11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Mosel Valley
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The beautiful River Mosel – "Moselle" in French – is, at 545 kilometers, one of the longest of the Rhine's tributaries, and forms the natural frontier between Germany and Luxembourg. The section of the river between Perl and Trier is known as the Upper Mosel (Obermosel), the section from Trier to Bullay the Middle Mosel (Mittelmosel), and the section from Bullay to Koblenz as the Lower Mosel (Untermosel).
The most beautiful section of the Mosel Valley, however, is undoubtedly the magnificently scenic stretch between Trier and the junction with the Rhine at Koblenz. After passing through the wide Trier basin, it makes its way in innumerable bends through the Rhenish Uplands to enter the Rhine Valley at Koblenz.
The ever-changing landscape, which is particularly lovely between the attractive communities of Bernkastel-Kues and Cochem, is marked by a succession of old castles on the slopes of the valley and in the surrounding side valleys, and by a string of lovely little towns and villages.
Find the best places to visit in this picturesque region of Germany with our list of the top attractions in the Mosel Valley.
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1. Trier: A City of Roman Influences
There was already an ancient settlement in Trier when the Romans arrived more than 2,000 years ago. In fact, archaeological evidence suggests this beautiful location has been settled for around 16,000 years. Situated in the very heart of the most picturesque stretch of the Mosel Valley, Trier has numerous well-preserved Roman attractions worth exploring. By far the most famous of these is the spectacular fortified gate of Porta Nigra, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 2nd century that remains pretty much as it would have appeared in Roman times.
Another must-see Roman site is Aula Palatina (Konstantin-Basilika). Built in the time of Emperor Constantine and fully restored (it's now a church), the building's most impressive feature is Constantine's Throne Room. Known as the world's largest hall from antiquity, it can be toured and is home to frequent concerts and events.
Also of interest are the Roman Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen). The largest in Europe, these historic baths retain many surviving original features, including the large hot water bath and the huge boilers needed to heat it.
Other fun things to do in Trier include visiting the Archeological Museum (Rheinisches Landesmuseum), noted for its fine Roman mosaics and the world's largest hoard of Roman gold coins.
After getting your fill of Trier's many remarkably well-preserved Roman points of interest, be sure to explore the numerous other fine sites worth seeing that date from slightly more recent times.
The best place to start your sightseeing is to wander around the Old Town's marketplace (Hauptmarkt). This popular destination is usually bustling with tourists drawn here for the many fine examples of historic architecture that line the old square. Locals, too, frequent the market, which is well-known for its great shops, restaurants, and cafés.
Other important tourist attractions to visit in Trier include the magnificent 11th-century High Cathedral of Saint Peter (Trierer Dom), plus its neighbor, the lovely Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which dates from the same period, and Karl Marx House, the birthplace of one of the most influential Germans of the 19th century.
With its many fine hotels, Trier also makes a great base from which to enjoy day trips to other areas of the Mosel Valley. It also serves as a great place to embark on a Mosel river cruise, whether a week-long affair traveling the length of the river or a short jaunt just to say you did it.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Trier
2. Koblenz: Where the Mosel Meets the Rhine
Koblenz has the distinction of straddling two of Europe's most impressive rivers: the mighty Rhine and the majestic Mosel. This beautiful old city is one of the best places to begin exploring the lovely Mosel Valley, whether as a base from which to set out on day trips, or as the first of many stops as you follow this wonderfully windy river upstream by boat, car, or bicycle.
Koblenz is also a great place to join a walking tour, especially if it takes in must-see attractions like the Old Town (Altstadt) and the German Corner, or Deutsches Eck, the point of land in Koblenz that separates the Rhine and Mosel rivers. This spectacular site not only offers superb views of the city and the two rivers, it's also home to the 37-meter-tall Monument to Emperor Wilhelm I.
Also of interest is the Alte Burg, an old 12th-century castle on the banks of the Mosel, which now houses the city's Municipal Archives and Library. A fun thing to do is take the Koblenz cable car (Seilbahn Koblenz) from the Rhine riverbank up to the majestic Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, a fascinating example of early 19th-century military construction.
Koblenz also makes for a great jumping-off point from which to explore another beautiful river region: the Rhine Valley. A great option for those who enjoy traveling at their own pace is to purchase a KD Rhine Pass from Mainz. These flexible one-day passes allow you to hop-on and hop-off these great riverboats when and where you wish, ensuring plenty of opportunity to enjoy the stunning beauty of this most scenic part of Germany.
Another great cruise is offered aboard KD Rhine's Rhine Cruise from Koblenz to Rudesheim, a nostalgic cruise aboard a historic paddleboat that also offers flexible embarkation options.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Koblenz
3. Elegant Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz) is a must-see on the Mosel and is located about 36 kilometers southwest of Koblenz in the small town of Wierschem. Perched high above the Mosel and accessible from either Trier or Koblenz, this splendid medieval castle is still owned by the same family whose ancestors built it in the 12th century and is one of only two such castles in the area to have survived war and destruction.
A visit today offers tourists a chance to view a range of medieval architecture up close. You'll also enjoy interior highlights including 800-year-old furnishings, rare gold and silver artifacts, and ancient weaponry. English language tours are available, and two restaurants and a shop are located on-site.
Afterwards, be sure to explore the surrounding Eltz Forest, a nature reserve crisscrossed by many well-maintained walking trails and home to rare flora and fauna. By far the most popular trail to hike is Eltz Castle Panorama Trail (Eltzer Burgpanorama), famous for its great views from the Mosel plateau and its easy access to the forests and meadows along the Elzbach river.
For those staying in Frankfurt, a great way to enjoy a full day in this delightful area is on an Eltz Castle Tour with Rhine River dinner experience included. Highlights of this small-group excursion include a guided tour of the castle, a chance to stroll through the Eltz Forest, and a traditional German meal at a riverside restaurant (coach transportation included).
Address: Castellans, 56294 Wierschem
Official site: www.burg-eltz.de/en/
4. A River Runs through It: Bernkastel-Kues
Bernkastel-Kues has so much to offer the curious visitor that it's easy to spend hours exploring this quaint old town. The best place to start is in Bernkastel's pretty Marketplace (Mittelalterlicher Marktplatz) on the river's right bank. Here, along with numerous quaint shops, restaurants, and cafés, you'll find the early 17th-century Town Hall and the old pillory where criminals were punished.
A few minutes' walk away, on the banks of the Mosel, stands the Early Gothic St. Michael's Church. The area's only unaltered 14th-century structure, it boasts a rich décor and original furnishings. It's also famous for its stunning altar depicting the devastation of the 17th-century plague that killed so many townsfolk.
Afterwards, cross the bridge over the Mosel to Kues, where even more old buildings await. These include St. Nicholas's Hospital, founded by the cardinal and philosopher Nicolaus Cusanus in the 15th century (his heart is buried in the Gothic chapel). In the library, you'll find a fascinating collection of his astronomical instruments and apparatus, including the world's oldest celestial sphere.
Address: Gestade 6, 54470 Bernkastel-Kues
5. Reichsburg Cochem
Cochem, with its old castle looming high above, is considered one of the most attractive towns in the Mosel Valley. One of the most popular things to do here is to undertake a walking tour around the old part of town. Be sure to include the attractive St. Martin's Church, constructed in the 15th century and rebuilt in 1736. And be sure to also spend time in the quaint old Marketplace (Marktplatz). Here, you'll find the majestic old Town Hall built in 1739, as well as a number of historic heritage homes.
The big draw, however, is Reichsburg Cochem. This massive hilltop imperial castle is the largest fortress in the Mosel Valley and once guarded this stretch of the river. Built in 1020 and later destroyed by the French in 1689, much of the castle was restored in the 19th century in the Neo-Gothic architectural style. Guided tours and events, as well as fun themed tours, are also available, and an on-site restaurant offers themed meal packages for kids.
Address: Schlossstraße 36, 56812 Cochem
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cochem
6. The Village of Alken and Burg Thurant
The Mosel Valley is famous for the many quaint communities that cling to its riverbanks. One of the prettiest of these is Alken. This tiny village – population just 640 souls – boasts a number of charming old houses, along with the remains of the old medieval walls that once protected them.
Standing high above the village are the impressive walls and towers of Thurant Castle (Burg Thurant). Built around 1200 and much altered in later years, much of the older sections of the castle are today in ruins, but certainly give an indication of the fortress' scale and importance. Although privately owned, it can be toured and is well worth it for its spectacular views over the river it once protected.
7. The Twin Villages of Kobern-Gondorf
Another quaint Mosel Valley village to visit is Kobern-Gondorf. Consisting really of two old villages that at some point in time joined together as one, it's home to the beautiful Early Gothic chapel of St. Matthias dating from 1235.
Kobern-Gondorf also has no less than four castles to explore, two of which date from the 13th century. Perhaps the most interesting of these is Wasserschloss, the only castle in Germany to have a road running through it. Also of interest is the nearby Ehrenburg, one of the most spectacular ruined castles in the Mosel area.
8. The Churches of Treis-Karden
The picturesque little town of Treis-Karden, another of the many twinned communities in the Rhine Valley, is famous for its bridge over the Mosel. The Treis side of town has a lovely Late Gothic church, while Karden is notable for the triple-towered 12th-century Church of St. Castor.
Highlights of the church are its Romanesque cloister and chapter house with its interesting museum. In addition to wonderful restaurants and cafés, the town offers a variety of great shopping opportunities in its boutique shops and galleries.
Also worth a visit is the village of Hatzenport, home to a beautifully situated Late Gothic parish church with fine 15th-century stained glass windows. A side trip to nearby Münstermaifeld, just five kilometers northwest of Hatzenport, is time well spent and includes a chance to view the 10th-century Stiftskirche of Saints Martin and Severus.
9. Zell and the Zeller Hamm
One of the best places from which to photograph the beautiful Mosel Valley is from the top of the Marienburg. This tall hill offers wonderful views of one of the river's most spectacular loops, the 12-kilometer Zeller Hamm. For the very best views, look for the ruins of the old monastery, destroyed in 1806. Afterwards, make the descent down to Zell, a popular tourist destination at the south end of the far bank of Zeller Hamm.
Fun things to do in Zell, another of those picture-perfect Mosel Valley towns, include grabbing a tourist map and strolling around its many historic sites. Top points of interest here include well-preserved old town walls, the lovely St. Peter's Church, built in 1792, and an old castle built in 1542 for the Electors of Trier.
Be sure to also explore the town's central square. Here, you can view its famous Zell Black Cat (Zeller Schwarze Katz) fountain and learn the fascinating story of this legendary feline.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Zell
10. Traben-Trarbach and the Middle Mosel Museum
Straddling the Mosel River, halfway along the Mosel Valley, is the quaint little town of Traben-Trarbach. This beautiful spot is famous for its many old half-timbered buildings and handsome aristocratic homes.
One of the most important of these old mansions is the 18th-century Baroque Böcking House, once visited by the likes of Goethe and the Prussian kings and now home to the Middle Mosel Museum. A fun thing to do here is to take a tour of the building's interior for a close up look at its fine old furnishings and décor, now preserved and incorporated into the museum's displays spread across more than 20 rooms. Notable features include a collection of paintings by local artists including Ernst Willen Spies, archaeological artifacts from the Roman and Franconian eras, and a model of Grevenburg Castle.
For those visiting in winter, be sure to attend the popular Traben-Trarbach Christmas Market, notable for being the country's only completely underground such event held in the town's old cellars. Adding to the fun of the season are the many festive offerings available this time of year in the town's historic old hotel, inns and spas, as well as traditional fare on offer in its many restaurants.
Address: Casinostrasse 2, 56841 Traben-Trarbach
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Traben-Trarbach
11. Piesport and Neumagen-Dhron: The Archaeological Loop
Like its counterpart, the mighty Rhine, the Mosel was of vital importance to the vast Roman Empire, and much evidence of their having conquered the region can still be seen throughout the Mosel Valley.
One of the best examples of the area's Roman heritage can be found in the town of Piesport, across the river from Bernkastel-Kues. Here, you'll find the largest surviving Roman grape press (while visiting, be sure to check out the Rococo church of St. Michael with its spectacular painted ceilings).
In neighboring Neumagen-Dhron, just four kilometers away, a cast of the famous carving of a Roman ship that was excavated here is well worth visiting (the original is on display at the Landesmuseum in Trier).
The towns of Piesport and Neumagen can be easily reached from either Trier or Koblenz and are often included on tours of the area's famous archeological loop. They're popular not just for their important historical attractions, but also for their great restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Piesport