Western Germany’s resilient Rhine River region has thrived for more than 2,000 years in defiance of the violent war scenes that reduced entire cities to rubble on the banks of this major waterway. Proliferating through viniculture, the tourism industry, and commercial business activity of cities like Frankfurt and Mainz, this breathtaking corner of the world has only grown more picturesque – if that’s even possible. After diving into a hotbed of German culture, art, and history during my recent river cruise aboard the Avalon Panorama, I’ve rounded up three must-see attractions along the Rhine:
Cathedral in Cologne
For lovers of spires, towers, and all things Gothic, Cologne serves up a particularly satisfying mix of modernity and history. The birthplace of eau de Cologne and Kölsch beer, this city also features a whopping 12 Romanesque churches. Most famous is the city center’s 475- foot-tall Cologne Cathedral. A breathtaking structure visible from just about anywhere in Cologne, the double-peaked skyscraper dominates the landscape. Visitors are invited to climb 533 steps to the South Tower (approximately 53 flights) to savor the view (and burn off any Kölsch beer-induced calories).
Rudesheim Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments
Rudesheim’s verdant waterfront unlocks one of the most romantic cities on the Rhine. Winding cobblestone alleys, fine wines, little keepsake shops, and a variety of museums draw crowds all summer long. One of the town’s crown jewels is The Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, where an assortment of rooms and cavernous, sound-amplifying spaces exhibit the sometimes-eerie self-playing instruments. Constructed in the 19th and 20thcenturies, these fascinating and complicated contraptions play haunting melodies via rotating violin chambers, automated pianos, booming organs, and dancing ceramic dolls.
The fortress-like Reichsburg Castle towers some 328 feet above Cochem, a town of slender cobblestone alleys, rocky vineyards, and just 5,000 inhabitants. Though largely restored to a neo-Gothic style in the 19th century, the true-to-imagination castle conjures surreal scenes of medieval nobility and fairytale endings. Inside, guides relay mesmerizing anecdotes about the ornate furnishings and architectural misgivings of Reichsburg. Best of all, guests may touch most of the artifacts!