Slow Down and Taste the Wine in Bacharach: Germany’s Rhine Valley Hideaway
Germany produces some of the best white wines in the world. The Middle Rhine Valley is a storybook paradise of crumbling castles and vineyards clinging to cliffs peppered with small towns. The best way to see the Rhine Valley is either by train, boat, or bike—all routes that hug the river for spectacular views. Out of the small towns that line the Middle Rhine Valley, Bacharach is our top pick for an overnight stay.
With the city taking its name from Bacchus, the God of wine, Bacharach has long been a trading center for wine. During the Middle Ages the rocky bottleneck in the Rhine River near Bacharach wasn’t navigable to big ships, so wine had to be transported on small boats to be loaded onto big ships in Bacharach’s harbor. Needless to say, the town prospered. These days big ships pass right by Bacharach without stopping, but it’s the tourist boats that now flood this quiet town. Outside tourist season, Bacharach is peaceful and sleepy, the perfect place to wander among half-timbered leaning buildings.
There’s not a whole lot to see in the tiny city of Bacharach, which is the beauty of staying here. You can fill a half day of sightseeing by climbing 100 steps to the ruins of the Chapel of Werner behind town for sweeping views of the vineyards and the valley, followed by a little wandering around town. Bacharach is filled with historic crooked half timbered buildings. Two of the most picturesque ones are Altes Haus (Old House), which houses a restaurant and is also the oldest timber-framed house in town (dating from 1368), and the old Posthof (post office). Other notable buildings include the Catholic Parish Church, the protestant Church of St. Peter, and Burg Stahleck, a fortress way up on the hill that is now a youth hostel. It’s also fun to walk along the old town walls, which join several towers.
Of course the highlight of your trip should be a boat cruise along the Middle Rhine. Nothing could be more perfect than sipping wine on deck as you watch the small towns float by. The vineyard views are spectacular and boats also pass by the Loreley Rock, famous for the legend of Loreley. Loreley was a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a lover. She was transformed into a beautiful siren who would sit on the rock and sing as she combed her golden hair, her beauty and hypnotic music distracting passing sailors and causing ships to crash against the rocks.
Getting to Know Bacharach:
At Stueber’s Restaurant, friendly chef and owner Andreas Stueber will spoil you with specialities prepared with local ingredients from the surrounding forests and rivers, accompanied by a selection of some of the region’s best Rieslings.
The Rhein Hotel Bacharach, also run by the Stueber family, is the perfect place to stay in the heart of Bacharach. Here you’ll be treated to gourmet breakfasts and unforgettable dinners.
Our top wine pick is Weingut Bastian run by Friedrich Bastian, an 8th generation vineyard owner. Part of the winery includes a small private island in the Middle Rhine with its own unique micro-climate.
Bacharach is a charming city that makes the perfect accompaniment to an itinerary that includes bigger German cities or top European wine regions. One thing is for sure: you’ll drink plenty of great wine here.
Check out Part 3 of our guide to charming German towns for Culture Lovers, where we explore the medieval storybook city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
If you missed Part 1, read all about the Franconian Wine capital of Würzburg, Germany here.