Monday, September 03, 2012

Your Guide to Heidelberg's Ice Cream / Eis Shops

Ice cream is my mom's favorite food.  I've always liked it too, but never understood it as a favorite.  I'd often rather have cake, cookies, brownies, or bars as a treat instead.  Then I moved to Germany, where the cake is not as sweet and rich as in the US, and cookies/brownies/bars are not local and pretty subpar when you find them.  Seeing Germans in front of beautifully-constructed sundaes at ice cream (Eis) shops every weekend, I decided to go for ice cream more often....and now I'm addicted.  I think my husband is, too.  Allow us to channel our addiction into something useful: a guide to Heidleberg's Eis joints!  It's mostly limited to the Altstadt as we are mere humans - but we did make sure to extensively research the places we did include. :)

Eis Roma
Location: Fischmarkt north of the Heiliggeistkirche
Cone: 1 Euro per Kugel (scoop)
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: €4,80
Winter: turns into a coat shop
* Eis Roma is conveniently situated right near major tourist areas like the Steingasse and Marktplatz.  It has very limited indoor seating but plenty of outdoor seating on the pretty Fischmarkt; although the platz is otherwise lovely it never gets sun because it sits in the shadow of the enormous Heiliggeistkirche.
Flavor and Becher (sundae) options are good but limited and don't seem to change often.  The Eis itself is relatively mediocre and the Kugels are on the small side, but the chunky varieties have nice big chunks, and the service is among the friendliest! They are very fond of sprinkling Krokant bits on the Becher.
We usually only go here in a pinch.

 Eis Palast
Location: North side of the Hauptstraße between the Marktplatz and Uniplatz
Cone: 1-2 Euro per Kugel, minimum order 2 Kugeln
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: don't care
Winter: Either this or Gelati Caffe turns into a Schneebällchen shop - can't remember which
* This place has changed constantly.  When we went there recently to check it out, we discovered the prices had increased and there was now a minimum order of 2 Kugeln.  I understand that is typical in Italy and would have totally been down with it if not for the fact that the guy behind the counter was a complete dick about it.  We never spoke to him in English but he insisted on speaking English to us for some reason when we - horror of horrors - didn't immediately notice the new rules and attempted to buy just one Kugel, which is standard in Germany.  I mean this guy was shockingly rude even by American-evaluating-German-service standards.  I'm sure he deals with tourists all day, but if he can't handle that, maybe it's time for a new job.  The Eis was middling.

Gelati Caffe
Location: North side of the Hauptstraße between the Marktplatz and Uniplatz
Cone: 1 Euro per Kugel
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: €5,00
Winter: Either this or Eis Palast turns into a  Schneebällchen shop - can't remember which
* There are only one or two tables inside, but a few tables outside on prime people-watching territory.  It's a bit on the pricey side, but the Becher are beautifully executed.  The staff are mostly older and give the whole place an air of extreme competence, much like getting a gray-haired pilot on your flight.  There's always a pretty pile of meringues on a silver tray on the counter, and you can get the Eismeringue which is a great deal relative to other Becher at only €4,90.  The Eis is a little on the sweet side but quite good.  The Stracciatella is jam-packed with chocolate bits!

Location: Hauptstraße between Uniplatz and Theaterplatz
Cone: 1 Euro per Kugel
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: must check this
Winter: turns into a Lebkuchen shop
* Bertolini is hands-down my favorite ice cream shop in the decor category - a little run-down and retro.  There is seating both inside and outside. It has some of the speediest and friendliest service and experiments often with crazy or trendy flavors like spicy cactus, rhubarb, and Aperol.  The Becher are beautifully presented.  Unfortunately the Eis is less creamy and flavorful than in other places, and the cones aren't as high-quality.

GelaTo Go
Location: Hauptstrasse between Theaterplatz and Providenzkirche
Cone: 1-1,20 Euro per Kugel (non-Bio/Bio...I think)
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: I don't think they have it
Winter: I think it just closes but don't remember
* This is a relative newcomer.  The cheesy name and lack of seating put us off this place for a while but we went after hearing good things about it. The German-hip decor and young hip staff don't inspire me the way Caffe Gelati's staff do, but image isn't everything: the Eis is nice and thick and there's an interesting rotating variety.  There are actually 4-6 bar seats inside and some cushions tossed on the windowsill outside, but no tables.  They offer 3 or 4 Becher options but we didn't try any of them.

Location: Hauptstraße near Providenzkirche
Cone: 1,70 Euro per Kugel
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: they don't have it
Winter: stays open
* Schmelzpunkt doubles as a chocolate shop. It opened a couple of years ago and we were put off it for months by the high price per Kugel.  Then one day last summer we ran into a friend on the Hauptstrasse; we mentioned we were thinking about getting some Eis and her friend unequivocally recommended Schmelzpunkt, so we finally tried it.  The Kugeln are bigger than usual and the Eis is more American-style in that it has big chunks in it.  I love chunks.  They serve a Becher called the Cookie Crunch Spezial which doesn't look or sound all that special but is worth every cent and calorie.  It may be the most delicious thing in all of  Heidelberg.  I don't know if there's crack in it or what.  Their collection of flavors is heavy on the chocolate, which is nice since there's often a fruity emphasis in many of the other shops.  There's seating both inside and out, but based on the weather one or the other is nearly always full.  Service can be a bit slow even if it doesn't look busy.

Eiscafe Capri
Location: Neuenheim Brückenstraße  
Cone: 1 Euro per Kugel
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: I've checked three times but forgot again..
Winter: just closes
* This is one of the most popular Eis shops in Heidelberg, partly due to its location near the Neckarwiese.  For the first few years we were here, we didn't understand the giant lines out the door.  We tried it several times but never liked it as much as Venezia across the river.  Recently, however, it seems to have improved.  The flavors seem better, the Eis seems less watery, and there is more change and variety in the offered flavors.  Now it's definitely in our top three!  There's tons of seating inside but very limited seating outside. Service is average. Beware the Schwarzwald Becher late in the year as they often have fruit fly problems then and you'll get swarmed if you order this and eat inside. (If this grosses you out, maybe you haven't been in Germany long enough. ;) It's nothing compared to the bakery wasps in August....)

Eiscafe Venezia
Location: Darmstädter Hof (near Bismarckplatz)
Cone: 1 Euro per Kugel
Price of Basic Spaghetti Eis: €4,70
Winter: stays open
* Venezia was easily our favorite Eis shop the first few years we were here, and is still top-three.  Its location is convenient to our weekend grocery runs and until recently it offered the lowest prices per Kugel in town.  Now it's caught up with the others price-wise and although the Eis is still very flavorful, thick, and generously-portioned, it's been less chunky lately and they have pretty much the same flavors every time we go...hence its mere "top-three" status instead of clear first place.  The variety of Becher is huge - it's harder to decide what to get than in any other shop - and prices are a bit more reasonable than in the places along the Hauptstraße. All the seating is indoors and unfortunately set next to the gaudy orange Saturn that has moved in.  
They also have a food menu, but I've never tried it.



  1. I bet you enjoy doing the research for this post! Makes my mouth water.

  2. haha, it was fun! But it also actually made me branch out to different flavors more and probably made me a little pickier too.

  3. Capri is also popular because... they've always been.

    They have been around for 30+ years in the same location, with the same quality and the same modus operandi. None of that fancy modern artistic stuff, traditional ice cream as it's been served by Italians in Germany for 50+ years.
    The family who runs it traditionally (always) moves to Italy off season btw, hence why it's simply closed in winter.

    I dislike Schmelzpunkt due to their aggressive online marketing btw. Just noticed it again on Qype, they're a "premium partner" popping up when you look up any ice cream shop in Heidelberg.

  4. Thanks for all of your hard research!

    I didn't tend to branch out very much this season (although, I had my fair share of Eis). I kept going to the same 3 places. I'll have try more and follow your advise next year.


I love commenters!