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Middle Rhine Valley

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Rheinstein Castle near Trechtingshausen, look from Assmannshausen

The Rhine Valley or Middle Rhine (German: Mittelrhein) is the most famous section of the Rhine, running between the cities of Bingen(near Mainz) and Bonn in Germany and spanning the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. The section from Koblenz to Bingen, known as the Rhine Gorge, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the entire valley is often called "The Romantic Rhine".

Cities[edit]

Middle Rhine Valley
Bacharach: Altkölnischer Hof
Oberwesel: Haagsturm, behind the Liebfrauenkirche, on the mountain the Schönburg

Understand[edit]

Map of the Rhine River; this article covers the section in yellow

The Rhine Valley, where the Rhine carves its way through steep hills topped with countless castles and ruins, is one of the most famous and most heavily touristed parts of Germany. The travelling here is very easy — cruises, castles and vineyard tours by day, sampling local wines at night — so it's no surprise that visitors' demographics are slanted heavily towards retirees looking for an easy break.

When to go[edit]

The peak season is definitely summer, when the hillsides are green and the cruise boats busy. In September, many inns and restaurants already start closing down for the winter, and almost all cruises end by November, starting up again in April. The autumn paints many shades of orange and brown on the trees of the valley side, while the spring bring bright green and the white of tree blossoms.

Get in[edit]

The most common starting points for a tour of the Rhine Valley are Cologne, just north of Bonn, and Frankfurt, just east of Rüdesheim. Frankfurt is actually on the Main, not the Rhine itself, so the Rhine towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden also make popular starting points.

By plane[edit]

Frankfurt airport (FRA IATA) is the major international airport for the area. Cologne/Bonn (CGN IATA) has some connections from other European countries as does Hahn airport, which is the closest to the valley but without a car not so accessible.

By train[edit]

Bonn and Wiesbaden via Frankfurt are the key stations into the region. Bingen and Koblenz being the largest stations with Rüdesheim being a popular stop.

By car[edit]

The A61 is just to the west of the Middle Rhine Valley. The A3 is a little further to the east of the valley.

By cruise[edit]

A large number of luxury cruise operators sail up (and down) the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, Zurich or Strasbourg or from the Rhine cruise up the Main and Danube to Budapest. The leisurely journey with plenty of stopovers typically takes anywhere from one to two weeks, with accommodation on the boat itself. Large operators include Avalon and Viking, with low-season prices for a 7-night cruise starting from around US$2,000.

Get around[edit]

Marksburg, the only unaltered castle along the Rhine Valley

By car[edit]

Along the left bank runs the B9 Kranenburg-Lauterbourg while along the right bank the B42 Bonn-Darmstadt runs the whole stretch of the valley. The majority of both roads in the Rhine valley section are one lane in both directions with few places to overtake. The roads are quite busy with tourists during the summer.

On your travels you will want to visit locations on both sides of the river. Note that there are no bridges between Wiesbaden and Koblenz crossing the river but there are a number of ferries that take car, bike and foot passenger.

By train[edit]

There are not one but two train lines running along this section of the Rhine. The scenic Linke Rheinstrecke ("Left Rhine Line") runs along the left (west) bank of the river from Cologne (Köln) to Mainz, while the Rechte Rheinstrecke ("Right Rhine Line") runs along the right (east) bank of the river from Cologne to Wiesbaden. The Linke side, generally considered the more scenic of the two, is more heavily trafficked and has InterCity services, while the Rechte side is mostly dedicated to cargo and is limited to regional passenger trains running less than once per hour. Interchanging between the two is possible at Koblenz; the city is on the left, but some trains running on the Rechte start or terminate in there.

Beware that, if you're buying individual tickets, train zones get confusing and pricy fast. While the "core" of the Rhine Valley is in Rhineland-Pfalz's VRM and RNN tariff zone, the Rheingau stretch east of Lorch is also in Frankfurt's RMV zone, while going north of Remagen passes into Cologne's VRS area.

Some good offers to explore the surroundings include the Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket, offering unlimited travel in local trains and buses for up to 5 persons inside the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Wiesbaden and Bonn("Left Rhine Line")for a day (9AM onwards on weekdays, all days weekends, up to 3AM of the following day). The ticket costs 24 - 44 € per day (as of Dec. 2015) if bought via automat or internet, or 26 - 46 € if bought at a ticket stand and is available at all train stations. In addition to the core stretch along the Rhine (Remagen-Oberwesel inclusive) and the train line along the Mosel, the ticket also covers a few handy train stretches outside state boundaries, notably Rolandseck-Bonn, Koblenz-Rüdesheim-Wiesbaden and Wiesbaden-Mainz.

By boat[edit]

Ferry passing Bacharach

The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt, better known as KD, runs cruises and scheduled services up and down the river between Cologne and Mainz. The summer season (May-Sept) sees up to 8 services daily on the busiest parts of the river, but services are cut considerably in the shoulder seasons of April and October and slow down to a trickle in the winter. Traveling end to end takes over 11 hours (€49 one way), so most travellers opt for much smaller segments: St. Goar to Bingen, for example, passes by the famous rock of Loreley, takes about 90 minutes and costs €15.30.

While KD has the most extensive network and schedules, there is quite a bit of competition. For example, Bingen-Rüdesheimer operates scheduled services on the south half between Rüdesheim and St. Goar and Roessler line cover the towns and castles in the south.

If you do not have time to do a full round tour consider taking the trip downstream (south to north),which is faster, and getting the train back to you start point).

On foot[edit]

An early spring Rhine River Gorge, viewed from atop Loreley Rock

See[edit]

Bacharach: Burg Stahleck

Castles[edit]

Schönburg castle

Driving or cruising along the valley there is nearly always at least two castle within sight. Many are open to the public but some are private or in ruins with no access. A few are hotels or hostels. The must visits are: Rheinstein, for its position and restored structure; the Marksburg for is well preserved structure; and Rheinfels for its size and the chance to explore the underground areas (take a torch with you). Expect to do some steep climbing of stairs and walks along narrow high ramparts. Exciting and worth the visit but a little nerve racking with small children.

Do[edit]

View of the Loreley from the Rheinburgenweg looking toward the Rheinsteig
  • Rheinsteig. Walk part of the trail on the right Rhine side.
  • Rheinburgenweg. Walk part of the trail on the left Rhine side.

Events[edit]

  • Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) Firework displays and lit-up cruise boats:
    • Linz am Rhein - Bonn: 6 May 2017 Bonn.  (date needs updating)
    • Rüdesheim - Bingen: 1 July 2017 Bingen.  (date needs updating)
    • Spay - Koblenz: 12 August 2017 Koblenz.  (date needs updating)
    • Oberwesel: 9 September 2017 Oberwesel. The "Night of a Thousand Fires" has been traditionally staged at Oberwesel. For this spectacle, 50 illuminated ships convoy to the town of St. Goar to watch the illumination of the legendary Loreley rock rising 300 feet out of the river. The procession will go from there upstream to Oberwesel passing towns, castles, and churches bathed in Bengal lights. The musical brilliant firework display in front of the medieval backdrop of Oberwesel is the highlight of the boat parade. (date needs updating)
    • St. Goar - St. Goarshausen: 16 September 2017 Sankt Goar.
  • Tal Total: 25 June 2017 . Road along the Rhine valley closed to motor vehicles, thousands of cyclists and in-line skaters. Last weekend in June, Saturday is the B42 between Rüdesheim and Lahnstein, Sunday the B9 between Bingerbrück and Koblenz-Stolzenfels. (date needs updating)

Eat[edit]

Drink[edit]

The Rhine Valley is famous for wine, and this section of the Rhine along with its tributaries the Mosel and Nahe cover 5 of Germany's 13 officially recognized wine regions. From north to south:

  • Mosel: mostly sweet white Riesling, covers the entire Mosel River valley from Luxembourg to Koblenz
  • Mittelrhein: almost all Riesling, from Koblenz to Bingen (left bank) and Königswinter to Kaub (right bank)
  • Nahe: varies wines, along the Nahe river southwest of Bingen
  • Rheingau: the best-known, almost all high-quality (Prädikat) Riesling, but Assmannshausen's red Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is also famous; right bank only, from Lorch via Assmannshausen, Rudesheim, Eltville, Wiesbaden to Hochheim am Main
  • Rheinhessen: Germany's largest producer, along the left bank from Bingen through Mainz and south all the way to Worms

For those who enjoy a beer try Maximilians Brauwiesen micro-brewery in Lahnstein.

Stay safe[edit]

On the cruise ships there is not always shade on the decks, do not forget your sun cream and maybe sun hat.

Connect[edit]

Go next[edit]


This region travel guide to Middle Rhine Valley is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.