Rhine Valley, Germany
It's one of the world's most famous rivers. The Rhine stretches a dizzying 766 miles between the Swiss Alps and the North Sea. The most celebrated section of the waterway — the Middle Rhine — flows between Bingen and Bonn. Dotted with castles and palaces and lined with vineyards and gingerbread villages, this is one of Europe's most scenic regions.
What We Love
Oberwesel: This charming village — one of the region's most storybook settings — is still ensconced by medieval walls. A small but interesting town museum, hilltop vineyards, and the 10th-century Auf Schönburg (a boutique hotel with a celebrated restaurant) are particular highlights.
Koblenz: Seasoned travelers call this ancient city set on the Moselle and Rhine, "Germany's most beautiful corner." The eclectic expanse houses historic buildings, excellent restaurants, leafy riverside walks, and a cable car ride across the river and up to lofty Fortress Ehrenbreitstein.
Best Known For
Castles: There are dozens of spectacularly imposing structures positioned along the Middle Rhine, including the ship-like Pfalzgrafenstein castle on an island and the Burg Katz and Burg Maus (Cat and Mouse castles).
Lorelei Rock: This 433-foot-high cliff looms over a sharp bend in the Rhine. It's the origin of many ancient myths including legendary siren of the same name, and the Nibelung hoard of the Wagner opera.
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Who It's Best For
Romantics: "The glories of old days," wrote Lord Byron after an 1816 journey along the Rhine. And the region remains that way with a mosaic of ruined castles and medieval villages reflected in the slow-flowing river.
Literature Lovers: In addition to Byron, Mark Twain and Herman Melville also wrote about their journeys along the River Rhine. Its ruined castles were an inspiration for Mary Shelley and her masterpiece "Frankenstein."
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's a Quick Trip: It takes just a single day to cruise the 40 miles of the picturesque Middle Rhine. If you see places along the way that beg further exploration, you can always backtrack by train from your port of final disembarkation.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.