In this post I am going to describe example itinerary from Frankfurt to Cologne. It will include details on scenic Middle Rhine cruise, walk in Boppard and half a day stop in Koblenz.
Both Frankfurt and Cologne are very nice cities in Germany’s Rhine region and are worth spending a few days in them. Even though Frankfurt is on Maine and not on Rhine 🙂 it’s a convenient starting point to explore Rhine region as it has good international air and railway connections.
You can fly to Frankfurt (or arrive by train like we did), explore Rhine region down the river from Mainz to Koblenz, take a train to Cologne, and then fly back home from Cologne (or take a train back to Frankfurt).
Rhine cruise options and travel times
Biggest boat tour operator on Rhine – KD Rhine – runs regular river cruises from Mainz (40 minutes by train from Frankfurt) to Cologne (and back). After lots of research on Rhine cruises, ticket options, cruise duration, sights and towns along the river we came to the conclusion that there are better options than taking a boat all the way from Mainz to Cologne.
First of all, I’d like to mention that we chose direction from Mainz to Cologne and not the other way around because it means going down the Rhine (a boat goes faster downstream than upstream). It will take you longer if you choose to travel the opposite direction. Just to give you an indication on trip duration:
- A boat from Mainz to Koblenz will take about 6 hours,
- A boat from Koblenz to Mainz will take about 8.5 hours,
- Keep in mind that most likely boats won’t go all the way and you’ll have to change them somewhere in the middle to get from Mainz to Koblenz.
Not all parts of the Rhine between Mainz and Cologne are equally beautiful, and spending most of the day on a boat can get quite boring. The better option is to travel part way by train(s) and part way by boat. This way you will get a chance to visit a few towns on the way, save time by travelling part way by train, and do a boat trip on the most spectacular part of the Rhine. All that in one day.
There is a section of the Rhine river called Rhine Gorge and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rhine Gorge lays between Bingen and Koblenz and it has more than 40 castles from the middle ages.
Rhine Gorge section of the river is also known as Romantic Rhine. With its castles on the hills, green valleys, small pretty towns and many wineries along the way – this part of Middle Rhine is just perfect for a romantic boat cruise.
So we decided to start our boat trip in Bingen, spend few hours cruising down the river, and get off at Boppard. After exploring Boppard we took train to Koblenz.
You can check departure times and buy tickets online at KD Rhine website.
Cruise schedule: https://www.kdrhine.com/rhineschedule.htm
Tickets from Mainz (you can board at any KD departure points): https://www.kdrhine.com/kdrhineMainz.htm
Frankfurt to Bingen
We started our trip from Frankfurt. There is a direct train from the Netherlands to Frankfurt, which we took.
If your starting point is Frankfurt, I would advise to spend some time in Frankfurt itself. It’s a nice city and worth spending a day or two. We stayed there for two days – explored the city, visited Natural History museum and even had a ride on a tram where they serve cider! I have a post dedicated to Frankfurt here – Visiting Frankfurt for the weekend. But for now, let’s get back to planning a trip in Rhine region.
Train from Frankfurt to Bingen takes almost 2 hours. Tickets can be purchased at the station either at ticket machine or a ticket office. We took 09:08am train from Frankfurt Hbf and arrived to Bingen at 11:10am. It’s a 15 min walk from the train station to the KD Rhine Terminal where you will be boarding the boat.
Middle Rhine cruise – Bingen to Boppard
We have boarded the cruise ship at around 11:30am. Have you ticket ready to present when boarding the ship. You can also bring your luggage on board, they can store it for you during the cruise.
Once on board you can relax and enjoy the views. KD Rhine cruise ships usually have two decks – lower desk is covered, and the upper deck is open. Both have bar with snacks and drinks.
As I already mentioned this part of the Rhine valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. During the cruise you can watch all the castles, small towns, green hills and valleys passing by. You can choose to disembark the ship at one of the towns to explore it better or perhaps to visit one of well preserved medieval castles.
Full list of points where you can get off the boat between Mainz and Koblenz:
Wiesbaden, Eltville, Rüdesheim, Bingen, Assmannshausen, Lorch, Bacharach, Kaub, Oberwesel, St. Goar, St. Goarshausen, Bad Salzig, Kamp, Boppard, Braubach, Rhens, Oberlahnstein.
We spent on the cruise 2 hours and left the boat at Boppard at around 2pm. You will recognize Boppard while approaching it by the view of the 13-century church St. Severus with its tall twin towers.
Boppard is a small charming town where you can easily spend a day or at least a few hours. We have chosen it also because it has a chairlift to the top of the town with beautiful views to the Rhine river and Filsen town on the opposite bank of the river.
Disembarking the boat at Boppard you can first take a walk toward green zone along Rheinalle street. Turn right on Michael-Bach-Straße and walk around the town center and to the ruins of Römerkastell (Kastell Bodobrica). Then continue to the Market square. The town center is small and you can explore it by foot within 30 minutes.
Please note, there is no baggage storage area at the Boppard train station. We went there hoping to leave our suitcase but were disappointed not finding anything there.
From the town center, we walked to the chairlift – Sesselbahn. The chairlift takes you to the Vierseenblick viewpoint where you can admire the view to Rhine river where it takes a big loop. The ride takes about 20 minutes one way.
Tickets to the chairlift can be purchased right there at the Sesselbahn station. They can also store your luggage for free while you going up and down the lift!
At the top, after you get off the chairlift you can take a short 5 minutes walk to the panoramic terrace from where the Rhine loop, Boppard and town at the opposite side of the river can be overlooked.
There is also a restaurant up there with big outdoor area (and a playground for children). If not for a meal you can at least stay there for a drink, recharge and simply for enjoying the view a little bit longer before going back down to Boppard.
After getting down on the chairlift we headed to Boppard train station to take the train to Koblenz.
Trains depart from Boppard every hour and it takes only 15 minutes to reach Koblenz Hbf. You can change trains in Koblenz and go to Cologne the same day. But we wanted to see Koblenz first and so we stayed there for the night.
If you have only few hours in Koblenz there is what you can do and see.
Have a walk along the Rhine for nice views, stop over at Koblenz castle, continue walking to the Deutsches Eck – a place where Rhine meets Mosellel river.
Take cable car across the Rhine and up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. Even if you don’t have time to visit the fortress itself, from the cable car you will get a great view to the Deutsches Eck. The cable car operates from 9:30 am and you can purchase the tickets at the kiosk at the starting point.
After the cable car, we have walked along the Moselle river before turning towards the History column and Jesuitenplatz. Then to Liebfrauenkirche and finally onto Baldwin Bridge to have a last look at Koblenz before heading to the train station.
We left Koblenz to Cologne by train. But you can also take a train back to Frankfurt if the start and end point of your trip is Frankfurt.
There are many options to explore Germany’s Rhine region. Perhaps, next time we will travel around by car and visit a castle or two in the Rhine Gorge. But this time we wanted to try a cruise and I think May was a good time of the year for it. Plus, cruising on a boat is a really easy option when travelling with kids. A combination of train and boat gives you a nice overview of the region and allows spending some time at the towns along the way.