Cologne is easily western Germany’s most vibrant and exciting city, one that has enough attractions to fill several busy days. The magnificent UNESCO-listed Cologne Cathedral alone is worth a stop in this city. As an added bonus, Cologne boasts incredible museums (including unique ones like a perfume museum and a chocolate museum), lots of activities for kids, green spaces, and stunning architecture. If you happen to be here in February, you get the chance to be swept away in the madness of the biggest carnival in Germany.
In Düsseldorf, scintillating futuristic works of architecture share space with ancient, well-preserved structures. A perfect tour of the city should include a leisurely cruise down the Rhine, a visit to the Benrath Palace and the Kaiserpfalz ruins, soaking up the vibrant Japanese culture, panoramic views from the Rheinturm, shopping at the glamorous Königsallee, doses of culture at the many great museums, and sipping the city’s special brew, Altbier, at the Longest Bar in the World by the Rhine.
Trier is the oldest city in Germany, dating back to the Roman era, and boasts eight UNESCO sites. Here, centuries of history continue to live on in impeccably maintained architecture, in plays, medieval markets, and specially designed tours. Additionally, it has a long history of producing excellent wine, and the tradition is carried on by numerous vineyards, taverns, and wineries in the city.
Marburg is believed to have influenced many of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, and when you visit this town, it’s easy to see why. The romance that lurks throughout – in its hilltop castle, winding cobbled alleys, timber-framed houses, and the Lahn River flowing through its center – is almost tangible, making the quaint university town a perfect setting for fairy tales.
Mainz, the southern endpoint of Germany’s famed Castle Cruise, is home to beautiful architecture like the Romanesque Mainz Cathedral, St. Augustine’s Church, and St. Stephan’s Church. Additionally, Mainz is a delight for wine connoisseurs and foodies.
Koblenz is the location of the confluence of the two rivers Moselle and Rhine. Their exact meeting point is marked by a bow-shaped platform called Deutsches Eck, the most famous landmark of Koblenz. A perfect day in Koblenz has to include a ride on the Koblenz Seilbahn (cable car) all the way to the impressive 19th-century Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.
Aachen is today a very popular spa and wellness city, attracting tourists with its Roman thermal baths. But that doesn’t distract travelers from its ancient architecture, the charming town square, and the many great museums. The Aachen Cathedral Treasury is counted among the most important medieval church artworks in Europe.
Bernkastel-Kues holds special appeal for wine lovers. The Mosel Wein Museum walks visitors through the rich history of Moselle wine-making, and gives them the chance to taste up to 160 varieties of wine! On top of that, countless vineyards, taverns, and wineries across town offer wine-tasting opportunities. It doesn’t hurt that this quaint town by the River Rhine is a feast for city-tired eyes.
Boppard is another picture-perfect town by the Rhine, and has all the essential ingredients that make a quintessential medieval German town – cobbled alleys, an ancient castle, rolling vineyards, well-preserved medieval town walls, and half-timbered structures. A popular activity in Boppard is hiking or taking the cable car to the Vierseenblick (Four Lakes View).
Nothing much has changed in the romantic town of Bacharach over the last several centuries, explaining why it is among the most popular stopovers along the Rhine Castle Cruise route. Its cobbled alleys lined with row upon row of half-timbered houses is any wanderer’s dream-come-true. When in town, don’t miss the 12th-century Burg Stahleck, the ruins of the Gothic Wernerkapelle, and the 12th-century Burg Stahlberg. Top off your holiday in Bacharach with unforgettable views from the Postenturm.