The River Moselle is the serene sister of the mighty River Rhine, a tributary of the great river winding its way through southwestern Germany and parts of France and Luxembourg. To embark on a Moselle river cruise is to immerse yourself in Germany’s most quintessential and picture-postcard sights, with the 340-mile waterway rising in France’s Vosges Mountains and travelling through Germany in Luxembourg. The river twists through banks of ruined castled and picturesque villages and a terraced wine region carpeted by Riesling, Elbling and Müller-Thurgau – with big hitting ports including Cochmem and Koblenz. Come in early October for autumn wine festivals in Boppard and Piesport and Christmas time for fairy tale Christmas markets.
Why cruise Moselle
A cruise on the Moselle is the calmer, more laid-back alternative to a Rhine River cruise, with more smaller ports and lots of incredible scenery. All the main river cruise lines operate on the Moselle with sailings often combined with the Rhine and Main. For a more wallet-friendly sailing opt for A-Rosa, CroisiEurope, Tui and Fred Olsen, with prices slowly increasing for Avalon Waterways, Viking, AmaWaterways, APT, Tauck and Uniworld.
Countries of the Moselle River
Moselle river cruises take place in Germany, the country of beer, bratwurst, ruined castles, sweeping picturesque valleys and cultural ports and cities. One of Europe’s greatest and most industrialised powers, Germany is home to incredible cities like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg, but also stunning regions like Franconia, the Rhine Gorge and countless medieval riverside towns.
Ports of the Moselle River
Cochem is the pearl of the Moselle, the biggest town in the Cochem-Zell district in Rhineland-Palatinate and a beautiful cluster of pastel-coloured waterfront buildings lorded over by a dramatic hilltop 11th-century castle. Cochem is one of the most popular spots on a Moselle river cruise, steeped in charm, legend and folklore and home to many fine historical buildings, cottages, black and tan guild houses and a town square lined with half-timbered buildings. Time seems to stand still in this lovely waterfront town, so along with exploring its winding lanes make sure to visit the fairy tale Reichburg Castle, precipitously perched above the town, and leave time to hit a couple of cafes for coffee and local Black Forest cake.
The Moselle is certainly not short of charming riverbank towns, one of the most beautiful is Traben- Trarbach – a wine town in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate region. The town is split in two by the Moselle, with Traben – a commercial hub with art noveau buildings – on the left bank and Trarbach – on the right with its Jugendstil villas. Wine takes centre stage in the town, surrounded by vineyards and hosting two famous wine festivals on the second ad last weekends in July. Architecture lovers will appreciate the Hotel Bellevue, the gateway on the Mosel bridge, the post office, the train station, and the town hall, while wine lovers will enjoy popping into local wine cellars for tastings and sales.
Koblenz and Stolzenfels Castle
On the banks of the Moselle and the Rhine, Koblenz is a 2,000-year-old city of history, culture and architecture. Part of the Unesco World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the city is steeped in natural beauty, boasting flower-filled parks and an old town with traditional German architecture. Come during the festive season for the famous Koblenz Christmas Market, held in the picturesque old town with over 100 traditional wooden stalls against a backdrop of gabled buildings, and ride in the Koblenz cable car across the river to the historic Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. The city is also home to Stolzenfels Castle, a former medieval fortress turned spectacular summer palace of Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV.
Stunning medieval castles are a dime a dozen on the banks of Germany’s rivers, one of the most impressive being Eltz Castle in the hills above the Elzbach River. Located between Koblenz and Trier on the Elzbach River, the castle is a breath-taking portrait or towering walls and turrets stacked high on top of each other, surrounded by lush nature reserve. As only one of three castles on the left bank of the Rhine to have never been destroyed, it’s in incredible condition, owned by the same family as it was in the 12th-century. Today visitors can tour the castle from April to October, and view the treasury with its gold, silver and porcelain artifacts and armoury with suits of armour and weapons.
Wandering through the streets of Trier, it’s hard to believe that this tiny tranquil town was once the capital of all Western Europe, back when Roman Emperor Constantine made it his HQ. Today it’s far from a bustling capital, instead a charming riverfront town with gelato-coloured buildings, narrow pitched roofs, Germany’s oldest episcopal church, one of Germany's oldest Gothic churches and Germany's best collection of Roman monuments. As the country’s oldest city, Trier is fascinating and full of history, with nine Unesco World Heritage Sites, including Roman ruins, and little streets lined with Baroque buildings. Make sure to see the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), historic old town and former medieval Jewish quarter.
No Moselle river cruise is complete without a visit to Bernkastel-Kues – actually twin towns on the eastern and western bank of the Middle Moselle region. Start your journey in Bernkastel, a tapestry of half-timbered buildings and bustling wine taverns, the birthplace of theologian Nicolaus Cusanus (open to the public) and home of famed Bernkasteler Doctor – the vineyard behind of one Europe’s most expensive wines. Other highlights include the half-timbered Spitzhäuschen (pointed house) and medieval Market Square with its renaissance town hall. Crossing over to Kues, travellers can stroll down a lovely riverfront promenade and visit the St. Nikolaus Hospital – a former home for the poor built in 1458 and now a vinotheque.
Wine lovers won’t want to miss Piesport, one of Germany’s most iconic wine towns which has been making wine since the Roman times. Sitting on a sharp bend of the Moselle surrounded by lush hills carpeted with vineyards, rolling fields, and home of the steep, slate cliff known as the Loreley of the Moselle. Piesport has the largest surviving Roman grape press and its surrounding areas house 35 vineyards collectively known as the Piesporter Michelsberg. The finest of these vineyards, is the Goldtröpfchen ('little droplets of gold'). Wine aside, make sure to check out the town’s handful of historical buildings, like the Rococo church of St Michael with its frescoed ceilings.
Spread along the west bank of the Rhine, and a popular stop on Moselle cruises, Oberwesel is a town seemingly untouched by time. Oberwesel is known as the ‘town of towers and wine’, famed for its 16 defensive towers and rolling landscape of Riesling vineyards. The town is compact and perfect to explore on a daytrip on foot, and traveller should head to the enchanting Altstadt district surrounded by a medieval town wall. Inside the walls you’ll find centuries-old timbered houses, wine cellars and churches – like the Gothic Church of Our Lady. The old town also has the remains of Oberwesel's original guard towers and the Kulturhaus Museum, which includes a former Minorite monastery
Best things to do on the Moselle
The Moselle winds its way through some of Germany’s best wine regions and vineyards, the most famous grape being the crisp and fresh Riesling. Make sure to visit a Riesling vineyard or at least enjoy a glass or two ashore.
Explore Roman ruins
The banks of the Moselle were once occupied by Romans as part of the Holy Roman Empire, and some towns still have Roman ruins and monuments. Head to Trier for the best collection of Roman sights.
Many river cruise lines offer outdoor excursion or the chance to take out your own bike to explore the riverbanks. Outside of the towns on the Moselle you’ll find gorgeous terraces of vineyards, which are fantastic to cycle or hike to.
Visit a Christmas market
Cruise the Moselle during the festive season and you’ll see the river light up with the traditional German Christmas markets. Cochem and Koblenz are the most famous, where travellers can sip on local Glühwein and browse food and craft stalls.
Explore a castle
One thing the Moselle is not short of is castles. The most impressive, which can be explored and toured, include Eltz Castle, Cochem Castle and Thurant Castle – so make sure to disembark for these.
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