Germany’s Rhineland region features around 500 enchanting fairy-tale castles, historic ruins, vineyards, spas, hiking trails, natural wonders and a whole host of charming villages. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what else this picturesque province has to offer.
Aside from being the Rhineland’s cultural hub, Cologne also holds the prestigious title of "Christmas Market Capital of the World." With a number of festive activities taking place on both sides of the Rhine river, the region’s largest Christmas tree and stunning historical architecture as a backdrop for market traders, this town is well worth a visit in December.
This 80-kilometre drive is the oldest tourist wine route in the country and will whizz by much faster than you think, so slow down in order to take it all in. Starting in the southwest, the road takes you through one of Germany’s largest wine growing regions. Visit vineyards, restaurants and quaint villages to get your fill of the wonderful produce. Arrive in autumn to enjoy the fall colours or September for the Wurstmarkt Wine Festival.
The only national park in the north of the Rhineland covers an area equal to 17,000 football pitches (110 sq. km), so there’s plenty of space to roam around — or kick a football. Ideal for hiking and other forms of outdoor recreation, the abundant beech forests are also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including owls, beavers, bats, kingfishers, wildcats and an additional 1,600 species of endangered plants and animals. If you fancy a challenge and have some time on your hands, you could try to spot them all.
Immerse yourself in the area's rich history and culture with a visit to this majestic medieval castle in the Lower Rhine flatlands. Home to a stunning collection of artwork, the walls are lined with paintings, etchings and drawings. The interior rooms and exterior gardens are populated with quirky carved features and intriguing sculptures. As if that weren't enough to convince you of a detour, the name "Moyland" also derives from a Dutch word meaning "beautiful country."
Take the south route out of Bonn to see the mighty peaks of the Siebengebirge range. With about 40 thickly forested hills, the area contains a number of accessible and challenging walking routes, castles and even, bizarrely, a small reptile zoo. Ölberg is the highest hill at 460 metres, but the nearby smaller Drachenfels (321 metres) is home to most of the attractions, including the beautifully renovated Nibelungenhalle which pays homage to composer Richard Wagner.
An absolute must for people with a love of chocolate, this museum displays all kinds of cocoa-based goodness throughout the ages. Special exhibitions feature edible sculptures and visitors get to taste a sample of the delicious confectionery on display.Try to only take what is offered, as opposed to just diving right in — you may want to come back, after all.
Bad Aachen is most famous for its warm, thermal springs, and many famous names, including Casanova and Charlemagne, have taken a restorative dip in its pools. Take a trip to the opulent Carolus Thermen Spa to reap the benefits from the mineral-rich waters and shake off the weariness of long drives.
If you prefer to be on the water instead of in it, take a boat trip to see the world's tallest cold water geyser. There are four trips per day, carefully timed to coincide with the geyser's eruptions, so you won't miss any of the action. You'll also get a stunning view of the Namedyer peninsula on the way. Don't miss the accompanying interactive exhibition in order to learn even more about this unique natural wonder.
Owned by Count and Countess Eltz (direct descendants of the property’s original owners), Eltz castle is an outstanding example of medieval architecture that can be found in many castles throughout the Rhineland. One of the few to remain unscathed by the many wars that have raged here, several original features remain to be admired, including attractive furnishings and detail-rich decor spanning the past eight centuries.
Once host to royalty, tsars and emperors, Bad Ems continues to lure visitors with its mix of cosmopolitan attractions and therapeutic spas. In the stunning setting of the Lahn Valley, gamble in Germany's oldest casino, tour the historic Roman Limes or visit one of the many specialist health centres designed with relaxation in mind. In August, Bad Ems hosts Germany's biggest flower parade, Blumenkorso.