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Mosel/Rhine itinerary help

I know there are many posts about this, but I am struggling with our particular itinerary. Would appreciate suggestions. We (family of four with two teen boys aged 14 and 17) will leave RoT and head to the Rhine/Mosel. We have five nights (May 28-June 2, 2024) and then will fly out of Frankfurt. We have a rental car but also plan to use trains/boats for day trips when they are easier than a car. We hope to see and do the following, if we can possibly squeeze it all in:
--Trier (I realize this is out of the way so it isn't essential but it sounds interesting)
--As many little towns/castles as is feasible between Trier and Cochem (Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach, Zell, Bremm, Beilstein). Not sure the best way to see these (car, boat, train?)
--Burg Eltz
--Schloss Drachenfells, en route to or from Cologne (we need to go to Cologne to see a college that my son is interested in and will plan to see the cathedral while there)
--Koblenz (is the Deutsches Eck worth a stop/chairlift ride?)
--Rhine towns/castles--again, as many as is feasible (Boppard, Braubach, Bacharach, Sankt Goar, Oberwesel)
--Rudesheim (also not essential, but we are interested in Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, is it worth the time?)
--I think a cruise on each river?
--some easy scenic hikes/bike rides with ebikes (we are in our 50s and have back/knee/foot issues but LOVE nature hikes/rides)

Lodging has been difficult to find for a family (we don't like having two separate hotel rooms so this eliminates almost all hotels). I found vacation rentals in Traben-Trarbach or in Bernkastel-Kues that will work May 28-31. Haven't found anything great in the Cochem area. Maybe a possible place in Ediger-Eller. For the Rhine side I have tentatively booked an apartment in Boppard (Buchenau) for May 31-June 2 but can change this. I have gone back and forth with just staying near Koblenz all 5 nights and doing day trips (despite that it's not a charming place, it is more central). But then those day trips to Trier and Cologne and Rudesheim seem long. I have also considered two nights in B-K or T-T, one night near Konigswinter (I found a lovely apartment in Linz), and then the two nights in Boppard. Keeping in mind that our total trip (Germany to Italy to Switzerland and back to Germany) is 28 days and this is the tail end and we'll likely be exhausted.

What are your thoughts? Any help appreciated.

Posted by
6094 posts

We did a Rhine cruise with Viking a few years ago, and this past fall stayed on the Mosel and mostly visited the Mosel area. On one of the days we ventured over to some of the Rhine towns. We came thru Luxembourg to arrive at Mosel and stopped for about half a day in Trier. We enjoyed the town though it is a good hour from most of the Mosel wine towns. If you stay around Cochem, you can get to most places you are interested in in a bit over an hour, including Burg Eltz, Trier, and the Rhine towns. Boppard would also be a somewhat central place to stay with the exception of visiting Trier.

We stayed in Krov. I booked directly with the property, but I found it through a Mosel website. I will take a look and see if I can find the particular website.

Posted by
6797 posts

I found vacation rentals in Traben-Trarbach...

That's a good place for you, I think, nice town well situated for a cruise to Bernkastel (the Mosel wine town with the area's most stunning half-timbered buildings.) Kolb Personenschifffahrt 2023 schedule... bottom left corner of this page:

https://www.moselrundfahrten.de/files/moselfahrplan_bernkastel_2023.pdf?v2

Underground cellars in Traben-Trarbach: https://www.unterwelt-ausflug.de/home-en.htm

I would probably arrange things like this...

Drachenfels & Cologne: Suggest you head straight there from Rothenburg. This will definitely save you some ground-travel time overall. With the drive, the college thing, the cathedral, and Drachenfels, you have a very full plate and should plan to stay the 28th in/near Cologne or Bonn. Note that official DJH hostels are very family-friendly these days and have family rooms with private bath. The Bad Honnef hostel is at the doorstep of Drachenburg.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1026921-d11714748-Reviews-Jugendherberge_Bad_Honnef-Bad_Honnef_North_Rhine_Westphalia.html

29th: Drive to Burg Eltz for a tour, continue to Traben-Trarbach for 2 nights.

30th: Cruise to Bernkastel; Bus 360 gets you back to T-T in around 45 minutes. Fit in some biking in the afternoon.

31st: Check out, drive to Cochem (half day there) and on to Boppard for 2 nights.

1st: Rhine cruise from Bingen to St. Goar + tour of Marksburg Castle. You'll need to reach Bingen by train an

2nd: not sure if this is a free day or if you fly out. If free, visit Oberwesel and./or Bacharach on this day.

Boppard-Buchenau is a suburb in the hills outside of town. I'd prefer a location in town and nearer the boat docks in either Boppard or St. Goar. St. Goar might be better on June 1 since most cruise boats terminate in St. Goar and you could pick up your car right there after the cruise for the trip to Marksburg in Braubach.

Posted by
2482 posts

Deutsches Eck is not really much, BUT the cable car to/from the fortress gives great views.

In oberwesel, walk the wall

For a visit to a ruined castle, make the short hike to Burg StahlBERG, just inland from Bacharach above its suburb of Steeg. Most likely you will be the only ones there

I like the boat between Bingen/Ruedeshim to Boppard. In Boppard take the chairlift. Walk to Vierseenblick where the Rhine looks like 4 lakes rather than a river. The views on the way back down on the chairlift are SUPERB.

It has been many, many years since I biked there - no bike paths then ! - but I think the Mosel is a better choice than the Rhine.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for the suggestions so far! Jules M, I found a website with some apartments in the Mosel that I'm checking out, thanks for the idea.

Russ, that was immensely helpful, I really appreciate your time and thoughts. I'll work on tweaking the itinerary now. I'm assuming that Trier is too far out of the way for the time we have? And yes, we have part of the day on June 2nd, we are staying at a hotel at the Frankfurt airport that night and fly out June 3.

Stephen, thanks for those tips, I'll add those to my notes.

Posted by
9041 posts

I really like Siegfrieds Musical Cabinet in Rüdesheim. Very unique experience and you will not find these things anywhere else. Ride the chair lift up to the Niederwald Denkmal. The view is stunning.
The boys will enjoy Burg Rheinfels in St. Goar. See if you can go on one of the tours of the tunnels.
If you enjoy anything Roman, you will love Trier. The Porta Nigra is magnificent. For me, it would be worth the trip there rather than some of your other day trips.

There is a medieval Fest in Ober-Wesel on 18-20 May if you are in the area.

Posted by
6797 posts

Trier is worthwhile for its Roman history, as Jo says. It would require an additional day, however, and I would not recommend it UNLESS you genuinely are intent on understanding Ancient Rome's presence in the area. Obviously, the smaller towns that you mentioned (Zell, Bremm, Beilstein) might be easy to fit in here or there as time allows and if they are important to you.

June 2: Since it's wide open, you have a nice selection available to you. Rheinfels in St. Goar (if you haven't already snuck it in somewhere) plus Oberwesel (the town wall walk, which stephen mentions,) Bacharach's nice half-timbered buildings, and Rüdesheim on the way to the airport.

There are car ferries for reaching Rüdesheim from Oberwesel/Bacharach area - one that gets you over to Kaub, and another one south of Bacharach in Niederheimbach that shuttles you across to Lorch. Drive into Rüdesheim from there.

Posted by
6094 posts

I concur with Jo's recommendations for Rudesheim. It is quite touristy, but the views and small town are gorgeous. I also recommend the chair lift, and we walked on the paths above the town.

Unless I missed it, I don't see comments on Burg Eltz. We really enjoyed our tour and RS's information for visiting it was spot on.

Trier is out of the way, but in addition to the Roman ruins, the old town center is very attractive. The RS guide had a short walking tour.

I don't think I'd do a boat cruise on both rivers. You will see everything along the Mosel during your drives. I would recommend a short Rhine cruise. Look for the railroad tunnels made to look like castles. We were told it was to trick potential bombing raids into thinking they were castles not railroad tunnels.

Posted by
7012 posts

Unless I missed it, I don't see comments on Burg Eltz. We really enjoyed our tour and RS's information for visiting it was spot on.

I'm another one who loved Burg Eltz. The scenery surrounding the castle is breathtaking, and the castle tour itself was wonderful. It's very interesting as the original family still owns the castle, and details about them are included in the tour. It's easy to get to by car or public transportation (I took the train from Boppard to Hatzenport, then the 365 bus to the castle). Here's my online journal of that if you would like more details. https://mostlytraveled.wordpress.com/2022/05/10/day-15-burg-eltz-castle/

Posted by
6797 posts

Unless I missed it, I don't see comments on Burg Eltz. We really enjoyed our tour and RS's information for visiting it was spot on.

You and I both mentioned it previously. Thanks to Mardee, it's a party.

I wonder what Rick says about getting there these days.. Does anyone know whether Rick's more recent editions contain updated transport information on getting to Burg Eltz? I am somewhat surprised at how many forum visitors have learned about Eltz but do not understand that there is good access to Eltz nowadays via the train-to-bus connections at Hatzenport station.

Bus 365's timetable for Hatzenport > < Eltz is available at the link below. But to get to Eltz, one only needs to use the DB Railways site to get a train + bus schedule.

https://download.transdev.de/transdev/uploads/vmr/schedule/258/365-regio-bus-burg-eltz-munstermaifeld-hatzenport.pdf

At the DB site, enter "Burg Eltz, Wierschem" as the destination.

Posted by
6094 posts

We visited Burg Eltz via car at the end of September 2023, easy peasy. We started out following RS instructions, and then the excellent signage.

Posted by
7563 posts

I'd say that Trier is a nicer visit than Koblenz, but it's a matter of opinion. We saw vast numbers of bikes in use in T-T. We didn't sleep there, but in a luxury small hotel in Mulheim. But T-T looked like a nice place to stay. I'd give extra points to a place with guaranteed parking spaces, especially in high season. I'm not sure why you don't like two hotel rooms, but I don't pretend I'm at home while I'm traveling. Note that high-end wineries require appointments, especially in upscale B-K. Our hotel concierge made a couple of last-minute reservations for us, because we hadn't booked in advance.

We're not sorry we visited Burg Eltz, but note that the interior is occupied by a modern family, and it's not very much like a "real" castle inside. Certainly the exterior is spectacular. I think you have done enough research to already know that you only need to ride the Rhine dayboat from Bingen to Boppard or St. Goar. The boats are not suitable for tourism shuttle use, they aren't frequent enough. So you'll be using the train on the correct side of the river to pick up your car, most likely. The train is ten times faster than any boat, but much inferior views. You'll need a chip credit card to buy tickets in unattended stations. (We did not ride a boat on the Mosel, but the car ride to Trier can be scenic. I don't remember a lot of parking in Trier.)

Posted by
8 posts

This has been very helpful and I really appreciate all the tips! We do plan on visiting Burg Eltz for sure (I was there 20+ years ago and it's one my family has always wanted to see). And it sounds like a Mosel boat tour isn't as important as the Rhine boat from Bingen to St. Goar/Boppard. I'm debating heavily whether to see Trier, because I axed Rome from the Italian portion of our trip and my family was very disappointed, especially my 14 year old who LOVES Roman history. But have to figure out what else to give up, then. Any input on Schloss Drachenburg and Drachenfels? Maybe we should skip these? So much to see and so little time.

Posted by
9041 posts

If Trier is out of the picture due to the distance, consider visiting the Saalburg, which is near Frankfurt. This is a reconstructed Roman fort, but built on the ruins of the fort. They have all kinds of activities there, year round, including having Roman soldiers camping out, playing Roman instruments, cooking, archery, etc.
https://www.saalburgmuseum.de/en/

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks, Ms. Jo, that sounds like a great idea! For some reason the website isn't working, but I'll keep trying so I can check it out. I hadn't heard of that so I appreciate the suggestion.

Anyone have thoughts on the daytrip to Cologne and possibly Drachenburg/Drachenfels by train instead of by car? I hate dealing with city traffic and parking if I don't have to. Would it waste too much time to go by train instead?

Posted by
6797 posts

You could drive to lodgings in Bad Honnef or another railway town not too far from Drachenfels (Unkel? Rhoendorf? Koenigswinter?) and ride the direct regional train into Cologne in about 50 minutes. The Cathedral is adjacent to Cologne Hbf station - it doesn't get simpler than this.

Posted by
7563 posts

As Russ points out, Cologne is famous for how accessible 75% of all the sights are on foot from the HBF. Only the Botanical Garden, Ethnographic, and Medieval Art museums require public transit. It is very hard to see Cologne in one day (esp. with travel figured in.)

Not to overstate the case, especially if the underground Praetorium is (?) still closed for repairs, Cologne has many, many Roman fragments, and a superb Romano-Germanic museum, also walkable from the HBF. There are some small Roman monuments at street level, too. It's not a substitute for going to Rome, of course. Do not make the mistake of thinking the Cathedral (highest annual visitor count in Germany) is the only worthwhile attraction in Cologne. For example, the walkable MAK (Applied Arts Museum) has centuries of decorative arts, including Art Nouveau and Deco statues, and wood carvings by Tillman Reimanschneider. It's very enjoyable for people who think, "Aw, not another hallway full of paintings on the wall!!!!" when they hear the word "Museum." The architectural award-winning Kolomba museum has some very old church ruins, with a nice art collection upstairs. The ruined courtyard oudoors but within the Kolumba has a site-specific modern sculpture by American Richard Serra, which I found one of his best (and smallest) works.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/can-i-see-enough-of-cologne

I haven't been to Drachenfels, but isn't it a 19th century mansion, not a medieval castle? And aren't you sleeping two nights very nearby? It would make sense to visit.

I was not sorry I went to the Saalburg, but I wonder if your boys are too old for it already. I found it very thoroughly renovated, and a bit out of the way. I wonder if the UNESCO WHS Roman Limes / forest hikes nearby might be more their speed, if they are outdoorsy, if you're in that area anyway.

It's unclear to me if your willingness to use the train instead of your American steel-steed is firm. Do you have actual past experience with public transportation? German trains are so good that you will have more time in Cologne than if you take the car, but you'll have to deal with train tickets, and waiting time for the next train to come. Are you ready for that? (I would never drive in Germany if the train were suitable, I'm just trying to make sure YOU are happy with your decision. Many American would rather sit in traffic for 30 minutes than have to sit separately from their children on a crowded train, where they could be... gasp... abducted! [Ironica typeface])

Posted by
6797 posts

"I'm debating heavily whether to see Trier..."

You could go to Trier that day instead. But... Trier is no substitute for Rome! Not sure what happens to your bike ride in that case.

Alternatively, you could see a Roman site or two along the Mosel closer in while you get in some biking or hiking. Nehren is just a bend or two upstream from Beilstein. So you could take a drive there to see both places. Roman burial site in Nehren:

https://www.rlp-tourismus.com/en/infosystem/infosystem/Roemergraeber-Nehren-Tour_Nehren/infosystem.html
https://en.visitmosel.de/hiking/tour/the-roman-graves-in-nehren-on-the-moselle

Beilstein: https://img.fotocommunity.com/beilstein-im-herbst-86f97cf2-5565-4675-b5ef-c857b8b3b311.jpg?height=1080

A little further upstream are the towns of Bullay and Alf. This is one of the more scenic parts of the river IMHO. This is also a good place for walks/hikes (Marienberg, Prinzenkopf lookout tower, Burg Arras Castle.)

You could perhaps bike from Traben-Trarbach to Bullay along the Mosel:

https://www.tourenplaner-rheinland-pfalz.de/en/tour/long-distance-cycling/mosel-cycle-path-section-7-from-traben-trarbach-to-bullay/13291265/

Pic of Bullay (right) with Alf (left) and the railway + road bridge that connects the two river banks:

https://bullay.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/blick-auf-die-doppelstockbruecke-bullay.jpg

Bike rentals in Traben-Trarbach: there should be some, not sure where.. They should also be available on the riverfront in Alf, I believe, from Fahrradverleih SALKER:

https://en.visitmosel.de/cities-culture/poi/fahrradverleih-salker

(I would reserve in advance to avoid disappointment.)

Pic of ferry moored on the Alf side with Bullay in the background:

https://img.oastatic.com/img2/13071361/834x417r/variant.jpg

Note also that the town of Boppard, north of St. Goar on the Rhine, has some Roman remnants as well.

https://www.boppard-tourismus.de/en/sightseeing/the-roman-fort/

Posted by
6797 posts

@Tim: By train from Rothenburg to Cologne on the 28th: they would ride 4 different trains for 4 - 4.25 hours minimum (30-45 minutes longer than the standard car trip) on 4 separate trains. Besides Drachenfels and the Dom, a college visit of some sort is on their agenda on that same day, and there's just one night in this area if the suggested Middle Rhine / Mosel plan is adopted (2 nights in each of those areas.) I am concerned they might not have the time they need as it is, actually. The car will streamline a visit to Burg Eltz on the 29th. There may be some wiggle-room for doing more in Cologne before driving to Burg Eltz on the 29th. But that would require backtracking into Cologne if they are staying in some smaller place (like Bad Honnef) as they stipulated, before heading to Eltz.

Posted by
8 posts

Tim--
Thank you for your thoughts. So, I wasn't actually planning on visiting Cologne at all, as we just don't have the time. We are going out of the way to go there for the sole purpose of making my son happy, as he really wants to study at TH Köln and he wants to see the place first. I figured as long as we are going to be there we may as well stop and see the cathedral at least. My thoughts now are that we'll stop and see Drachenfels/Schloss Drachenburg if we have time on the way to Cologne, we'll see the school and whatever else we can squeeze in, and then we'll just spend the night there in the city so we can see some more of it in the morning (some of the museums sound amazing). Then we'll head to Burg Eltz and then on to T-T for two nights and then Boppard for 2 nights.
I'll look into the Roman Limes more, it sounds fascinating. The Saalburg website is still having issues, so I don't know much about it yet. I understand none of it is a substitute for Rome (having myself been to Rome back in the day when I lived in Germany 20ish years ago), but since we can't go to Rome, I can at least show my boys some Roman history while in my beloved Germany.)
Regarding trains...we considered taking trains for most of the month-long trip. But we decided on a car due to a number of factors. That said, I adore traveling by train and we have no problem taking public transportation and we are willing/hoping to leave the car parked and take trains whenever. I lived in Germany for 3 years and traveled almost daily on the trains and trams, and also lived in Chicago and took the El daily to work, and we travel frequently to NYC and use the subway, so no, I'm not afraid of trains, abductions, waiting, or buying tickets :) It was easier and cheaper to keep the car the whole month rather than rent each time we needed one in several different countries.

Posted by
8 posts

Russ--
Thanks, I'm looking forward to checking out all of those links and suggestions! You've been immensely helpful.

Posted by
8 posts

Russ, if we stay at the apartment we have booked in Buchenau, rather than near the boat docks, is there parking available if we drive to Sankt Goar to take the boat trip? I haven't been able to find anywhere else to stay that will work for us. Seems like just 15 min drive to get from the apartment to the ticket office in St. Goar.

Posted by
6797 posts

The white-on-blue P's are parking spots:

https://www.rheingucken.de/goar/stadtplan-st-goar.html

You can ride bus 671 into Boppard for free. Takes around 20 minutes depending on which stop in Buchenau your lodging is near:

https://www.vrminfo.de/fileadmin/data/pdf/fahrplanbuecher/2024/faltplaene/671_FPL.pdf

Whether you take the bus into Boppard or drive there, you can also ride the train from Boppard to St. Goar (might be 10-12 minutes) for free, if you wish. These trains run hourly or better in each direction.

https://www.vrminfo.de/fileadmin/data/pdf/fahrplanbuecher/2024/Zug_LRS.pdf

The free bus and train travel comes with the VRM Guest ticket that you get from your hosts in Buchenau, a suburb of Boppard, which participates in the Guest ticket program.

https://www.vrminfo.de/en/tickets/tickets/leisure-tickets/vrm-guest-ticket/

Posted by
6797 posts

For your Rhine cruise... I'll refer back to my comment that Bingen > St. Goar is the way to do your cruise. St. Goar > Bingen is possible, but it's upstream and takes much longer.

Either way, you'll need to use the train - either to reach Bingen, or to return from Bingen. So I suggest you drive to St Goar, catch the train to Bingen from St. Goar first, then cruise back to St. Goar.

Your VRM Guest ticket can be used for free train travel from St. Goar > Oberwesel, a town just north of Bacharach on the way to Bingen. Your train from St. Goar will stop in Oberwesel and continue to Bingen - but you will need to buy a one-way train ticket for the Oberwesel > Bingen segment, which is not covered by the Guest Ticket. It's €8.10 per person. Buy online, or using the DB app, or at Boppard or St. Goar station from a ticket machine before you board the train to Bingen. (The 14-year-old travels free with parents.)

Bingen (Rhein) Stadt is the name of the station closest to the K-D cruise dock (5-min. walk.) Show your train tickets for a 20% cruise discount at the KD kiosk.

If you plan to go to Marksburg after the cruise: driving is probably simplest. So starting this day by parking your car in St. Goar will make that easier. Once your boat docks back in St. Goar, just hop in the car, use the St Goar ferry crossing, then head north to Braubach.

Posted by
8 posts

Russ, incredibly helpful! Many thanks for making this so much easier! I love having everything figured out in advance so I can spend more time enjoying and less time planning once there.