Cookie Policy Privacy Policy

Visiting Heidelberg: A Local’s Guide

Visiting Heidelberg: A Local’s Guide

After several years living in the beautiful city of Heidelberg, I know some of the best sightseeing, cafes, Instagram spots, and views in this romantic, historic town. Whether you call them Sehenswürdigkeiten or seeing the sights, here is a local’s guide to Heidelberg, Germany.

Visitors often come through Heidelberg on an organized bus trip from one of the river cruises or as part of a larger tour of Germany. My son’s school used to be near the pedestrianized high street, the Hauptsraße, and I would work on my laptop in the mornings in the local cafes in the Altstadt. I have directed many a lost tourist to the Christmas decorations shop Käthe Wohlfahrt, or helped them find a USB cable or SD card for their camera. While these trips are nice for a quick taste of our beautiful riverside town, it really doesn’t do it justice. The comment I see most often from visitors is they wished they had stayed longer.

A very brief Heidelberg history overview

A jawbone from a prehistoric human dated between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, was found in the nearby town of Mauer, which was named Homo heidelbergensis. So it is safe to say humans have always lived in and around Heidelberg, ever since there were humans. In the 5th century BCE, Celts lived on the Heiligenberg (the mountain opposite the castle, across the river), and the remains of the fort is still visible. By 40 CE, the Romans had built a fort here, again on the opposite side of the river from the castle. The old stone supports from their bridge across the Neckar still stick up out of the ground in the park by the Neckar. The Romans remained until the local tribes took over in 260 CE. The first reference to a place called Heidelberg is from 1196, and the first castle was built around this time as well.

Looking at the Heidelberg Castle through Elizabeth’s Gate

Heidelberg Castle

Of course, our castle is one of the big attractions of our town. Even after many years here it doesn’t cease to feel magical to me. Definitely spend a half-day up there exploring, and if I can tell you one thing, it is this: take the tour inside. It’s the only way to see the interior and the tour guides are local history buffs, it’s very worth doing. I’ve detailed everything I know about visiting the castle as a local who has taken so many visitors up to Heidelberg Castle right here. After your visit to the castle, consider taking the old funicular further up the Königstuhl. There is a stop midway between the castle and the peak, where you can get a beautiful view over the Altstadt and Alte Brücke, and a little café offers snacks, tea and coffee during the spring and summer. When you continue up to the peak, you can hike around in the forest, or enjoy a meal at the new hotel and restaurant with biergarten when it opens [2021 note: I will check this out for you and report back as soon as it’s open!].

A view of the Altstadt and the Alte Brücke from the Königstuhl lookout point.
Take the old funicular right to the top of the Königstuhl
The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

Heidelberg Museum

Its actual name is the Kurpfälzisches Museum, and it is an excellent overview of the history of the region, with details on the extensive Roman settlement, the history of the castle, and the several uses of the Heiligenberg, the mountain opposite the Königstuhl where the castle is – including the Celtic hillfort, the Roman temple to Mithras, and the medieval monastery. It is very reasonably priced and has an excellent English-language audio tour. Plus part of the museum is in the Palais Morass, one of the most beautiful buildings on the pedestrianised high street. It makes me crazy that this lovely museum is left off nearly every Heidelberg blog post I’ve ever read. I’ve detailed the best route to take through the museum and some of the highlights for you here.

The cute farm shop at Neuburg Abbey

Neuburg Abbey

Just down the river is the Neuburg Abbey, a still functioning Benedictine monastery. Originally established in 1130, the monastery has had a complicated and varied history, weathering funding problems, changes of religion of the local ruler, and wars, many times over the centuries. Now, you can tour the complex with one of the resident monks, however they only offer these tours on the last Sunday of the month at 2pm. You can visit the attached monastery brewery and take a brewery tour but you need to register in advance here (you can arrange an English tour, but they don’t offer these as a matter of course). A tour includes tasting three of their beers, and some pretzel of course. Even if you don’t take the tour, stopping by the little brewery shop means you can pick up a few bottles for later, and wander through the small farm, waving at the cows. There is a small restaurant and farm shop on site as well, but the ownership is in flux, I will update here when there are more details and I’ve had a chance to test it for you. In December, they have a small Christmas market up here and it is beautiful. You can take one of the small ferries from Heidelberg to the monastery and then hike up the hill to visit from April to October, check Weiße Flotte’s schedule here.

>>Looking for the best way to get from Frankfurt Airport to Heidelberg? I’ve outlined them all here.

Come explore the back streets of the Altstadt on my audio tour

Altstadt tour

The Heidelberg Altstadt is very pretty, but if you’re looking for half-timbered houses, this isn’t quite the place. The French burned down nearly all of the buildings and houses in the late 17th century (except for the Hotel zum Ritter, opposite the Church of the Holy Ghost), so the rebuilding was more in the neoclassical style. The city tourism’s team does a good job with their English walking tours led by local people deeply interested in our city’s history, but they are only offered twice a week, even during the high season, and they are quite long – about 2 hours. Book ahead on their website here. If you’re looking for something a little more condensed and half the price, try my GPS-enabled Altstadt walking tour you can do on your phone anytime through Voicemap. It’s about 40 minutes long, and I have quite a few good reviews on TripAdvisor. 😉

>>Want to know where to eat in Heidelberg? I have you covered, with the best places for quick lunch, good coffee, schnitzel, and more

Tiefburg in Handschuhsheim

A short tram journey out of the Altstadt will bring you to Handschuhsheim, a very cute neighbourhood that was once its own vibrant village. You will see all over this area the symbol of a glove with red lining, and this is the coat of arms of Handschuhsheim. The village was first mentioned in 765, and although the name translates literally to ‘glove home’, it was not a village of glovemakers, but probably some kind of family name of the original Franconian people who lived here. The dialect spoken here is still Franconian, though you’re unlikely to hear it much these days. The small castle’s origin is lost to history, but it has been mentioned as far back as the 13th century, though parts of the buildings have been built and rebuilt many times over the years. The surrounding castle park has disappeared as houses were built in, but the original walls are incorporated all over the place in buildings that are still standing now. The moat was originally filled with water from the stream that came down the mountain, after passing six mills – you can trace the path by following the Mühltalstrasse (literal translation: mill valley street). The castle itself is owned by the city, and used for events like the local Christmas market and other seasonal festivals. Here’s a secret for you: there was a knight in full armour bricked up in one of the walls. No one knows why he was there, or what his name was – the noble who owned the castle in the 1770s found the body, and took him out. The armour was passed around in various collections of nobles, but is now lost. To get to Handschuhsheim go to the Bismarckplatz, the big bus and tram transfer point. Take the number 5 or 23 trams towards Schriesheim, and get off at the Handschuhsheimer Burgstraße (if your tram doesn’t immediately head towards the river and cross the bridge after leaving Bismarckplatz, you’ve gotten on one going the wrong way, so hop off at the next stop and try again!).

Handschuhsheim’s coat of arms
Peeking inside the Tiefburg during a local art festival

Heiligenberg

The mountain opposite the castle is the Heiligenberg, or Holy Mountain. This peak has been important to people for thousands of years, and it’s fascinating how many groups of humans have built temples or other places of worship up there. The Celts built a hillfort at the top, the double ring of earthworks is still visible, and indeed form the base of some of the paths. The Romans built a temple to Mithras, and medieval Christians built a monastery, parts of which are still standing. On sunny weekends, local families hike up here, and kids climb the ruined walls and play games on them. The other big structure up here is the Thingstätte, a huge outdoor amphitheatre built by the Nazis in the mid 1930s. It now sits empty and mostly unused, although each year on Walpurgis Night (30 April) there was a big unofficial festival where up to 15,000 people would come and dance by torch light. Revellers started some big fires in the last couple of years, and the city has now banned this practice! Watch our drone footage of the site, and see the burned spots on the ground, that’s from the last Walpurgis Night festival held there. There is a Biergarten up here, open during the late spring and summer, but it is of variable quality. It’s fine for a beer and snack break. If you don’t want to hike all the way to the top of the mountain, there is a bus that goes there in the spring and summer from Handschuhsheim, the number 38.

The Monastery of St Micheal on the Heiligenberg in Heidelberg
The Monastery of St Michael on the Heiligenberg in Heidelberg from above

>> Visiting Heidelberg with kids? I have a post just for you!

Looking down the river Neckar towards the Alte Brücke, you can just see the castle on the hill to the right

River Neckar tour

There are a few ships to choose from on the shore of the Neckar, and while the Neckarsonne, the solar powered boat, is very nice and quiet, the tour is very short. I would suggest a trip down river to Neckarsteinach, the town of four castles, with Weiße Flotte. None of these castle ruins are ones you can explore, but the little town has some nice corners to explore and it makes a bit of a change of pace. The views along this stretch of river are quite pretty, and these tours include a stop at the Neuburg Abbey as well. It’s worth noting this is just transportation, there is no guide involved – it’s more of a hop-on, hop-off kind of thing, like those bus tours in bigger cities.

>> How do you get from Frankfurt to Heidelberg? All the details right here.

Schwetzingen

A half hour bus ride from Heidelberg is the town of Schwetzingen, and the gorgeous summer palace of the Prince Electors of the Palatinate (the same people who built the castle in Heidelberg). The palace buildings themselves are not that interesting, and I wouldn’t recommend touring the inside, but 72 hectares of gardens are incredible. The plans for the version of the gardens you can see today were begun in the 1750s, when the highly regimented French style was all the rage. Over the next 50 years, styles changed and the wilder, less organised English style became popular, and the Schwetzingen gardens are a living monument to that switchover in horticultural tastes. The manicured lawns and grand fountains greet you as you walk through the archway in the middle of the palace, but wander down the paths and little scenes present themselves: a faux mosque, an English folly, an Italian grotto, little corners with stone benches for a picturesque rest, and more. We’ve visited over seven times and I’m still discovering parts of the garden I didn’t even know existed. In the summer, you will be able to witness lots of wedding parties in all their finery coming into the gardens for photos. In early spring, try and catch the cherry orchard in bloom in the walled garden, it is magical. Have a relaxing lunch on the Schlossplatz at one of the cafes with extensive outdoor seating, I suggest the Grüner Baum for traditional German and then heading across the street for gelato from Amami, definitely try their pistachio gelato – the man who owns this shop and one in Heidelberg is from Sicily and knows what he’s about when it comes to gelato!

You can see the French-style gardens right in front of the palace building.

Where to stay when you visit Heidelberg

I have an entire post on hotels in Heidelberg I’ve personally visited or my family and friends have actually stayed in, if you’d like a recommendation.

Where to eat in Heidelberg

I keep this post updated regularly! From traditional German to best breakfast places to coffee shops, I have you covered.

Follow:

Kurpfälzsiches Museum Heidelberg

Kurpfälzsiches Museum Heidelberg

Our city museum in Heidelberg has some fascinating exhibits, and I think it’s a shame I never see it in those ‘what to see in Heidelberg’ posts. It does an excellent job of putting the Heidelberg area in historical context – highlighting the extensive Roman settlement, and some of the personalities that lived in our glorious Heidelberg Castle. I highly recommend you make time for a half-day at the museum before you see all the sights of Heidelberg so you get the most out of your visit to my beautiful little town.

Kurpfälzisches – what does that mean?

The region that we now call Germany was once a patchwork, and I mean a very detailed patchwork, of duchies, free states, free cities, and bishoprics that shifted and changed allegiance every time someone powerful, somewhere, died. The term ‘Kurpfalz’ is translated to Elector Palatinate in English. From roughly 1200s through to around the early 1800s, the Holy Roman Emperor was chosen by a group of powerful princes, as well as a few assorted bishops – the number of which shifted over time, but somewhere from seven to ten people. The Kurpfalz refers to a region that covered up to the middle Rhine and Moselle valleys, parts of eastern France, and south down to around Karlsruhe, though the borders changed over time. It was one of the most important electoral regions, and Heidelberg was the capitol for much of this 600 year period. The term ‘Kurpfälzisches’ is the adjective form of this same word, because it’s describing the museum, so in English it would be Museum of the Elector Palatinate Region, essentially.

An overview of the exhibitions at the museum. Turn on the captions and set to auto-translate English to get a sense of what he’s saying

Museum in a palace

When you enter the museum off the Hauptstraße, you come in through the arched gate of the beautiful baroque Palais Morass. This building in itself is a bit of a wonder. Built in 1712 for Johann Philipp von Morass, who was rector of Heidelberg University for a time. Various nobles owned the palace for the next two hundred years (you can see von Bettendorff’s coat of arms above the entranceway from the mid 1700s), when it passed to the city of Heidelberg in 1906 to house the city’s art collection. You get to wander through the rooms of the Palais as you visit the museum, though there have been some modern extensions built in the courtyard.

Even on a dark day in March the courtyard of the museum is inviting.

Famous Heidelbergers

Heading up the staircase, you come face to face with a glorious painting of Heidelberg Castle and its gardens as they were imagined, though not quite completed, and a huge painting of Friedrich V, one of the most famous of the Prince Electors to live in the Heidelberg Castle. His wife was Elisabeth Stuart, daughter of James I of England, and it was for her that Friedrich commissioned the gardens. Moving through the nearby gallery, you can listen to stories in English on the audio guide about the dwarf tailor from Italy called Perkeo who became a vital member of the Heidelberg court.

Liselotte von der Pfalz, the original painting is on display at the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim

Liselotte forever

My favourite Heidelberg historic personality has to be Liselotte. If you’ve watched the TV series Versailles, you’ve met her already. The acerbic wit of the French court of the Sun King, Liselotte grew up at Heidelberg Castle, and had many fond memories of climbing trees and exploring. She was married off to the French king’s brother in 1671, leaving her beloved Heidelberg behind forever. Her 60,000 letters to her friends and family back home in Germany are a masterclass in snarky observation on the French court. You’ll notice a few of the small tour boats and ferries on the river Neckar are named ‘Liselotte’ in her honour.

Salon in the Palais Morass

Walk with the ghosts of Goethe and Chopin

The next parts of the museum are in the Palais Morass proper. Wander these beautiful rooms, knowing that you’re standing where Goethe attended a dinner party, and Chopin gave a thank you concert to the surgeon who operated on his hand. I particularly like listening to the music samples played on the fragile and beautiful fortepiano – look for the numbers on little signs near the instrument. In the cabinets you can see some delicate examples of early Frankenthal porcelain, produced when the secret to making it was still new to Europe. Don’t forget to look up, there are some dramatic and unusual chandeliers in these rooms.

Replica of one of the reliefs in the Roman Mithras temple in Heidelberg

Roman Heidelberg

When I bring visitors to the museum, I skip the paintings and head downstairs for the archeology exhibits. Our castle tends to overshadow Heidelberg, in more ways than one, and your average day trip visitor may never hear about our extensive history as a Roman settlement. On the opposite bank of the river Neckar from the castle is the neighbourhood of Neuenheim, whose pretty Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) villas and riverside meadow make it an attractive place to live. Underneath the houses, though, are the remains of the Roman fortification and settlement. If you walk along the Neckarwiese (Neckar meadow, the green park on the riverside where everyone goes to barbeque) today, you can still see a few of the Roman stone bridge supports sticking out of the ground. In the archeological sections of the museum, you can see a life-size reconstruction of part of the Roman burial ground. The hilltop across the valley from the castle was special to many groups of people, hosting a Celtic hillfort, Roman temple of Mithras, and a monastery in the middle ages, and the museum has recreated several of these structures in models. Make sure to look at the 4-metre high Jupiter column, rescued a well shaft and nearly perfectly preserved. Possibly my favourite part of these exhibits is the discussion of a discovery of a shaft full of pottery, nearly 2,000 pots, tossed away. Most of them weren’t broken, so why were they disposed of? I can only imagine some poor pottery shop made 2,000 pieces in the wrong colour or something, but we’ll never know!

It’s hard to miss this bright red facade on the Hauptstraße

Visiting the Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

It’s easy to stop in at the museum on a stroll down the Hauptstraße, it’s a little bit of a walk from the centre of the Old Town.

The museum is open year round from 10am-6pm, Tuesday to Sunday excepting holidays (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Shrove Tuesday and 1 May)

Entrance is only €3 per adult, €1.80 on Sundays, and the audio guide is included in your ticket price

Children up to 16 years old are free

Audio guides are available in German, English, and Russian

There are free lockers for coats and large bags directly past the Admission desk, and they ask that you don’t take these into the museum.

Occasionally there are special exhibitions that require an additional entrance fee if you want to visit them.

There is a café in the garden, but it is not strictly attached to the museum, I have never tried it as the prices are a bit steep for me. If you’re looking for lunch after your museum visit, I recommend Gino’s for a wrap on house-made flatbread, it’s a short walk along the Hauptstraße towards the castle (number 113A) – it’s super tasty, very reasonably priced and the staff are lovely. If that’s not quite to your taste, I have a whole post on where to eat in Heidelberg that might help.

Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg
Hauptstraße 97, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Follow:

Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Different cities have different styles, but if you’re looking for what to wear in Germany, this post will get you started so you’re prepared for our variable spring weather, and don’t immediately stand out as a tourist.

Spring is a tough season to pack for when you’re heading on a multi-city trip through Germany. I find it hard to dress for and I live here! Go for layering and be realistic about your planned activities. Above all, be ready to walk

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on one, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Don’t wear yoga pants

Gym clothes are for the gym – you won’t find people wearing yoga trousers unless they have literally just finished a class, and even then, they will change before going out on the street. This goes triply so for sweatpants. Try a relaxed pair of flowy trousers or more structured yet stretchy ponte if you’re looking for comfort. A dark pair of slim or skinny jeans, a nice top and a cardigan, with a scarf thrown over the top, will do well in any German city. I have joked with my husband there is a German Dad uniform on the weekends: chinos in a dark colour, t-shirt or collared shirt, and a v-neck jumper on top. Seriously, I saw every single dad dressed like this in a Frankfurt museum the other day. 

Outerwear

Spring is a changeable season everywhere, and if you’re planning on visiting Berlin or Munich, be ready for wind. A good trench coat, ideally with a water resistant or waterproof coating, will be your best friend, and it works well layered with a sweater or cardigan. It looks equally nice on top of jeans as a nice dress when you’re heading out for dinner. This is where I find more technical rain coats fall down – you want to go to a nice restaurant, but Gortex just doesn’t fit the bill. Unless you’re planning a serious hiking holiday (in which case you’ll need other clothes anyway), bring a trench or another nice wind and rain resistant jacket. 

Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Universal Standard Trench
Guess Trench Coat
Guess Trench Coat
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Ted Baker Contrast Trim Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
Via Spiga Water Repellent Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench
M&S Stormwear Trench

Scarves

A few good scarfs, from silk to lightweight knit, will fill in the gaps when the weathers takes you by surprise. They take up practically no space in your luggage (I like to shove mine into my shoes) and it makes any outfit that bit more sophisticated. Wear it in your hair, pull it around your shoulders when you’re on an open-top bus tour, tie it to your bag for a pop of colour, sleep under it on a long train journey – I love a good scarf or three when traveling. You will see everyone in Germany wearing scarves in all weathers – men and women.

Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Wrap scarf
Wrap scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Crinkle linen scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Lightweight woven scarf
Mulberry silk scarf
Mulberry silk scarf

Shoes

You will be walking everywhere, so bring sensible shoes, everyone says. Yes well, sensible doesn’t have to mean ginormous gym shoes. You’re in luck, because The Thing over here for several seasons has been crisp white trainers with anything. I personally love my Italian Supergra hightops, but any low-profile white trainer will do the trick. The second most ubiquitous shoe choice are sleek ankle boots, and these are also easy to find in seriously comfortable options. I love my Blundstones, and wear them everywhere… they are fully waterproof, slip on easily, and with a little polish look good as new no matter what I throw at them. 

Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Blundstones heeled
Blundstones Chelsea boot fancy
Blundstones Chelsea boot
Supergra hightop trainer
Supergra low-rise trainer
Tübingen
The picturesque riverside in Tübingen

Dresses

I am a dress and cardigan woman through and through, but I truly believe it’s one of the easiest travel outfits ever. Even in spring. From March to June, spring in Europe can be variable, so be pack for cooler temperatures and a few warm days too. Bring several pairs of leggings to wear underneath and you’ll be fine. I personally prefer leggings to tights for daytime wear, as I find them more breathable and forgiving over a long day. I just tuck a pair of black socks on under black leggings, and with ankle boots, honestly no one notices. A good midi dress with a cardigan, leggings, ankle boots, trench coat, and scarf can take you pretty much anywhere looking put together and feeling super comfortable. It turns hot in the afternoon? Whip off those leggings or the cardigan. The wind picks up? Do up your cardigan and coat, wrap the scarf around your shoulders for an extra layer. 

Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Cardigan
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Joanie Rabbit print dress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Karen Kane Shirtdress
Bomber Jacket
Bomber Jacket
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Universal Standard Geneva dress
Tshirt dress
Tshirt dress

Bags

I am not a fan of daypacks. I know they are practical, but they look huge, and when you’re going in and out of museums, squeezing onto busy public transport, and walking down small streets, they are a pain to you and to everyone else around you. Stick with a practical crossbody bag or messenger bag. It’s easier to keep it in eyesight in case of pick-pockets, and easier to access. Honestly, a small water bottle you can refill, your camera, your phone, your wallet, tissues, a snack bar, a lipstick, keys, plasters – there’s not much else you need for a day out. Take advantage of my search for stylish camera bags right here.

Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack
Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack
Shoulder camera bag
Vintage looking camera bag
Johansen Siena Camera Bag
Cambridge Satchel Company Traveller Bag
Jo Totes Camera backpack

One-week Spring Germany packing list

  • One shirtdress
  • One super easy jersey dress
  • One sweater dress
  • One midi skirt
  • One pair of stretchy skinny jeans
  • Two cardigans
  • One turtleneck sweater
  • Two t-shirts (I like H&M for these basics)
  • Two pairs of leggings
  • Trench coat
  • Three scarves
  • Two pairs of earrings
  • Two necklaces
  • Cotton underwear
  • Bras
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera bag/cross-body bag
  • One pair ankle boots
  • One pair trainers

Cosmetics and toiletries

I keep my cosmetics pretty streamlined in general, so when I travel there’s nothing really different than my usual routine. I do often opt for make-up remover wipes, and throw a bunch of cotton pads in a zip-top bag with my favourite exfoliator squirted all over them. But that’s it! It’s worth noting that in Germany, most women go for a fresh-faced look with minimal eye makeup and neutral lip colour.

  • Make up (foundation, concealer, mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil)
  • Make-up remover wipes like these
  • Ziptop bag with cotton pads soaked in Pixi Glow Tonic
  • Medicines

Charging infrastructure

This is our family name for all the cables, chargers, and whatnot required to keep everything plugged in and charged while we’re away. Mine is a bit different as I have to bring my CPAP machine with me when I travel, so I bring a surge-protected power bar with built-in USB ports for plugging in my devices. But my husband brings just a plug-in USB charging block, that has the brightest light on it ever, so it functions as a nightlight as well. We’re also adding a couple of universal plug adapters to our infrastructure as well.

Multi-port plug adaptorMulti-port USB plug in blockSurge protected power bar

Pin for later!

Heading to Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, or Cologne? I've got you covered with a practical packing list for spring time in Germany.

This post was originally published in January 2019, updated in March 2021

Follow:

Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

I don’t normally dedicate an entire post to any kind of product, but I’m making an exception for Atlas Crates and KiwiCo because it has saved my sanity over the past year in and out of lockdowns. The links in this post are affiliate links, but other than that I have received no compensation to write this post.

Here’s a bit more about what KiwiCo does, if you’ve never seen their crates

My son is now 11 and a half, and we have been subscribing to Kiwi Crates since he was about five. KiwiCo is a company that creates subscription boxes with projects for kids (and now adults) for learning and creating. I love these boxes because everything you need to do the project is in the box (except scissors). Glue, paint, sticky things, paper clips, bits of metal, pieces of lightweight balsa wood – it’s all in there. The instructions are clear and written for kids to follow, and they provide videos on their website if that’s easier. From about eight years old my son could follow the directions on his own. My son has never been a sit and do crafts kind of child, he’s not even been all that into building LEGO for hours or anything – but he will sit and work on a project from KiwiCo for a good 90 minutes. The crates come in different age ranges, and even different subject areas – from a slime volcano to sewing a plushie, there’s something for every kid.

Atlas Crate Explore Italy Geography Kit

New Atlas Crates

When KiwiCo launched their new Atlas Crates last year, I was really interested to try them because we travel so much, but everything had shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. The Atlas Crate is pitched for ages 6-11, and the aim is to learn more about and appreciate other cultures. So far we’ve made the projects in the Japan, Colombia, France, Greece, France and Madagascar crates. There is a project or two inside the box, as well as a booklet talking about the traditions, food (with recipes!), and geography of the country you’re learning about. Sometimes we come across a photo from one of those countries, and my son will point out a detail, ‘Look, it’s like the thing I made from my Atlas Crate!’ – just what I want to hear. I just asked him which was his favourite, he said, ‘Sweden! It had a cool game in it’. The game is Kubb, where you throw wooden sticks and large wooden blocks, trying to knock them over.

Atlas Crate Explore Greece Geography Kit

Finally, a project I don’t have to organize

I hear you, we’ve been online schooling at home for months now and we’re missing the hands-on aspect of in-person school. We also subscribe to Tinker Crates, aimed at ages 9-16. These are engineering/STEM projects where kids build something like a crane, a spirograph, or a model trebuchet from parts so they see how it works. What I really like about these projects is they are ambitious and impressive. It’s not a dinky little catapult, it’s a working trebuchet. It’s not a wobbly spirograph, but a motorized paint splatter art maker you’ve built from the circuit board up. My son is thrilled when he’s finished one of these, and really proud he’s made it work. The only downside of these projects is the storage space afterwards – after a year or two of these crates every month, we really have to prioritise which we keep and which we recycle.

My son reading about the continents, from his first Atlas Crate

Support for parents with kids learning at home

KiwiCo has stepped up their online resources for parents trying to help their kids learn at home during lockdowns. Check out this part of their site for free project plans, craft ideas, kitchen experiments, and more. From ‘how to draw a dinosaur’ to ‘the science of handwashing’, this is a bit of a lifesaver when your well of things to do has run dry.

Where does KiwiCo ship to?

KiwiCo is an American company, but we have received our crates in Canada and Germany, and they ship to most of Europe, Hong Kong, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. We have not had to pay duty or any import fees on our crates in Canada or Germany. You can check the full list of places they ship to here. It’s worth noting that while their subscription boxes are available internationally, single projects from their store are only available in the US and Canada.

Atlas Crate Explore Australia Geography Kit

At a loss for a gift? Give a single crate or a subscription

I promise you, any parent would be glad to receive a box like this for their child – it’s an educational yet entertaining activity that they didn’t have to plan. You can check out their store for specific projects (single projects only available to ship to the US and Canada, but subscriptions can work internationally) and their matcher-upper will help you narrow down the right project for the right age group. You can supplement any crate with a book to go with it as well, which I think is great for a gift. We have also had crate subscriptions kindly gifted to us by family, which has been such a boon over this very long year spent at home. My son loves sharing his recent projects with family over FaceTime.

Just a reminder, the links in this post are affiliate links, but I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post. We have been using KiwiCo crates for years and years, and I recommend them to everyone I know.

First Month Free! Receive first month free with a 6 or 12-month subscription purchase from KiwiCo.

Follow:

Visit Castle Lichtenstein (Schloss Lichtenstein), the fairy tale castle of Baden-Württemberg

Visit Castle Lichtenstein (Schloss Lichtenstein), the fairy tale castle of Baden-Württemberg

If you are as obsessed with castles as I am, chances are you’ve seen photos of Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein perched on a clifftop in Baden-Württemberg (NOT in the small principality of Liechstenstein). This little jewel of a castle is definitely worth visiting on your trip to southern Germany.

Please note: Schloss Lichtenstein is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please do save this post for your future planning!

When you come through the entrance gate, don’t forget to turn around.

This is an old castle, right?

Actually, no. This is a new build from 1840, but the old castle ruins are about 500m away. The old castle was built around 1100, the property of the local count, who had a long-running unfriendliness with the nearby free city of Reutlingen. Skirmishes and all-out battles destroyed the old castle twice, despite its impressive location on the cliffs. Changes in the political landscape meant it was abandoned in the 16th century. The old castle saw a little action in the Thirty Years War that ravaged most of Baden-Württemberg in the first half of the 1600s, but by that time the last member of the Lichtenstein family had already died. In typical unsentimental fashion, King Frederick of Württemberg took apart the ruins and built a hunting lodge on top of it in 1802.

Ivy-covered building in the courtyard of Schloss Lichtenstein

Who built the Lichtenstein Castle?

Romanticism was in full swing in the 1800s, and a full-scale nostalgia for a largely imaginary medieval past full of knights and ladies had gripped the upper classes of Europe. German poet Wilhelm Hauff wrote a historical novel set in medieval Swabia (this region of Germany), and called it Lichtenstein. King Frederick’s cousin Count Wilhelm von Urach was so taken with the novel, he purchased the land in 1837 and built a castle on it, as he imagined it would have been in the 1500s. The castle is still owned by the descendants of Wilhelm von Urach.

While this castle is very picturesque, you may be a bit surprised when visiting as it really is not very big. The interiors, however, make up for its small size by being covered, on every surface, with a riot of colour, pattern, and ornament. I don’t have photographs of the interiors, as with most privately owned castles (!) you can’t take photos on the tour. Take a quick look at the gallery part of their website, however, to get a sense of the maximalism.

One of the most fascinating elements of the castle, for me, was the dining hall. It is connected to a room above and to the side by a large vent, covered with a decorative screen. For parties, the Count (later he became a Duke, as one does) would have his house musicians play in this adjoining room, and the music would float in to the dining hall.

>> Five more castles to visit in this region

Do I need to take a tour of Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein?

Like most castles in Germany, a guided tour is required to see the inside of the building, and it is well worth your time. The tour is only half an hour, you can buy a ticket for a tour when you buy your castle courtyard entry ticket, though you don’t need to book a specific time but do ask when the next English-language tour starts when you buy your tickets. The groups for the castle tour meet on the bridge to the castle, so if you’d like a good photo from this vantage point, it’s best to catch the lull between tours. It’s worth noting here that there are stairs involved in the tour, so wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.

There aren’t many formal gardens around the castle, but the fortification wall offers some spectacular views down into the valley. There are some lovely meadows and hiking paths too. If you’re interested in the local hiking, there are maps to several local routes on the castle’s site here. The ruins of the old castle are very underwhelming, you might come upon them when wandering in the grounds. The stones have been thoroughly plundered for building the new castle!

Adventure park and cafe

Outside of the castle courtyard there is the adventure park, with a rope climbing course up in the trees. This is a popular type of activity in Germany, called a ‘Kletterwald’ or climbing forest. You get kitted out in a helmet and harness, and climb along ropes or narrow boards high in the trees. Children from eight years old can climb with an adult, and you can have up to two children climbing with you. This is adventure park is completely separate from the castle, but it’s literally next door, so they share a parking lot. To climb for three hours, it costs €23 per adult, and €17 per child, though there are family rates as well. You need to have a scarf to wrap your hair with under the helmet, and if you don’t have one they will sell you one for €3 each. Do check the rates and restrictions beforehand.  There’s also a little fast food café there too with tables outside, if you’re looking for something less formal than a sit down meal.  

View through the Schlosspark

When is the best time to go?

The Schloss Lichtenstein is open from March to December, 9am-5:30pm (April-October) and 10am-4pm (March, November, and December), though they close for Christmas each year from 24-26 December. It’s best to arrive as close as you can manage to the opening time for a less busy visit. The summer is of course a nice time to visit, but the autumn foliage in October is absolutely gorgeous.

How to get to Schloss Lichtenstein

There is no question that getting to Schloss Lichtenstein is easiest by car. However, it’s not impossible by public transport. The town of Lichtenstein is not, confusingly, the closest town to the castle. Buses leave hourly from Reutlingen, the nearest city, to Honau, the village in the valley below the castle. The hike up to the castle itself is fairly uphill and can take about half an hour. I have not done this walk myself so I can’t speak to the difficulty, but I have driven up the windy road and I would expect this hike would be too much if you’re travelling with kids and expecting to then explore the castle and grounds. There are organized tours to the castle, but as the grounds are currently closed, I can’t point you to any. Once this changes I will update this post!

Top image: Jacqueline Brooker

You can reach Reutlingen easily by train, you can book a ticket here in English.

PS – Looking for more great day trip ideas from Stuttgart? I have more here!

Follow: