Tal der Loreley
The Loreley Valley — Myths and Castles
The Loreley Valley (Tal der Loreley) is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of the Rhine River. The Loreley Valley is the ‘Valley of Castles’, the ‘Valley of Wine’ and the ‘Valley of the Rhine’. 29 castles and castle ruins tower above the 65 kilometres of the river between Bingen and Koblenz. There are not so many castles in an area of that size anywhere else in the world. The terraces on which the world-famous Riesling wine grows have been typical of the Middle Rhine landscape since the 12th century and the two centres of wine-growing are nowadays Bacharach and Boppard. For millions of years, the Rhine has carved its valley through the slate hills. It has produced a fascinating bizarre, narrow river landscape, giving to the visitor unique picturesque and romantic views. This stretch of the Rhine is a ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’.
The Loreley Valley (Tal der Loreley) is located in the Romantic Rhine holiday region, approximately 62 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
Famous writers like Clemens Bretano, Joseph von Eichendorff and Heinrich Heine wrote in their narratives: ‘Some months ago I set off to look at the Rhine panorama. Travelling down the Rhine, it was like a dream and suddenly I was taken back to the Middle Ages. I passed towns and castles, the names of which alone sounded like music to my ears, and which made me curious to hear the old legends and myths...’, ‘This incredible wealth of old castles and town-like villages!!!!! Oh, God, if only I could go on this heavenly journey again. Those would be the most enjoyable days of my life!’, ‘The banks of the Rhine between Mainz and Koblenz are a writer's dream...’. Their enthusiastic reports are still very true for this region today.
29 castles and castle ruins tower above the 65 kilometres of the river between the Mäuseturm (Mouse Tower) near Bingen am Rhein and Rüdesheim / Assmannshausen and the Ehrenbreitstein fortress in Koblenz. There are not as many castles in a area of that size anywhere else in the world. Castles still in their original condition (Marksburg and Pfalzgrafenstein) stand alongside ruins (such as Fürstenburg, Ehrenfels and Rheinfels castles) or carefully restored castles, such as Sterrenberg, Stahleck and Schönburg. But even the romantic reconstruction in the 19th century of Rheinstein, Katz Castle, Sooneck, and specially Stolzenfels display their own histories. Today the castles are hotels, youth hostels or museums and are open to the public. They invite us to experience a journey through time to the noblemen and robber barons, artisans and merchants — exciting traditions of historical markets, festival performances and tournaments.
Wine was first brought to the region by the Romans, but it was not until the 6th century that the vine was cultivated. The terraces on which the wine grows have been typical of the Middle Rhine landscape since the 12th century. The two centres of wine-growing are nowadays Bacharach and Boppard. Numerous wine-instruction paths, interesting wine museums, wine cellars open to the public, excellent wine-tasting events and traditional wine festivals on both sides of the Rhine River show the visitors, including many tourists, where they are: in one of the most excellent wine-growing regions in the whole of Germany.
For millions of years, the Rhine has carved its valley through the slate hills. It has produced a fascinatingly bizarre, narrow river landscape. This natural phenomenon, with the changes made by man, has created a unique natural landscape: steep slopes covered with vines and bushes, small strips of land along the banks with their towns and villages, numerous castles high above the river and, not to forget, the days of river shipping, as well as the railtracks and roads which line the river.
In 2002 the UNESCO declared the cultural landscape in the Upper Middle Rhine as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When awarding the world-heritage status to the Upper Middle Rhine, the UNESCO paid tribute to the cultural landscape's variety and beauty. Special mention was made of the area's unusually rich cultural history and art. As the Upper Rhine is the most prominent stretch of the Rhine River, it was chosen to represent the whole of the Rhine in the world-heritage list.
Probably a pinch of everything since the Loreley does not only refer to the gigantic stratification of slate which so impressively marks the narrow valley in the Rhine River near St. Goar. But rather it was German poets who made the tall rock near St. Goar so famous. One of them, Clemens von Bretano, describes the ‘Lore Lay’ in his novel ‘Godwi’ (1801). It tells of a ravishingly beautiful woman who was cursed to attract men and thus bring about their undoing. Because she could no longer bear this tragedy, she threw herself off the highest point of the rock in the Rhine and put an end to the spell.
A rhyme which tells a different story about this legendary figure was composed by Heinrich Heine (1824) and set to music by Friedrich Silcher later to become a world famous hit. ‘She combs her golden hair’ and lilts a little song which, so it is said, had a ‘magical, powerful melody’. Sailors instead of watching out for shallows and wild currents look up to her and so crash against the rocks with their boats only to be dragged to the bottom by the strong river currents which at this point is almost 100 feet deep. ‘Their fate was Loreley's song’, the rhyme ends.
The Loreley still exists today. Or rather — she exists again. It is quite possible that she makes the hearts of some men beat faster, but she no longer causes them harm and she certainly does not throw herself into the river anymore, at best, so to speak, in fun. Every two years, the most beautiful girl in the region is elected to be the new Loreley maiden. But this contest also comes with duties for the legendary figure called back to life: she has to publicly represent the marvellous central Rhine countryside along with its delicious wines.
Although seen from the river, the rough rock formation looks sinister, on the tableau of its peak there often is merriment and sometimes there are even boisterous parties, especially when concerts of famous rock groups or plays or operettas are held on the stages of the amphitheatre. A visit to the 400 feet high peak, however, from which there are splendid views over the Rhine Valley and over to the mountains of the Hunsrück is always worthwhile.
But the famous slate rock's name did not only receive its imputation from myths and legends composed by the poets alone, but they, too, based their works on ancient tales. It is said that in nights when the moon shines brightly elves have been seen dancing there. In Middle High German the word ‘lure’ refers to dancing, and in the same language the word ‘Lei’ means rock. So this should be the real origin of the name ‘Loreley’.
A long time has passed since knights clad in rattling armour and bearing weapons strolled through these old buildings, there is no more clatter of hooves in the castle courtyards, the lute of the troubadour has fallen silent, and the fires in the chimneys are extinguished. But the castles continue to dream as they have done for centuries, and secretly one wishes that they could tell their story. Nowhere in the world are there so many castles on a river as on the Rhine. Originally built to secure power and property, they were also well defended living quarters and places of refuge for many families, as well as profitable customs stations and notorious hideouts for robber knights. Most were built on protruding rocks with their towers boldly pushing toward the blue sky. Some are only ruins. But happily a great number were lovingly restored by expert hands according to old plans. Today, they are a pleasure to us because of their location high above the valley. Just as impressive as the witnesses of medieval architecture is the view from up here. In the background one can hear the hum of the ships' motors as they glide regally over the Rhine. Those who come here can enjoy tranquillity and might be inclined to think that the world is still in order.
- Burg Klopp
- Bingen's landmark is Burg Klopp. The castle keep almost certainly built on Roman foundations and the well, too, which is approximately 156 feet deep, is probably of Roman origin. This fortification was the seat of the Archbishop of Mainz' militia, later those of the cathedral chapter. In the 1689 it was destroyed and later in 1713 blown up, but between 1875 and 1879 rebuilt. Since the year 1897 it has served as the town's administrative centre. The keep, which is Romanesque in its lower part, houses the local history museum and contains valuable finds discovered in the area. Of particular interest is the medical kit which once belonged to a Roman doctor in the second century AD.
- Burg Katz
- Burg Katz (New Katzenelnbogen), placed splendidly on jutting ledge of rock was erected in 1371 by Graf Wilhelm II von Katzenelnbogen as a defensive and military base. The castle complex is limited to castle keep and palace, both of which are connected by strong, protective walls. After being raised during the Hesse Epoch, the circular castle keep with its helmeted top reached a height of 60 metres (ca. 180 ft.) Napoleon had the castle blown up during French occupation of the territory in 1806. It changed hands several times, and then between 1896 and 1898 was once more restored. It is now privately owned (no viewing possible) and is currently being appointed as a hotel.
- Burg Gutenfels
- Erected in the first half of the 13th century, the castle receives first official mention in 1257 in an official record as being in the possession of the family of Falkensteiner. However, already in 1277, the castle, together with the town of Kaub laying at its feet came within the jurisdiction of the region of Kurpfalz. It is one of the most important examples of residential and military building on the Rhine. It received its name after Landgraf Wilhelm von Hessen had besieged it in vain in 1504 (lit. = Good Rock). After being broken up since the year 1807, it was then reconstructed in the years between 1889 and 1892. Today it serves as a hotel and is open all through the year.
- The Nierderburg or Brömserburg in Rüdesheim was probably erected as a moated fortification around the year 1000. Even today, it is still one of the most remarkable romantic, habitable castles. Grouped around the mighty keep, the rest of the castle buildings served the archbishops of Mainz into the 13th century and subsequently the Knights of Rüdesheim who were occupied the castle in fief. The building received its present name from the line of ‘Brömser von Rüdesheim’ who, from 1548 until the extinction of the line in 1668, lived in the castle. In the year 1814, Goethe also visited Brömserburg, a fact attested to by an entry in the visitor's book. Rheingauer Wine and Natural History Museum: opening times are from mid-March to mid-November from 9am to 6 pm (last allowed entry at 5 pm).
- Alte Burg
- The ‘Alte Burg’ to be found on the Moselle whose once defensive towers are integrated into the Balduin Bridge constitutes an old part of the city of Koblenz which is well worth seeing. It was first erected by the Masters of Arken in the year 1185, extended by archbishop Heinrich von Vinstingen von Trier in 1277, and later modified several times. From time to time it has served as a residence for archbishops and now contains parts of the city's library as well as its archives. Worth seeing is the sandstone spiral staircase.
- Burg Reichenstein
- Burg Reichestein, also called Falkenburg, is situated above Trechtingshausen. The large castle complex built on a jutting, rocky crag is a fine example of the reconstruction of castles in the new gothic style. The foundations were laid in the 11th century, in 1253 destroyed first by the league of cities and later, in 1282, by Rudolf von Habsburg who considered it a ‘den of robber barons’. It then fell into decay from the 16th century onwards. In 1834, Friedrich Wilhelm von Barfuß began the work of its reconstruction. Later, in 1899, Baron Kirsch-Puricelli bought the building and had it liberally and extensively restored. The ramparts of the original castle complex are remarkable as well as the interior rooms which contain valuable furniture and collections. Burg Reichenstein also accommodates the largest collection of Taken tiles and decorative oven tiles in Rheinland-Pfalz, 1200 hunting trophies from four continents, weapons, armour, porcelain and furniture dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
- Burg Reichenberg
- In Hasenbachtal, a few miles inland, we come across Burg Reichenberg, one of the most important castle complexes with regard to art history in the Rhine Valley area. Work was begun on the castle in the year 1320, but never completed. Today, the premises are privately owned and not accessible to the public. Extensive undertakings have been undertaken in the last few years to maintain the castle's condition.
- Burg Maus
- Burg Maus (Thurnberg or Deuenburg) is one of the most highly developed fortified complexes of the time (Dehio) and belongs, technically speaking, to the most efficient and splendid buildings of its kind anywhere. It was constructed in 1356 on the initiative of the archbishop of Trier and from time to time also the residence of this prince of the church. Because of the very powerful position of the counts of Katzenelbogen, it was referred in those days as ‘Maus’ (i.e. Mouse', the word ‘cat’ being implicit in the family name). By the year 1806, the fortress was half in ruins and was reconstructed a hundred years later between 1900 and 1906. The interior includes an altar niche and a valuable collection of furniture and other collected treasures. Visits to the fortress are possible on request at the ‘Verkehrsamt’ (Tourist Office). The castle also possesses an open aviary for eagles and falcons. Between the end of March and the beginning of October there are flight demonstrations and an introduction to the art of falconry. Daily flight demonstrations displaying ospreys, golden eagles, Milane, and falcons to be seen from March to October at 11 am and 2.30 pm and on Sundays and public holidays at 4.30 pm.
- Burg Liebenstein
- Splendidly situated high above the Rhine and erected in the 12th and 13th centuries, Burg Liebenstein possesses a notable gothic residential tower (14th century), the remains of a castle keep hewn from rock, and a small house in the eastern part of the premises which, in an interior wall, displays a store for firewood; in addition, a half-timbered house has been surrounded by wall. Burg Liebenstein was a Ganerbenburg (a residence for a family with a common name), was later acquired by Nassau-Saarbrücken and became a place for knights of the Imperial Order together with Osterspai. The defensive fortifications are also directed against the castle of Burg Sterrenberg below. The two castles were often locally referred to as the ‘Hostile Brothers’ (‘Feindlichen Brüder’).
- Burg Lahneck
- Burg Lahneck is situated above the confluence of Lahn and Rhine and is an important representative of so-called ‘Rhine Romanticism’, an experience which can be described as a mixture of medieval military defences, their extension in the style of English new gothic architecture resulting in a valuable national heritage. The original building was erected in 1244 for the archbishop of Mainz and later extended. In 1688 it was destroyed, and has been steadily reconstructed since 1852. Worth seeing is the interior with its chapel, the knights hall, and the building's valuable collection of paintings and furniture. The castle keep offers the visitor a superb view from its top. In 1774, these same ruins inspired Goethe to write his poem ‘Geistesgruß’ (A Spirit's Greeting). In the summer castle festivities take place here. Opening times: 1st April to 1st November each day from 10 am to 5 pm.
- Burg Sterrenberg
- Sterrenberg is the older of the two castles and lies lower than Burg Liebenstein. It is a good example of castle restoration in modern times. It is quite likely that Sterrenberg was an imperial castle before 1110 AD and at that time in the possession of the Palatine patrician family of the Masters von Bolanden, later the counts of Sponheim. With the assistance of archbishop Balduin, the castle was finally incorporated into the Electorate of Trier. By 1568 the castle had already fallen into decay and, four hundred years later in 1968, ten years of restoration began which was to reconstruct the castle partially and, where possible, in gothic style. The fortress boasts two strong ramparts and a castle keep built on an outcrop of rock and again calls to mind the form of a small, gothic fortification system. Opening times: 1st. March to mid-October.
- Burg Stahleck
- Burg Stahleck was first officially recorded in 1135 (in that year Goswin von Stahleck is mentioned). Originally, this, the property lying furthest to the south of those possessions belonging to the bishops of Cologne was carried over from the hand of Emperor Barbarossa to that of his brother, Konrad. In 1214, the castle fell as a completed fief to the hand of Ludwig of Bavaria and therefore to the Wittelbach family with the consequence that this powerful line now owned two strategically important points along the Rhine. The beautifully situated building and its grounds, used today as a youth hostel, quite clearly display the art of castle building during the Stauffer period in their clear, structural arrangement. In times past it became a veritable bastion in the Palatine as controller of the river. In 1689, the fortress was blown up by the French and in the 19th century partially levelled to the ground. Between 1925 and 1927, the surrounding walls and ramparts were reconstructed and a youth hostel built from the excavated foundations. The lower part of the original Romanesque castle keep was rebuilt with thinner walls and fitted with a roof. Features worth mentioning are the moats and the ramparts, the castle keep and the palace in that order. A tour of the castle is only possible through the castle courtyard.
- Burg Sooneck
- Burg Sooneck which is situated at the very eastern end of the projection of the Forest of Soonwald was probably already in existence in the 11th century. Like Reichenstein, it has been destroyed several times. In 1834, the castle fell into the possession of the crown prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and his brother. It was only in the year 1842 that it was rebuilt as a hunting lodge according to plans conceived by the Koblenz military architect and engineer, Major Karl Schnitzler. The kernel of the structure is a habitable tower constructed in the 14th century. The interior contains valuable furniture and collections. Burg Sooneck whose outer appearance is seriously impaired by the continued commercial activities of a large quarry situated below it has been state owned since 1918. (Schlösserverwaltung: Palatine National Monuments Trust, Rheinland-Pfalz).
- Burg Rheinstein
- Burg Rheinstein is situated on a steep rock face opposite Assmannshausen and is an important example of the romantic reconstruction of ancient fortresses along the Rhine. The chronicle of its construction is somewhat opaque. It was probably first erected in the 13th century or at the beginning of the 14th century. Its transformation from a small medieval castle to a princely summer residence can be considered as an architectural masterpiece. Its architect was Johann von Lassaulx, assisted by Wilhelm Kuhn and completed by Friedrich Schinkel. In 1975, the opera singer, Hermann Hecher, bought the castle. It is thanks to his initiative that the castle has now become one of the great attractions in the Rhine Valley. The centrepiece of the present castle complex is the habitable tower built in the early 14th century. The buildings display the delicate lines of early new gothic and include small towers, terraces and iron steps. The interior houses costly representations in stained glass (ca. 1500 and later), frescoes, a Renaissance fireplace and much fine furniture.
- Burg Rheinfels
- The ruins of Rheinfels, the most extensive of all the fortress ruins along the Rhine, is an informative source of knowledge in the science of building fortifications, especially those in the late Renaissance. Graf Dieter V von Katzenelnbogen founded the castle fortress in 1245 as a protection of his interest in tax collection on the Rhine. It later became a residence for the baronial family with a high level of cultural activity. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Landgrafen von Hessen extended the castle both as a residence and a fortress. In 1692, Rheinfels was the only fortress on the left bank of the Rhine to withstand attacks from the French king Louis XIV's armies. In 1794, however, the castle fell to French troops and in 1796/97 the outer defences, the keep and the Darmstädter Building were all blown up. The ruins of the medieval fortress as well as the underground passageways of the fortification are impressive as is the Museum and the view from the ramparts. Like the castle of Schönburg, Burg Rheinfels also accommodates a renowned Schloßhotel and restaurant.
- Trier Elector's Castle (Kurtrierische Burg)
- The castle in Boppard, one of the most substantially fortified structures along the central Rhine was erected by archbishop Balduin of Trier after the conquest of the city in 1327 and served as a defiant stronghold against all comers. The castle keep is fitted with Gußlöchern and goes back to the 14th century, while the four wings surrounding the courtyard are of 17th century origin. The castle accommodates a local history museum with a section on forestry and wood which displays in particular the development of the well-known Thonet chair. The Roman Fort (Römer-Kastell) in Boppard which is rectangular with round towers is an example of one of the best preserved walls in Germany. In the Middle Ages, the material of the wall was partially employed in the construction of the town's fortifications. Especially impressive is that part of the wall with towers near the castle itself together with another section to the west in the archaeological park.
- Electors' Mansion House (Kurfürstliches Schloss)
- The ‘Kurfüstliches Schloss’ is situated directly on the Rhine and is the first and most important building in the style of early classicism in the Rhine area. The mansion was erected between 1777 to 1793 according to plans laid down by French architects in the service of Elector Clemens Wenzeslaus von Trier, and was the preferred residence of Prince Wilhelm von Preußen (Prince William of Prussia) and his spouse, Augusta, in particular during the years between 1850 and 1858. In 1944, the mansion was destroyed and later reconstructed in the years 1950 and 1951. The entrance hall, the stairway and the orangery are in imitation of the original. Today, the building houses a local municipal authority.
- The prince electors throughout Germany came from 1273 onwards to Rhens to conduct negotiations and especially to elect a new king. They would meet in those days in a garden of nut trees outside the township itself. In the year 1338 they founded the Rhens Electorate to defend the rights of the realm and their rights as electors. The king's throne whose ground plan probably follows that of an earlier wooden building was erected between 1376 and 1398, renewed several times and on the last occasion in 1842, consists of black lava stone blocks while the supports and central column is of basalt. In particular, the foot and the capital of the octagonal central column. Visits possible.
- The fortified castle of Heimburg whose foundations were laid in 1290 lies above Niederheim whose castle, completed in 1305, served as a ‘kurmainzische’ fortress against Palatine barons. It fell into ruin in the 16th century and was completely destroyed by the French in 1689. It was then re-constructed by Hugo Stinnes in the 19th century. Today, the castle is privately owned and not open to visitors.
- Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (Festung Ehrenbreitstein)
- Opposite the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle and situated on steep, inhospitable rock, lies ‘Schloss Ehrenbreistein’ approximately 354 ft (118 m) above the Rhine, one of the most forbidding fortresses in the period after 1815. The first fortification was set up in the year 1000 AD and in the course of the centuries the castle developed into an impregnable fortress. In the years between 1816 and 1832, the Prussians built the present fortified complex. The buildings with their simple cubical form fit in well with the massive, crenellated character of the local mountain landscape. The main buildings in particular convey the effect to the observer of being monumental. The fortress contains a state collection of technical apparatus used in ancient times, a youth hostel as well as places to eat and drink. A chair lift takes visitors up to fortress level.
- Ehrenfels Ruin
- This fortification, which has its origins in the first half of the 13th century, forms together with the fortification of Burg Klopp and the Mäuseturm (Mice Tower) in the Rhine opposite, the blockaded belt zone of the archbishopric to the north. Situated halfway up the mountain at the entrance to the ‘Binger Loch’, it was a strategic point of the greatest importance during the Middle Ages. At the same time, the Ehrenfels Toll Point constituted an important source of income for the archbishopric in Mainz. According to their importance, the archbishops of the time built the fortress into one of the most formidable along the Rhine, and in time of war it was here that the cathedral treasure was ensconced. With its mighty fortified ramparts facing the mountain and flanked by two towers at each corner, the ruin, whose upkeep requires considerable financial investment, today provides the visitor with wonderfully picturesque view. A visit to the ruin is possible.
- ‘A ship of stone, eternally afloat upon the Rhine, and eternally lying at anchor before the town of Pfalzgrafen’ — thus Victor Hugo — this is the castle, Pfalz, formerly Pfalzgrafenstein, and one of the rarest of castle creations in the world. The countryside here along the river valley with the little town of Kaub and Burg Gutenfels above it has still maintained much of its romantic beauty. The ‘Pfalz’ as it was once called was erected as a castle for the collection of tithes in 1327 by King Ludwig the Bavarian. It was extended in 1338 by an approximately 36 ft (12m) high, six-cornered ring wall which accommodated two sentry walks one built above the other. Although the fortress was ‘modernized’ in 1607 and 1755, it is for the most part a 14th century fortification. Its interior contains furniture from the 17th to the 19th centuries as well as household articles made of fireclay and pewter. Opening times: 1st April to 30th September: 9am-1pm and 2pm to 6pm. From 1st October to 31st March from 9am-1pm and from 2pm to 5pm. In December and on the first day of the working week, the museum is closed. The last ferry goes one hour before closing time.
- The Martinsburg with its formidable hexagonal castle keep situated on the banks of the Rhine at Oberlahnstein was built at the end of the 14th century as a Rhine tollgate for the electors of Mainz. The delightfully picturesque group of buildings was erected together with the city fortifications, and the ogival gate in the east wall displays a delicately wrought, cast-iron bay window with a coat of arms dated 1395. The north wing of the castle probably housed the principal rooms while the living quarters to the northwest came into being in the 14th century later being modified in the 18th century. The southern tract is also gothic in origin. The southwest and west wing were erected by archbishop Franz Lothar von Schönborn in the years between 1719 and 1721. Within the structure we find the main tower (end of the 14th century) and on the windows outside we can still see the small brackets of stone to which hinged, wooden blinds, attached and closed from above, were fastened. The roof goes back to the 18th century. The castle today belongs to Dr. Johannes Romberg who is generally responsible the preservation and maintenance of the buildings. The town mint, the kitchen and the Fastnacht Museum can all be viewed within the framework of a tour of the town which takes place every Wednesday at 2 pm starting from the Witches Tower.
- Marksburg, the only high-standing castle along the central part of the Rhine originated during the 12th and 14th centuries while the bastions are of 17th century origin. Worth seeing are the rider's steps which have been hewn from the living rock, the cannon batteries, the herb garden, the wine cellar, the kitchen, the ladies bower, the knights hall and the chapel. The armoury displays armour and weapons of excellent quality from antiquity to the late Middle Ages. The stables house a collection of instruments of torture and punishment. The smithy marks the end of the tour through the castle which, in its entirety, presents the visitor with a documentation of courtly life in the Middle Ages and an example of a fortified complex in those times. Marksburg is the seat of the German Castle Trust, an association which is furnished with the largest specialized library on subjects dealing with castles and related matters. In the castle's kitchen visitors can treat themselves to a ‘knightly meal’ in medieval style. Opening times: Easter - 31st October every day from 10 am to 5 pm; from November to Easter each day from 11 am to 4 pm.
- Mouse Tower (Mäuseturm)
- The former watchtower whose name is derived from the word ‘Maut’ in German which means ‘customs’ or ‘tithe’ is mounted on a rocky island in the middle of the Rhine. The archbishops of Mainz probably erected it in the 13th century and extended it in the course of the next. It was rebuilt in new gothic style between 1856 and 1858 and served as a signal station for traffic on the Rhine until 1974. A grim story is attached to it which we find recorded in Victor Hugo's diary during his tour of the Rhine. It relates how the mean Mainz archbishop, Hatto, (890-913) who, because he allowed hungry people to be burned was himself eaten up by mice in the tower. The legend probably stems from the 14th century.
- Schönburg, once described by Freiligrath as ‘the most beautiful and romantic place of refuge along the Rhine’ was in the possession of Hermanns von Stahleck in 1149 and, for a time, an imperial castle. In 1266, already five families of the line von Schönburg lived here. In the 14th century the castle complex developed into a huge Ganerbenburg or common family castle. Destroyed in 1689, it has been systemically restored since 1885. It now serves as a distinguished hotel and in part, too, as a youth centre (Kolpinghaus). The arrangement of the castle complex into three parts is clearly to be seen. The formidable castle ramparts are among the most important of their kind.
- Stolzenfels Castle
- Schloss Stolzenfels is a representative example of what one might call ‘the romance of the Rhine’ as is the case with Rolandsbogen and the Loreley. Burg Stolzenfels which at one time served as toll station and was first officially mentioned in the year 1248, was also destroyed in 1689. In 1823, Crown prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who was later to become King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, a king of romantic turn of mind, received this beautifully situated castle as a gift and ordered its reconstruction and adaptation as a summer residence in 1842 according to plans submitted by the architects, Schinkel and Schüler. The interior is richly furnished with paintings, works of art and displays of weapons and armour. The wall frescoes in the chapel and in the small knights hall belong to the most important works associated with the heyday of Rhine romanticism.
- Stahlberg Ruins
- Only fragments of a once great fortress have been preserved. It was probably first erected around the year 1200 at the same time as Burg Fürstenberg (1219) was built as a protection of of the Four Valley area. In the year 1243, the archbishop of Cologne gave it in fief to the Palatine barons. In the meantime the ruin has become the property of the ‘Rheinischen Vereins für Denkmalpflege’ (the Rhine Association for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments). One can observe openings in the fortified wall which served as sockets for the bars across the main door. The centre of the castle complex is oval-shaped. To the west the castle keep towers above us; to the east and at the highest point, stands a habitable tower.
- Fürstenberg Castle Ruins
- Burg Fürstenbeg was erected in the year 1219 by the Archbishop of Cologne in order to protect his property and also as centre for the collection of tolls, later to be destroyed in the Palatine War of Succession. The ramparts and the castle keep are powerfully impressive. Victor Hugo has well described the latter with the words, ‘Its extraordinary height is remarkable to behold as well as its highly individual character. Just as it stands with its high battlements, lacking a mural crown at its top, sans openings, sans windows, and with mere narrow loophole here and there and from top to bottom increasing in thickness?’. Of the once immense enclosing wall there is only an ivy-clad ruin left. The remains of plaster is visible. The ruin is today in private hand and for this reason is not open to the public.
In the course of time poets and bards from all over the world have composed hymns of praise for this unique river landscape. Hardly any other has been sung about so often. It is flanked by vine gardens whose wines are world-renowned and imposing castles on the hillsides strive heavenward enveloped in myths and legends. A cultural region whose colourful past has left its mark everywhere. A place where culture in all its diversity is still alive today. A place where the results of the creativity of wine-growers, landlords, hotel owners, and entire communities instils a sense of curiosity in us. Here, the sunshine absorbed by the grapes glistens from every glass of wine in the evening. Concert and theatre evenings, wine and regional festivities are held, magnificent hilltop fireworks envelop the ‘Rhine in Flames’, and all of this happens in colourful succession. Anyone who spends his most enjoyable days of the year here, in a country with extensive bicycle and hiking routes, splendid health resorts and spas, will relish the experience for the rest of the year. Besides, may we invite you into one of the rustic wine taverns or into a gourmet restaurant? The range is rich in colours and facets. It is difficult to resist the charm of the land on the left and right banks of Father Rhine. And those who have been here once will come again, because they now know why the Rhine is so beautiful.
The distance on the river between Koblenz and Mainz is about 81 kilometres. Nowhere in the world are there so many castles on the banks of a river as there are on this part of the Rhine. On the right and left sides there are 29 witnesses of knightly barons of ‘old time’ — and not few of them were robber barons at that. If one stands on of their towers or on the bank, one can watch the proud, majestic passenger ships from the different shipping companies gliding by. Painted in luminescent white and bearing colourful flags they are always a beautiful sight in front of the background of green vineyards. It is far more exciting, however, to board one of the large or small ships oneself. All of them are well maintained and clean; most of them offer a good cuisine or have a good range of drinks in their fridges. So one can indulge oneself on one of the ‘steamboats’. The ‘steamboat’ image, however, has been history for a long time now. Today's modern décor and comfort has become a matter of course. As soon as darkness sets in over the land it becomes particularly impressive for now it is that the Rhine awakens in flames, the night of the thousand fires and many other events are occasions where the pyro-technicians display their skills. They transform the mountainous banks and the river into a unique iridescent landscape of fire and colour.
There are so many things to discover in the Loreley Valley: the ferryman familiar with the Rhine from the earliest day, the Loreley — the mythical beauty who fits so well into the Rhine Romanticism scenery — the numerous castles, churches and historical town and picturesque village centres, which have so many exciting stories to tell. These are the towns:
- Bacharach (the wine-growing centre)
- Bacharach enjoyed its heyday as a trading centre for wine and timber in the Middle Ages. The medieval town is characterised by the beautiful restored Tudor style houses, narrow alleys and the market square, which is a remarkable tourist attraction.
- Bingen (Mouse Tower on the river)
- Bingen is a modern town at the junction of the wine-growing areas of the Nahe, Rheinhessen, Middle Rhine Valley and the Rheingau. The junction of the rivers Nahe and Rhine in Bingen is considered as the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The perfect location to start your tour through the Loreley Valley.
- Boppard (on the large Rhine loop)
- Boppard is one of the most significant wine-growing areas in the Loreley Valley. The ‘Bopparder Hamm’ is one of the most famous hillside vineyards on the Middle Rhine. The 2,000-year old town is in the largest loop on the Rhine. The old part of the town is well worth visiting.
- Braubach (in the shadow of the Marksburg castle)
- The landmark of the small town of Braubach is Marksburg Castle — a symbol of Middle Rhine castle building. It is the only castle on the top of a hill that has never been destroyed and is, therefore, one of the most popular castles to visit on the Rhine.
- Kamp-Bornhofen (the watermen's town)
- High above the town the two ‘hostile brothers‘ — Sterrenberg and Liebenstein castles — keep watch. Local legend has given them the nickname. Also impressive to visit in Kamp-Bornhofen: the raft and inland-shipping museum and the Marien (Our Lady) pilgrimage convent. There is an annual ship procession to the site.
- Kaub (general Blücher and the Rhine crossing)
- The Pfalzgrafenstein customs castle is one of the most outstanding buildings along the Middle Rhine. But Kaub was actually made famous by the Prussian general, Blücher. In 1813 he crossed in Kaub the Rhine River with his 60,000-man army and 20,000 horses to drive Napoleon out of Germany.
- Kestert (home of Loreley Christine)
- Kestert in the Loreley Valley is a typical small township set in the particularly lovely central Rhine winegrowing landscape. The town can look back on over 1200 years of history. Every two years a young woman from the Middle Rhine is elected to represent the Loreley. Kestert is the home of the current Loreley.
- Koblenz (the majestic residence on the Rhine and Moselle rivers)
- The town is famous for the ‘Deutsche Eck’ (German corner), the point where the Moselle joins the Rhine. The many monuments show how important the town once was. The Ehrenbreitstein fortress is one of the most famous and youngest strongholds on the Middle Rhine, a masterpiece of Prussian fortress-building.
- Lahnstein (where the Lahn flows into the Rhine)
- Lahnstein is a delightful town with numerous gates and towers bearing witness to the historical significance of Lahnstein in the Middle Ages. High above Lahnstein is the proud castle of Lahneck. The town is just before Koblenz.
- Lorch (the gateway to the Rheingau)
- Lorch is an idyllic little town blessed with romantic lanes and squares. As gateway to the Rheingau, Lorch is also the departure point for the Rheingau-Riesling-Route. Its central position makes it possible to take excursions into the Rheingau Valley, into the Valley of the Loreley and into the beautiful Wisper Valley.
- Oberheimbach (steep vineyards and noble Riesling)
- Oberheimbach is a wine-growing community which is rich in tradition. It lies embedded in an idyllic valley off the central Rhine surrounded by vineyards and woods. On the steep vineyards which characterize this area, winegrowers produce a noble Riesling and a velvet-tasting red wine.
- Oberwesel (the town of the towers and wine)
- Oberwesel is one of the very few towns which have retained their medieval face. It is regarded as an impressive witness to the Middle Ages, with its 16 defensive towers and the town wall which can still be walked along. Oberwesel is also famous for its racy Riesling grown on the steep slopes.
- Rhens (the King's Chair)
- In the historical town of Rhens, German kings were once chosen in 1346 (it was on the ‘Königsstuhl’ (King's Chair)). Magnificent burgher houses make a visit to the town centre worthwhile.
- Rüdesheim am Rhein (the small town with a great name)
- Rüdesheim is known for its world-famous Drosselgasse, with its traditional wine bars and pubs. From the Germania monument one has an unforgettable view over the Rhine Valley, Rheingau and the mountainous countryside of Rheinhessen.
- St. Goar (and the monumental fortress of Rheinfels)
- Only a few hundred metres downstream opposite the Loreley Rock and dominated by the monumental outlines of the fortress of Rheinfels above, lies this jewel of a town. The fortress of Rheinfels was once the most formidable castle along the Rhine. Even today, its immense dimensions, its varied form and the differing constellation of its towers, its ramparts and bastions as well as the winding and twisting nature of its extensive underground mine galleries and casements is something which cannot fail to impress the visitor.
- St. Goarshausen (the home of Loreley)
- This romantic little town with its wine-growing culture forms the centrepiece of the Loreley Castle Route at the foot of the legendary ‘Loreley’. The old town centre is truly idyllic with its two city towers and the remains of the old city walls and it is here where the annual Wine Week takes place in September. A special attraction is the open-air stage on the Loreley rocks. From May to September one can enjoy varied entertainment all the way from classical music to rock and pop and there's something for every taste.
‘Wine warmeth the heart of man.’ Indeed, it says so in the Bible. The psalmist must have known what he was talking about, even if the wines are far better today than they were in those days. The gaiety which arises from wine is at home on both sides of the ponderously flowing river. Unique soil composition as well as favourable climatic conditions result in elegant, full-bodied, and filigree Rieslings. But even on the less problematic vineyards right down to Königswinter on the right bank of the Rhine the vines of the winegrower require much attention. There is no Royal Family in Europe at whose table the fine wines from the most important locations of the Middle Rhine have not been served. Each one of the hundreds of wine taverns from Bingen to Bonn is ‘a balm for the soul’. The philistines who raise their fingers in disapproval when one bottle after another is emptied by a joyous crowd should know that there are more old wine drinkers than there are old doctors! In recent years, several winegrowers have produced a certain amount of sparkling wine. This bubbling, lively beverage must not be hidden behind similar drinks from other countries. It is a pure wine pleasure which can be taken home in bottles at low cost. Since even at home ‘wine is the escalator to the well-being of our spirit’.
Is there any better way to end a balmy summer day than to spend it in one of the many vineyard Straußwirtschaften or restaurants? The vintners hang a bundle or straw or flowers above the door and put tables and benches in their gardens and courtyards. Besides their own wines, they offer the sort of food that goes well with them. The Straußwirtschaften are only open for a total of four months a year, unlike the restaurants, which are open all year round. ‘Wine is served where the bundle is hanging,’ is an old tradition that has been maintained until today. On the Rhine, the good mood lasts all year. From the beginning of the year until late into the autumn, there are many reasons for the local population and guests from far and wide to celebrate in a typical Rhineland manner. The wine and street festivals have lost none of their delight. For several days, lovingly decorated wine booths are erected in the cosy alleys and squares to serve as wine-tasting stands. The colourful climax comes with the festival parades. Groups walking in the parades and the elaborately decorated floats pass the spectators. Wine-growers who market their wines themselves arrange their own courtyard festivals. Every visitor is welcome when the vintners offer specialities from their cellars and kitchens. Jazz and wine are a thrilling combination. In cellars, wine-tasting rooms and on the streets, Dixie and mainstream jazz pave the way to the wine.
There is always something happening — whether it is art, music, wine festivals or a host of other activities. The Events Finder gives you an overview about what is on, where and when. Here you can search for events and festivals in the region.
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.
- Hotel Finder — Tal der Loreley (Loreley Valley)
- Holiday Flat Finder — Tal der Loreley (Loreley Valley)
Frankfurt-Hahn Airport has no direct railway or bus connection to the Loreley Valley (Tal der Loreley). However, the buses from the airport will take you to railway stations where you can connect with Deutsche Bahn trains or local transport links.
Buses run from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Koblenz. From Koblenz main station (Hauptbahnhof) you can take trains that take you through the Loreley Valley from Koblenz to Bingen am Rhein.
Bus routes and timetables: