My top tips on where to eat in this romantic town.
Heidelberg is a small town with a large student population. This is great because it means the prices are relatively low in most restaurants, giving you maximum bang for your buck. Even though it is only a small town you will find plenty of restaurant options. I was only in Heidelberg for a couple of days, but I will give you an overview of my favourite places to eat.
We were in Heidelberg at the end of December to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Heidelberg is a beautiful historical town, especially during the holiday season when the streets are decorated with lights and Christmas trees. Christmas markets are very popular in Germany, most markets will be set up around the end of November and continue until the 24th of December. Since we arrived just after Christmas, most of the markets had already been packed up. Luckily three markets remained until the 1st of January.
Even though a Christmas market is not technically a restaurant they were definitely one of my favourite places to eat during our stay. In fact, we ate most of our meals at these markets. They offer a nice variety of food and drinks and on top of that provide an amazing ambiance. What’s better than enjoying a cup of hot mulled wine while sitting next to a giant Christmas tree! The hustling and bustling Christmas markets are one of my top tips for Heidelberg.
What to eat at Heidelberg’s Christmas Markets?
This short guide to Christmas Market cuisine will help you decide on your favourite holiday snacks. Most options are cheesy, boozy or otherwise artery-clogging, but they will definitely keep you warm on a cold winter night!
- Flammlachs (flame-grilled salmon) - This is my all time favourite German Christmas market food! Half a salmon is pinned to a wooden board and slowly roasted over an open fire. When done, the vendor will shred the fish and serve you a bread bun filled to the brink with freshly grilled salmon flakes on a bed of lettuce with a swirl of dill creme fraiche sauce.
- Glühwein (mulled wine) - This hot wine flavoured with citrus fruits and spices is one of my favourite holiday drinks. I love to make it myself around Christmas time. The classic version is a warmed spiced red wine. If you feel adventurous you can also try one of the many other varieties! Most glühwein vendors charge a couple of euros extra as a deposit for the mug, you will get this money back if you return the mugs in which the wine was served. You can also choose to keep the mugs as a holiday souvenir. Most mugs are seasonally decorated with the name and year of the Christmas market.
- Heiße schokolade (hot chocolate) - Hot chocolate is an all time favourite drink for all age groups. Topped with whipped cream this festive drink will bring a smile to all faces. If you’re feeling naughty this Christmas there is always the option to spike it with some rum or Baileys liquor!
- Käsespätzle - This is the German version of Mac’n’cheese! There's nothing better to beat the cold than a bowl of steaming hot cheesy noodles topped with fried onions.
- Raclette - This melted cheesy goodness is not German, in fact it’s a Swiss specialty. Raclette is just such a typically wintery dish that it couldn’t be forgotten. A large wheel of cheese is continuously melted and the gooey melted top part is scraped off to blanket a plate of potatoes, pearl onions and pickles. Absolute heaven!
- Wurst (sausage) - A German Christmas market wouldn’t be complete without at least one sausage stand. Most sausage stands serve a variety of sausages, including beef sausages, served in a bread bun.
- Pommes (French fries/chips) - This classic finger food is a favourite for a good reason. What’s better than to stroll around the market while munching on some ‘pommes’ while you contemplate your next snack. Sweet potato fries are getting more popular as well!
- Reibekuchen or kartoffelpuffer (potato fritters) - If you like hashbrowns you will definitely like these! These deep-fried shredded potato fritters are a great savoury snack. They are usually served in portions of three with apple sauce or garlic sauce.
Hans im Glück - Burger Grill Bar
If you’re in the mood for burgers then Hans im Gluck is a great burger bar in Heidelberg Altstadt. Right on mainstreet is a popular spot that will be very busy around lunch and dinner time. You will find Hans im Gluck on the corner opposite Hotel Ritter. My tip is to go there a bit early to beat the crowd.
Inside the restaurant it feels like you have wandered into a forest. There are actual birch trees all around the restaurant and a wishing well near the entrance. The forest theme even continues into the menu that is full of simple but cute forest drawings. The youthful staff is very friendly and speaks perfect English. This is a big plus, since the menu itself is only available in German. For us this wasn’t a big problem, we could figure out most of the menu with our basic German knowledge and a little help from Google.
Top tip: Go for a late lunch or early dinner to use their great lunch deal! We wanted to try this restaurant for lunch but were a bit late. We went at 16:20 and the place was already packed. We were lucky to have a table and by 17:00 a line had formed. If you order before 17:00 you can use their lunch deal, which included a burger of choice + fries + cold drink + hot drink.
They have quite a large burger menu. Including loads of vegetarian and even vegan options! We both chose a beef burger with sweet potato fries. The burgers were very tasty and freshly made to order. The sweet potato fries were crunchy and perfectly fried. On the table you will find four sauces made especially for this restaurant, all very tasty and you will find the ingredients on the bottle. They have a nice variety of cold drinks to complement your meal. We chose an apple & rhubarb lemonade and a fruity iced tea. Both were very refreshing and were served in generous portions. Hans im Gluck is definitely a great spot for a casual lunch or dinner.
La Fée Bar Cafe
Parallel to the main street on Untere Straße you will find La Fée Bar Café. This cute cafe is popular with both tourists and locals for good reasons! This is the place to be for coffee, tea and homemade fresh cakes. We found this place because many reviews claim they have the best coffee in Heidelberg. They even have flat white coffee on their menu! There is no cake menu because the offer changes daily. Have a look at the cake display next to the bar and choose the one that looks most delicious. I promise you, it won’t be an easy decision. We chose a passion fruit cake and a blueberry cake, both of which had amazing flavours, they were clearly made with fresh ingredients.
Another big plus is the friendly staff, our waiter really tried his best to speak English, which we greatly appreciated. He was also very willing to explain the different cake flavours, so we could make an informed choice. If you are in the mood for more than just cake they also offer a brunch menu with options ranging from pancakes to buddha bowls.
La Fée isn’t just a cafe, but also a bar. They have a nice selection of cocktails if you feel like having something a bit stronger. Inside they play relaxing lounge music, not too loud just as background music so you can still have a conversation with your friends. The atmosphere is relaxing and ideal to spend an hour to rest after wandering through the streets of Heidelberg. The interior is not typically German. It has an old-world vibe with velvet-covered chairs and a large crystal chandelier hanging in the main seating area. La Fée is easily overlooked because their name is not written on the outside of the building (it is only printed on the windows). I’d recommend them for a nice afternoon coffee and cake break.
Hidden on a small sidestreet (Heugasse) off the main road you will find this Middle Eastern gem. If you have a craving for freshly made falafel or the most creamy hummus ever you must visit Mahmoud’s. This small restaurant serves delicious Middle Eastern food, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options as well. They are very popular and the restaurant was packed with locals when we arrived at 18:00 o’clock. The staff are really friendly and welcoming. After ordering our food we found out they only accept cash. This was a problem since we didn’t have enough cash on hand. The staff insisted we have a seat and enjoy our dinner first and then go out to look for an ATM. This was really very kind of them.
I would recommend trying the mixed dishes so you get some of everything. We had the meat mix and veg mix (spezialteller) because we wanted to try out as many flavours as we could. It turns out these dishes were exactly the same, with the exception of the meat of course. The food was very fresh and the hummus and falafel were the best I’ve ever tasted. Too bad we discovered this gem on our last night, otherwise we would have definitely visited them again.
Lindt Chocolate Shop
Lindt is a Swiss chocolate brand that has a small shop on the market square in Heidelberg. If you enter this shop you will feel like you have gone to chocolate heaven. All the walls are lined with every chocolate treat imaginable. Grab your shopping basket and fill it up!
I’ve included this shop on this list because they also offer hot chocolate and mocha coffee. I went for the mocha coffee because I usually find hot chocolate too sweet. To make sure you fill up on your chocolate fix your drink of choice is served with a complimentary Lindt chocolate square.
Sunday Brunch at Heidelberg Castle
On the grounds of Heidelberg Castle you will find Michelin star restaurant Scharff's Schlossweinstube. After visiting the castle we found out they also offer a Sunday brunch option. This sounded amazing, but unfortunately they were already fully booked for the Sunday we were there. I would have loved to have brunch at this restaurant while overlooking the castle courtyard. Have you tried their Sunday brunch? Let me know if it was worth it!
Schneeballen or Snowballs are a traditional pastry to this area. They are supposed to originate from a small town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber and have been around for more than 300 years! While walking along the main street you will come across a small bakery with a window display filled with large (snowball sized) pastry balls. They look amazing and upon further inspection they offer more than 20 flavours. The classic Schneeball is basically a dough ball that is deep-fried and covered in icing sugar. They also offer varieties covered in chocolate or filled with marzipan.
We just had to try these unique pastry balls, but in all honesty they were not as good as they looked. The texture is flaky, dry and very crumbly, making it difficult to eat. Flavourwise I would describe them as very bland, even the chocolate and marzipan flavoured ones didn’t meet our expectations. I wouldn’t really recommend these, but since they are traditional to this area you should decide for yourself if you are willing to give them a try.
Are you looking for more German Travel Inspiration?
Do you want to know more about Heidelberg? Check out my 'Heidelberg: a Baroque Beauty' article for an in-depth guide on all things you can see and do in Heidelberg!
Or visit a Fairytale Town Come to Life in Rothenburg ob der Tauber! This gorgeous little town is hands down the most beautiful town you've ever seen.
Have you been to Heidelberg? What were your favourite places to eat? Let me know in the comments below!