Cologne is an extraordinary city full of culture with a great museum scene, and a Gothic Cathedral that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest city along the Rhine, as well as being the fourth largest in Germany.
The city of Cologne has been a vital city along the river for centuries, having deep bones and a solid structure. It has a rich Roman heritage, and was built upon an ancient Roman town.
So naturally, Cologne will be the most convenient location along the Rhine, if you are wanting to visit towns and cities along the banks.
I have been to the area a few times, and have either stayed in Cologne or Bonn. If I were to pick of the two for great access to cruising down the Rhine, it would be Cologne. I do like the city of Bonn, don’t get me wrong, but if I am speaking as a tourist then Cologne has more to the city when it comes to a variety of travelers needs. Including various day cruises along the Rhine River.
If you are considering a Rhine River day trip from Cologne to add to your itinerary, you will have different options of cruise types. There are dinner cruises, panoramic cruises, or my favorite – the hop on hop off cruise. It starts off in Cologne, works its way down the river, and has many stops along the way.
I was able to choose the stops that interested me, as well as taking a relaxing panoramic river cruise. It was a great addition to my travel plans while visiting the area.
Popular Cruise line- KD Rhine River Hop-on Hop-off Day Pass
If you have a day or so to visit towns and cities in this region of the Rhine, I am recommending four that have great visitor appeal:
If you do plan on staying in the city of Cologne for a few days, and are not doing a big tour group, but choose to explore on your own – good job! That is how I have visited Germany, and I find it the best way to go about it.
If you are needing recommendations of a few of my favorites in Cologne, I have attached additional blogs.
A favorite for architecture – Cologne Cathedral – A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Exploring Germany
Cologne’s great museum scene – Cologne’s Best Museums | Discovering Germany
Bonn is another good urban sprawl along the Rhine with an interesting past. The city has been many things over the centuries. It was the capital city of West Germany from 1949 to 1990, it is a vibrant city along the Rhine River, and it also is a University town (University of Bonn).
All are very impressive to the structure of this city, but the one thing that interested me the most was Bonn’s connection with Ludwig Van Beethoven. This legendary German composer, and pianist was born in Bonn on December 17, 1770.
The special connection that the city and the composer have are significant throughout Bonn. The city rightfully celebrates Beethoven through its art, concerts, walking tours, and museum. Bonn can be a great addition to your visit to Rhine River cities, especially if you appreciate classical music.
For more information – Bonn and Beethoven | Discovering Germany
One of Königswinter’s popular attractions is the Drachenfels, which is a tall hill that is also known as “Dragon Rock” The top of the hill is crowned by ruins of an early 12th century castle. There is also a cave in the hill that legends say sheltered the dragon, which the hero Siegfried slain.
Getting to the Drachenfels is easy, as there is a funicular that will bring you to the top of the hill. It runs every day throughout the year.
Once you get to the top Drachenfels you will be treated to breathtaking views of the Rhine river, its lush hills, and all the towns below.
Unkel is unlike the other three Rhine locations that I recommended, and I believe it will round out your experiences along the river well. Unkel is an absolute charmer, and an easy place to visit. This picturesque town is located on the eastern bank, and dates back to 886 AD.
There are several sites of interest in Unkel, such as the Baroque Palace (Freiligrathaus) or Gefangnistrum, a prison tower museum from the 16th century. Although my favorite site was the Putzgasse, which is a darling little street of half timbered houses.
There are many other stops along the Rhine, including many impressive wineries along the river, which I will cover in a future blog. The hillsides of the Rhine have been well known for their terroir with beautiful sunlight, slate rich and fine grained soil. This type environment along with the cooler weather is good for producing crisper wines with good acidity. There are beautiful Pinot Noirs and Rieslings (my favorite) grown in this region.
However you decide to cruise down the Rhine, the views of the hillside wineries and the charming villages will make a lasting impression. It is a breathtaking and relaxing day trip from the big city of Cologne.
Although every time I passed a village or a winery on the Rhine River, I had the strong urge to get off the boat and wander- every single one of them. That would be more than one day trip!
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us…
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