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You’ll spend most of your time in Heidelberg on or near the south bank of the Neckar River, probably not venturing too far beyond the Marktplatz (Marketplace) at the center of the Altstadt. On market days (Wed and Sat mornings), stalls overspilling with fresh flowers, fish, and vegetables surround the Rathaus and the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit), a stark, late-Gothic structure from around 1400. Gone from the nave is the dividing wall that was a sign of Heidelberg’s conciliatory approach the Reformation: For more than a century both Protestants and Catholics used separate ends of the church. No such compromise tactics spared the Heiliggeistkirche and most of the rest of Heidelburg from the rampaging French troops of King Louis XV, who in 1690 pillaged the interior, along with the graves of the city’s prince-electors. You’ll want to cross the gracefully flowing Neckar River at least once during stay, walking over the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge), a handsome, twin-towered stone span from 1788 (destroyed in 1944 by German troops trying to halt the advance of the Allied army and rebuilt 2 years later). After a stop in front of the raffish Brückenaffe (Bridge Ape)—touch the mirror he’s holding for wealth, his outstretched fingers to ensure a return to Heidelberg, and the mice that surround him to ensure progeny—continue up the Schlangenweg (Snake Path) to the Philosophenweg (Philosophers' Way). This 2km (1.25-mile) walking trail above the north bank of the Neckar provides memorable views of the castle, the river, and the Altstadt. The amble ends at the the Philosophengärtchen (Philosophers’ Garden), where the river valley’s mild climate nurtures Japanese cherries, cypresses, lemons, bamboos, rhododendrons, gingkos, yucca trees, and other warm-weather plants.

Where Beer Drinking is a Religion

In the Middle Ages, monks were the world’s great brew meisters, making the “liquid [that] does not break the fast”—that is, you could drink all the beer you wanted to. It’s pretty well established that beer-drinking is a religion in Hedielberg, so it’s only natural that the tradition continues at the brewery Brauerei zum Klosterhof, part of Heidelberg’s 12th-century Neuburg Abbey, on the banks of the Neckar River about 2km (1 mile) east of the Altstadt. To this day, 15 monks live in the monastery and oversee the production of organic beer, including the popular HeidALEberg Red Summer Ale. You can see the brewery, taste the beer, enjoy some grilled sausages and dumplings, and tour the abbey on tours arranged by Heidelberg Tourism (tel. 06221/5840200; www.heidelberg-marketing.de); they cost from 20€ to 24€, depending on how much you eat.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.