10 Simply Unmissable Retreats in the Rhineland
Germany’s Rhineland region features around 500 enchanting fairytale castles, historic ruins, vineyards, spas, hiking trails, natural wonders and a whole host of charming villages. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what else this picturesque province has to offer…
Aside from being the Rhineland’s official capital, Cologne also holds the prestigious title of ‘Christmas Market Capital of the World‘. With a number of festive activities taking place on both sides of the Rhine river, the region’s largest Christmas tree and some stunning historical architecture providing a fine backdrop for the myriad market traders, this town is – understandably – well worth a visit in December.
Image – Annie and Andrew
The Rhineland’s Wine Road
Bockenheim – Schweigen
This 50-mile drive is actually the oldest scenic route in the country and will whizz by much faster than you think, so ensure you slow down in order to take it all in. Starting in the southwest, the road takes you through one of Germany’s largest wine growing regions, where you can visit vineyards, restaurants and quaint villages to get your fill of the wonderful produce. Visit in autumn to enjoy the fall colours or September for the Wurstmarkt Wine Festival.
Image – Michi W
Eifel National Park
The only national park in the north of the Rhineland covers an area equal to 17,000 football pitches (110 sq km), so there’s plenty of space to roam around in. Or kick a football, come to think of it. Ideal for hiking and other forms of outdoor recreation, the abundant beech forests are also home to a wide variety of wildlife including owls, beavers, bats, kingfishers, wildcats and a further 1,600 species of endangered plants and animals. If you fancy a challenge and have some time on your hands, you could try to spot them all.
Image – fw42
Immerse yourself in the area’s rich history and culture with a visit to this majestic medieval castle in the Lower Rhine flatlands. Home to a stunning collection of artwork, the walls are lined with paintings, etchings and drawings, while the interior rooms and exterior gardens are populated with quirky carved features and intriguing sculptures. As if that weren’t enough to convince you of a detour, the name ‘Moyland’ also derives from a Dutch word meaning ‘beautiful country’.
Image – Tobias Steinhoff
Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains)
Take the South route out of Bonn and you’ll be greeted by the mighty peaks of the Siebengebirge range. With around 40 thickly forested hills, the area contains a number of accessible and challenging walking routes, several castles and even, bizarrely, a small reptile zoo. Ölberg is the highest ‘mountain’ at 461m, but the nearby smaller Drachenfels (321m) is home to most of the attractions, including the beautifully renovated Nibelungenhalle which pays homage to composer Richard Wagner.
Image – Jaeger-Meister
An absolute must for all those with a love (or even a vague liking) for chocolate, this museum looks at all kinds of cocoa-based goodness throughout the ages. Alongside the history and art of chocolate-making there are special exhibitions which feature various edible sculptures and visitors will even get to taste a sample of the delicious confectionery on display. Try to only take what is offered, as opposed to just diving right in – you may want to come back, after all.
Image – Daniel Farrell
Carolus Thermen Spa
Bad Aachen (or just Aachen, to its friends) is most famous for its warm, thermal springs and it has seen many famous names from history take a restorative dip in its pools, including Casanova and Charlemagne. Take a trip to the opulent Carolus Thermen Spa to reap the benefits from the mineral-rich waters and shake off the weariness of any long drives in readiness for the next.
Image – Hunerauge
If you prefer to be on the water instead of in it, park up and take a boat trip to see the world’s tallest cold water geyser. There are four trips per day, carefully timed to coincide with the geyser’s eruptions so you won’t miss any of the action, and you’ll also get a stunning view of the Namedyer peninsula on the way. Don’t miss the accompanying interactive exhibition in order to learn even more about this unique natural wonder.
Image – rhodesj
Owned by Count and Countess Eltz (direct descendants of the property’s original owners), Eltz castle is an outstanding example of the medieval architecture that can be found in many castles throughout the Rhineland. One of the few to remain unscathed by the many wars that have raged here, several original features remain to be admired, including archaically attractive furnishings and detail-rich decor spanning the past eight centuries.
Image – Saint Cristo
Once host to royalty, tsars and emperors, Bad Ems continues to lure in visitors the world over with its mix of cosmopolitan attractions and therapeutic spas. In the stunning setting of the Lahn Valley, you could take a gamble in Germany’s oldest casino, tour the historic Roman Limes or visit one of the many specialist health centres designed with relaxation in mind. August also sees Bad Ems hosting Germany’s biggest flower parade, Blumenkorso.
Image – Camilo g.r.