“Why is it so beautiful on the Rhine?” is the question posed in a well-known German folk song. With over 15 verses full of reasons, by the end we are fully convinced that this is a river like no other. Here we have compiled ten tips that will hopefully inspire visitors to NRW to discover the most beautiful river in Germany from a different angle. Our tips follow the river downstream.
On foot, by bike, in a cable-car or by donkey-ride – choose your way to discover the delights of the Rhine:
1. Cycling along the course of the great river
Cyclists have a tailor-made way to discover the Rhine – the Rheinradweg (Rhine Cycle Route). One of Germany’s most popular cycling paths, this route follows the course of the river for 1,320 kilometres, a significant section of which passes through NRW. Starting in Bad Honnef, cyclists pedal their way past the Rhine metropolises of Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf until they reach the expansive floodplain meadows of the Lower Rhine. As the path follows the river valley, the going is free of strenuous climbs for most of the way.
2. Hiking in the “Grand Canyon of Romanticism”
For hikers, the best way to discover the Rhine Valley is the 320-kilometre-long Rheinsteig trail, which runs from Bonn to Wiesbaden. On leaving the starting point in the city of Beethoven, the route heads upriver in a landscape filled with spectacular nature, past magnificent palaces and castles perched on the Siebengebirge hills and through medieval villages by the bank of the Rhine. Today, it is still possible to experience the romanticism of the Rhine which so enchanted artists and writers two centuries ago.
3. Across the Drachenfels by donkey
The Drachenfels hill in Königswinter is said to be the most-climbed peak in the world. Visitors who make it to the top are rewarded with magnificent views of the Rhine Valley and the Siebengebirge hills. If the steep incline looks too daunting, however, the old rack railway provides a more comfortable way to reach the hill-top ruined castle. Children, meanwhile, will not want to miss the chance to take a gently swaying ride up the hill on the back of a donkey.
4. Experiencing Bonn through art and music
The Beethovenfest music festival take place in Bonn every September to celebrate the city’s most famous son. For those who fancy combining music appreciation with a museum visit, there is the 12-kilometre-long “Museumsroute” cycling path. This leads through the city along the museum mile, where the highlights include the Bundeskunsthalle cultural venue and the Haus der Geschichte (House of History), before finishing up at the Rhine promenade.
5. Beer gardens on water
In the south of Cologne, beer-lovers get to enjoy an evening drink or two on board one of the boathouses floating in the middle of the Rhine. This is where visitors can escape the noisy streets of the big city and instead relax amid the soothing sounds of the river.
www.suertherbootshaus.de | www.rhein-roxy.de
6. A bird’s eye view of the Rhine by cable-car
The Cologne cityscape with its landmark cathedral makes an impression on every visitor to the Rhine Metropolis. Europe’s first river-crossing cable-car provides a spectacular way to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city.
7. Rafting along the Rhine
While some prefer a leisurely cruise on a tourist boat, there is a more active way to discover the Rhine on the water. Rafting tours on Germany’s most beautiful river are suitable even for beginners as the water is relatively tranquil. Rafters will only feel a few ripples when one of the tourist boats passes by.
8. A 240-metre vantage point
The best place to get a panoramic view of the Rhine is undoubtedly the 240.5-metre-high Rhine Tower in Düsseldorf. The viewing platform at 168 metres provides far-ranging vistas of the river as far as Bergisches Land and Cologne. In favourable weather, it is even possible to see the outline of Cologne cathedral on the horizon. Visitors can also sip a cocktail in Germany’s highest bar or check the time on the world’s largest digital clock.
9. Rediscovering a historic quarter
Formerly a major industrial trans-shipment centre and a site for storing and milling grain, Duisburg Inner Harbour is now a model of structural change in the Ruhr Area. Nowadays, visitors will find trendy bars, restaurants and museums in the former storehouses. The transformation was to a large extent overseen by the British star architect Lord Norman Foster, whose projects include the redesign of the Reichstag in Berlin with its iconic glass dome.
10. Getting close to nature
One of the last remaining wetlands in Germany can be found at Bislicher Insel near Xanten. As well as providing a habitat for rare animals and plants, the landscape also has a network of dedicated paths for hiking and cycling. A nearby bicycle ferry provides a connection to other routes.