Why Rhineland-Palatinate is Germany’s most romantic region

From fairytale castles sitting atop towering hills to the country’s most picturesque towns, here’s how to discover the famous wine-making state of Rhineland-Palatinate in western Germany.

By Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus
Published 23 Jul 2020, 09:33 BST
Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle is the only hilltop castle along the Rhine never to have been destroyed — it's virtually unchanged since medieval times.

Photograph by AWL Images

One of Germany’s most culturally and historically rich destinations, Rhineland-Palatinate is the romantic region centred along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Winding roads lead to fairytale castles and medieval buildings that all have a story to tell, but there are also endless opportunities for those seeking action and adventure, with some of the best hiking and cycling routes in Europe. The region also produces 70% of all German wine, including the world-famous Riesling grape. We guide you through visiting the top sights on a three-day tour.

Day one: Romantic Rhine

A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most beautiful spots in Germany, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley cuts through the Rhenish Slate Mountains, flanking the river with storybook castles, characterful villages and winding trails. Start the day with a 30-minute hike from Braubach up to the Marksburg Castle, the jewel of the region with spectacular views of the valley and villages below. As the only hilltop castle along the Rhine never to have been destroyed, it remains virtually unchanged since medieval times and can be explored with a 50-minute guided tour of its drawbridge gate, chapel, keep and original rooms depicting the essence of medieval life.

Marksburg Castle is situated on the Rheinsteig Trail — one of Germany’s top hiking routes for countryside and culture along the Middle Rhine. The routes, ranging in length from 5 miles to 15 miles, are detailed on the Romantic Germany website. If you pick the medium difficulty five-mile route from Braubach to Lahnstein, look out for highlights such as Lahneck Castle, the final resting place of a poor young Scottish girl who became trapped when some stairs collapsed beneath her in 1851. The castle was in ruin at the time, and the story of her untimely death only became known years later, when her diary was found in a crevice in the castle walls. 

Those who prefer a more culture-focused trip should opt for the Turner Route, a series of 26 sites from Koblenz to Bingen that mark the points where British painter J M W Turner stood to create his famous sketches throughout the Rhine Gorge. Look for walk-on information panels at various locations to take in the artist’s impression of Rhine Romanticism.

Bacharach is a winemaking town with an impressive 12th-century castle and watchtower.

Photograph by AWL Images

Day two: Rhine Cycle Route

Dig out your sportswear for a day of pedalling along the 765-mile Rhine Cycle Route — 200 miles of which run through Rhineland-Palatinate, stretching past spectacular scenery and cultural landmarks. Starting from Rüdesheim am Rhein and ending in Rheinbreitbach, the recommended 75-mile route takes about eight hours and is suitable for beginners, with relatively flat cycle paths all the way. The best-known stretch runs along the Upper Middle Rhine between Bingen and Koblenz, allowing for views of some 40 castles and palaces, as well as tiny medieval towns along the way.

An hour or so in, the winemaking towns of Bacharach and Oberwesel are great spots for a refreshment stop, with both offering the chance to wander historical lanes. In Bacharach, be sure to check out the impressive 12th-century castle Burg Stahleck and the Postenturm watchtower. In Oberwesel, meanwhile, the hilltop Günderode Haus is an excellent choice for a traditional meal. After lunch, continue on to the narrowest point of the Rhine Valley, where views stretch out towards Loreley Rock. Sitting atop this steep slate cliff is a bronze statue of a legendary woman, said to have lured countless ships into the rocks with her sweet singing voice.

Past Loreley, it’s on to the city of Koblenz for the Deutsches Eck — the point where the Moselle meets the Rhine. Take in the giant statue of Emperor Wilhelm on horseback, an impressive bronze monument reconstructed after it was destroyed during the Second World War. Towards the end of the route is Linz am Rhein, known as the most colourful town on the Rhine. Here, check out the half-timbered houses and the brooding Burg Linz castle. Finally, it’s on to the ARP Museum in Remagen, known for its artworks, before resting those aching limbs.

Cochem lies in the Moselle valley and is replete with picturesque half-timbered houses, overlooked by the Reichsburg Castle.

Photograph by Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus

Day three: Moselle Valley

After two days of hiking and cycling, it’s time for something a little more relaxed: a road trip to explore the winemaking regions of the Moselle, home to the world-famous Riesling grape. The Moselle Valley offers up some of the best-known Riesling varieties, and Koblenz makes an ideal starting point. Drive south by car to the first stop, Eltz Castle, a medieval pile that has been owned by generations of the same family for more than 850 years and which resembles something out of a Disney film. Taking in the wild scenery of the Elzbach Valley on the way, head south to Calmont, the steepest vineyard in Europe with a 60% gradient.

Further south is Traben-Trarbach, which, at the turn of the 20th century was the second-biggest wine trading city in Europe after Bordeaux. Take in the city’s impressive art nouveau architecture and art deco buildings by Berlin architect Bruno Möhring, before heading to nearby Cochem, a winegrowing town in the Moselle valley replete with picturesque half-timbered houses and overlooked by the Reichsburg Castle. Wander through the winding, cobbled streets of the old town and admire the baroque facade of the town hall before heading to Koll & Cie. to try more than 100 wine varieties. 

Afterwards, make your way further south to Germany’s oldest winegrowing village, Neumagen-Dhron. Sitting on the banks of the river, it’s home to a historic Roman wine ship, and visitors can take part in a sailing tour while sampling local bottles. Finally, end the trip in Trier, Germany’s oldest town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the Romans first introduced winegrowing to the region. A stroll through the Porta Nigra gate and ancient amphitheatre before relaxing in the imperial thermal baths might just be the best way to unwind after an action-packed adventure.

More information

For more information on how to organise an idyllic trip to Rhineland-Palatinate, visit the Romantic Germany website

This content is created for our partner. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic, National Geographic Traveller (UK) or its editorial staff

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