The UNESCO World Heritage portion of the Rhine Valley is breathtaking. Surrounded by lush vineyards, German fairy tale towns, and gorgeous medieval castles, you can’t help but feel like you have whisked away to a far off land as you cruise this beautiful region. Nowhere else in the world can you find as many castles as close together as the castles in The Upper Middle Rhine Valley. These castles highlight the wealth and prosperity of this region in The Middle Ages, and a cruise along the Rhine River gives you an amazing view.
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Travel Like Us
Accommodations: For our trip to the Rhine Valley, we decided to make the charming town of Bacharach our home base. You can read all about why we chose Bacharach in our post, Ultimate Guide to the Fairy Tale Town of Bacharach, Germany. We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast, Bistro Rene, where the town castle overlooked our balcony! We found Bistro Rene on Hotels.com. Marty and I love using Hotels.com. Not only do you get a great rate, but you also earn free nights. You can’t beat that!
If you prefer a small apartment, consider booking with Airbnb. We use Airbnb when we want to “live like a local.” Haven’t tried Airbnb? Well, click here to get a $40 credit toward your first stay.
Choosing a Cruise: We chose to do a day cruise on the most scenic portion of The Rhine, from St. Goar to Bingen. We recommend cruising in one direction, and then taking the train in the opposite direction. Marty and I chose to use KD Cruise line for our trip. The lady working the ticket office in St. Goar was super helpful so she won our business.
When to Visit: The boats run from early April through October, with the summer months being the nicest weather and therefore the most tourist.
Sights on the Romantic Rhine
Rheinfels and Katz Castle
Boarding our boat in St. Goar meant we were immediately greeted by two castles. The ruins of Rheinfels Castle sit high above St. Goar like a ghost from the past, while the Katz Castle sits across the river staring at the town of St. Goar. In the Medieval days, these castles combined had clear views up and down the river where they could control traffic and collect their duties. Today Burg Katz sits empty after the plans to renovate were squashed by the local townspeople.
Be on the lookout for the infamous statue of the Loreley, the beautiful-but-deadly nymph. Legend has it that a young maiden threw herself into the river in a fit of despair over an unfaithful lover. Upon her death, she was turned into a siren that sailors say could be heard singing a hypnotic song that lured them to their death.
Luckily our captain didn’t fall under her spell, and we sailed safely past!
Oberwesel and Schonburg Castle
The charming town of Oberwesel is overlooked by Schonburg Castle. Oberwesel has a magnificent medieval wall and towers. The Schonburg Castle is now a hotel! Definitely on my list to stay in next time we visit!
Built in the middle of the river, Pfalz Castle can’t be missed. This castle would string large chains across the river forcing traffic to stop and pay their taxes before crossing. This helped to make the town of Kaub very wealthy! You can tour the tiny castle if you like, but it’s pretty boring so I wouldn’t bother. Just admire it from your cruise.
Bacharach and Stahleck Castle
The charming town of Bacharach sits right along the Rhine and is overlook by Stahleck Castle up on the hill. Bacharach is a great little town and well worth spending some time in. Some of the best wine in the region is from Bacharach, and the local vintners are proud to share the fruits of their labor with you. While visiting Bacharach, you can stay in Stahleck Castle which is now a hostel.
Surrounded by vineyards, as are most towns on the Rhine, you will find the quaint town of Lorchhausen. Famous for being the starting point of the Rheingau Riesling Route, you will find the area growing Riesling and pinot-noir grapes. Visitors can roam the vineyards and explore the castles and towers of the area.
The Gutenfels Castle has been owned by the Falkenstein family since the 11th-century. Since 1277 it has been the castle of the Electorate of Palatinate. Today it is used as a hotel.
Niederheimbach and Heimberg Castle
Niederheimbach is overlooked by Heimberg Castle. Although Heimburg Castle is individually owned today, and not available for tours, you can still visit the town of Niederheimbach. Enjoy the of the historic ring-wall, as well as some 17th-century relics in the church.
Originally built in the 11th century, Sooneck Castle was destroyed twice. It was also the sight of several medieval battles and sieges. Touring this castle gives you insight into wonderful paintings and furniture.
The village of Assmannshausen is well worth a visit during your time in the Rhine Valley. Stop in one of the historic taverns to enjoy the town’s famous red wine made from grapes grown on “hell hill”. Ride the chair lift to the top of the hill while overlooking half-timbered house and beautiful vineyards. There is also a Gothic style church, a 12th-century basilica, and the Niederwald hunting lodge.
Reichenstein Castle is currently privately owned but they do allow tours. Although the castle was first built in the 11th century, it was rebuilt in the beautiful Romantic era. Passed around several times, the castle fell into despair in the 1500s until it was purchased and rebuilt in 1834.
Built by the archbishop in 1219 to protect his lands, Furstenburg Castle is just ruins today.
Located opposite of Assmannshausen, this gorgeous estate was our favorite on the Rhine. Built in the beginning of the 14th-century, Rheinstein screams romance to me. Inside are stained glass windows, beautiful paintings, and period furnishings. Today the castle hosts many events including medieval games and romantic tours.
Ehrenfels Castle was one of three castles originally built to protect the archbishop of Mainz. In Medieval times, it was of strategic importance because of its location above the Binger Loch. It was destroyed in 1689, but the ruins are still pretty impressive.
These were just a few of the beautiful sights we saw along the Rhine River. Although we spent three days in this area, we wanted more time. We will definitely be going back.
Please comment below and tell us your favorite castle or town in the Rhine Valley. While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe!