What to do in Tübingen, Germany and the Surrounding Area

Another famous university town in Baden Württemberg, Tübingen, is a beautiful stop on a visit to Germany. Featuring one of the few completely intact old-style cities (Altstädte) as well one of the oldest universities in Central Europe, Eberhardt Karls Universität, Tubingen is well worth a visit!

Tübingen, Germany - A beautiful university town*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my site.*

Many thanks to the Tübingen Tourist Center for tickets to some of the destinations I mention in this post.

After starting in Heidelberg, Tübingen was the next stop on our recent spring break trip to Europe. Tübingen, like Heidelberg, was spared during World War II, and I was actually an exchange student there many years ago. Tübingen rivals Rothenburg in terms of beautiful old towns, honestly! I fell in love with the town during my year abroad and was excited to stop by with the kids. Who doesn’t enjoy showing off their former life to their children? I’m glad to raise my kids in the Iowa boonies, but I want them to know that it’s a great big world with a lot of possibilities too. I’d love it if one of them heads off to study in Tübingen some day.  That will give me an awesome excuse to get a little apartment and relive the glory days. <3

Tubingen, Germany. A beautiful town to visit on your vacation to Germany

Tübingen, located in a area of southwestern Germany called Swabia, is somewhat off the beaten path and isn’t even mentioned in Rick Steve’s Germany 2017 Guidebook at all. It’s about 2 hours southeast of Heidelberg, and 30 minutes south of Stuttgart. You can get there via train quite easily from Stuttgart if you don’t have a car.

We drove down for a day trip and were not in the area long enough, in my opinion. Two to three days would be the perfect amount of time to spend in the Tübingen area: one day to explore Tübingen and its museums, another day to visit Bebenhausen and Hohenzollern, and a few hours at the Rittersport Factory in Waldenbuch, especially if you have kids. 🙂 

Here’s how we spent our afternoon in Tübingen, as well as a few amazing things to do in the surrounding area!

Neckar Muller Tubingen

Neckar Müller Beer Garden

A favorite of the students and tourists, the Neckar Muller Beer Garden is very enjoyable, especially if the weather is nice and the patio is open. If you’re outside during nice weather, it’s fun to watch people in boats and the birds on the river. And beer! Ah yes, the beer. My favorites are the Helles (literal definition is “light,” pale lager beer) and the Radler (literal definition is “the Cylist,”  half beer / half lemonade). Make sure you try one if you like beer.A meal at the Neckar Muller in Tubingen GermanyWe started our day in Tübingen with a Schwäbisch lunch of Käsespätzle (cheesy noodles) and Maultaschen (sort of like pierogies). Sadly, the food didn’t really appeal to my kids, but the view of the Neckar River was beautiful and the grownups did enjoy the food. After promises of ice cream and crepes, we left the Neckar Müller, crossed the street, and headed down the stairs for a walk on the Neckar Island!

A walk on the Neckar Insel (Neckar Island) in Tubingen Germany

Take a walk on the Neckar Island (Neckarinsel)

The Neckar River (the same river that runs through Heidelberg) actually splits in two for a bit in Tübingen, forming an island in the center of town. It was a favorite hang-out-spot when I was a student there, and the kids loved it too!

exploring the Neckarinsel (neckar island) in Tubigen germany

They said chasing pigeons and swans, running,  jumping, and climbing was a highlight of their day in Tübingen. The Neckarinsel is also a great place to take in the beautiful and famous buildings on the river bank of the Altstadt.

Pedestrian tunnel to the Tubingen Altstadt

We walked the entire length of the Neckarinsel and climbed the stairs on the other side. From there we walked through the pedestrian tunnel and headed up the uneven cobblestoned streets to the Rathaus (City Hall) at the Marktplatz (Market Square).

Rathaus at Marktplatz in Tubingen Germany

Walk around the Altstadt’s uneven cobbled streets

Tübingen’s Altstadt is one of the most beautiful old cities I’ve walked through in Germany. It really is picturesque, with uneven cobblestones and buildings that reach out and almost touch each other from across the street. There are some very narrow walkways and steep inclines, so it’s not for the faint of heart. While you’re walking around the old city, you might want to stop in the Stadtmuseum Tübingen, located in the Kornhaus – a building that’s over 500 years old! We honestly did not stop in and I’m not sure if many of the exhibits, which include historical information about the area, include information in English. But the building is beautiful!

Marktplatz Tubingen GermanyA museum I think my kids would have enjoyed, specially the boy, is the Toy Museum Boxenstop. Located on Brunnenstr. behind the university building Brechtbau (where I spent a lot of time during my year abroad), the Boxenstop claims to have an impressive display of over 70 cars and 1500 different toys which everyone is encouraged to touch and feel!

sunset at the tubingen castle

Hike up to Hohentübingen Castle

Situated at the top of the Altstadt, Hohentübingen Castle is part of the University of Tübingen. It houses science faculty, museums, and beautiful views of the city below. We toured the Ancient Cultures Museum at the castle and were surprised by how much the kids enjoyed it. I didn’t think they’d like it that much, but they surprised us by really enjoying the ancient Egyptian artifacts, a prehistoric art collection, and plaster cast collection of famuos statues from classical archaeology.

Hohentubingen Castle, Tubingen Germany

Things to see within a 5-30 minute drive of Tübingen

Visit the Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory in Waldenbuch

Well, who doesn’t like Ritter Sport? My kid were thrilled when we told them we were heading the Ritter Sport Factory in Waldenbuch, a town about 25 km from Tubingen. We actually started our day there and had a great time, even though, apart from buying lots of cheap chocolate, there’s not all that much to do. We enjoyed the little museum and a movie  about the company (in English even). They also have an interactive chocolate workshop for kids (no parents allowed!) that could have been a lot of fun. You have to register in advance for that tour, and we did not, so the kids were not able to participate.

Ritter Sport Factory in Waldenbuch Germany 3

Bebenhausen Monastery

We didn’t make it here this trip, but I visited years ago when I was a student. The Bebenhausen Monastery is supposed to be one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys in southern Germany and was founded in 1180! It’s located in the Schönbuch nature preserve area and some of the buildings were turned into a royal hunting palace in the 19th century. At only 5 km from Tübingen, it makes a nice bike ride if you have the time and inclination!

Hohenzollern Castle

Another place I visited when I was a student is the Hohenzollern Castle, 35 km from Tübingen. It’s an easy drive or train ride away and is a beautiful castle to visit. With over 300,000 visitors a year, it’s one of the most visited castles in Germany. Hohenzollern Castle is still privately owned by the royal family and is definitely on my list of places to take the kids next time we make it to Germany.

No visit to southern Germany is complete without stopping in the Tubingen area! I hope you’ll add it to your list of must visit cities on your German vacation. 

No visit to southern Germany is complete without a visit to Tubingen., home of one of the most goregous, intact old cities in Germany. Here's what to do if you stop there and few suggestions for things to see in the surrounding area.

Heidelberg, Germany IS Worth a Stop On Your European Vacation!

 Heidelberg, Germany is a beautiful and famous university town on the Neckar River in Baden Württemberg. About 45 minutes south of the Frankfurt Airport, Heidelberg is definitely worth a stop on your vacation to Germany.

Heidelberg Germany from the castle

*This post includes affiliate links that support this site at no cost to you. Thank you! And many thanks to Heidelberg & Baden Württemberg Tourism Offices for tickets to some of the attractions I mention in this post.*

Heidelberg, Germany IS Worth a Stop On Your European Vacation!!

What were you thinking, Rick Steves?

One of the first things we did after we bought tickets to go to Germany was order guidebooks so we could make informed decisions about our trip. Call me old fashioned or impractical, but I like real books that you can touch and feel. We had already mostly planned where we’d like to go, but I still wanted the book for easy reference. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Rick Steves does NOT recommend stopping in Heidelberg in his GERMANY 2017 guidebook!

University of Heidelberg and the Heidelberg Castle

In Rick Steves’ 2017 Guidebook to Germany, he says this about Heidelberg:

This famous old university town attracts hordes of Americans. Any surviving charm is stained almost beyond recognition by commercialism. It doesn’t make it into Germany’s top three weeks.”

4th or 5th grade class trip to Heidelberg Castle PHV Elementary School

My 4th or 5th grade class field trip to the Heidelberg Castle! Patrick Henry Elementary School.

And that’s it! That’s the only mention of Heidelberg in the entire guide book. I was so disappointed to see that pathetic description of Heidelberg because I spent first through eight grade there as a child. We lived in the Heidelberg area when my father worked as a civilian for the US Army, and while my sister and I went to school with other Americans at Patrick Henry Village, we were not allowed to live on post.

Great friends on the Heidelberg Bergbahn

My German friend and 5 of our collective 7 children, on the Heidelberg Bergbahn (funicular railroad).

Not living with other Americans turned out to be a great benefit, because my sister and I were able to learn German simply by playing with German kids in our neighborhood. We’re lucky to still speak German and have those same German friends to this day.  So, I may be a bit biased, but I firmly believe that Heidelberg is worth a visit on your next vacation to Germany. It’s a beautiful and family friendly city for sure!

Family friendly activities in Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle from the Marktplatz

A visit to to the Heidelberg Castle

You’ll definitely want to visit the Heidelberg Castle ruins when you go to Heidelberg! They’re great fun for families. The former residence of the Palatine Prince Electors of the house of Wittelsbach, this medieval castle has been built and destroyed many times over the centuries. Prince Elector Ruprecht III started construction on the castle in 1400, but an even more medieval version of the castle dates from the 1200s. In 1693, the castle was destroyed in the 30 Years War.

 

Elizabeth Gate -Heidelberg Castle

It was rebuilt after the 30 Years War, but destroyed again in 1764 by a fire caused by a lightning strike. At this point, it went to ruin and was pilfered for building material for several other area castles.  In 1883 a portion of the castle was restored to its current condition and you can now see refurbished rooms and get a feel for how royalty used to live here. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in the buildings so I can’t show you the inside. You’ll just have to go yourself. 🙂
splashing in puddles at the Heidelberg Castle

Tour of the Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle Courtyard

We really enjoyed our kid friendly tour of the Heidelberg Castle where the kids learned about court life in the medieval times! Rain didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves – we just donned umbrellas and rain boots and splashed our way through the castle courtyard.

funicular railroad Heidelberg Germany Bergbahn

A trip up the funicular railway, the Heidelberg Bergbahn

If you’re not familiar with the term “funicular railway,” it’s essentially a railway on a cliff where two cars run at the same time (one up and one down) to counterbalance each other. The Heidelberg Bergbahn is one of the oldest electric funiculars in Germany ( in operation since 1890) and runs from the Kornmarkt in the Old City up to the Heidelberg Castle, and then beyond to the Königstuhl.

Bergbahn Heidelberg at Kornmarkt

The city of Heidelberg from the Bergbahn

You can ride the funicular to just the castle, or buy a ticket all the way up to the top. The rail car that goes to the castle is a modern looking car, and the car that goes up to the top (pictured above) is older.  We took the Bergbahn up to the Königstuhl and enjoyed the view to Heidelberg below.
Paragliders from the Konigstuhl in Heidleberg Germany

The kids really enjoyed watching the paragliders from the Königstuhl! While there’s not all that much to do at the top, the view to the town below is quite breathtaking.

Heidelberg Hauptstrasse at night

A walk up the Heidelberg Hauptstraße

Of course, no trip to Heidelberg is complete without a stroll up the Hauptstraße, especially if you like shopping or are looking for souvenirs. Starting at Bismarkplatz and going to the Rathaus, the Hauptstraße is a mile long pedestrian area home to many shops, the Hotel Ritter, the church Heiliggeistkirche, and lots of cafes and restaurants. It’s always crowded with Germans and tourists and is the perfect place to grab an ice cream cone and people watch.

Heidelberg Hauptstrasse

A flower stand on the Heidelberg Hauptstrasse

I honestly can’t tell you how much money I used to spend at the Hauptstrasse where I bought all of my own ESPRIT and BENETTON clothes when I was 12. My kids enjoyed walking up and down the street as much as I used to.

Things we didn’t do, but would have enjoyed:

A boat trip on the Neckar – There are several different boat trips to take on the Neckar to show off the town and neighboring castle ruins as well. We had hoped to take a tour, but unfortunately, they don’t operate in the winter. Since we were there before April 1, we lost out. 🙁 Oh well! Next time, right?!

A visit to the Heidelberg Zoo – We just ran out of time on this trip, but I did visit the zoo when I was younger with my own parents. Camels, monkeys, sea lions, pelicans, and more! I honestly can pass on zoos, but the kids always enjoy them.

A walking tour on the Philosophenweg – Philospher’s Walk – This famous walking path winds up the hill above the Neckar River across from the Heidelberg Castle. University professors and philosophers used to walk on this path for inspiration as it offers breathtaking views of the city and the castle! Another must visit place for our next trip to Germany. 🙂

We always enjoy Heidelberg. It’s true that here are a lot of American and Japanese tourists, but I found them in every single German city we visited.  There’s a reason tourists throng to the area – it’s just beautiful! I hope you’ll add it to your list of must visit towns in Germany. For more information about Heidelberg, be sure to visit Tourism Heidelberg’s website.

Despite Rick Steve's claim that Heidelberg Germany is not worth a trip, here are several reasons why you might want to visit this beautiful city during your European Vacation.