Go high-speed & save time? 

Or take the classic Rhine Valley route?

When you travel between Amsterdam, Brussels, Dusseldorf or Cologne (Köln) in the north and Mainz, Frankfurt, southern Germany, Switzerland or Austria in the south, you have a choice.  The fast way - the way journey planners will tend to send you - is via the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed line, opened in 2002 and shown in red on the map below.  It follows a motorway through open country to the east of the Rhine, saving an hour compared to the old route.  Or you can take the scenic route, using the original curvaceous railway along the Rhine Valley through Koblenz, past cruise boats, barges, vineyards, hilltop castles and the legendary Lorelei Rock.  On the map below, scenic routes are highlighted in green.  Personally, I think the extra hour is time well spent.  Watch the video!

Map of train route along the Rhine Valley  

Cologne to Frankfurt via the new high-speed line

= 1 hour 18 minutes

Cologne to Frankfurt via the classic Rhine valley route

= 2 hours 19 minutes

Red = high-speed lines

Green = scenic routes

This map extract is courtesy of the European Rail Timetable.  It's definitely worth buying this map for your European travels, you can buy online with shipping worldwide at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

There's more information about the West Rhine Valley Railways at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Rhine_Railway.

How to buy tickets via the Rhine Valley...

Which side of the train to sit?

Exploring the Rhine by train & cruise boat...

A journey down the Rhine in pictures...

Here are some photos of a journey down the Rhine, ordered assuming you're travelling south.  Although most of these were in fact taken from an early-morning northbound run down the Rhine on the Innsbruck-Cologne Nightjet - who says you miss all the scenery on a sleeper train!

From Cologne to Bonn...

Mainline trains leave Cologne (Köln in German) and about 19 minutes later call at Bonn.  The line starts running along the river shortly after Bonn.

From Bonn to Koblenz:  The Bridge at Remagen...

Between Bonn & Koblenz you'll pass Remagen, probably non-stop if you're on a fast train.  You may have seen the 1969 film The Bridge at Remagen, about a key crossing of the Rhine captured almost intact by the Americans in March 1945, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Remagen.  Your train sweeps round a bend to the left here (going south) before passing non-stop through the town, but as you can see in the photo below taken on the bend just north of the town. there's no bridge here today.  The Ludendorf Bridge eventually collapsed after extensive bombing and shelling and was never rebuilt.  However, the towers at the western end of the bridge remain and have been turned into the Remagen Bridge Peace Museum, www.bruecke-remagen.de.

The River Rhine at Remagen, seen from the train

From Koblenz southwards...

Around 34 minutes from Bonn, the train calls at Koblenz.  If you want to explore the Rhine Valley more, this is arguably the base from which to do it.  The most scenic part of the Rhine Valley is from Koblenz to Mainz...

Rhine Valley from the train

Kamp-Bornhofen & the Hostile Brothers...

On the far bank just south of Boppard you'll see the little town of Kamp-Bornhofen (pictured below) with two castles above it, Schloss Sterrneberg & Schloss Liebenstein.  For the legend of the hostile brothers, see www.castle-liebenstein.com.

Rhine Valley by train
Rhine Valley by train

The Legend of the Lorelei...

Just south of Sankt Goar station (also passed through non-stop on mainline trains) you'll pass the legendary Lorelei rock, on a difficult bend in the river for navigation.  The Lorelei rock is quite distinctive, but you'll also see its name written on a white-painted square at it base, visible in the photo below.  Read about the legend of the Lorelei at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorelei.

The Lorelei Rock on the Rhine, seen from the train

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle...

South of the Lorelei between Oberwesel & Bacharach you'll pass the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on Falkenau island, a toll-collecting station dating from 1326 and one of the Rhine's most distinctive sights.  Read more about it at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfalzgrafenstein_Castle.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle seen from the train

Watch the video...

This was taken from the southbound Cologne to Vienna sleeper on a summer's evening a few years ago, when it left earlier in the evening and had older sleeping-cars with windows that opened, making it ideal for videoing the route.


Back to 'Rail travel to Europe' general page

Back to home page