Philosophers’ Way, Heidelberg

Philosophers’ Way (Self Guided), Heidelberg

Heidelberg may be famous for its Castle, Old Town and University, but these are not all the local attractions are limited to. In fact, you can't consider a trip to Heidelberg completed without visiting the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk).

Quite popular, this path is located on the northern side of the Neckar River, meandering for about two kilometers along the sunny side of the Heiligenberg (Holy or Saints’) Mountain. Over the centuries, this trail has inspired numerous scholars and poets, and is rightfully regarded as one of the most beautiful walkways in Europe.

Historically, it was just a simple rough path through the vineyards, which, during the Romantic Period, was renamed Philosophenweg for having been frequented by countless professors and philosophers of Heidelberg. Today, the Walk is just as picturesque as ever, conveniently fitted with informational plaques and multiple benches on which visitors can linger and enjoy the matchless panorama.

One of its first landmarks to behold is the exotic vegetation of the Philosophengärtchen (Philosopher’s Garden) amid which you also can find a memorial stone to Joseph von Eichendorff, a romantic poet who studied in Heidelberg from 1807 to 1808.

Another park down the path is the Eichendorffanlage, located below the Bismarck-Säule (Bismarck Tower), a massive stone pillar with columns, erected in 1900 as a memorial to Bismarck two years after his death.

To get a good idea of how the city of Heidelberg looked in the old days, check out the Merianblick (Merian’s View) – this 1620 copperplate engraving offers illustration of the city before it was destroyed during WWII.

Crossing the Philosopher's Walk, by a park dedicated to poet Friedrich Hölderlin, is the Schlangenweg (Snake Path).

To enjoy the solitude, natural beauty, and great views of Heidelberg that had once appealed to the Romantic artists and philosophers, take this self-guided tour of the Philosophers’ Walk.
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Philosophers’ Way Map

Guide Name: Philosophers’ Way
Guide Location: Germany » Heidelberg (See other walking tours in Heidelberg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: nicole
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Philosophers' Way Entrance
  • Philosophengärtchen (Philosopher’s Garden)
  • Eichendorffanlage (Eichendorff Plant)
  • Bismarck-Säule (Bismarck Tower)
  • Merianblick (Merian's View)
  • Schlangenweg (Snake Path)
Philosophers' Way Entrance

1) Philosophers' Way Entrance

The entrance to the Philosopher’s Way, although signposted – at the end of the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) – is somewhat hidden from view and can be hard to find for non-residents.

Still, if you do find it and follow it, after just a few steps you will end up on the Philosophenweg, passing through one of the finest and most expensive residential areas of Heidelberg – Neuenheim. For the first 700 meters it leads steeply uphill, which may seem a bit strenuous at the beginning.

But rest assured – having overcome this, you'll be rewarded with a most fantastic view over the Heidelberg Castle, Old Town, and the surrounding area, opening from across the river, stretching right up to the Palatinate mountains. Also quite impressive is the sight of Königstuhl viewpoint, accessed by a funicular above the Castle.

To the right and left of the path, the stone benches and especially the Philosophengärtchen invite visitors to linger and savor the scenery.
Philosophengärtchen (Philosopher’s Garden)

2) Philosophengärtchen (Philosopher’s Garden)

Philosopher's Garden, is a public garden in Heidelberg. It is located along the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Way, which has stunning views of the Neckar River, the Old Bridge and historic castles. This is said to be the best place to get a view of the Heidelberg's old town region.

The Philosopher's Garden requires a small amount of climbing with the choice of a sloped path or a railed staircase. Once tourists reach the garden, they can rest on one of many benches while they enjoy the view. The garden is filled with exotic plants from subtropical areas that include almond, lemon and ginkgo trees.

Visitors will find plaques along with a bust of Joseph von Eichendorff inscribed with one of his poems. Those who continue on Philosopher's Way will also find the Hölderlin stone and a memorial to the Angel Church of the Dagersbach settlement.

Philosopher’s Garden's name is derived from Philosophenweg, which was so named to reflect the Heidelberg students who originally found the path. The garden is open 24 hours a day throughout the year.
Eichendorffanlage (Eichendorff Plant)

3) Eichendorffanlage (Eichendorff Plant)

The Eichendorffanlage is a small park within Heidelberg's Philosophenweg, found below the Bismarck Tower, not far from Liselotte-Platz.

Heidelberg has long been renowned for its romantic ambiance, whose Castle and Old Town, Neckar River and wooded hills provided inspiration and attracted great writers, thinkers and poets of the 19th century. Among them was the famed German poet, Joseph von Eichendorff, who studied law, philosophy and literature in Heidelberg from 1807 to 1808; a memorial to him is found within this park.

A commemorative plaque installed on the mountain side of the park carries fragment from his 1855 poem called "Robert and Guiscard":

“Stand enchanted by this fairy tale
The wanderers quiet. - Move on, who can!
That's how they saw it in dreams,
And everyone looks like his home
And the magic has never lied to anyone
Because Heidelberg was where they moved in."
Bismarck-Säule (Bismarck Tower)

4) Bismarck-Säule (Bismarck Tower)

Bismarck-Säule, or the Bismarck Tower, is an observation tower near Eichendorff-Anlage park. The tower was built in 1903. Tourists are able to enter the tower where they can climb the steps to see view of Heidelberg's old town region.

There are numerous Bismarck Towers throughout Germany. They were originally built as part of a design competition among students in 1899. Wilhelm Kreis won the competition, after which nearly 50 towers were built according to his design. Bismarck-Säule in Heidelberg is one of the towers modeled after Kreis's original plans.

The towers were named in honor of Germany's first chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. There were a total of 240 Bismarck towers built across the country between 1869 and 1934. Though they have the appearance of observation towers, they are actually beacons with the purpose of being lit at specific times of the day in honor of Bismarck.

Bismarck-Säule bears a relief of an eagle with the serpent of discord. At the top of the tower sits a cast-iron fire bowl that is about eight feet in diameter.
Merianblick (Merian's View)

5) Merianblick (Merian's View)

Merianblick, or Merian's View, is a sandstorm platform located along the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Way. The platform holds an illustration of a 1620s copperplate engraving of Heidelberg. Merianblick was created by Matthaus Merian. He was a Swiss engraver who specialized in topographical works.

The platform looks over the old city of Heidelberg, which allows tourists to compare the map with the existing city. The map itself shows the city prior to the Thirty Years War within the Holy Roman Empire from 1618 to 1648, which led to the destruction of Heidelberg.

There are numerous sights to see along Philosophenweg. Along with Merianblick, visitors should stop at the Philosopher's Garden, the Snake Path and Bismarck Tower. Those traveling with children will enjoy the Spielplatz Philosophenweg playground.
Schlangenweg (Snake Path)

6) Schlangenweg (Snake Path)

Schlangenweg, known in English as the Snake Path, is a footpath that connects the Old Bridge to the Philosopher's Way. It is called the Snake Path due to the walking path's winding nature.

The path was once part of a vineyard. It was called Brückenried as the bridge chapel was located at the start of the path. Its location was the old village of Neuenheim, which was incorporated into the city of Heidelberg in 1891. The vineyard was replaced with gardens and plots of land. Medlar trees, which provide the rare medlar fruit, are located along the sides of the path.

The path itself is flanked by red sandstone walls. There are sandstone pulpits and numerous benches that provide views of Heidelberg's old town. The path can be accessed at any time but it is best viewed during daylight hours when views of the Neckar River are at their peak.

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles