Visiting the Rhine River Valley

Visiting the Rhine River Valley never gets old. It’s storybook Germany, a fairy-tale world of legends and robber-baron castles. For a quick visit, I’d cruise the most castle-studded stretch of the romantic Rhine, from Koblenz to Bacharach. For hands-on thrills, climb through the Rhineland’s greatest castle, Rheinfels, above the town of St. Goar. Castle connoisseurs will also enjoy Marksburg, with the best castle interior on the Rhine. I spend my Rhine nights in the castle-crowned village of Bacharach.



While the Rhine River is lined by scenic roads, train tracks, and bike lanes, the most relaxing way to enjoy the Rhine is by romantic old steamers.


Bacharach youth hostel viewThe first time I slept along the Rhine, it was in one of Europe’s great youth hostels: Stahleck Castle. Imagine spending just $30 a night for your bed with breakfast, and ending your day with a drink on your own Rhine-view balcony like this. I just dropped in again as I was updating my guidebook, and the castle-hostel is a dreamy as ever. I hiked up here with Thomas, a friend from the village below, who recalled how, back in the ‘70s, he and his friends literally scaled the castle walls as kids to hang out with the British and American girls staying in the hostel.


Rhineland-Oberwessel-rampart-hike-with-river-viewWhile I’ve always loved Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar, and the town of Bacharach, the town of Oberwesel (midway between St. Goar and Bacharach) has long intrigued me. So on this trip, I visited Oberwesel, and I was charmed enough to write it up as a worthwhile stop. Just four miles from Bacharach, it’s a worth a quick visit to see its charming main square, walk along its fun surviving medieval wall, and explore the best collection of historic Rhine artifacts I found within the romantic Rhine gorge.


Rhineland-oberwessel-wall-hikeClimbing along the upper wall of the town of Oberwesel, I found a path that leads through a peaceful little meadow and forest with great wall and town views. The Cowherd’s Tower is now a private home with a fanciful drawbridge. In local folklore, the current family’s teenage son threw a rowdy graduation party in the tower. With all the noise, neighbors complained. When the police came, the kids just hoisted up the drawbridge and partied on.