Fairy-tale castles, vineyards, beautiful landscapes, romantic atmosphere
This is how some of our friends described their time visiting the Romantic Rhine in Germany. Castles and wine!? Sign me up!
Through some research of my own, we decided to rent a car and road trip to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. We drove to our furthest destination first (Rudesheim Am Rhein) and worked our way north, ending the long Easter weekend in Koblenz. The 3.5 hour drive from Eindhoven to Rudesheim Am Rhein was straightforward and as we approached the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the sightseeing from the car was spectacular.
Of course many tourists choose to cruise down the Rhine by boat, starting in Koblenz and hopping on and off at the smaller picturesque towns along the way, and I’m sure this is also a unique experience. But let me tell you, I LOVED driving down the narrow road, which is literally adjacent to the Rhine River. One wrong move and we might have ended up in the river. Driving along, medieval castles are perched on each side of the river and endless vineyards fill the steep slopes of the valley. We had our share of beautiful panoramic views along the way. I was glad Bill was in the driver’s seat so that I could take in the sights without causing a major accident.
We immediately encountered our first experience with needing to cross the Rhine. I wasn’t so sure what to expect. But taking the ferry across the Rhine was quick, easy and affordable. I had plenty of small towns (on both sides of the river) on my list to visit which required a few easy trips across.
Rudesheim am Rhein
There’s so many possibilities when visiting the Romantic Rhine area – exploring the towns, hiking, biking, boat cruises, wine tastings etc. Here are some highlights:
Explore the Town_
A quaint and romantic but touristic little village, Rudesheim am Rhein definitely caters to its visitors. The charming streets are lined with shops. Visit the cobbled street, Drosselgasse which is quite possibly the busiest street filled with restaurants, shops and bars. Don’t go to the Romantic Rhine expecting a rowdy nightlife. The majority of tourists seemed to be middle-aged or older and the rowdiest thing we discovered was an Irish band that finished its set at midnight. All the better so that we could wake up early the next day to explore some more of this beautiful region!
We started with a relaxing cable car ride, leaving from the town center and leading up to the nearby village of Assmannshäusen. The ride itself offered probably the best scenic view you can get over the Rhine Valley, more vineyards than you can dream of and at the top sits the Niederwald monument.
Details: A round trip cable car ride is 8 euro per person. No need to buy tickets ahead of time, you can purchase them before you get on. Some people choose to buy a one way ticket and hike their way down through the vineyards instead. More details here.
Tip: Take some time at the top to enjoy a drink and snack at Am Niederwald. Order the area’s famed red wine, called “Assmannshäuser”, which is made from Pinot Noir.
St. Goar & St. Goarshausen
These sister cities on opposite sides of the river are centrally located in the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and only 30km from Koblenz. Really, all of the small towns along the Rhine are not so far from one another. We made stops at St. Goar and St. Goarshausen on our way from Rudesheim am Rhein to Koblenz. If you want spectacular panoramic views of the gorge, stop at one, or both!
Located on the eastern side of the river, most visitors are drawn here to see the famous Loreley which is a 132 meter high, steep rock. The Loreley statue which sits on the right bank is visible from St. Goarshausen and according to legend the statue has lured many sailors and many boats lie at the bottom of the river because of her.
Hike up to the edge of the rock to get the best view of one of the deepest and most dangerous parts of the Rhine River.
Extra tips: Stop for drinks and lunch at the Panoramic Beer Garden (biergarten) and if you are traveling with children (or wanting to indulge your inner child) take a ride on the Loreley Bob, a fun toboggan run that gives you a scenic ride and a bit of an adrenaline rush.
Take the ferry to the west bank and end up in sister city, St. Goar. Here we visited Rheinfels Castle. Though much of the castle is now ruins, visitors can still explore the this 13th century maze of cellars, tunnels, and trenches. I thought the best part was the views from the castle exterior. As an American, I don’t often see ruins this ancient in my home country. It’s amazing to wander through something so old and let your imagination run wild with thoughts of what life was like during the time when Rheinfels Castle was one of the greatest fortresses in the Rhine River region.
Extra tip: The outer part of the castle ruins is now a hotel, wellness center and restaurant. After wandering through the castle, we stopped at the tavern for some drinks and a small snack. Try their homemade cakes!
We only spent half a day in Koblenz so we did not get to do much sightseeing. This ancient city sits on both sides of the river and has a great deal of history to explore. If we had more time (and it wasn’t raining), I would have liked to take the cable car over the Rhine to the fortress, Festung Ehrenbreitstein.
We were also in Koblenz during Easter Sunday and Monday so I’m not sure we got to see the city on a typical day. Koblenz seems to be a student city, as many young people headed out, even on Sunday evening, to gulp down pilsners with their mates.
Rudesheim am Rhein – We stayed at Hotel Lindenwirt in the heart of the town. Clean, friendly and accommodating. Also important, the front desk staff speak English! You can even book a night in one of the Wine-Barrel Rooms though I think that I would have been a little claustrophobic.
Koblenz – we used a Hotels.com gift certificate and booked a night in Mecure Hotel Koblenz just outside of the city center. We had a lovely view of the Rhine River from our room with only a short 10 minute walk to the city center.
Drinks & Dining
- Breuer’s Rüdesheimer Schloss [Rudesheim am Rhein] just off the Drosselgasse this was a popular spot for a meal so make a reservation in advance! The restaurant is within this four star hotel which offers outstanding local cuisine and regional wines. The building was first constructed in 1729. It was nice enough outside that we decided to eat in their enchanting garden courtyard and if you stay and party in the tavern later, bands play live music mostly every night.
- Wine Stand – [Rudesheim am Rhein] also located in the city center, several different winemakers take turns selling their original Rudesheim wines. Here you can taste the local flavor and meet the locals that produce it!
- If you’re seeking typical German cuisine you can find it at just about any restaurant. This trip we tried Currywurst, Schnitzel and Flammkuchen.
- Rudesheimer Kaffee – Of course if you’re in Rudesheim you have to at least try one Rudesheimer Kaffee and this will probably satisfy your sugar craving for the day. You will see this locally-invented drink served in a special cup and advertised on many menus. The presentation is truly what sucked me in. Our waiter made the drink right at the table. First he added Asbach Brandy and sugar cubes into the ornate pink mug. Then he lit the brandy on fire and stirred for one minute, dissolving the sugar. Lastly, he added strong hot coffee and slid a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. The whipped cream even has vanilla sugar and chocolate flakes for garnish. Talk about sweet and very special! Don’t mind my Rudesheimer Kaffee photoshoot!
- WINE – obviously! Just ask for whatever wine is local and you’re probably on the right track. This region is home to the Reisling grape which grows on steep hillsides and results in full-bodied, fruity wines.
- Other drinks: local German pilsner (not my favorite, but if you’re into that sort of thing), Radler (basically pilsner with Sprite added to it, makes the beer easier to gulp down).
If you’re looking for a slow-moving, relaxing, wine-filled holiday with fantastic scenery and endless activities, the Romantic Rhine might be a good place to visit! I hope this blog post helps you get started on your adventure.