Heidelberg is a lovely day trip from Frankfurt. In one day you can easily visit the castle, have a leisurely lunch on the pedestrianized main street, visit the excellent museum, and maybe even have a quick trip on the river Neckar before heading back to Frankfurt. I’m biased because I live here, but I would definitely suggest staying over for the night and exploring our little city a bit more – but it’s definitely possible to do Heidelberg in a day trip from Frankfurt.
You have four options:
- Take a tour from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
- Train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
- Airport shuttle from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Heidelberg
- Rent a car and drive from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
Tours from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
If you’d rather not plan all the nitty gritty yourself, there are several options for coach tours leaving from Frankfurt (check availbility here). The benefits of taking one of these:
- Air-conditioned coach (this is important in the summer when the temperatures here hit a humid 30º+ (86ºF)
- Tours will take you straight up to the castle
- Guided walk through the Heidelberg Old Town
- You don’t have to research or plan
- It’s an easy way to slot in a trip to Heidelberg on your holiday
The downsides are they can be more expensive than doing a trip yourself, and if you want to see something else, you’re stuck with your group. However, I completely understand getting a bit overwhelmed with vacation planning details! These tours are generally adult-orientated, but older kids should be fine. If you’re travelling with younger school-age kids or toddlers, it’s best to stick to train or car travel.
Train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
This trip is very easy, as there’s a direct train that runs from the main train station in Frankfurt to the main station in Heidelberg. It takes just under an hour, and the trains are pleasant and clean. It’s about 80€ return for two adults and two children for this trip. You can book it right here in English:
A cheaper way to book this trip is to buy a Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket, this is a special saver price for regional trains only (IC and ICE trains are not included) – for two adults it is 52€, with all children travelling for free. However, this route will take an extra half an hour, and you will have to change trains midway. I suggest buying this ticket online, and then confirming your route with the information desk at the Frankfurt main station.
Upon arriving in Heidelberg, don’t panic! The main Heidelberg train station is a bit grim, as are the surrounding streets. Head out of the station with the herd of people from your train to the tram and bus stops. There you will need to buy another ticket for local Heidelberg travel from a machine at the stop, or you can buy a ticket from the bus driver. You are going to take a number 32 bus to Universitätplatz. On this journey, the bus pulls into a big plaza called Bismarckplatz in front of the Galeria Kaufhof department store, where lots of people get off and on, but you will be staying on. The bus then drives along the river Neckar for awhile, and then turns into some very narrow streets. The buildings start getting older and then you get off at the last stop, Universitätplatz. You are now in Heidelberg’s Old Town! When facing the river, you want to walk left to reach the main Marktplatz and the castle.
Taking an airport shuttle from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Heidelberg
From Frankfurt Airport you can catch an airport shuttle straight to central Heidelberg, complete with car seats should you need it. It’s a large minibus with posh leather seats, seat belts, and air conditioning. You can book your Frankfurt to Heidelberg airport shuttle online here. The plus side of this service is there is no transferring (the train route requires a change at Mannheim), and if you’re traveling with kids, this is a bit easier. If you book it last minute it’s about the same price as the train, and if you book it 4-6 weeks in advance it’s much cheaper – starting from 12€ one way.
Renting a car and driving from Frankfurt to Heidelberg
This is an easy, if not terribly scenic, drive. I’d suggest going with Hertz to rent your car, if for no other reason than there are several places in both Frankfurt proper and the airport to return your car.
I suggest you set your GPS for Sofienstraße 7, 69115 Heidelberg. This will bring you into the city, and you will see an entrance to the Darmstädter Hof Parkhaus on your left (an underground parking garage). The rates are fairly reasonable, and while there are parking options closer into the Old Town, the driving gets more intense as you navigate very narrow, aggressively cobbled streets. If you’re comfortable with this, feel free to follow the posted signs for the parking in the Altstadt. When you come out of the Darmstädter Hof parking, you will be at the beginning of the Hauptstraße, or main street, which is pedestrianized all the way up to the square below the castle. It’s a nice walk, with cafes and restaurants all the way along. The plus side of having a car, as it will allow you to take a detour to nearby towns like Schwetzingen to see the summer palace and gardens, or Speyer to see the cathedral that is the burial place of so many Holy Roman Emperors.
Enjoy your trip to Heidelberg!