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Rhine river - Suggestions for must-see towns along the river to Lucerne.

Hello. We are planning a trip down the Rhine (flying into Frankfurt) in mid-September. We plan to take trains to Lucerne, Switzerland - but wonder what towns on the Rhine in Germany/France are a must stop-and-see. We have 4 days to make our way to Lucerne. We like architecture and old town feel. Not big on a lot of museums or big shopping areas (prefer small shops, cafes etc).
Any suggestions for must stop & see? Or what towns are great for an overnight?
Thank you!

Posted by
8416 posts

MarkMN, it makes a difference where you intend to start the trip. Frankfurt isn't actually on the Rhine, and the most scenic part of the river is north of there (downriver), not south (upriver) as you intend to go.

A quick suggestion would be Colmar (France) and Heidelberg (also not on the Rhine, but east of it on the Neckar). Not off the beaten path but popular for good reasons.

Posted by
6616 posts

"We like architecture and old town feel."

On Day 1 I'd catch a Regional Express train into the Rhine gorge and settle in Boppard for 2 nights (sample train schedule: 9:24 - 10:39.) This is Germany's most scenic train ride.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/72/a0/78/72a0781773860b9131b1a9929a5ecd51.jpg
https://www.boppard-tourismus.de/media/was-ist-wo-broschu__re_en_190218.pdf

Boppard has some nice old-world buildings with numerous hotels and restaurants with nice riverfront locations... great views from there, and close proximity to other old-world towns, castles, and great scenery. Catch a ride on the chairlift to the scenic overlook (Vierseenblick) and Gedeonseck Terrace.

On Day 2 I'd ride the train south to the old-world town of Bacharach - lots of nice half-timbered buildings here - for an hour or two. Then another train to Bingen, where a cruise boat will take you past the best scenery in a leisurely way... It's about 2.3 hours of cruising if you cruise all the way back to Boppard.

Day 3: Catch a morning train south to Gengenbach for 2 nights:
https://www.schwarzwaldportal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/IMG_20211014_131531-scaled.jpg

You can take train outings from here to Strasbourg (FR) if you like, or to other old-world Black Forest towns like Schiltach, Haslach, Triberg, and Gutach (for the Vogtsbauernhof open-air museum)

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1825958-d190955-Reviews-Schwarzwalder_Freilichtmuseum_Vogtsbauernhof-Gutach_im_Schwarzwald_Baden_Wurttemb.html

Posted by
7231 posts

Sorry if it sounds like I'm quibbling, but maybe you are planning a trip UP the Rhine! It's not a major factor, but you might check whether any boats you take are going up or down, because the time is a little longer upstream. Also note that the "view from the river" is most important in the Middle Rhine (of Germany) that Russ has laid out for you. For example, the "harbor cruise" from Cologne is forgettable.

Our business-hotel in Arnhem NL, right on the Rhine, came with earplugs. That could have been Queen's Day, or it could have been river freight traffic. In any case, we never used the earplugs. I do sometimes read that freight traffic on the river can be noisy. No personal experience. Don't forget that there are both floods and low water, from time to time.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/switzerland/stein-am-rein-and-schaffhausen-switzerland

Posted by
6616 posts

"Our business-hotel in Arnhem NL, right on the Rhine, came with earplugs."

Ha! cute touch. Noise in the Middle Rhine Valley is reported most often by people whose hotel choice put them too close to the railroad tracks, I think. Some of Bacharach's hotel reviews contain complaints about this. It's a serious issue there:

https://www.rhein-zeitung.de/cms_media/module_img/557/278944_1_mrvwallpaper_278944_1_org_bacharach.jpg

The riverfront hotels in Boppard don't have railway noise issues since the tracks are set back at some distance. As for river traffic noise at night in Boppard or the other nearby Rhine towns, I'm not aware of it as a common complaint, but you can sift through the reviews anyway if you are looking to stay there.