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Rhineland-Palatinate Travel Guide

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Burg Cochem above the Moselle River (© Markus Monreal - Fotolia.com)
Burg Cochem above the Moselle River.

Introduction

Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz in German) is is reputed for its rugged landscapes, as well as its wines from the valleys of the Moselle and Rhine. Indeed, this state produces 2/3 of all German wines, and is the only state to have a wine minister.

Rhineland-Palatinate has a land area of 19,847 km², slightly smaller than Slovenia or Israel. It has a population of 4,053,000 inhabitants, and is divided into 3 administrative regions (Regierungsbezirke), divided into 24 districts (Kreise) and 12 urban districts (kreisfreie Städte). The 24 districts are further divided in 163 Verbandsgemeinden (administrative units unique to the Rhineland-Palatinate), themselves subdivided in nearly 2200 Ortsgemeinden.

In 2002, the Rhine Gorge (the 65km section of the river between Koblenz and Bingen) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for for its unique combination of geological, historical and cultural elements.

Famous people from Rhineland-Palatinate include (chronologically): the printing pioneer Johannes Gutenberg, the statesman and diplomat Prince Klemens von Metternich, the Nobel Prize physicist Max von Laue, the Nobel Prize chemist Hermann Staudinger, and the physicist Hans Geiger.

History

Settled by Celtic and Germanic tribes in ancient times, the region was conquered by the Romans and remained part of the empire for four centuries.

In 413, the city of Worms became the capital of a short-lived Burgundian kingdom, immortalised in the Medieval epic poem Niebelungenlied ("Song of the Nibelungs"), on which Richard Wagner based his longest and most famous opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

By the end of the 5th century, the Rhineland-Palatinate was annexed to the Frankish kingdom by Clovis (466-511). The name "Palatinate" comes from "palace" and is a reference to the Aachen residence of the other great Frankish monarch, Charlemagne (742-814).

From the late Middles Ages until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, what is now Rhineland-Palatinate belonged to the a multitude of small states, including the County of Sayn (many historical subdivisions), the County of Sponheim, the County of Salm (numerous subdivisions), the Electoral Palatinate (many subdivisions), the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken, the Duchy of Nassau, the Duchy of Luxembourg, the Bishopric of Worms, the Bishopric of Speyer, the Bishopric of Mainz and the Prince-Archbishopric of Trier.

Three of the seven Prince-Electors (Kurfürsten in German, i.e. the members of the electoral college electing the Holy Roman Emperors), came from what is now Rhineland-Palatinate : the Archbishop of Mainz, the Archbishop of Trier and the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Adding the nearby Archbishopric of Cologne, the relatively small Rhineland region had a disproportionate power compared to its size within the Empire. This is probably explained by the facts that Rhineland was the core of the Frankish kingdom and of Charlemagne's Empire.

Attractions

Moselle Valley

Listed upstream from Koblenz to Trier.

Eltz Castle
Burg Eltz (photo by Charlie1965nrw at the German language Wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Burg Eltz is a well preserved medieval castle still inhabited by the family that built it in the 12th century. It used to feature on the German 500 Deutsche Mark banknotes...Read more
Beilstein
Beilstein (photo by Ernst Schopphoven - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good An idyllic romantic hamlet squeezed between the steep vineyards and the Moselle. The view from the ruined Metternich Castle is particularly stunning...Read more
Cochem
Cochem
very good A scenic town on the Moselle River, surrounded by vineyards and dominated by the medieval Burg Cochem, perched high on a rocky outcrop...Read more



Zell an der Mosel
Zell an der Mosel (© sunset man - Fotolia.com)
very good Zell is the second largest winegrowing centre in the Mosel wine region. It holds several wine festivals from June to September...Read more
Traben-Trarbach
Trarbach (photo by LoKiLeCh - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Traben-Trarbach is a peaceful twin town renowned for its Art Nouveau villas and its healing spa, the Moseltherme...Read more
Bernkastel-Kues
Bernkastel-Kues
very good A charming, colourful town of timber-framed houses along the Moselle River...Read more

Other attractions

very good Bad Bertrich
very good Marienburg an der Mosel

Main cities

Listed from north to south.

Koblenz
Koblenz (photo by Holger Weinandt - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.)
outstanding Built strategically at the confluence of the Rhine with the Moselle, Koblenz is an old city with a rich history and a convenient base to explore the romantic castles in the region...Read more



Mainz
Mainz (© nadine bornewasser - Fotolia.com)
outstanding The capital of Rhineland-Palatinate is immediately recognisable by the pink-reddish sandstones of its buildings. The old seat of a Archbishopric and Electorate, Mainz is...Read more
Trier
Trier
outstanding Once the capital of the Western Roman Empire and the largest city north of the Alps, Trier is now a provincial city at the boundary of Luxembourg. With a Roman city gate, an ancient basilica...Read more
Worms
Worms (© Thomas Becker - Fotolia.com)
very good The city of Worms has left an indelible mark on history twice. In 413, it became the capital of the first Burgundian kingdom, which destruction by the Huns 24 years later provided the source for the...Read more
Speyer
Speyer (© fab400 - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Dominated by its Romanesque cathedral, Speyer is one of Germany's oldest cities and the resting place of eight medieval emperors and kings of the Salian, Staufer and Habsburg dynasties...Read more



Other attractions

very good Landau in der Pfalz
very good Neustadt an der Weinstrasse

Castles in Rhineland-Palatinate

Rhine Valley, from north to south.

Stolzenfels Castle
Schloss Stolzenfels (photo by Holger Weinandt - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license)
outstanding Stolzenfels Castle was originally built between 1242 and 1259 by the Prince-Bishop of Trier. Destroyed by the French in 1689 during the Nine Years' War, the ruins were given by the city of Koblenz...Read more
Burg Lahneck
Burg Lahneck (photo by Holger Weinandt - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license)
very good
Marksburg Castle
Marksburg (© Udo Kruse - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Marksburg is the only medieval castle of the Middle Rhine that has never been destroyed. The fortress was built around 1117 above the town of Braubach and had purely defensive...Read more
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein in Kaub
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, Kaub (photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good
Burg Sooneck in Niederheimbach
Burg Sooneck, Niederheimbach (photo by Johannes Robalotoff - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license)
very good
Burg Reichenstein
Burg Reichenstein (photo by Rob & Lisa Meehan from Eckfeld, Germany - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)
very good
Burg Berwartstein
Burg Berwartstein (photo by PD-self - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license)
very good

Other castles (from north to south)

good Burg Nürburg (ruins)
good Burg Liebenstein (ruins)
good Burg Sterrenberg
very good Hambacher Schloss
very good Villa Ludwigshöhe, Edenkoben
good Reichsburg Trifels
good Madenburg (ruins)
good Burg Landeck (ruins)
very good Schloss Bergzabern

Lahn Valley

very good Schloss Schaumburg

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Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

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Natural attractions

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  • : World-class natural attraction
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