Cycling Germany’s Rhine Bike Route: Bingen to Koblenz

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The pretty town of Rhens on the Rhine

The first leg of our cycling trip is on the Rhine Cycle Route from Bingen to Koblenz. Known as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, this 65 km (40 mile) stretch is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would be easy to knock off this short, flat distance in a day, but with dozens of hilltop castles, pretty towns and scenic views, it invites slow travel. The well-maintained bike path hugs the Rhine River and is car-free. At every bend there’s another castle towering over the endless vineyards. Little towns, dating back to Roman times, are directly along the route; they’re filled with gorgeous architecture, historic sites, tasty treats and wine and beer. If you missed my introduction to our Germany/France cycle tour, you can find it here.

We spend our first few days in Bingen, visiting with friends and adjusting to the nine hour time change. It’s my parents’ home town—often overlooked by tourists who flock to Rüdesheim, directly across the river. If you haven’t been to this part of the world,  it’s worth taking the short boat trip to fun, kitschy, busy Rüdesheim. From there, you can take a gondola to the Niederwalddenkmal, a monument built in the 1870s to commemorate the unification of Germany.  The sweeping views of the Rhine and vineyards are magnificent.

One of the many great things about the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is that no matter where you decide to spend the night, towns and attractions on both sides of the Rhine are easily accessible by bike, local train, scenic boat rides or a combination. Many trains and boats allow bikes.

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View to Rhine promenade and Burg Klopp in Bingen

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View to Burg Ehrenfels from Rhine promenade in Bingen

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Niederwalddenkmal overlooking the Rhine and Bingen. Courtesy: https://goo.gl/images/jcHESC

It’s blast off; our first day of biking. The weather cooperates beautifully as we head onto the bike path at Bingen’s waterfront. The 65 km segment to Koblenz, which we do over two days along the river’s left (west) bank, is just a small part of the long-distance Rhine Cycle Route, also known as EuroVelo 15 that stretches 1230 km from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea.

We only cycle 15 km before we make our first stop in Bacharach. The town is cute as can be, perhaps my favourite in this region. Its narrow streets are lined with beautifully preserved half-timbered houses adorned with geranium flower boxes, and there’s a plethora of inviting spots to eat and drink.

It’s not quite lunchtime and we haven’t broken a sweat, but I’m lured by a sign for zwiebelkucken (onion cake). It’s a fall season specialty—a yeast crust that’s filled with crème fraîche, eggs, onions and bacon (a bit like quiche but so much better). It’s typically served with a cloudy, sweet young wine called federweisser. It’s not my thing, but locals swear by it.

A must-do in Bacharach is taking a short, steep walk to Burg Stahleck, a 12th century castle that’s now a youth hostel (you don’t have to be young to stay there).  The footpath starts from the main street in Bacharach, up a set of old rock stairs, and through the vineyard. The views are stunning, and like all walks to the top of things in Germany, there’s wine, beer, coffee, cake…waiting for you at the top.

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Start of  our cycling tour in Bingen

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Excellent signage along the cycle path

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The cute town of Bacharach

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View of Bacharach from a vineyard path

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Bacharach with Burg Stahleck on the right

Had I not been to Bacharach several times before, we probably would have stayed the night (or more) but we push on. We soon see Burg Pfalzgrafenstein sitting smack in the middle of the Rhine. Built in 1326, it was used as a tolling station for river traffic. Next comes the lovely town of Oberwesel, with its imposing gothic church, Liebfrauenkirche, and the best-preserved medieval city walls and towers in the region.

There are over 40 castles and fortresses from the Middle Ages between Bingen and Koblenz. You see many of them from the cycle path, but actually getting to them requires more effort. Schönburg is a wonderful castle above Oberwesel. Its hotel and restaurant would make a really romantic getaway, but even a short visit for a glass of wine and the view is worth the steep hike (we did this as part of a day trip while we were based in Bingen).

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Burg Pfalzgrafenstein was used as a tolling station for boat traffic

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Admiring the old town tower in Oberwesel from the cycle path

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Liebfrauen church in Oberwesel

As we approach the picturesque town of Sankt Goar, the Rhine narrows at the famous Lorelei (Loreley) cliffs. There are many versions of the Lorelei legend but they all involve a beautiful young woman whose cascading blonde locks and beautiful voice enchanted sailors and caused countless boats to crash into the rocks. It’s big business now with boat cruises who play the cheesy but endearing Lorelei song as they cruise past the cliff.

Sankt Goar is a popular stop on Rhine cruises both for its lively pedestrian zone and the Rheinfels castle ruins, which are about a 20 minute walk from the city centre. We don’t visit the castle this time, but reminisce about a trip years ago when our young son was thrilled by its labyrinth of creepy tunnels. Sister city Sankt Goarshausen sits on the other side of the Rhine where yet more castles —Burg Katz and Burg Maus—are on display along the bike path.

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Burg Katz above Sankt Goarshausen

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Burg Maus just beyond Burg Katz

We decide to spend the night in Boppard. We’ve only cycled 45 km but with all our pit stops it has taken us the whole day. The town was one of the most important Roman settlements on the Middle Rhine and today it’s another popular tourist hub. By the time we get there, it’s relatively peaceful with the day-trippers gone. Boppard has one of the prettiest waterfront promenades and we celebrate our first cycle day with an al fresco dinner on the banks of the Rhine.

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A lovely town square in Boppard

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Dinner along the Rhine in Boppard

The next morning we take an uphill detour to a viewpoint that showcases the largest of the Rhine’s many loops. There’s a rickety old chairlift in Boppard but anticipating more hearty German fare we decide that the bike ride is good for us. At this point in our trip I haven’t figured out how to use the pano feature on my camera so you’ll have to trust me that the loop is spectacular.

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Part of the  Rhine loop at Boppard

We enjoy the ride down and continue on toward Koblenz. The cycle path affords us great views of Marksburg, the only hilltop castle along the Rhine that has never been destroyed. It’s a good one to visit and easily accessible via transit from Koblenz (another big hit with our son on a previous trip). An unexpected highlight is our short detour into the tiny, quiet town of Rhens. Entering through its old town walls feels like we’re traveling back in time.

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Old town walls in Rhens

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Fountain in the main square of Rhens

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View of Marksburg from the Rhine Cycle Route

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Another view of Marksburg above the town of Braubach

Koblenz (pop: 114,000) is the largest city in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley yet it feels serene and manageable as we cycle through beautiful riverside parkland before arriving at the famous Deutsches Ecke (German Corner) where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet. We take the gondola across the Rhine to Ehrenbreitstein, an enormous Prussian fortress built between 1817-1828. It’s not old for this part of the world but the town’s history goes way back to 9 BC when Julius Caesar erected a military post there. The unseasonal hot weather and jet lag have zapped my energy and I find it difficult to concentrate on the detailed audio guide information about the fortress. We seek shade and are content to gaze over the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. I get a second wind later in the day as we stroll through Koblenz’s attractive old town pedestrian zone.

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View from Koblenz to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

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The Rhine and Mosel meet in Koblenz

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One of many attractive squares in Koblenz

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A sunny square in Koblenz with lots of food and drink choices

Despite many earlier trips to this part of the Rhine, I’m still awed by its beauty and history. It was nice traveling familiar territory in a new way. Tomorrow, our bikes will start their journey along the Mosel toward Trier. This will all be new for me and I’m excited for what’s ahead.

Travel Tips:

Our first few days were based in Bingen as we have family and friends there and we were travelling with our own bikes. Without these connections, it would probably be easier to visit this region by starting in Koblenz, which is accessible via train from Frankfurt airport and has good infrastructure and numerous bike rental options. After a few days there, you could cycle south and spend a night or two in each of Boppard and Bacharach/Oberwesel. The return trip to Koblenz could be via bike, train or boat. The trip could be extended by continuing from Koblenz along the Mosel Bike Path (next post).

 

Categories: Biking, Germany | Tags: , , , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “Cycling Germany’s Rhine Bike Route: Bingen to Koblenz

  1. great photos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike Hohmann

    Great post, Caroline. Sounds so enjoyable, and the scenery is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Cycling Germany’s Mosel Cycle Route: Koblenz to Trier | Writes of Passage

  4. Uncool Cycling Club

    Thanks for the great information and photos. How did you find the accommodation once you decided where you wanted to stop for the night?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We used a combination of methods: arriving in a town and walking into B&Bs/hotels, using the services of the very helpful tourist information centres found in many towns, and using a great app called Bett + Bike that has listings for bike friendly accommodations. Sometimes we’d also book a day or two in advance via phone or email, especially for the larger, busier towns. I also looked up places in advance on Trip Advisor or Booking.com to get a feel for what was available. We only had a couple of stressful situations but overall it was easy and we were really pleased with the quality of accommodations. I think it helped that we were traveling in September/October and not summer.

      Like

  5. Wow what nice a post!
    It was a good read 🙂
    We’d really appreciate it if you checked out our website and gave your opinions on it.
    Have a good day 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Delightful post, Caroline. I can only imagine from the account and photos of your biking holiday of how beautiful it was. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  7. josypheen

    Those cycle routes are fantastic aren’t they!? It’s so good that they have areas that are totally separate from cars *and* that they have those fantastic views. Were the cycle lanes very busy?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. David Neasmith

    Aloha from Ottawa 🙂 Your cycle posts are just great and the pictures are very nice as always. We enjoy cycling too, so knowing that there are areas in Germany and France that are quite accessible and well marked is very useful. We visited Trier many years ago based on a recommendation from a friend. We branched through Luxembourg to Trier as an extension to our exploration through the Ardennes region. I hope you will enjoy Trier’s neat streets and the well preserved Roman ruins.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks David! It was an awesome trip. I highly recommend it. We spent a couple of days in Trier and really enjoyed its historic sites, beautiful pedestrian zone, cafes…In general, it was nice being back in Germany and learning more about the country of my roots.
      Good to hear from you. Hope you’re all doing well.

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  9. Sounds like a great trip. We’ll have to add it to our list!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As I just remarked to Alison, this is opening my eyes to a whole new way of traveling with my husband. My only trepidation is that he is an avid and hardcore bicyclist, and I worry that he would not be able to chill out and make lots of stops (for zwiebelkucken, for example – which might be my new favorite food when I get to try it!) or just take it slow in any way. I’m saving all your posts on this trip for future reference!

    P.S. you cleaned up quite nicely and even seemed to have a nice outfit stashed away in those panniers! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, yes this might not be the ideal route for a hardcore cyclist (didn’t see too much spandex). Perhaps you can eat zwiebelkucken while he does multiple laps up to the castles. This bike route and the Mosel are both completely flat, but Alsace and Pfalz routes include some good hills (posts to come). A nice scarf, and a couple of merino wool tops and leggings that do double duty for cycling and dinner worked well. I’m sure you’ll see the same outfit again!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I had to keep sharing this post with Don as I read it! It sounds exactly like something we’d really enjoy. Lovely post Caroline, and great photos.
    Alison

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Just yesterday I talked with my mom about the possibility of a future trip, among other things. At first she was hesitant about the idea of traveling with my dad since he can be very picky when it comes to food. But then she realized any trip with him should involve cycling for he loves going long distances by his bicycle. So I guess if that trip does happen, maybe it will look like the one you did, with all those beautiful castles and fortresses as well as charming towns along the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I sure hope you can make a cycling trip with your parents happen. It really is a lovely way to immerse yourself in a new place and get some exercise along the way (very much needed with all the rich food in Germany). We saw lots of multigenerational families enjoying the paths. There’s something for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

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