Romantic Rhine River Romance – A Love Affair With Scenic Train Routes

Rhine River Romance A Love Affair with Scenic Train Routes

If storybook Germany floats your boat, there is no better way to see it than on a Rhine River cruise. A river cruise is best for those with more time, but a scenic train journey also makes for a memorable trip.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites and vineyard-covered hills provide a kaleidoscope of views. Whether you want to see the castles and villages along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley or the majestic Rhine Gorge, there is a route for you.

1. The GoldenPass Line

If you love trains and Switzerland, this scenic train route is a must-do. It cuts a swath diagonally across the country’s pristine center and connects Lucerne in the German-speaking area to Montreux near Lake Geneva, passing some of the Alpine country’s most spectacular vistas along the way. The GoldenPass Line is served by several specialty trains so you can choose the most comfortable option for your travels. It’s also ideal for people with limited time who want to see a lot in a short amount of time.

You can take this train in both directions, starting with a day in Lucerne and ending with two days in Montreux. You’ll need to transfer at Interlaken and possibly Zweisimmen, but the connections are small so you’ll only be on a train for about an hour or less. Some of the trains have heated seats in a panoramic car and offer first-class or Prestige class tickets (upgrades are extra on promo fares).

On the way you’ll travel through the Simmen Valley, an idyllic Swiss village with farms, forests, and small villages. You’ll then arrive in the upper-class town of Gstaad, where you’ll leave behind the German-speaking region and enter French-speaking Switzerland. From there, you’ll continue up the cliff-lined mountain pass of the Jungfraujoch and enter the Bernese Oberland.

Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll descend into the Lauterbrunnen Valley and enjoy views of the lakes, villages, and peaks of the snow-covered Swiss Alps. The train passes a number of waterfalls before arriving in Grindelwald, where you’ll get to explore the quaint medieval village and visit the celebrated Rock of Lorelei.

Then, you’ll follow the path of the Rhine River through a series of vineyards and charming medieval towns to the beautiful city of Heidelberg, a cosmopolitan destination with a high quality of life that makes it a magnet for visitors and locals alike. You’ll see magnificent castles and fortresses, as well as the famous mechanical music museum and a brewery that offers guided tours of its cellars. All of this on a trip that celebrates the best of European romance and railway travel.

2. The Moselle

If the Rhine River is Germany’s fairy tale land, its sweet tributary the Moselle offers even more dreamy scenes. On our 2024 Romance of the Rhine & Moselle cruise, you’ll sail past vineyards and hilltop castles in a picturesque landscape that seems to have come straight from a storybook.

There’s a castle or fortress, those ultimate symbols of the Middle Ages celebrated in fantasy literature, every few miles on this section of the Rhine River—and that’s exactly why it’s called the “Romantic Rhine.” This stretch is one of the most popular river cruise routes in Europe, but the scenery here is truly special.

The steep slopes, bizarre rocks, and fairy-tale castles of the Rhine River captivated the Romantics of the late 18th century. They longed for unspoiled landscapes to paint, and they found them here in a region that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s a place where you can visit the Electoral Palace and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz, or walk along the historic port city of St. Goarshausen to see the famous Loreley Rock. The fabled slate outcrop has been the backdrop for many romances, including the tragic tale of the hapless maiden who sat on its peak combing her blonde hair and singing songs to lure ships to their doom.

You’ll also explore Cochem’s castle-dotted hillsides and see the winemaking towns of Rüdesheim and Bingen. And in Trier, the ancient Roman capital that’s also known as Karl Marx’s birthplace, you’ll be enthralled by its treasures. Take a walking tour to see the Emperor Bath, Constantine Basilica, and the birthplace of the philosopher himself. And, of course, you’ll enjoy a taste of the region’s famed Riesling wines. It’s a journey you won’t want to miss.

3. The Rhine Gorge

The Rhine Gorge is one of the most stunning parts of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It’s like a scene from a fairytale, with villages made of Gothic style houses, hillside vineyards and clifftop castles. You can get a real taste of the area on a drive around the region, with most of the roads running close to the river. Alternatively, you can take the train line or even a river cruise and spend a few days enjoying the scenery in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The sheer beauty of this river landscape, with its wild gorges and wild cultural scenery, captured the imaginations of the Romantic artists of the 18th century. Painters like JMW Turner and writers including Lord Byron brought the Rhine to international fame. And with the invention of steam ships and the lifting of Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, it wasn’t long before tourists started to pour into Germany.

As a result, the cliffs and castles along this stretch of the Rhine became famous worldwide. And although they’re no longer the mighty fortresses of the Middle Ages, they still have a certain charm. Many are now converted into luxury hotels and restaurants, offering a chance to feel like royalty for a few days.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, the Rhine Gorge is steeped in legend. One of the best known is the legend of Lorelei, a beautiful blonde maiden who was said to have lured sailors to their doom. The narrowest point of the Rhine is here, with cliffs plunging deep into the water. It’s no wonder so many ships went down here in the past!

The Upper Middle Rhine is a fantastic place to relax and unwind, with the stunning scenery and historic castles creating a romantic backdrop. The best way to experience it is on a cruise along the Rhine, with plenty of time to stop and explore the castles and charming towns. A trip to the area by train can be a good option too, especially on a tour that stops at Koblenz, Mainz (home of Gutenberg, who invented the printing press), the cultural party city of Cologne and more.

4. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley

The Rhine’s awe-inspiring landscape enchanted the Romantics and continues to capture hearts today. Even Lord Byron and Friedrich von Schlegel were captivated by the ‘proud castles on wild cliffs’, ‘flora and fauna of the Rhine valley’ and ‘quaint winegrowing villages’ that make up this UNESCO World Heritage Site between Bingen and Koblenz. It’s a place that is best explored on a river cruise, but the area is also perfect for exploring by car or train, and even by foot along the nearby hiking trails.

The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a remarkably picturesque landscape of vineyard-covered slopes, medieval towns and mighty fortresses that has been a magnet for great artistry, ingenuity and craftsmanship since the Middle Ages. From the Deutsches Eck at Koblenz to the Rheinfels castle in St Goarshausen, this UNESCO World Heritage Site reveals the illustrious past of the region. Over 40 castles, palaces and fortresses – many now ruins – testify to the richness and importance of this stretch of the river.

In the 19th century, as German patriots searched for symbols to unite their new country, the Middle Rhine was a potent symbol of heroism and a reminder of Germany’s natural beauty. The 132 metre-high Lorelei slate rock where the sea maiden Lorelei is said to have wreaked her mischief remains one of Germany’s most famous landmarks and is now a viewpoint with a visitors centre.

There are countless romantic small towns to explore, such as the charming half timber houses of Braubach, with its pretty cobbled streets and the Phillipsburg Palace. Built as a summer palace for the landgraves of the Marksburg family, the interior has been preserved in its original state and can transport visitors back to Prussian royalty’s era of splendour.

For a relaxing way to see the Upper Middle Rhine, choose a luxury river cruise that includes visits to all of these beautiful landmarks and many more. Alternatively, explore the region by car, or by bike, taking in the scenery and historic sights as you go, with a self-drive trip including stops in the pretty towns of Rheinfelden and Rudesheim.

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