The sweeping visas and ancient castles of the Mosel Valley are among the most iconic images of Germany. I suspect that the top destinations will not come as a surprise to many, as their pictures adorn books and google searches for Germany. This short list help you decide what places are worth visiting on the Mosel. Though if you have more time on your hands, then check out the more detailed itineraries.
3. Bernkastel and the Mosel LandscapeBernkastel is the premier village of the Mosel valley. Its great place to walk around and enjoy the fairy-tale or romantic atmosphere of the baroque and historicist cityscape.
Architectural Note: Although we associate half-timbered buildings with the middle ages, almost none of them from this time period have survived, and most are from the 18th and 19th centuries. During these centuries, the wooden frames were often covered in plaster to make maintenance easier. In most cases the plaster was only removed after the war.
The town is difficult to get to without a car, but it’s worth the trip. You can enjoy some fantastic Riesling wine (the best in Germany) in the old-town square and then walk up to the ruined castle above the Mosel. From the towering peak above the river you can understand why the Roman’s had settled here. The sweeping u-shape valley gives visual access to a huge portion of the river.
2. Eltz Castle: A Medieval Residence
The Burg Eltz is a short distance from the river, but you are rewarded with one of the best preserved castles in Europe. It was built in the 13th century as fortified living quarters for the Eltz family, who continue to operate the building today. There are preserved interiors from the late-Gothic onward and a remarkable collection of inventory from the Renaissance to the present. Be warned though, that it is one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations, an off-season visit is recommended.
Travel Note: Getting to the castle can be done by car or by bus, but the best way is to hike inland from the town of Moselkern. It’s a short hike through a steep valley, ending with dramatic views of the castle from below. This is easily accessible by train from Koblenz.
1. The Ancient City of Trier
It will come as little surprise that Trier takes the top spot. What it lacks in medieval castles and sweeping vistas it makes up for in the weight of history. Once a mighty capital of the Roman Empire, successive states and countries repurposed the imposing Roman heritage to build an identity of their own.
The story of Trier is not just one of decline from its height over a thousand years ago. In the Middle Ages the city built some of the most innovative buildings and introduced the Gothic style to Germany. In later centuries, the architecture of absolutism would draw some of the most talented architects and craftsmen in Germany.
Despite losses in WWII, the city retains a rich heritage of museums, buildings and an immersive cityscape with pieces from almost every period of human history.
The ancient city of Trier deserves its high marks as one of the premier tourist destinations in Germany. Let’s explore the city with everything: Roman ruins, rich museum collections, resplendent churches and an atmospheric cityscape.
The Bürresheim Palace is a hidden gem of the Mosel. Like Eltz, it was never destroyed and retains a fully preserved interior. You can think of it as essentially Eltz without the tourists. It isn’t medieval however, and most of the interior structure and inventory dates from the period following the War of Palatine Succession in 1697.
Architectural Note: Though also built by the Eltz family, its longer owned by them. Succession disputes would see Bürresheim divided into separate quarters for four families. At its peak almost 80 family members were residing there.
The Imperial Castle of Cochem
The castle we see today is actually a 19th century interpretation of medieval castle. Though it is more historically accurate than attempts elsewhere. The original building would have been the pride of Cochem, an Imperial city, which owed allegiance only to the Emperor. The town itself is a collection of buildings from a variety of periods, but reflect mostly on the tastes of 19th century historicism. This is a great spot to travel from, as there are countless ruins and villages to explore in the immediate vicinity.
The seat of the Malberg family was actually purchased from Trier in the 14th century and remained the center of a minor principality until its destruction in the War of Palatine Succession. In 1704, a minor clerical office in the Archbishop of Cologne purchased the palace and began construction on a Baroque residence. In contrast to the famous architects active in Trier, this palace was designed by Christian Kretzschmar from the Saarland. He is also responsible for the Baroque monastery in Mettlach. (Which is still there, it now produces porcelain for Villeroy and Boch). A handful of rooms appear to have been preserved and can be visited via somewhat irregular tours or by request. However, the gardens and forest around the palace complex are beautiful and representative of a rural residence of this time.