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What is the most efficient way to tour the Rhine River castles?

We will have 2 days in the Koln area and want to see the best of the Rhine River with the KD boat included with our rail pass. We will be arriving to Koln on Monday, want to see the town/cathedral etc then take the train to Koblenz and from there boat to Bacharach. We plan to get off the boat in between to tour the castles. The problem is we will have all our luggage with us. Should we just try to stay both nights either in Koln or Bacahrach instead of 1 each so we can leave our luggage? Koln has the nightlife of a bigger city, but Bacharach has the nice charm of castles etc. If it makes more sense to only stay in one, which would you choose?

Posted by
31 posts

We made a similar trip last October. We stayed at at the castle in Shoenburg Sp?. We did our touring of the castles the day before so when we took the boat we were actually going between towns and not looking to get off and explore. If you can find a place to store your bags I would say take the boat. We took the train to St. Goar and then took the river down to Bacarach on the KD. If the weather is nice and you have not taken a boat ride yet on your trip. This is the hot spot of the Rhine for castles and it only takes 70 minutes. There is plenty of time to take pictures. You will not be able to take pictures on trains and since you are on one side of the river you may not be able to see the castles on that side of the river. The angles will be bad. I would say it depends on the weather but a boat ride is a nice way to spend an hour. Either way you cant go wrong exploring the Rhine. Have fun!!

Posted by
5499 posts

With only 2 days, you need to make a few choices. You can get night life anytime. Focus on the castles.

The "most efficient way to tour the Rhine River castles" is not to stay in Köln or Bacharach (which has only one castle that has been remodeled into a hostel) and not to plan a long boat trip from Koblenz to Bacharach, a 4.5 hour trip. And it's best to stay in the same town both nights to avoid wasting time.

My suggestion: Enjoying Köln on your first day. Stow bags in lockers and spend several hours there. Then catch a train to St. Goar, the heart of the Rhine Gorge, with 3 castles visible from the middle of town, via Koblenz. You'll see several castles along the way on both sides of the river. Once in St. Goar check in and then you might be able to catch a tour of Rheinfels Castle in town that afternoon - it's open 'til 6 or so.

On day 2 take the the ferry across to St. Goarshausen and the train north to Braubach from there for a tour of the best castle on the Rhine, Marksburg Castle: www.marksburg.de . Then take the boat back to St. Goar (just over 2 hours) if you didn't see Rheinfels or continue on to Bacharach (about 3.5 hours if you have the time.) You'll see lots of castles on this trip.

You can check boat schedules yourself here:

www.k-d.com/englisch/schiffstouren/fahrplan-rhein.html

Generally the cruises are fun but can be dull and tedious after a couple of hours.

Posted by
11798 posts

I think Russ said it all pretty well. The only thing I would add is the one hour or so boat ride from Bacharach to St. Goar gives you a really scenic - best of - the Rhine. Longer boat rides, such as all the way from Koblenz don't add a lot of different views and cost valuable time in a tight schedule.

Posted by
18237 posts

I agree with Russ and Brad. The boat tours quickly become dull and tedious. I took the boat from St. Goar to Bacharach. It took 70 minutes up the river (southeast) against the current. The other way only takes 40 minutes. You probably want to take the fast way, down the river, to the northwest. This is a case where you need to know which way the river flows.

Look at the schedules. There are only five ships each way per day. It isn't really a hop on/off situation. You'll need to schedule your travel carefully. On the other hand, there is usually at least one train per hour and they take only minutes. You can find the train schedules on the German Rail query page.

Of the castles, only two, Rheinfels (St. Goar) and the Marksburg (Braubach) are worth touring. Most of the rest are rebuilt as hostels (Stahleck in Bacharach), luxury hotels (Schönburg in Oberwesel), or private residences.

Posted by
1358 posts

This is all good advice. I would choose train travel. The river is slow although scenic. Much of it is similar to places you have already seen. Castles are best seen when traveling by RR.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you all for your comments. So I am guesing the best place to sleep for 2 nights is in St. Goar? Where are there lockers to put our bags? I didnt think of that. Is Burg Elz (sp?) close enough by to see this by train?

Posted by
18237 posts

There are no lockers in St. Goar (or Bacharach). The tourist information office in St. Goar offered to watch my luggage for me. I'm not sure if they are open on weekends. During the week, they close for a few hours after noon for lunch.

The Pfalzgrafenstein is that little toll castle in the middle of the river. It is probably a half hour by boat up the river from the Loreley. You see the Loreley shortly after leaving St. Goar. The boat stops at Oberwesel and Kaub before you get to Pfalzgrafenstein. I think there are tours of the Pfalzgrafenstein from Kaub.

Burg Eltz is a ways up the Mosel from Koblenz and is not visible from the train.

Posted by
521 posts

This info is very helpful to me too as I am planning something very similar. I expect to arrive in Frankfurt very early in the morning (7 or 8am). If I do head straight to Koln, where can I leave my bags? And as Michelle followed up, I was under the impression that Berg Elz is THE castle to see while there so I am surprised no-one has listed it? Thoughts on seeing Berg Elz??

Posted by
18237 posts

Burg Eltz is on the Mosel, about ½ hour by train from Koblenz. It is somewhat difficult to get to. There is no public transportation to it. It is about a 2 km walk from Moselkern uphill through the woods to get to it.

Burg Eltz is the only castle on the Mosel that was not destroyed by the French. The same is true of the Marksburg on the Rhein. The Marksburg has been preserved by the castle Verein mostly as it was hundred of years ago.

When the K-D ships are running, there is a trolley from the dock up to the Marksburg.

Considering the ease of getting to the Marksburg and the difficuly of getting to Burg Eltz, I would choose the Marksburg (I did).

Posted by
1717 posts

Amy : Marksburg is a much better castle than Berg Eltz. Reserve your ticket (for a tour at a specific day and time) for Marksburg, before you travel to Europe. A tour guide talking in English is not important at Marksburg. A bus, and a train, goes from Koblenz to Braubach (location of Marksburg). There might not be a bus on Sundays.

Posted by
1717 posts

Michelle, I recommend : have your overnight accomodation at St. Goar 2 nights. If you arrive at KOLN on Monday, what you will be able to do and see that day will depend on what time of the day you arrive at KOLN. I liked the K-D ship ride on the Rhine river from Bacharach to St. Goar. And I liked the tour in the castle Marksburg. I place a high priority on those two experiences. In what month will you be at Germany ? I recommend : read about the Rhine River valley, in the book "Rick Steves' GERMANY and AUSTRIA".

Posted by
68 posts

We will be arriving in Koln from Brussels by train as early as possible, I am hoping to get on an 8:00 train or so to arrive by 11:00 am in Koln the latest. Where can we store our luggage in Koln while we sightsee? Want so spend most of the day here, then just go to St. Goar at night to check in to our hotel and do the castle touring/boat ride the next day. Can we see Koln in just one day from 11am until around 7pm or so? then take the train to St. Goar to sleep? I hear the cathedral in Koln gets really packed if we do not make it there early, anything else we would be missing out on in Koln? Thank you all! Oh we will be there in June for our honeymoon, so planning early.

Posted by
5499 posts

Michelle asks, "So I am guesing the best place to sleep for 2 nights is in St. Goar? Where are there lockers to put our bags? I didnt think of that. Is Burg Elz (sp?) close enough by to see this by train?"

I am not sure why you need lockers in St. goar if you sleep there - just drop bags at your hotel. The town is the size of a large postage stamp. If you must drop bags elsewhere there for some reason, and the TI is closed, ask the Hotel Hauser, just downhill from the station near the river - they serve as an informal tourist office at times, and I've been told you can leave bags there.

Burg Eltz is excellent but I did not suggest it due to your limited time. Marksburg is closest to your targets and provides a very good medieval castle experience.

Posted by
2 posts

All the advice here is good, I have traveled to Bacharach twice, once alone and once with my teenage daughter. It is the cream of the crop. Both times I have stayed at the Hotel Altkolnischer which I would HIGHLY recommend. The restarant downstairs is delicious and the wine is to die for! I have my last bottle right here and you must try it, the label says: Mittelrhin Steeger St. Jost Reisling Kabinett. But I digress.. The castle in St Goar is wonderful with excellent interpretation (it is a UNEScO Historical Site), and the boat ride is fantastic. My last trip was during the summer and all the locals on the boat were singing along to the folk songs playing on the PA system, drinking wine and it was just enchanting. They are so proud of this cultural treasure. When you arrive in St. Goar you can brouse through the shops, and then hop on a little train tram that saves you a hike up the hill to the castle. We were there during a giant rainstorm and had to hide out in a cavern inside the castle with our candles for quite some time. I have stayed in Koln also and although there is nightlife, I would never trade it for a couple of days in the Bacharach area. If you want REAL nightlife you should consider going during the first week of July for the Riverfest, the firework displays from town to town as you cruise down the river is amazing.

Posted by
2297 posts

Just wanted to give a tip about your day in Koeln. On Mondays all museums are closed in the city. The Dom is defintely open, though. And quite a few other places as well. Check ahead of time about the opening hours of the other sites you'd like to see. You do not have enough time to waste going to places with closed doors.

Posted by
68 posts

Are the castles closed on Mondays? Maybe it makes more sense to do the river/castles on monday and Koln on Tuesday?

Posted by
18237 posts

Michelle, I guess this is a few days late, but you asked earlier about where you can leave your bags in Köln. In the Bahnhof. There is a hallway parallel to the tracks on the Dom (cathedral) end of the station. They have an automated baggage storage system. There are a number of stations in the hallway, and you put your bag in the opening, give it your money, and it takes your bags to somewhere under the hallway and gives you a magnetic card or a number on paper (I am not sure since I didn't use it). You can retrieve your bags later from any station on the hallway.

I didn't use it because they wanted €4 and I was only going to be a couple of hours. Also, I wasn't quite sure I wanted to trust this automated system (it's thoroughly tested and foolproof ... foolproof ... foolproof), particularly because I was leaving Köln with a non-refundable Dauer-Spezial ticket, so I just took my carryon bag (16#) with me. But, I know the storage system is there.

Posted by
18237 posts

is it possible to do the Bacharach to St. Goar river trip, and see Marksburg, Rheinfelds and Berg Eltz castles in one day?

I haven't tried scheduling it, but right off the top of my head, not possible, or very difficult.

And, BTW, the castle ruins in St. Goar is Rheinfels. Fels is "cliffs" (lit. rock), in German. The lower part of the castle is literally built into the cliff.

Also, it is Burg Eltz. Burg is a fortification; Berg is a mountain, or sometimes, something on a mountain. Nürnberg is named after the castle, which is up on a hill.

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks everyone for your help, we are still trying to find the best way to do this for our itinerary. One more question, is it possible to do the Bacharach to St. Goar river trip, and see Marksburg, Rheinfelds and Berg Eltz castles in one day?

Posted by
18237 posts

I basically agree with Harry (who is agreeing with me), but

It takes another two hours of travel between Marksburg and the Braubach center

That's not how long it took me. Even if you arrive there at a time when the tram is not running, although the climb looks intimidating from the bottom, it take somewhat less than ½ hour from the town to the castle.

Of the three; Eltz, Marksburg, and Rheinfels, Burg Eltz and the Marksburg are pretty similar, being the only castles in that area that never destroyed, but the Marksburg, I believe, being preserved by the castle association, is more authentic.

I would see either Burg Eltz or the Marksburg, not both. Of the two, I would choose the Marksburg.

Rheinfels, being the ruins of a much larger castle, is very interesting. I would not miss it.

Posted by
5499 posts

I think Marksburg and Burg Eltz would be the most interesting castles but there's no desperate need to do both. I would agree with Lee that Marksburg is the better choice in your case, because of the limitations of your trip, and that Rheinfels Castle is a good add-on. If you're doing Marksburg AND Rheinfels, it just takes too long to also take a train up the Mosel, walk to and from Burg Eltz, and take a tour before they shut the doors.

Alternatively - and this would be my suggestion if you're full of energy, looking to get an early start, and really want to fill your day - you could probably drop Marksburg and do Rheinfels and Burg Eltz instead. Marksburg is very good but I think the Burg Eltz tour and walk are even better. Tour Rheinfels in the a.m. and then take a train to Koblenz and another from there up the Mosel to Moselkern for the walk to Burg Eltz. Here's an excellent set of instructions from Bavaria Ben:

www.bensbauernhof.com/burgeltzfrommoselkern.html

Then if you still have time and energy, head a few miles east from Moselkern to the lovely town of Cochem. It's the most attractive of all the towns in the region, in my opinion - just beautiful by night - and in a very scenic spot. Though you won't have time to tour it, Reichsburg Castle, which looms over the town, is spectacularly impressive from below, and Cochem is a great town for an evening meal. Just check the train schedules to make sure you can connect in Koblenz for a late evening train back to St. Goar or Bacharach, whichever you're staying in.

Posted by
46 posts

Quick question: Can you do this this Rhine tour in winter? Do the boats run? Are the castles open? thanks

Posted by
5499 posts

In winter, Rheinfels is open for a few hours on Sat and Sun only, and only if the roads are passable. Marksburg is open year-round. also for a few hours. except for a couple of days around Christmas and New Years. The boats? There are typically passenger minimums that must be met - groups are welcome - but the appeal of such a trip in winter completely eludes me. If you go, I'd stay in one of the larger cities - like Koblenz, Mainz, or maybe Trier - so that you have something to do once it turns dark (which it does rather early at that latitude in winter. The smaller towns are deadsville.