Middle Rhine Valley

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

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

Understand

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

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

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

Frankfurt airport is the major international airport for the area. Cologne/Bonn has some connections from other European countries.

By train

Bonn and Wiesbaden via Frankfurt are the key stations into the region.

By car

The A61 is just to the west of the Middle Rhine Valley.

By cruise

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

Marksburg, the only unaltered castle along the Rhine Valley

By car

Along the left bank runs the B9

while along the right bank the B42
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

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 (9 AM onwards on weekdays, all days weekends, up to 3 AM 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

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.

On foot

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

See

Bacharach: Burg Stahleck

Castles

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 touch 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

View of the Loreley from the Rheinburgenweg looking toward the Rheinsteig

Events

Drink

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:

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.