Heidelberg's picturesque scenery means that it's long been a favourite spot for artists. Heidelberg Castle is perched above the city and the Neckar River winds slowly through its centre, past cobbled squares, historic bridges and Baroque buildings. In the summer, the city's green riverside is full of students throwing frisbees and playing guitars. It's one of Germany's top university towns thanks to centuries-old Heidelberg University; look out for museums, libraries and lively student bars.
You can stay in a Heidelberg hostel next to the train station, in contemporary rooms in a quiet part of the city or in a heritage building with views of Heidelberg Castle. Hostels in Heidelberg have options such as private rooms and dorms (including female-only dorms) and a few have a scenic balcony or sun terrace. Grab a bite to eat at an on-site bistro or cook your own meals in a communal kitchen.
The city has a number of neighbourhoods to explore. The old town, Altstadt, has historic buildings and one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets, where you'll find lots of bookshops. Market Square (Marktplatz) is full of cafés and the Corn Market (Kornmarkt) is home to a famous statue of the Madonna, where you can sit and watch the world go by. Downtown Bismarckplatz is a hotspot for shopping, while across the river, the Neuenheim district has one of the oldest and largest botanical gardens in Germany, along with popular riverside hangout Neckarwiese Park.
There are several iconic sights in Heidelberg. Its castle has dramatic ruins, plus gardens and a museum housed in its better-preserved Palace building. You can travel up from the Old Town on the funicular railway. The arched Karl Theodor Bridge on the Neckar River has a monkey sculpture said to bring good luck. Discover a quirky side of the city's history at its Studentenkarzer (student jail), covered in historic graffiti. In former times, it was a badge of honour to be detained here for drunken revelry.
From Frankfurt Airport, you can take a Lufthansa shuttle bus (about an hour's journey) or an Inter City Express (ICE) train. From Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, buses take just over 2 hours. Heidelberg railway station is in the west of the city and has long-distance and local trains, with direct services to Munich and Vienna. Within the city, visitors can catch trams and buses or rent a bike. Some areas in the old town are pedestrian zones and the centre is compact enough to explore on foot.