Where would you stay and why? We are looking for a home base for three nights and we will have a car.
We spent 6 nghts in St. Goar in 2009 and really enjoyed it. St. Goar is small enough to be easy to navigate and kind of in the middle of things on the middle Rhine. You can easily reach the Mosel from St. Goar, which is lovely. Bacharach is larger and more picturesque, but there would definitely be more tourists in the town.
Either of them would be good. It might depend on where you can get the best accomodations.
I have stayed and would choose Bacharach again too, just a bit bigger, has more shops and restaurants like the previous poster said, and i think it is prettier too.
Susan and Monte, I was in the area in late June / early July and stayed in Bacharach. I visited St. Goar on a day trip and found it to be considerably more packed with tourists, crowded and hectic (frankly, I was glad to return to Bacharach). Bacharach was a bit smaller, but had a good ion of restaurants and shops, but only two ATM machines that I could find. I found it to be a good "home base", as there's convenient access to the trains as well as the K-D boats that travel up and down the Rhine. I usually travel by train, so can't provide too many comments on travelling by car. However, from what I noticed it looked like the parking situation was a bit easier in Bacharach. There seemed to be a parking area right in front of the Hotel, below the railway tracks. I didn't notice any Meters (if you decide to stay there, your Hotel will be able to provide more specific parking information). Happy travels!
"walking in on a room full of young women in bath towels" And the rest of the story..........???
I have stayed in Bacharach twice and St Goar once. With a car, I might choose St Goar but I would be sure and visit Bacharach.
As Ken said there are parking spots in front of the hotel (we stayed at Hotel Hillen) but there is a charge for parking there. This was in 2004 so memory is a little fuzzy but as I recall the daily maximum charge was not too bad.
My preferred town is St. Goar, where the buildings aren't as special but the scenery is more dramatic. With a car, accommodation choices are larger; you can avoid the railway noise easily by booking in one of St. Goar's "suburbs", like Biebernheim or Werlau, which lie just outside the gorge near the cliffs' edge. Here's a page of apartments in St. Goar; look for "-Biebernheim" and "-Werlau" after "St. Goar". Where St. Goar is followed by "Kernstadt", that means it's in the town center (although the Schloss Hotel entries at the top are on the cliffside.) http://www.st-goar.de/586-1-.html
I seem to end up in one of the two every time, primarily because they are both conveniently located on the middle Rhine. I like Bacharach somewhat better, the walk around town is more interesting to me. I've stayed in both a pension and Burg Stahleck hostel there. If you can reserve a double room at the Burg, do it. We stayed as a family of five in a larger room. With a car you won't have to worry about the walk up the hill from the Rhine and the parking is free. The hostel in St. Goar is only average. Not horrible but nothing special. I had quite the cultural experience there in the coed bathrooms - walking in on a room full of young women in bath towels.
For anyone using the trains, stay in St. Goar. St. Goar is in the VRM (Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Mosel) which goes down the Rhein from Oberwesel to the Nordrhein-Westfalen border below Remagen and up the Mosel past Bullay. You can get a VRM Minigruppentageskarte (group day ticket for up to five people), valid all day after 9 AM workdays on the entire VRM network, for €20. So for instance, 2 people could go from St. Goar to Cochem RT in a day for only €5 per person each way, with a stopover in Koblenz. Bacharach is outside the VRM. If you do stay in Bacharach, unless you want to buy full fare Bahn tickets, everytime you want to go into the VRM, you'll have to buy a ticket to Oberwesel, get off the train and buy your Tageskarte, then wait an hour for the next train to St. Goar and beyond. If you do go from St. Goar to Bacharach, take the train from St. Goar (€3,20 adult). If you show your Bahn ticket at the K-D kiosk, you should get a 20% discount off the boat ticket. Visit Bacharach and come back on the boat (the trip from Bacharach to St. Goar is ½ hr faster than the other way.
I'd choose Bacharach for the opportunity to stay in a real castle. Burg Stahleck is a very popular hostel. You need to make your reservations early to reserve a double or family room.
"the opportunity to stay in a real castle." To learn about "real castles", take the tour of the Marksburg. Real castles didn't have private bathrooms. The bathroom in the real castle at the Marksburg was an outhouse with the "seat" extending out over the moat. The people below would say, "yes, that's the Queen". Stahleck, fortunetely, is not a real castle. It's a 19th century recreation of a castle destroyed a hundred years earlier, and was rebuilt with modern facilities.
I would visit St Goar, but stay in Bacharach. Not sure it warrants 3 nights, although if you are using it as a "homebase" and taking side-trips from it, not a bad choice. As Rick suggests in his Germany Guidebook (which you should DEF get and take w/ you), I took the K-D Line boat cruise down the Rhine (picked it up in Koblenz), got off to see St. Goar and Rhinefells Castle; a must see, then got back on and got off in Bacharach where I spent the night at Hotel Kranenturn (my speling may be off here, but it's described in Rick's book) great option for this town. It IS next to the train tracks, but I recall double-pain windows in my room and it was never a problem. Rooms were not "luxurious," but comfortable and very clean. They serve a great bfast too. Bacarach itself if quiet, especially at night, but that added to its charm. After dinner, it was very pleasent to just wander through the town and a nice break, especialy compared to Berlin, Munich, etc. (2 amazing cities I loved, but still big cities; Bacharach gives you a chance to enjoy a quiet/relaxing small-town experience). Met other very nice travelers at Hotel Kranenturn (it certainly seems to attract indepenent, like-minded travelers). Enjoy your trip.
Bacharach's castle/hostel Stahleck: indeed a fun and interesting place to stay, whatever its authenticity, or it wouldn't be so tough to book. However, there are at least two definite drawbacks to using it as a base for 3 nights. 1.) too darned high above the town for easy coming and going - it's about 500 steps straight up from town - so unless you're a mountain goat, plan on using the car whenever you head out. 2.) Your sleep may be compromised if a German school group has booked there. It's routine for school kids to take an annual outing during the school year with classmates and teacher, and they are generally relentless and rowdy at all hours and lack competent adult supervision. If you're going after mid-July, when the school year ends, this shouldn't be a problem.
Adding to what Russ wrote... there's a castle(Starkenburg) on a mountain within view of the village where I live. Several weeks ago, my wife and I went up there to check it out. Turns out, it's also a hostel, and it was packed with school age kids. Judging from the loud commotion that started when they saw our puppy, I can imagine that it isn't the most peaceful place to sleep at night. So, there's at least two castle-hostels in Germany that might not be compatible with a good night's sleep. To answer the original question... I haven't explored any of the towns in the Rhine gorge in depth yet, but from the drive-bys I've done, Oberwesel and Boppard looked like the most interesting. Between Bacharach and St. Goar, St. Goar looked like it had more to offer.
Lee, I don't know about you but after reading a few thousand postings here I haven't noticed a single one that insisted on finding accommodation with an outhouse type of toilet to ensure an atmosphere of authentic medieval Europe. I wouldn't want to sleep in a ruin either and Marksburg does not offer accommodation. As to the climb up: Susan and Monte are travelling by car which does offer them an advantage at least in this regard. We stayed for a week at Burg Schoenburg in Oberwesel (just next door to Bacharach) and the elevated location did not cause any issues for using it as a base for exploration. We simply switched it up, did some hiking up and down the mountain through the vineyards (at 30 C definitely an exercise!) and some cartrips, often carpooling with other families staying at the castle.
I stayed in Boppard for five nights in 2004. The second day (after the Marksburg), I went to St. Goar (Rheinfels), took the K-D boats to Bacharach, explored Bacharach, mainly finding the Werner Chapel ruins, then took the train to Oberwesel, walked around there for an hour, then went back to Boppard. St. Goar, Oberwesel, and Bacharach are all between 2 and 3 thousand inhabitant, with Bacharach being the smallest. Just walking through St. Goar from Rheinfels to the K-D dock, I saw a lot of places to stay, eat, and shop, more than I saw in Bacharach. However, both town websites show enough variety of places for anyone. Boppard is twice as big as the other three put together. Although I found a Privatzimmer on Humperdinckstrasse (really) for €25 per night, a lot of accommodations are expensive hotels on the river front. As for getting to Stahleck, unless you are awfully fit AND a light packer, I wouldn't try it without a car. If you had a rolling suitcase, you could take the road, but it's a lot longer than the steep footpath, which is dirt. Im Malerwinkel is in a beautiful setting, at town level, and away from the train noise.
"I took the K-D Line boat cruise down the Rhine (picked it up in Koblenz), got off to see St. Goar" Lawrence, for your information, the Rhein flows north out of Switzerland, then NW from around Mainz to Koblenz and on to the North Sea. Koblenz to St. Goar is actually UP the Rhein (against the current, which really makes a difference). The boat trip from Koblenz to St. Goar takes 3h20m, vs just over 20 min by the train. IMO, there is nothing of enough interest between Koblenz and St. Goar to justify the extra 3 hours. I would take the train to St. Goar. In fact, the trip up the river from St. Goar to Bacharach takes an extra, tedious half hour against the current. I'd take the train all the way to Bacharach, then come back down with the current to St. Goar. The trip between Bacharach and St. Goar is definitely the best stretch of the Rhein, but other than a closer view of the Pfalzgrafenstein, the mid river toll castle, and the Loreley, which you can see equally well from the train, there is really not that much to see.
The rest of the story at St. Goar hostel... I got up early and went down the hall for a shower. Intuitively I knew that the bathrooms were coed. The toilets had floor to ceiling doors and each shower had an inner and outer shower curtain with a changing area between. There were probably five or six toilets, five or six showers, and five or six sinks in the room. Intuition went out the window, however, when I pushed open the door to the bathroom. The sink/mirror area was filled with around 20 college age German women, wearing only towels. I felt like I'd accidentally walked into the women's bathroom. I'm sure my jaw was on the floor. I planned to let the door close in front of me and find another bathroom but one of the women saw the look on my face (probably interpreting it as "this bathroom is obviously full") and said, "Nein, nein es gibts jetzt noch ein mal." Fortunately, my German is good enough that I was able to interpret that as "there's still one shower available." I managed an, "Okay," and walked in and straight to the shower (staring straight in front of me). Everything was fine after that except one white haired woman (whom I hadn't noticed before) kept peeping through the shower curtain at me. I gave her my best "do you mind?" stare and kept my back to the opening. I never heard her speak so she might have been from anywhere (but I'm sure not a Rick Steves board contributer).
Good story, Brad. And it can now be revealed that the woman that kept peeping at you in the shower WAS a contributor to this board. I can't tell you how I know that. Her identity, and what she saw, will remain a closely guarded secret.
Funny story Brad. Now if the white haired peeping tomette who is a contributor to this board will give her account of this we will have the rest of the rest of the story. Good Day!