For something different to do in Heidelberg, particularly during the warmer months, consider walking the Philosopher’s Way Heidelberg (also called Philosopher’s Walk Heidelberg).
This walk was once the way that university professors and philosophers walked above Heidelberg, perhaps getting inspiration for their next theory or poem.
Today, you can take the walk for great views, gardens, informative boards and for the chance to detour to Heiligenberg (the oldest part of Heidelberg).
It’s a nice, relaxing 2.41 kilometre walk above the Neckar River which is a great way to enjoy Heidelberg away from the massively touristy spots. Perhaps you’ll get some inspiration yourself?
We took this walk on our recent trip to Heidelberg with our three kids aged 6, 10 and 12 and enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, let off some steam and learn more about this great city.
Below, we detail everything you need to know about this walk as well as lots of information about what it is like so you can make your own decision about whether the walking the Philosophers Way is how you want to spend your precious holiday time (I vote yes!).
You can also find our full guide to Heidelberg here.
Philosophenweg Heidelberg Background
The Philosophenweg Heidelberg (the German name for Philosopher’s Way) was once just a simple path through vineyards. During the Romantic period, it became known as the Philosophenweg thanks to the university professors and philosophers that started walking there.
It’s a great path for enjoying the beauty of Heidelberg with some great views and natural surroundings. It’s believed the path helped inspire the people who walked along here such as the German poets Joseph von Eichendorff and Friedrich Hölderlin. Today, it can inspire you.
The walk takes place on the opposite side of Neckar River to Heidelberg Castle and the Old Town which is what gives it some great views.
It’s considered a beginners trail and is 2.41 kilometres long. It does rise above the river so there are uphill parts but nothing that is too steep or too difficult. There are stairs and dirt as well as paved parts of the track. Our six year old walked it all.
It takes 30 – 60 minutes depending on how much time you spend taking in your surroundings. If you walk to the path from the Old Town, you’ll need to add some extra time. There’s more information about where you can find this path below.
I highly recommend you make a detour up Heiligenberg. There is a path that branches off the main Philosophers Way to take you there. Read more about it here.
Philosophers Way Heidelberg Review
We joined the Philosophers Way by walking from the Old Town across the Alte Brücke and then walking up the steep Schlangenweg (Snake Path). This was the toughest part of our hike and from here, we could enjoy it more 🙂
Apart from each end, it’s relatively flat with a nice, wide path.
At one end of the path, we also detoured to see Heiligenberg which we recommend.
We walked this and all around Heiligenberg with our three kids aged 6, 10 and 12. They did it all without a problem. I also have a bad ankle and found the Philosophers Way fine. Heiligenberg is much tougher.
Schlangenweg (Snake Path)
If you are going to walk the Philosophers Way, you’ll probably walk up or down the Snake Path. It’s quite a trail. In fact, even if you decide not to do the Philosophers Way, I recommend you walk at least part way up here for the views over Heidelberg.
You can find this path opposite the Alte Brücke. There’s a sign, and you won’t miss it.
The path then winds back and forth up the hill to the main path. It consists of steps (many of them) and paved uphill sections. It is tough, but very doable and not very long.
It took about ten minutes all up and that was with some photo stops on the way. There are two bigger lookout points and the views are great.
If you don’t have time for the Philosophers Way, at least walk to one of these for some Old Town and Castle photos.
This path finishes on the Philosophers Way, although I do find some sources online that state this is part of the Philosophers Way.
From what I could tell when walking this, it didn’t seem to be. The Philosophers Way goes in both directions from the top of this.
The path itself is quite easy with flat, wide paths. There are some things to see along the way as you contemplate life. In both directions, the path is quite similar.
In an easterly direction from the top of the Snake Path, there are a few places to sit, a little garden and you can find the path up to Heiligenberg from along here. I highly recommend you walk up here as well although note that path is a lot tougher.
Walking in a westerly direction, the path has great views (better than the opposite direction) and you’ll find a playground as you walk around with a big hut.
Next up is the Philosophengärtchen (Philosopher’s Garden) which is a pretty little garden with good views just below the main path. This is another place you can stop and contemplate. Above this is a small kiosk. This is the only place where you can buy supplies along the path.
There is also an informational board on the path here with more information about the path and surrounding area in both German and English.
From here, the path soon turns into a road that takes you back to civilisation, the Neckar River and transport options. There are some fancy buildings along this.
The Philosophers Way does not take that long to walk once you are on it and is a very pleasant walk with enough shade around. We very much enjoyed walking along here.
I had listened to a podcast on our way to Heidelberg that said this path is only for super-fit people. I don’t know where they walked, but that’s simply not true. You will have to walk up a hill at one end and down at another, but you don’t need to be super fit. Just able to walk up stairs and keep walking for thirty minutes.
Philosophers Way Location
The Philosophers Way can either start at the corner of the streets, Philosophenweg and Bergstraße, or at the opposite end, you can reach it up the steep Schlangenweg (Snake Path) which starts at the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) across the Neckar River from the Old Town.
Like I said above, the journey to the path can be quite steep and there are a lot of steps on Schlangenweg. This is harder than the trail itself.
Find a map here.
There are no fees associated with this walk. Go enjoy!
The Philosophers Way is a great walk to soak in Heidelberg and really enjoy this city. We loved this more low key way to explore and the views and scenery are gorgeous.
As an added bonus, I found it shorter and easier than I expected. So add in this walk up Heiligenberg too for added fun.
It really doesn’t take long so try to squeeze it into your itinerary. You won’t be sorry you did!
Looking for more? You can also find our full guide to Heidelberg here, accommodation options in Heidelberg here and all our guides to travelling southern Germany here.