A Spontaneous Trip to Heidelberg

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I was supposed to go to Interlaken after Lucerne. I had a hostel booked, and was literally in the Interlaken train station. But while I was on the train I saw a forecast for rain the whole four days that I was planning on being there. Not very conducive to hiking, which was pretty much all I wanted to do. So, I made a spontaneous decision. Not fifteen minutes after I stepped off the train in Interlaken, I was getting on another one bound for Germany. Five and a half hours later and I was walking up to a hostel in Heidelberg – 250 miles from where I originally thought I was going to be spending the night.

I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out a lot a little bit. I am not the type of person to make spontaneous decisions. Not about what I’m going to eat for dinner, and certainly not about where I’m going to be traveling next. After planning this Switzerland trip for months, I now, for some reason, found myself in Germany. I hadn’t even thought about what I was doing before my feet were already moving. I don’t even know why I chose Heidelberg. It’s not like it was close, or there was anything in particular calling me to it. It was just the first place that popped into my head. Maybe the power of traveling solo with a Eurail pass had just gone to my head.

I called my boyfriend from my hostel dorm room. He lovingly talked me down from a minor panic attack and helped me make plans for where to go from here. I booked a hostel in Zurich for the two extra nights that were now unaccounted for. Then, I made a plan for my one full day in Heidelberg the following morning and went to sleep.

One Day in Heidelberg

I awoke the next morning to a feeling of (delicate and easily breakable) calm. After eating breakfast and packing my bag, I set out for the day. My hostel, though conveniently located next to the train station, was a good 20 or 25 minute walk to the Altstadt (aka the part of the town I was actually interested in seeing). If I had planned ahead of time, this is something that I would have been aware of, so I was pretty disappointed in myself when I realized this. All the same, I’m pretty used to walking, so it was an easy enough trip.

The buildings turned from modern to quaint before my eyes. I instantly fell in love with the colorful houses and narrow streets of the town.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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Tight alleys gave way to bustling squares, and every once in a while the famous castle peeked its head out from the clouds.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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Seeing the castle looming above me, I knew that I had to go there. And, since I had absolutely no obligations or plans, that is exactly what I did.

Although the funicular railway that bears visitors up to the castle was closed for renovations, a replacement bus service was available — which my tired feet happily availed of. A few minutes later, we were at the entrance to the palace grounds.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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I stopped by the information office to purchase a ticket for a guided tour — the only way to see the interior of the castle. At only €2.50 extra for students (on top of a €4 student entrance fee), I thought that I might as well take advantage of the opportunity (and subsequently rolled in the cash that I was saving by not being in Switzerland for two days). By asking for the ticket in German, I found myself on the German tour. Thankfully, I was able to understand everything. But I wasn’t able to avoid the laughs when everyone was saying where they were from and I was the only non-German.

The interior of the palace was so much fun to walk through, and I learned so much more about the history of the place than I ever would have if I had just walked around the outside. I highly suggest taking a guided tour, even if you’re not able to take advantage of the steep student discounts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the interior, but the outside more than made up for that.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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A few extra, fun quirky things included the largest wine barrel I’ve ever seen (there’s a balcony on top of it) and a Pharmacy museum.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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Oh, and the views? Not half bad. If you only have one day in Heidelberg, visit the castle. Hands down.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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I wandered around the gardens for a short while while I waited for the next bus back down to the town. Then, it was time for even more exploration.

I found the Old Bridge and the Monkey with his mirror.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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Then, I made my way to the Studentenkarzer – aka Heidelberg University’s very own student prison. Although no longer in use, the prison used to be used as a place for students who disrupted the peace between Town and Gown. Although the students were locked up for the majority of the time, they were still allowed to attend classes. A stay in the student prison was seen as a right of passage by many.

This might have been my favorite stop of all that day. The graffiti covered walls were so interesting to look at, and the history behind the place was just too funny. There’s not much to see, but the entrance fee is negligible and it’s a fun place. I’d definitely suggest stopping by if you’re ever in Heidelberg.

If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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Looking back on my spontaneous trip to Heidelberg, I’m really glad the place randomly popped into my mind.

For one, I would have been stuck in my hostel for four days if I had decided to stay in Interlaken. Secondly, I saved a little bit of cash by popping into Germany for a little while. And finally, I now have one of those spontaneous Eurail stories that everyone and their mother loves to tell. I don’t know if I’ll do it again – I love planning things too much. But it was an interesting experience, and great practice for a world in which things don’t always go according to plan. I’ll just have to make in back to Interlaken some other time.

Have you ever dropped everything you planned or done something spontaneous while on a trip? How did it go? Leave your story in the comments down below!

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If you only have one day in Heidelberg, Germany, then you'll want to do the best of the best while you're there. Wander through the old town, explore the castle, and visit the student prison!
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This week, I’m linking this post up with Lauren, Marcella, Van, and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday, and with Erin, Katy, and Clare for Faraway Files.

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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

23 thoughts on “A Spontaneous Trip to Heidelberg”

  1. Pingback: I’m in a long-term, committed relationship and I travel solo. Here’s why. • Addie Abroad

  2. My wife and I already Seniors love spontaneous trips, love to drive around and explore every corner where we are visiting, thanks for the new technology GPS, my wife a wonderful copilot.

  3. Pingback: 7 Things I Learned on My First Ever Solo Trip • Addie Abroad

  4. I love that you randomly when 250 km out of your way to explore somewhere you had little background knowledge of – super cool! My husband and I just toasted and promised each other a few nights ago to never give up the option for spontaneity – it’s the spice of life! We’re celebrating 20 years of marriage this summer and we started traveling as backpackers around Europe in ’94 (shhhhhh… don’t tell anyone how old I am!) – so something about that up for anything attitude seems to be working! Cheers and thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  5. Pingback: Gentle Geneva // One Day in Switzerland’s International Capital • Addie Abroad

  6. Love the way that you stepped out of your comfort zone and took a trip to a far-flung place on a whim. As you mentioned, you will be telling this tale for years to come… a true travel experience!! Glad you enjoyed Heidelberg (we like it too!). Greetings from Luxembourg #FarawayFiles

  7. Pingback: Zooming Around Zurich // Two Days in my Favourite City • Addie Abroad

  8. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad

    I admire your spontaneity! Heidelberg looks really pretty. And I often like staying just a bit outside the tourist area, because then you get to experience a bit of the ‘real’ city. Yes there is a bit more walking involved… but for me it works. I feel inspired to make a spontaneous trip soon!

  9. Can’t say I’ve ever been this spontaneous with travel, but I absolutely love the idea of just hopping on a train and playing it by ear! So fun. 🙂

    Heidelberg looks like it was an excellent choice – gorgeous castle and the coolest prison cells I’ve ever seen!

  10. By the sounds of it you got a whole lot more from this experience than memories of Heidelberg. Sounds like you got a big confidence boost too. Good for you! Glad the Studentenkarzer was no longer in operation though! #FarawayFiles

  11. As terrifying as it is to spontaneously go somewhere it always seems to pay off! LOVE the student prison, is that years and years of built up graffiti then?! Really fascinating!

  12. Sometimes spontaneous decisions are those that makes possible to find unexpected experiences. This is one of the best feelings I can take from a travel and I understand 100% how your feelings were during that day. Nice photos and incredible views from the castle! #wanderfulwednesday

  13. I bet your trip was so much more memorable because of your spontaneous decision!! I’m definitely not a spontaneous traveler… I book all my hostels and everything before I travel so even if an opportunity like yours came up I probably still would have just gone to the rainy place I had a hostel in! I’m definitely going to try to be more spontaneous next time I travel 🙂

    1. I ended up taking something like a £35 hit for not showing up at my hostel in Interlaken, so that wasn’t exactly ideal, but I’m kind of glad I did it!

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