How to Spend a Day on the Rhine River

Rhine River Fun

The Rhine is the longest river in Germany.  It is dotted with castle ruins, vineyards, and quaint towns.  Some of the most picturesque stretches of the Rhine lay between Cologne and Mainz.  Here’s some ideas on what to do when visiting the Rhine.

Tour a castle or castle ruins.

On a dreary March day while we had visitors in town, we decided to explore Burg Rheinfels.  In German there are two words for castle: burg and schloss.  To my understanding “burg” is used when the castle was more of a fortress used for defensive purposes and “schloss” is used when the castle was more of an elaborate palace to house royals.  Burg Rheinfels was built in 1245 and used for about 500 years.

View of the Rhine from the castle.

Take lots of pictures!  Work it!

Happy tourists, even in the gloomy weather!

Burg Rheinfels is fairly expansive.  There was a lot of area to wander.  There are several other castles along the river, some ruins like this one and some more elegant and enclosed ones.  This is a good option for the shoulder seasons when the cruises aren’t running.

Click HERE for more castles on the Rhine with pictures and descriptions.

Have a glass of wine in the altstadt.

The Rhine Valley is a known wine region in Germany and produces a lot of riesling.  The river is dotted with vineyards, and in any of the towns on the banks you can visit a weinstube, which is like a small wine bar.  While you sit, order a flammkuchen, a delicious flat bread with creme fraiche, onions, and speck (closest thing to german bacon).  Altstadt is german for “old town” which tends to be the most beautiful area of town.  Think half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and flower boxes.

The small town of Bacharach

Bike the river

Germans love biking, and what’s not to love when you can bike a flat, paved path along a beautiful river?  Bring your own bikes or rent them for scenic ride through the river valley.  We rented a couple bikes from a man in Bacharach for my mom and sister and brought our own from home.  The rental bikes were a little rickety and the gear shifting was questionable but they got the job done.  You can also bring your bikes on board the cruise boats which leads me to…

Cruise the river.

This is a seasonal option, most of the time the day cruise boats are only operating from late April to early October.  You can opt to do a round trip cruise or get on in one city and off in another.  The boats are very nice with large sundecks on top perfect for taking in the view.  You can also order food and drinks on board.  Check  kdrhine.com for schedules and information.

When my mom and sister were visiting, we got on the boat in St. Goar and disembarked in Bacharach.  Make sure you check the time table so you don’t miss the boat!  We arrived very close to departure time and to make things even closer, I mistakenly ordered “drei” tickets (3) instead of “fier” (4)! It took us a few minutes longer to correct the mistake, oops!

It was a lovely way to spend about an hour with breathtaking views of castles and vineyards.  Rick Steves has a written tour in his guidebooks that you can follow along with while you cruise for a little extra information on what you’re looking at.

Views of vineyards from the boat.

End the day with gelato.

There’s always a gelato shop or two to be found in any town in Germany.  It’s a perfectly acceptable afternoon snack in any season.  In Bacharach you can even try riesling flavored gelato at Eis Cafe Italia on the main street.  If it’s too cold for you to think about a frozen treat, then try stopping for kaffee und kuchen, or coffee and cake at the nearest cafe.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!