High-speed?  Or the scenic route?

When you travel between Amsterdam, Brussels or Cologne in the north and Frankfurt, Munich, Switzerland or Austria in the south, you have a choice.  The fastest route is via the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed line which opened in 2002, shown in red on the map below.  But the more scenic way is to take the original curvaceous railway along the Rhine Valley, past cruise boats, barges, vineyards, hilltop castles and the legendary Lorelei Rock.  On the map below, scenic routes are highlighted in green.  The slower Rhine Valley route takes an extra hour, but I think it's time well spent.  Watch the video!

Map of train route along the Rhine Valley  

Cologne to Frankfurt:

...via the high-speed line = 1 hour 18 minutes

...via the classic Rhine valley route = 2 hours 19 minutes

Red = high-speed lines

Green = scenic routes including the Rhine Valley line

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 about the West Rhine Valley Railways at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Rhine_Railway.

To buy tickets via the Rhine Valley

Panorama car on trains EC8, EC9

View from the EC9's panorama ca on the Rhine valley

Riding the 1st class panorama car on train EC9 along the Rhine valley.

Swiss panorama car, Munich to Zurich train   1st class seats in panorama car, Munich to Zurich train

1st class panorama car.


Inside the panorama car.  Larger photo.

Which side of the train to sit?

Exploring the Rhine by train & boat

Along 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!

Cologne to Bonn

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

The Bridge at Remagen

Between Bonn & Koblenz you'll pass Remagen, 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 each end of the bridge remain and the western end has been turned into the Remagen Bridge Peace Museum, www.bruecke-remagen.de.  You can just see the towers, dark shapes marked by the white arrows in the photo below.

The River Rhine at Remagen, seen from the train


Shortly before arriving at Koblenz Hbf the train crosses the river Moselle, which flows into the Rhine here.

Crossing the Moselle at Koblenz

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 legendary Lorelei

Just south of Sankt Goar station (which mainline trains also usually pass non-stop) 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
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

A journey from Cologne to Basel in the Swiss first class panorama car on EuroCity train EC9.

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