Germany’s wine growing regions draw many thousands of visitors every year, but their attraction is far from limited to vineyards and wine cellars. Instead, discover a wealth of countryside walks, picturesque ruined castles and charming riverside villages. Whether you explore on foot, by bicycle or on the water, this is an area designed to be savoured slowly. Here’s why you don’t need a drink to enjoy these German wine-growing regions.
Hike to a castle
Ruined and restored castles overlook many villages along the wine route. In Cochem on the Mosel, the river’s largest fortification dates from 1130 and was brought back to its former glory in the 19th century. Berlin businessman Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené bought the place in 1868 and under his supervision, the renovation saw it take on a distinctive Gothic revival style. The Rhein has many castles and strongholds perched on hills overlooking its meanders. Don’t miss the Marksburg, the only undamaged castle in the Middle Rhine, and also Rheinfels castle, an impressive ruin.
Wander quaint streets in riverside villages
Many of the villages lining the Rhine and Mosel are crammed full of centuries-old half-timbered homes. Rüdesheim am Rhein is famous for the Drosselgasse, just 2 metres wide. It once housed sailors who would drag their oars, sails and rigging up the narrow street to their quarters. Zell on the Mosel is another delightful little place. Known as the “black cat village”, there’s a pretty fountain at its heart which is a reminder of a local legend that is said to prove Zell produces the best wine in the area.
Take a relaxing boat trip
Pleasure cruisers shuttle back and forth along the rivers in Germany’s wine-growing regions. Arguably the best on the Saar river takes in the view of the Saarschleife, a dramatic horseshoe bend. If you prefer city sightseeing, then the large boats in the Köln-Düsseldorfer fleet are a convenient method of linking these two attractive cities. On the Mosel, one of the best trips departs Bernkastel-Kues for the delightful twin towns of Traben-Trarbach, from where a moderate hike leads up to the Ruin Grevenburg overlooking the river.
Rent a bicycle and explore on two wheels
The EuroVelo 15 is a 1500km long cycleway that stretches along the Rhein. The good news is that you don’t need to cycle nearly as far to understand the joys of exploring on two wheels. Koblenz is where you’ll find the Burg & Bike scheme, which offers rental, day trips and longer guided tours. Try their 15km run to Boppard which ends at a lofty castle reached by a chair lift. When you’re on holiday, who needs aching thigh muscles from steep ascents when you can take the easy way up?