I like nature, history, and discovering new places. Doesn't everyone? How about tasting some wine on the way, just to complete the wonderful relaxed holiday feeling? Here's a trip that provides the whole package: glorious Rhine river landscapes, innumerable ancient castles all around, the famous historical Heidelberg city, the plentiful vineyards and wineries of Rudeshem-am-Rhein, and the classy resort in Bad Ems to restore both body and mind! Please find my 8-day itinerary of the trip for example and inspiration below, and feel free to explore the clickable links for more photos & info.
Day1. Arrival & Koblenz
For most of my travels, I take a plane to the destination point and then use public transport to do the sightseeing. This carefully planned trip started at Hanh Airport (cheaply accessible from many European countries), where we landed on a nice Saturday afternoon. Our half-empty bus to Koblenz departed at half past 3 pm, and it was a comfortable 70-minute drive. The Ghotel we stayed in was located right next to a bus stop – how very convenient for travelers like us, who rely on public transport so much! After the check-in we took bus number 1 to Deutsches Eck, and then a cable car to see Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.
We actually had no idea there was a medieval festival taking place... People walking around in medieval costumes, market stalls with singular works of craftsmen and artists – what a unique atmosphere, swiftly sweeping you away from the time and the state of mind you were in just a minute ago! Needless to say, the view over Deutsches Eck from the fortress is breathtaking.
Eventually bidding farewell to the alluring scenes from the past, we took a cable car back to a lower station for a short walk around Deutsches Eck with its monument to the German Emperor William I. The day ended with a solid dinner at a great national style restaurant called “Wacht-am-Rhein”, and full of delicious food and new impressions, we got back to the hotel, impatient for the next day to start.
Day 2. Eltz Castle and Bad Ems
Laying out the plan for this Germany trip, I made sure to include visiting Eltz Castle by public transport, which was only available on weekends. I was eager to see this unique architectural object, never destroyed throughout its history and owned by one family for hundreds of years. To get there, we first took a train to Hatzenport, then a bus, then a brief pleasant walk with terrific scenery around.
You can actually enter the castle only as part of a guided tour, which we did well to have taken, as it turned out to be very informative, and the castle – worth visiting indeed! Then we went back to Koblenz the same way we came, having no time to waste since we had yet another thing to check off our to-do lists – a relaxing afternoon in Bad Ems, a first-rate resort town.
We took a train to Bad Ems West Station and a lovely walk to Emser Therme – a modern complex of different kinds of baths and pools, plus a room where you can inhale the local healing salt, an outside sunbathing area and a pavilion located on the river. A truly enjoyable stay and we left with mind refreshed and strength restored to take yet another walking tour, this time around the charming town of Bad Ems. We also paid a visit to the magnificent Häcker's Grand Hotel, and then came back to Koblenz for one more night at the Ghotel.
Day 3. The Rhine river cruise
Our next day was fully devoted to the Rhine river cruise. In the morning we took a 12-minute train ride to the town of Boppard. There we located the ticket office to buy a cruise to Rudesheim am Rhein with a stop in St. Goar. On someone’s wise advice we only bought one ticket to the final destination, which was a good bargain compared to buying two separate ones.
After a short walking tour around Boppard that definitely charmed us with its historical feel, we finally got into a KD company boat going to St. Goar first. The weather was ideal, warm and sunny, and we enjoyed the little towns and castles on the hilltops, perfectly observable from the open deck. Once in St. Goar, we left our luggage in the tourist office, and took the tourist train to Rheinfels Castle.
The castle itself is a pretty imposing sight, and as for the view over the town and the river, you sure have to turn away to be able to breathe again! Having also visited the museum inside the castle, we went downhill on foot, admiring the strikingly beautiful views and enjoying the sunshine. Then we boarded the boat again to go to Rudesheim am Rhein, where we checked in the Altdeutsche Weinstube Hotel, strolled around the town a bit and had a savory dinner at a cozy place by the river.
Day 4. Rudesheim am Rhein
In the morning we headed to the cable car station to go and see the Niederwald Monument. I definitely recommend this trip because of spectacular views! The way back took us through a fascinating stretch of vineyards, and we could once more enjoy the changing panorama of the river and the town.
The next event we were looking forward to was visiting Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett, but apparently a tour was only available for groups, so the two of us weren’t nearly enough… What a shame! But we watched a small concert instead, soothed by the melodious sound of many beautiful old instruments, then visited a wonderful shop nearby with different kinds of musical toys and figurines on sale.
After that we went looking for a place to taste some wine, only to discover that nothing was available for individual tourists in any of the three places we checked. Eventually though, we stumbled upon Vinothek Georg Breuer that offered no seats either, but free wine samples anyway, with nice accompanying stories about them. Not unexpectedly, each of us left with a few bottles in hand!
Our last place to visit in Rudesheim was Asbach Visitors’ Center, where we tasted a brandy of Hugo Asbach’s creation. Just for the two of us, the helpful lady that showed us around put on a film about the history of the place in English. Then we did a short self-guided tour of the distillery and paid 2 Euros for a few exquisite brandy samples.
When it was time for our train trip to Heidelberg, we collected our luggage from the hotel and took a ferry to Bingen. Little did we know that the train station would be unmanned, with ticket machines only, which both puzzled and disappointed us, because we had no idea how to get tickets! What would you do? We decided to board the train anyway, hoping there would be a train attendant to buy tickets from – which was not the case. We were probably in for a fine, but were lucky enough to only suffer the embarrassment of being escorted out at the next station, where we bought tickets to Mainz, and from Mainz to Heidelberg, with the help of an assistant. Those obviously-not-tourist-friendly ticket machines made us lose almost an hour! Getting a bit tired of this unforeseen adventure, we finally arrived at Heidelberg Station and took a tram to our Crowne Plaza hotel.
Day 5. Heidelberg
I had great hopes for Heidelberg as an authentically German city. The morning was rainy but good enough for our travel plans, so we saw the city centre first, walking the pedestrian street called Hauptstrasse to the funicular railway that would get us to the city castle.
As usual, to see the interiors we had to buy a guided tour ticket. The tour was interesting on the one hand, and a bit disappointing on the other… I actually hoped the castle would have more of a historical feel, but the interiors were renovated at the end of the 19th century, and I found them a little “kitsch”, to be honest. The most impressive sight was a huge wine barrel in the basement with its follow-up story about a court jester who died of tasting water after a long life of drinking nothing but wine.
We took a stroll around the castle park before going back downtown to see the Old Bridge and visit the Heiliggeistkirche and the Jesuitenkirche of Heidelberg. The interiors of those churches were interesting enough but nothing out of the ordinary, I suppose. We also wanted to attend an organ music concert but unfortunately didn’t manage to get any clear information about it. On the bright side, we had a great lunch in a college cafeteria at Marstallhof 3.
On our way back we did some shopping in the Hauptstrasse, then had an excellent dinner in a Chinese restaurant behind our hotel, and settled in for another night at Crowne Plaza.
Day 6. From Heidelberg to Mannheim
We spent a very refreshing morning in the hotel spa area. Let’s just say the German “textile free” policy in baths and saunas is a bit embarrassing at first, but after a while you just get over it, and relax...
As Heidelberg didn’t quite live up to my expectations, we simply did some more shopping and left for Mannheim earlier than planned, by tram rather than by train. In fact, Manheim was surprisingly close, but as part of the tram track was under reconstruction, we had to catch a bus as well, and the whole trip took longer than it could have.
We also had to change trams in the city centre to get to our InterCityHotel Mannheim, located next to the train station. A free city travel card for the duration of our stay was really a pleasant surprise! We put it to use right after the check-in, taking a tram to Luisenpark. Hours go unnoticed as you’re walking around it, admiring the landscape, spotting different birds and animals. Should you ever get the chance to visit this park, just go for it!
Back in the city centre, we made ourselves comfortable in a small tower café to watch the sunset over Mannheim, then had dinner in the oriental restaurant downstairs and returned to our InterCityHotel.
Day 7. Mannheim
In the morning we decided to visit Mannheim Palace. We went by tram and were a bit early for the opening, but that was just as well, as we got the chance to look around and found a nearby Jesuit church with a magnificent interior! Make sure to visit it when you’re in the region. Then we went back to the very impressive Mannheim Palace with a 450 m long front. It is mostly used as a university but the central part also serves as a museum. No description can do justice to the lavish interior, and we were all eyes when we got the chance to see ancient tapestry being cleaned.
We had an agreeable afternoon shopping downtown, and in the evening went back to Luisenpark to explore the areas we hadn’t covered yet. We also went up the TV tower to admire the stunning view of the park and the city. The tower is located next to one of the entrances to Luisenpark, and after you visit it, the same ticket gives you access to every other park area. It was a lovely day indeed, and all in all, to my big surprise, I can say I liked Mannheim more than Heidelberg... We had one more night to spend at InterCityHotel, and in the morning we’d be heading home.
Day 8. Mannheim to Hahn airport
After breakfast we went to the bus station, located next to the railway station, to catch a bus to Hahn Airport for our flight home. The tiredness lasted a few days, the wine was a matter of weeks, some gifts will hopefully be kept by our friends for years, but the special memories we now have are nothing less than forever.
If you have enjoyed my story, and if you have ever visited some or all of the places I’ve mentioned, please tell me all about it in the comments section below!
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