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Rhine River Train routes

Our family will be traveling from Bruges to Rothenberg, and we would like to travel the route next to the Rhine River so we can see the castles by the river. What train should we take? We would like to stop at Bacharach for a couple of hours if possible.

Posted by
20461 posts

It will take 13 to 14 hours including 2 1/2 to 3 hours in Bacharach, and 6 to 7 train changes.
Go to www.bahn.com and put in start at Bruges(B), destination Rothenburg ob der Tauber, date of travel, and where it says "intermediate stops" put in Bacharach and 2:00 hours stop over time.

Posted by
19170 posts

Do look up the schedules on this Bahn website.

You'll go from Bruges to Brussels to Köln (Cologne) to Koblenz, then along the left bank of the Rhein to Bingen via Bacharach. The castle you will see will mostly be on the right bank, not the most interesting, imo, but still some castles. You might change in Bingen or through Bingen without changing.

Posted by
6803 posts

I would just encourage you to reconfigure your itinerary slightly so that you can spend at least a night in the area and have time to walk through some towns and castles. You will not see or experience very much at all otherwise (you might as well just watch Rick's Romantic Rhine video at home, and once in Germany, take the faster route out of Cologne toward Rothenburg!) The Middle Rhine Valley is a UNESCO World heritage site and much more interesting altogether than super-touristy Rothenburg, IMO.

The Rhine south of Koblenz is the most scenic part. Trains serve both riverbanks:
Right side train line stops
Left side train line stops

The Rhine is littered with castles. Rhine Castle Map

Several castles here are hotels, and several others are open to the public for tours - Marksburg (in Braubach) and Rheinfels (in St. Goar) for example. Both are easy to visit if traveling by train. You might want to overnight in one of these towns since each is easy to visit from the other.

Posted by
1972 posts

Russ--

I am a German travel neophyte (Italy is my forte) so I need help here. We will be taking the train down from Amsterdam, I was fascinated by your Rhine Castle Map, and wanted your (or others) advice on the best logistical (and comfortable) 2-night base stop between Cologne & Bingen where the downtown pedestrian area is very near the train station, thus good hotel choices within walking distance of the station, and available transport to view some of the nearby castles. I can check the towns out one by one, but thought I'd start here. Also, non-touristy if possible.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
6803 posts

The "best logistical (and comfortable) 2-night base stop between Cologne & Bingen where the downtown pedestrian area is very near the train station" would probably exclude Koblenz; while ideal for train outings and equipped with a few hotels, the main station is in a modern zone that requires a long walk or an additional bus ride from/into the old town center.

St. Goar is very small - everything (station, pedestrian zone, hotels, boat dock) is close-in (see map below) and walkable unless you mistakenly book in a suburb - but it is well-located as I indicated for visiting the two most-often-visited castles, it enjoys a very scenic location, and it has some good lodging choices. I'll provide some details and links for this area.

Town Map

The Rheinhotel St. Goar gets good marks. Not sure how big your family is but you might want/need an apartment. See TI office pages:

Hotels
Apartments

(No longer among the TI office listings is an apartment we enjoyed very much several years back - the "Rhineview" apt., one of 3 in the same building. Walter Huppertz was our very accommodating host. See below.)

Loreley-Apartments

St. Goar is well-positioned for seeing the nearby west-bank towns of Bacharach, Oberwesel and Boppard. All are just 5-10 minutes away by direct train.

CASTLES: Rheinfels (self-guided tour + museum) is right in town. Walk up or take a seasonal shuttle-train.

Marksburg in Braubach is across the river and north. Guided tours happen all day long but the English tours (during tourist season) are at 1 and 4 pm. Station and old town are a couple of blocks from each other. To the castle it's a steep hike up (20-25 minutes) or take a taxi or take the seasonal shuttle-train.

There are several options for getting to Braubach.

1.) Ferry over to St. Goarshausen (ferry runs all day long) and catch the train north (hourly or better) to Braubach (train ride = 20 minutes.) St. Goar is the only town on this part of the river with a ferry-train connection this convenient.

2.) Train to Koblenz, change trains there for Braubach (train rides = about 1 hr.)

3.) Cruise boat (seasonal)... The best cruise segment is Bingen-St. Goar (you'd take the train to Bingen then cruise back on one of the 5 KD cruise boats per day.) Then you can do either 1 or 2 above (or just get off the boat in St. Goarshausen instead of St. Goar if you want to travel to Braubach immediately after the cruise.) OR...

If you are on the 9:30 am cruise boat from Bingen (which explores the Rhine further to the north, all the way to Braubach and beyond) it's possible to just stay on the cruise boat all the way to Braubach (though this adds 1.5 hours to your cruise time and doubles the price of your cruise ticket.) You'll arrive at 12:20 in Braubach with adequate time for taking the 1 pm tour.

There are group day passes to cover your family's day outings by train and ferry (cruise boat from Bingen not included.) I can follow up with details if you're interested. Boppard is a good alternative to St. Goar - it's larger, with more lodging/dining choices, but still compact enough to get around easily. Logistically, it's slightly less convenient.

Posted by
6803 posts

Tourism: it's unavoidable that you'll share the Rhine Valley with other visitors - everyone wants to see these castles and towns. But visitors tend to be mostly Germans and other Europeans (especially Dutch and Brits) and the towns are not nearly as overrun by international tourists as a place like Rothenburg (actually there's no place like Rothenburg - it's probably THE most touristy town in all of Germany.)

Posted by
1972 posts

Fantastic stuff, Russ!

My wife & I (60-ish) are big proponents of European train travel. Two years ago we started in Paris, with stops/stays in Lucerne and Florence, ending in Salerno in southern Italy. As long as one packs light--which we do--this travel mode is very comfortable, virtually stress-free and extremely value-driven when booking in advance using the Bahn website. Don't think we could've driven any cheaper. Yes, with train travel you're technically on the road longer than if you flew, but I've always considered the travel itself part of the overall experience.

So I just checked on my trusty logistics website rome2rio.com, and it's 5 hours from Amsterdam to St. Goar (including a 1 hr transfer in Cologne), which is right at the upper limit of how long I want to be on a train in a day. But St. Goar looks perfect for our purposes.

One more question--we want to end up in Verona, Italy but logistically it looks like we will have to make at least one more stop along the way for a couple nights. Any place in southern Germany or northern Austria that I'm missing? Munich is an obvious choice, but Innsbruck seems too far in one day from St. Goar. For something truly interesting, I'm willing to make two stops of 1-2 nights apiece before heading across the Alps and down into Italy.

Thanks again, time to start research!

Posted by
6803 posts

Jay, look into Nuremberg (about 4 hours from St. Goar on one of the St. Goar - Verano routings) and either Innsbruck or Bolzano. The total travel time for this routing is about 11 hours, the shortest available; check the 7:56 or 9:56 departure from St. Goar to Verona to view all stops and connections (you could travel the same route on different days at different hours of course as you depart from Nuremberg and your 2nd base town, but the travel times and connections between cities will be about the same.)

Nuremberg's Kaiserburg castle, old-town zone
Nuremberg sights
Nuremberg pubs

Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an easy day trip from Nuremberg and less than one hour away, should you have the time.

Bamberg sights
Bamberg pubs

The German Railways site (DB) is the gold standard for finding itineraries throughout Europe:
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

Posted by
1972 posts

Yes sir, DB is truly the gold standard!

You are a wealth of knowledge, thanks!