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Germany's romantic Rhine and Mosel Valleys, part 1

Castles, river cruising, distinctive villages: This itinerary makes the most of five days in the Rhine and Mosel Valleys.

Beilstein, a tiny picturesque village
Thomas A. Wohlmut
On the romantic Rhine River at Schloss Engers
Franco Bruni

Day 1
Your hotel for the next five nights is in the tiny "Sleeping Beauty" village of Beilstein (pop. less than 200!) At the Hotel Haus Lipmann you will find castle ambience galore, great service and a place to truly unwind. Breakfast is included. Ask for room 4 – the only room with a terrace overlooking the Mosel River. Consider dining at the hotel’s really good restaurant most nights either in the knights’ hall dining room or on the leafy terrace overlooking the river (depending on season). For hotel guests only, the three-course prix fixe menu for €19 is a delicious value!

Day 2
Plan on about an hour’s drive to arrive at St. Goar on the Rhine River around 10 a.m. That should give you ample time to tour Rheinfels Castle before you catch the 12:20 p.m. cruise to Bacharach on the 1913 paddle-wheeler Goethe arriving at 1:30 p.m.

Lunch at Stueber's Restaurant.

Explore Bacharach.

Catch the 5:15 p.m. cruise to St. Goar on Goethe arriving at 5:55 p.m. (or the 4:27 p.m. train to St. Goar arriving at 4:37 p.m.)

Day 3
Explore Beilstein in the morning, hiking up to the ruined castle and beyond for incredible vistas encompassing twisty river, steep vineyards, town and castle. Walk a few more steps to see a remote and evocative Jewish cemetery.

In the afternoon visit Burg Eltz, one of Europe’s most authentic and best preserved medieval castles. Rick Steves (of "Europe Through the Back Door" fame) say it's his "favorite castle in all of Europe." Set in a forested valley with no signs of modern civilization, it’s been in the same family for 33 generations! To enhance the wonderment, opt for a 45-minute hike through a magical forest to get there. (From Beilstein, drive about half an hour to Moselkern, follow the Burg Eltz signs up the Eltz Valley, park at the Hotel Ringelsteiner Muhle [€2, buy ticket from machine]. Find the easy-to-follow trail right of the hotel. It starts out paved, soon changing to dirt.)

For dinner tonight, consider another 20-minute drive past Mozelkern to feast in the bewitching Alte Mühle (Old Mill) Thomas Höreth. Really off the beaten track, this restaurant occupies an 11th-century mill and boasts its own vineyard and wines. Food can be uneven, but the magical medieval ambiance makes it worth a special trip. It's hard to choose between the candlelit nooks and crannies inside or the sprawling gardens with different themes outdoors. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Continue reading this itinerary with days 4 and 5.

Hotel Haus Lipmann

Alte Mühle Thomas Höreth (in German only)
Hotel Haus Lipmann
Stueber's Restaurant

Burg Eltz
Rheinfels Castle

Want more info on Rhineland castles? Check out Rick Steves Travel Blog.

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