Hosting one castle every 2.5 km on average, Middle Rhine has been among the most visited tourist destinations in Germany since the 19th century. The area between Bonn and Bingen am Rhein boasts around 40 more or less intact castles surrounded by vineyards and small traditional vine-growing villages. It is also home to the world-famous Rhine Gorge, or Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.
Things to see and do
Lorelei is a 132 metre high cliff in the Middle Rhine area, next to the village St Goarshausen. The treacherous waters around the cliff have caused anguish among the sailors who translated it into folktales. These have further nurtured the imagination of the 19th century romantic writers, such as Clemens Brentano and Heinrich Heine. Lorelei becomes the beautiful maiden, whose golden jewellery and hair shine in the sun while she is sitting on top of the cliff and singing a song. Her beauty unwittingly distracted the shipmen on the Rhine, causing them to crash on the cliff. Heine’s 1823 poem becomes one of the several myths about Lorelei and her cliff. When visiting Lorelei, don’t miss out on the bob-run (“Bobbahn”) just next to the Lorelei parking ground on the hilltop. The hilltop sleigh is great fun and not just for kids.
The medieval stronghold of Marksburg situated on the hilltop of the small village Braubach has never been destroyed, and along with Pfalzgrafenstein offers original examples of 13th and 15th century architecture. The succession of ownership changed over the centuries from the founding counts of Eppstein to the German Castle Association, and meant that the castle has been more a residence and administrative centre than a garrison. Today Marksburg offers not just visits in its interior furnished in medieval style, but also a breat-taking view over the Rhine Gorge.
Another highlight of the Rhine Gorge is Castle Pfalzgrafenstein, which is located on an island in the middle of the river Rhine. Little ferries are taking the visitors to the island. The castle has been built to control the tax payment of the passing ships. It’s the only castle along the Rhine that never has been used as a residence. Take a picnic basket and enjoy the little island by watching the passing ships.
Rüdesheim and “Drosselgasse”
The romantic village of Rüdesheim is the most visited village along the Rhine among tourists, attracting around three million tourists per year. It is especially famous for the “Drosselgasse”. This famous little cobblestone lane is 114m long and just 2 metres wide, and lies in the heart of the old town with lavishly decorated restaurants, wine taverns on both sides. Its charming Christmas market does not fail to attract locals as well as visitors.
“Niederwaldtempel” and “Niederwaldmonument”
A chairlift takes visitors from Rüdesheim up the hill to visit the recently renovated viewing platform Niederwald temple — a meeting place that has become a theme for the writers of the 19th century romantic movement — and the Niederwald monument. The 10.5 metre tall and 32 tonnes heavy monument has been built in 1871 as a symbol of the German unification after the French-German war 1970/1971. On sunny days the skyline of Frankfurt can be seen far on the horizon.