Saturday, 19 March 2016

Heidelberg Neckar River Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.25 km (3.3 miles), terrain: flat

Heidelberg in southern Germany has so many beautiful sights to offer. Here's a running route where you can see a few of those sights up close, and others from an unusual angle: from a trail along the other side of the Neckar River.
Trail along the Neckar
The river trail is quiet, flat and provides great views of the town and the hillside-castle above it. The only downside is that the trail isn't always flat. You have to watch your footing, especially along the eastern end of the trail.

Another great thing about this trail is that you can extend it as long as you please: it continues for kilometers westwards from where this one turns around.

So, if you're ready to hit the trail, make your way to the heart of the old town, at the Market Square between the Heiliggeist Church and the town hall. This is located on Hauptstraße, the pedestrian shopping street that bisects the old town.
Town hall with Hercules fountain
Now turn your back to the church and head eastwards along the Hauptstraße, passing by two more scenic squares, with views of the castle ruins above. The castle was destroyed by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars to keep it from being used as a fort.
Karlsplatz, with view of castle
In a few blocks you'll come to the red-sandstone archway, the old city gates at the eastern entry to town, right at the river. Turn left and cross the busy shore road here (this south side of the river has too much loud traffic, so we'll avoid it).
Karlstor: run through it and turn left
You're now standing at the Schleuse, a dam with a sluice for the river ships. There's a pedestrian bridge above the dam, so let's cross it to the quieter north side of the river.
Crossing the sluice
Now turn left to head westwards along the riverside. At the moment, at the 1-kilometer mark, we're up high along another fairly busy shore road, the Ziegelhäuser Landstraße. But in just 100 meters, you'll see steps leading down to the waterside below, where life will suddenly be quiet and peaceful.
Along the river trail
The trail is made of cobblestones, so you have to watch your step! If you want a smooth surface, you can run up on the sidewalk at street level.

So now we just keep running westwards until the turnaround-point. We're first heading towards the beautiful Old Bridge, also made of red sandstone (like about everything in Heidelberg), with its statues and towers.

After running under the bridge, you'll be passing the whole old town on the other side of the river. The trail paving will start getting smoother and then the cobblestones will end as the shore widens with a grassy strip for the trail.

When you go under the next bridge, a modern one, the shore widens again to be a real park, the Neckarwiese. It's mainly a big lawn with a few trees.
Neckarwiese park
You can just run straight through the lawn or take the path along the right-hand edge. When you get to the little playground and life-guard station, turn around and head back home again. This is the 3-km mark.

NOTE: for more distance, just keep running westwards along the trail, and you'll pass the modern university campus, the zoo and athletic fields.

The nice thing about running back again is that you have a better view of the old town and castle, which is always in sight.
On the way back

Approaching the old bridge
When you get back to the Old Bridge, go up the ramp to the bridge and cross it, heading through the gate-tower into the old town.

Crossing the Old Bridge
Now just continue the one block up Steingasse to the church and market square again.
And back up Steingasse to the church and market

All and all, I consider this a pretty scenic little run!

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