The moment I stepped off the train in Bacharach, Germany, I felt like I had been transported to another world. I knew at any minute, Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast would come prancing by singing about her provincial life. I was surrounded by hillsides covered in vineyards, cobblestone streets, and half-timbered buildings. It was truly as if I had stepped into a fairy tale!
Bacharach is a charming German town located on the UNESCO World Heritage portion of the Rhine River, known as the Romantic Rhine. This portion of the Rhine River Valley is filled with charming towns, medieval castles, and fabulous vineyards. Bacharach is the perfect place to call home as you explore this region.
My husband and I spent a week in Bacharach and didn’t want to leave. Let me show you all of the reasons you will love this fairy-tale town on the banks of the Rhine River!
Wandering through Bacharach’s old town streets only helped to confirm that I had stepped into a fairy tale. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with half-timbered houses; the crooked look of some only adds to their charming appeal, especially when you realize that many were built in the 1500s.
The quiet yet charming streets made us immediately feel at home. As we explored Bacharach, this welcoming feel continued as the shop owners welcomed us into their stores and homes and did their best to communicate with us despite the language barrier. We truly felt at ease and welcomed into the community in Bacharach.
Pro Tip: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes while exploring the old town area. The cobblestone streets are often uneven.
2. Burg Stahleck
Stahleck Castle sits high on the hillside above Bacharach as if protecting this portion of the valley, including the sleepy little town below it. I’m sure that is exactly what the castle was designed to do when it was built in the 12th century.
Today, you can make the historic castle your home base, as it is a fully functioning hostel. The hostel has single, double, and family rooms, some even having an ensuite. Also on site are a playroom, a bistro, and a café/bar. Whether you stay in Stahleck Castle or not, it is still worth making the short hike up to the castle to see the incredible view and get up close and personal with this piece of Bacharach history. The path to the castle begins on the south side of Peterskirche.
Pro Tip: Order a drink from the cafe or bar and take it out to the patio overlooking the river. The view is truly remarkable!
3. Wernerkapelle Ruins
While hiking from Bacharach’s old town to Burg Stahleck, you will pass the gorgeous ruins of Wernerkapelle, a historic chapel that was first built between 1289 and 1430. The ornate detail of the sandstone ruins is mesmerizing. The gothic style of the chapel is still apparent in the ruins you see before you today.
The site has a melancholy feel that genuinely seemed to take my breath away. I am not sure if it was the ruins themselves or the plaque that was placed by the ruins commemorating the inhumane acts brought against the Jewish people during World War II. One thing is for sure; the Werner Chapel made me fall even more in love with Bacharach.
4. Rhine River Day Cruise
A cruise on the Rhine River is a must-do during your time in the Rhine River Valley, and lucky for you, Bacharach is the perfect jumping-off point to make that happen. A Rhine River cruise is the perfect way to see the numerous castles that line the hillsides of this region. In addition to the castles, I loved being introduced to the many quaint villages that call the romantic Rhine home.
Visitors can easily purchase tickets on a KD cruise to enjoy meandering their way along the Rhine River. We chose one of the hop-on and hop-off cruises that allow guests to enjoy getting off on and off of the boat at different small towns along the river. Our favorite towns to explore included St. Goar, Bingen, and Braubach. Of course, I always recommend researching in advance to ensure that the towns you choose appeal to your interests.
Pro Tip: If you treat the cruise as a hop-on and hop-off, read the time schedules carefully. You don’t want to miss that city’s last boat of the day!
Up on the hillside, surrounded by vineyards, is Bacharach’s Postenturm, or Post Tower. Take a short walk up the hill through the vineyards of Bacharach to reach the Post Tower. The views from the historic tower are amazing, but to get the full picture, I recommend climbing the stairs to the top of the tower. Once at the top of the tower, you are rewarded with sweeping views of Bacharach and the Rhine River below. I especially loved that the tower is completely free to enjoy!
It is important to note that the walk through the vineyard is on natural terrain and does have an increase in elevation. The path is a natural dirt path that ascends the hillside, so please be aware that it is uneven and narrow in places.
6. Old Town Walls
For another unique vantage point to see the city, I recommend walking along the historic town walls surrounding Bacharach. The town walls allow you to explore the town from above and take you through most of the city.
We accessed the town walls by going up a set of stairs near the train station. Once on the walls, the paths are nicely paved and broad in most places. This section of the town wall is near the river and was one of my favorite sections to explore. You can see the old town well that used to provide water to the town’s residents and the historic towers along the walls. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Market Tower, which contained the town’s original 14th-century gates!
7. Altes Haus
The Altes Haus is a medieval half-timbered house in the center of Bacharach. Altes Haus translated means “old house,” which is precisely what this is. Built in the 14th century, Altes Haus is a beautiful testament to the historic charm of this fairy-tale city. Today, visitors can enjoy an authentic German meal in a truly historic setting. While waiting for your schnitzel to arrive, be sure to view the photos around the room of the Altes Haus. I loved seeing how little the house has changed throughout the years.
St. Peter’s Church
Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church) is another reason to fall in love with Bacharach. The church is not hard to miss, as the tower can be seen from many vantage points throughout town; just look for the red and white tower shining brightly above the other buildings. The church’s exterior matches the tower with beautiful deep red and white hues adorning the Romanesque-style church.
If the church is open for visitors, be sure to step inside. Inside are brightly colored, frescoed walls and art panels depicting the Reformation. Be sure to take note of the unique statues inside the church. I found the statue of the frog man to be particularly interesting.
9. Burg Stahlberg
History lovers won’t want to miss a visit to the ruins of Stahlberg Castle during their time in Bacharach. The remains of Burg Stahlberg sit atop a rocky outcropping just north of town. The ruins contain a historic wall (which has been restored), a circular tower, and the keep’s remains.
Getting to Stahlberg Castle does involve an extensive hike over natural terrain. You could only access the castle through a small tower wall hole during our visit. There are some places to sit and rest, including some picnic tables. If you are up for the hike, I highly recommend visiting Stahlberg. It is truly a place to enjoy some peace while surrounded by German history.
10. Vineyards And Wineries
The hillside of the Rhine River Valley is blanketed in vineyards for as far as the eye can see. One of my favorite things about visiting Bacharach was the ability to enjoy hiking through the city’s vineyards. The trails throughout the vineyards provide sweeping views of the Rhine River Valley while allowing you to enjoy a beautiful hike in nature. One of my favorite trails is found near the Post Tower. This natural terrain trail hugs the vineyards while providing glorious views of the river below.
Weingut Karl Heidrich
After enjoying the vineyards, be sure also to enjoy the fruit of their labor, the local wine that is produced in Bacharach. While in town, look for a weinstube, or wine room, to do just that! We had a great time tasting wine at Weingut Karl Heidrich. This charming winery is located in the heart of town and has a great outdoor area to sit and drink wine while munching on a local charcuterie board.
Pro Tip: Bacharach is famous for the Riesling wine produced here, so don’t miss the opportunity to try it. The local ice cream shop even sells Riesling ice cream!
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