, red and rosé gluwein.
About this time we were borderline freezing, so we found an adorable, chocolaterie called Café YilliY which was so cozy I almost wanted to die. The cafe even had a pianist! We each had a cannoli filled with a light Nutella cream, and a cup of drinking chocolate. This was served with a cup of steaming hot milk (we were even able to order lactose free milk, which is a rarity in my area of Germany), and a bar of chocolate which you drop into the milk and stir vigorously. It was frothy, lightly sweet and delicious. I had milk chocolate. Sarah ordered vanilla & white chocolate, which is usually not my cup of tea at all, but was really tasty. I think this would be a huge hit at home in California. I should probably stress this fact – German bakeries tend to add far less sugar to their baked goods, to the point where their treats are borderline savory, so when you find a bakery that serves actual sweet desserts this deserves to be celebrated properly!
Potato pancakes and applesauce
Bars of drinking chocolate !
Other places I loved in Heidleberg:
Heidelberg Castle at night
View from Philosopher’s Weg
Frühstück! German breakfast: Assortment of cheeses and veggies with soft brown breads
Bit of a size difference here huh?
Zum Seppl – Last September we visited Heidelberg for our anniversary and loved this University bar so much we went back twice. Built in 1704 and atmospheric as hell, Zum Seppl boasts a live pianist every evening, delicious bar food, and German rollicking charm to spare. The dark wood paneled walls are covered with etchings, pictures and other paraphernalia from former students. On both visits Brad and I shared bowls full of shrimp swimming in a garlic butter wine sauce, with sauteed chilies and sun dried tomatoes, served with a bowl full of hearty German bread. We also sat right next to the pianist as this bar feels up FAST. Great experience.
Philopsher’s Weg: Gorgeous winding path on the northern banks of the Neckar River through Heidelberg’s Vineyards that offers sweeping views of the river and city. Bonus – the path’s romantic history. It gets its name from the many philosophers, poets and professors who traipsed its path.
I have been to Heidelberg twice – once for an anniversary trip and again for the Christmas Markets. I highly recommend visiting this adorable town on the Neckar River if you have the chance. Have you been to Germany? Do you have any favorite Christmas markets?