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Medieval Towers and Wine

Oberwesel, the historic town on the Romantic Rhine, is surrounded by an almost completely preserved medieval city wall featuring gates and towers. 16 fortification towers surround the town, wide parts of the city wall and defence towers are accessible for visitors. Oberwesel has preserved its medieval character like hardly any other town in the Middle Rhine Valley. The town is also one of the largest vineyard communities of the Middle Rhine. On the 72 hectares of steep vineyards at the Schönburg Castle, the winegrowers cultivate above all Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Kerner. The town Oberwesel is the ideal location to explore the magic of the UNESCO World Heritage ‘Upper Middle Rhine Valley’ on foot, by bicycle or by riverboat.

1. Location of Oberwesel in Germany

The town of Oberwesel is located in the Romantic Rhine holiday region, approximately 57 km to the northeast of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (see map on bottom of page).

The Romantic Rhine is one of the nine holiday regions of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate. This holiday region is characterized by Rhine Romanticism, that is still very much in the air today, as anyone who has visited this world-famous valley between Bingen/Rüdesheim and Koblenz will tell you. With its picture-book castles and ruins and its historical towns and sights, this impressive stretch of the river epitomises some of the loveliest river scenery in the world. Only a short time ago, it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Experience a journey back in time and let the diversity, the beauty and the culinary specialities of this region work their magic on you. ... read more about the Romantic Rhine holiday region

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2. Oberwesel — the City of Towers and Wine

On his Rhine journey in 1938, Victor Hugo noted: ‘Oberwesel is one of the Rhine towns that has suffered the most from war. The old city wall is scarred all over from the impact of cannonballs and rifle shots. Like on a page of old parchment, one can decipher the great iron cannonballs of the Archbishop of Trier, the musket balls of Ludwig XIV and the grapeshot of our revolutionary troops. But today, Oberwesel is like an old soldier who has become a winegrower. His red wine is excellent, however.’

Of the numerous crusty old towns lined up alongside one another in the Middle Rhine Valley on the narrow riverbank, no other demonstrates such an impressive townscape, still fully characterized by the Middle Ages, as does Oberwesel. Oberwesel has preserved its medieval character like hardly any other town in the Middle Rhine Valley. The well established viticulture once enticed abbeys from other regions to maintain external vineyards there. Today visitors from near and far are attracted by the charm of its hospitality — treat yourself to a pleasant visit too!

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3. UNESCO World Heritage Site

Oberwesel belongs to the ‘Upper Middle Rhine Valley’ which was added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Discover the beautiful stretch of river landscape (with a length of 65 km) between Bingen and Rüdesheim in the south and Koblenz in the north. Here you will find sloping hillsides where wine growing still prevails and at the bottom of which quaint villages and towns are picturesquely perched on the narrow ledges along the river's banks. Travellers from almost every continent and country have visited this valley of outstanding beauty. It is renowned and immortalised in the works of literati, painters, and musicians. The Loreley cliff towers above one of the narrowest parts of the Rhine and still tells the fairytale of the Loreley, that made the Middle Rhine Valley famous in the world. 40 castles and castle ruins tower above the 65 kilometres of the river between Bingen and Koblenz. Castles still in their original condition stand alongside ruins or carefully restored castles. Today, the castles are hotels, youth hostels or museums and are open to the public. Schönburg Castle in Oberwesel is one of the romantic castle hotels.

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4. Points of Interest

Churches and Monasteries
The churches and monastery ruins can still give us an impression today of the great significance the church and clerics had in the Middle Ages for the people of the city. In 1308, construction began on what is today’s ‘Liebfrauen’ church. The Gothic tracery work is worthy of special mention. The ‘Goldaltar’ is one of the earliest and most valuable carved altars in the Rhineland. The mighty Baroque organ was built from 1740-1745 by ‘Meister Eberhardt’ and supplemented several times afterwards.
Schönburg Castle
The Schönburg Castle sits high above the town, one of the oldest strongholds in the Rhine Valley. Its history can be traced back to the 12th Century. The favorable location and extensive winegrowing enticed faraway monasteries to store their valuables in Oberwesel starting in the 13th Century. Today the Schönburg Castle Hotel and the castle youth guesthouse invite you to spend an extraordinary night high above the town of Oberwesel. Enjoy the marvellous view from up there, overlooking the winding Rhine River, while feasting like a lord in the Castle Restaurant.
Medieval City Wall
Of the original 21 defensive towers along the city wall, 16 are still preserved today. Parts of the approximately 3 km long city wall are still accessible. Visitors can enjoy the view of the Rhine from the crown of the wall. Those with no fear of heights can even climb one of the defensive towers. The gate tower on the city wall side facing the Rhine has been restored according to the original blueprints and included in the accessible part of the city wall.
St. Martin Church
The outward appearance of St. Martin’s church is dominated by its defence tower. After the defeat of Oberwesel in the war against Archbishop Werner von Falkenstein in 1390/91, the tower of St. Martin’s was integrated into the town’s fortifications and was converted into a defence tower using the latest methods. Today it is one of the best examples of religious defence architecture in the Rhineland.
The tastefully restored vineyard residence now has a museum retracing the fascinating history of the town. Cabaret to classical music is performed in the hall of the arts centre. The Kulturhaus with the Oberwesel Museum is the vibrant cultural centre for the town of Oberwesel and the region. The building presents itself to visitors as a fascinating architectural combination of old and new.

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5. Wine Experience & Wine Tasting

Oberwesel is one of the largest vineyard communities of the Middle Rhine Valley. The large-scale winery at Schönburg Castle produces some 500,000 litres of the beloved red juice each year. With the diversity of the wines grown in Oberwesel and the surrounding area, it is advisable to try your favourite wine in a wine tasting session prior to a purchase. The master winegrowers are eager to explain the qualities to observe in the selection of the wines. Tours of the vineyard operations are also interesting. Many winegrowers are happy to serve you a hearty ‘Winzervesper’, a specialty sandwich, with the wine tasting session. Some even offer wine tours through the sun-drenched vineyards. And for groups, wine tasting sessions in one of the numerous vineyards or in the historic city ‘Ratskeller’ are also possible.

For over 60 years, the residents of Oberwesel have celebrated their traditional wine market on the second weekend in September at the picturesque ‘Marktplatz’. The traditional wine market is a tourist attraction and one of the largest festivals on the Rhine Rhiver. Oberwesel’s winegrowers invite the numerous guests to their wine arbours. Winegrower dance groups and dance bands entertain the audiences each day. But the winegrowers are also proud of the musical firework, ‘Nacht der Tausend Feuer’ (‘Night of a Thousand Fires’), the latest of the ‘Rhine in Flames’ events. In the festive parade, colourful parade floats, marching groups and musical groups pass through the flagged streets of the wine city.

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6. Rhine River Boat Trips

The Rhine River forms a unique natural landscape. Forts, castles and ruins spring forth in the middle of the sun-drenched vineyards and Rhine terraces on both sides of the Rhine’s banks. Numerous ships sail up and down the river daily. The stretch between the ‘Sieben Jungfrauen’ or ‘Seven Virgins’, a rocky reef in the Rhine current, and the legendary boulders of the Loreley, is one of the narrowest and simultaneously deepest points along the Rhine. Enjoy the romantic Rhine landscape from one of the passenger ships. Five companies offer scheduled trips on the Rhine River, both through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and as far as Mainz in the south and Cologne (Köln) in the north. Ports of call include Mainz, Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Eltville, Rüdesheim, Bingen, Assmannshausen, Lorch, Bacharach, Kaub, Oberwesel, St. Goar, St. Goarshausen, Bad Salzig, Kamp-Bornhofen, Boppard, Braubach, Rhens, Oberlahnstein, Niederlahnstein, and Koblenz. Current schedules can be found in local tourist information offices and on the Internet.

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7. Bicycling in the Middle Rhine Valley

Many bicyclists are attracted to Oberwesel. Riding the continuous cycling track along the Rhine on the left shore is great fun. More ambitious cyclists find their challenge in ascents up the side valley roads, which are winding up into the Hunsrück ranges. Every year, the special attraction is ‘TalTotal’: on the last Sunday of June, all the national roads of the Middle Rhine Valley on both sides of the Rhine belong to the cyclists and inline-skaters. Many use this as a welcome opportunity to skip cooking and enjoy the delicious offerings of the food and drink stalls.

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8. Hiking around Oberwesel

The Middle Rhine Valley is a paradise for hikers. The region around St. Goar and Oberwesel offers many hiking trails. Especially the ‘Rhein-Burgen-Wanderweg’ (castle hiking trail) and the ‘Rheinsteig’ are widely recognised for their varied routes and magnificent lookouts. Certainly also worth mentioning are the IVV-hiking trails — a paradise for hikers and nordic walkers.

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9. Events Finder

9.1 Weinhexennacht (Night of the Wine-Witch)

An giant wine barrel is the focus of a ceremony staged every April 30th in Oberwesel. This is also the time the new ‘Weinhexe’ (wine-witch) is presented to the people in a ‘jack-in-the-box’ fashion. Most towns have a wine queen but Oberwesel’s tradition is to choose a ‘Weinhexe’, although her role is very similar. During the night of April 30th, the barrel is brought into the Market Place. In the decorated square, a band greets the guests who, after the winter, do not wish to miss the first important open-air event. Present are local vintners who are expected to attend this ancient ceremony. According to custom, a vine is ceremoniously planted, the task being carried out under the supervision of the vinters’ brotherhood of ‘Unser Lieben Frau’ (Our Dear Lady). Then, after further formalities and to a blaze of fireworks and ‘magic fire’, the newly-elected ‘Weinhexe’ climbs out of the wine barrel and is presented to the assembled throng. Aided by plenty of goodwill and, of course, plenty of good wine, the celebrations continue into the early hours.

9.2 Spectaculum Oberwesel (Medieval Spectacle)

Every two years the people of Oberwesel take a great step back into the past and bring to life the town’s medieval heritage. The pageant is the biggest display of its kind in the entire Middle Rhine. Demonstrations are given of crafts practised five centuries ago, and exceptional care is taken to create as exactly as possible the medieval town life. Wine, for example, is served not from bottles but from stone jugs. All Oberwesel people in the pageant turn up in Medieval costumes. There are fire-eaters, jugglers, minstrels, music groups with period instruments, stalls selling food from anciet recipes, displays of spinning and weaving and many other activities. To ensure a realistic atmosphere, even the use of gas and electricity is banned. The pageant is held every two years, always over whitsun and lasts 3 days. Event Date for the year 2012: 26.-28. May.

9.3 Weinmarkt (Traditional Wine Market)

The ‘Weinmarkt’ (Traditional Wien Market) is the main wine festival in September. This is a really fantastic event and, in terms of variety and spectacle, one of the best of such events on this part of the Middle Rhine. The town’s historic market place, with its huge wine goblet, a hallmark for the festival, is beautifully decorated with vine leaves, creating just the right atmosphere that invites visitors to stay and taste the produce of the Middle Rhine vineyards. The festival opens with a bang! Fireworks shower the night sky above the Rhine as one of the highlights of the event, the ‘Night of the Thousand Fires’ explodes into action. Next day, Sunday, it is the turn of the men and women who produce the wine to present their own personal show. Ten colourful floats depicting the work of the Oberwesel vintners move in procession through the flag-bedecked streets. Event dates for the year 2012: 07.-10. September & 14.-15. September.

9.4 Rhine in Flames — Night of Thousand Fires

One of the most spectacular firework displays on the Rhine River takes place on the second Saturday in September. It is unique in ‘Rhine in Flames’ annals because the town, noted for its wine and the towers on its ramparts, honours its procession of ships with a fireworks display to music. More than 50 gaily-decorated ships assemble off St. Goar at 8 p.m. and set off in procession to travel the seven kilometres to Oberwesel. When they reach the legendary Loreley Rock, the deepest and narrowest point on the Rhine River, they are greeted by a burst of fireworks soaring into the sky of Oberwesel. After passing the rock formation known as the ‘Seven Maidens’, the fleet reaches Oberwesel at about 9 p.m. to find this medieval township bathed in the red glow of Bengal lights. People on the ships and huge crowds that assemble on the promenades are then treated to a really magnificent musical firework display. Tickets for the ‘Rhine in Flames’ spectacular can be obtained from the tourist office. Event date for the year 2012: 08. September.

9.5 Further Events of Interest

  • Aldegundismarkt, 30. July 2012
    Traditional farmers market and flea market in the woods of Oberwesel.

9.6 Events & Festival Calendar

Here you can search for events and festivals in the region.

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10. Hotel & Holiday Flat Finder

Here you have direct access to the online accommodation reservation service of the Tourist Board of Rhineland-Palatinate. No other hotel reservation system on the Internet offers you such a broad and comprehensive list of accommodation in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate regions. You can list accommodation, search accommodation, contact accommodation establishments and make online reservations.

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11. How to get there from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport

11.1 By Rental Car

Google Maps: Route from (A) Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to (B) Oberwesel
(57 km distance / 46 minutes driving time) » get directions

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11.2 By Rail and Bus Services

Frankfurt-Hahn Airport has no direct railway or bus connection to Oberwesel. However, the buses from the airport will take you to railway stations where you can connect with Deutsche Bahn trains or local transport links.

Weblink: Deutsche Bahn — show integrated Rail and Bus Services from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Oberwesel

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Tourist Office Address

Oberwesel Tourist-Information
Rathausstr. 3
55430 Oberwesel

Tel.: +49 (0) 67 44 - 71 06 24
Fax: +49 (0) 67 44 - 15 40