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Cycling the Rhine River, Germany - A paradise to cycle

Updated on November 30, 2010

Cycling the Rhine River in Germany is an incredible experience. Cycling in Germany is easily done, as there are bike paths beside every road, as well as through the country side and far away from the roads. There is no fear of being taken down by a car or a crazy driver.

Cycling through the Rhine Valley is highly rewarding. The main area of the Romantic Rhine is between Bonn and Heidelberg. If you're short on time, I would recommend starting in Bonn, and continuing on through the Romantic Rhine, and if you still have time, continuing on along the Romantic Road. We ran out of time and money, and thus stopped in Heidelberg, but next time I would love to make Heidelberg my starting point.

Cycling the Rhine

Cycling the Rhine River, Germany
Cycling the Rhine River, Germany

Planning the Tour

I completed my Rhine Cycling tour in the summer of 2009 with my boyfriend. It was our first cycling tour of any sort, and very impromptu as well. We were returning to Canada after a year in Scotland, didn't have a lot of excess funds, but wanted to make the most of our summer. So with 10 days to spend in between leaving Scotland, and apartment sitting in the Netherlands, we decided to take the cheapest type of exciting vacation we could think of - a cycle vacation through Germany.

We didn't have bikes, we didn't have any gear, and only had a £20 tent from Tesco. After trolling through message boards and forums, I found a company online, MacBike in Amsterdam, which rented touring bikes complete with locks, panniers, and a repair kit. So we booked our bikes, took a train into Amsterdam to pick them up, and returned to Nijmegen, where we were staying. This unfortunately meant we didn't cycle in the Netherlands - likely the best country for cycling - but we'll save this tour for another time.

I spent many hours trying to figure out GPS software, which seemed to be quite finicky. Compiling data from other sites of proposed Rhine cycling routes, and finding a massive database of all campsites in Germany. The GPS was quite new, so this was quite a challenge. We thought we had all the necessary data on the GPS, but by day 2 we realized we were on our own with our paper map with little images of tents to find our accommodation.

The Rhine Route

From Nijmegen to Heidelberg
From Nijmegen to Heidelberg

From the Netherlands to Germany

We started our journey from Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, which added dramatics the sound of trip by saying we started in a different country. Although it did take us a while to get across the border - since we went way to far north before going east....and then south.... we hadn't yet mastered our directional skills, and our GPS wasn't too cycling friendly since it's more designed for hiking.

All of a sudden we realized the signs looked different, the words appeared to be German, and street names had changed. Clearly we crossed the border, but never new when nor had the opportunity to take a picture at the border.

Finding camp groups became easier and easier as we went along, although they can sometimes be quite spread out, so be sure to plan accordingly. Camping in Germany is a completely different experience - and one I feel is almost worthy of another hub of its own. There is no sense of privacy or 'getting away from it all'. You camp with thousands of other people within site. The facilities of the large sites are amazingly clean, but your tent is so close to other tents that you can share tent pegs. It is not like camping in Canada, where you drive deep into the forest to find your campsite, which is considered a bad site if your tent is easily visible from the next site. Enough about German camping now.



From Nijmegen to Bonn

Between Nijmegen to Bonn there is not too much of interest, especially compared to the rest of the Rhine. There are many routes which take you off the road and through nice fields, but as you continue you reach more highly industrialized areas, and quite frankly, so completely unimpressive areas I couldn't help but laugh. Duisburg was the highlight of the unimpressive - passing two nuclear power plants.

We passed many other areas which are worth a visit. Neuss is a pretty town, and Cologne is quite nice as well.

Cycling the Rhine River

Our touring bikes
Our touring bikes

Finally - the Romantic Rhine

Ah.. Bonn. Finally the countryside was changing. We could see up ahead the rolling hills of the Romantic Rhine. Although it was mildly concerning - not sure how many hills we would have to climb - we could tell we were almost into the heart of the tour.

There were so many cute little towns to visit from this point on. We took our time, stopped more often, and tried to make sure to enjoy our visit. The cycle route continued through vineyards, or along the Rhine. However, because this area is in the valley, the cycle route tended to follow alongside the road for most of the Romantic Rhine stretch, which wasn't quite as peaceful as the countryside routes. At least this means there's a positive to all the different areas. Well - aside from Duisburg. Though we did have a good lunch there.

The towns of highlight were Boppard, St. Goar, Oberwessel, and Bacharach. Each has their own character and were highlights for different reasons. Bacharach seems to have had the most written about it, and it is certainly a beautiful little town, however the beauty seemed to be a bit ruined by the excessive traffic along the tiny streets. I felt like these streets should have been made pedestrian only years ago. For this reason, I think we appreciated Oberwessel more.



Leaving the Rhine, through Mainz, to Worms

As the mountains faded, we knew the Romantic Rhine was coming to an end. We made or desired end point as Heidelberg, and I was determined to 'finish'. From the end of the Romantic Rhine we passed Mainz and then Worms.

Reaching Mainz we felt a little like we should explore the town, but we couldn't really figure out where the town center was, or which way to go, so we just continued on a little disapointedly. We made our way to Worms, and decided this would be our first night of luxury in a hotel room.

As the sun was setting, we wandered town looking for a hotel. After ringing the door bells of a few hotels and having no one answer, we came across Hotel Boos. They happily took us and our bikes in, and had a back garden where we could leave our bikes. Be sure to ask the man who runs the hotel you to tell you the story of his incredible stained glass windows. They are based on a popular German fairy tale which was said to have taken place in Worms. If you're lucky he may show you his special hidden treasures!

Our last cycling day took us from Worms to Heidelberg. We stopped in Heppenheim, a town I couldn't believe didn't make it to into our Germany tour guide. It was just a very appealing, cute, charming town which we stumbled upon on our journey.

Arrival in Heidelberg

Heidelberg
Heidelberg

The Finish - Heidelberg

After 10 days of cycling, arriving in Heidelberg was a rewarding finish. It's a beautiful town worth a few days to wander and explore. We ended up staying in a fancy hotel way over our budget, but we splurged since it was our last day.. okay.. last two days, since we should at least spend a bit of time in Heidelberg. The breakfast buffet came complete with orange juice & champagne! A far cry from camping in the worlds most populated campground!

From blown bike spokes, to climbing mountains for the "rewarding" view from the campground, this 10 day trip was enough to make us realize we want to make cycle touring a normal vacation consideration, and hopefully one day cycle across Canada!

Comments

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    • profile image

      John Powell 4 years ago

      Cycling the Rhine Route, by John Powell, has been updated (2012) as a Kindle e-book, with links to route maps. It is possible to download the GPS co-ordinates as well as make a link to smart phones, etc. This is available on all Amazon platforms.

    • profile image

      Stugroe 6 years ago

      We just finished at trip from Eltville to Koln. Rented bikes from Fahrrad Station in Frankfurt. Excellent service,good price, limited English but they already know what you want and are very pleasant to work with. Shop is easy to get to from train station, U Bahn number 16 practically drops you off at their front door. Eltville was an easy hour on the DB train. Bikes on trains are natural and accepted no problem. Have a great trip

    • AidanP profile image

      AidanP 7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland.

      Nice post. I cycled this route (to Wurzburg) and then the Romantic Road in 2008 when I started my Round The World bike ride. It was a good route start with as is practically flat all the way. I found the Romantic Road to be a more interesting section though, due to the changing terrain and the small towns made a nice change from riding through industrial estates or indeed around nuclear plants. Hope you are still cycle touring.

    • ILoveCycling profile image

      ILoveCycling 7 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the info, cycling the Rhine river will definitely go on my list of things to do before I die.

    • profile image

      JohnO 7 years ago

      I've done 3 hiking trips down the Rhein recently between Cologne and Mainz. All on foot. It's a LONG way to walk in 10 days but the views are stunning and it is a very peaceful friendly place. I am hoping to cycle it next month ( August 2010 ). Thanks for your interesting post and take care.

    • ForTheInterim profile image
      Author

      ForTheInterim 7 years ago from Montreal

      That's a great tip -- thank you! Wish I knew that when I went, I will remember that for the next time :)

    • profile image

      Fietslogies 7 years ago

      For cyclists in search of comfortable and not so expensive accomodation along the Rhine (as well in the Netherlands as in Germany), I have an interesting suggestion. 'Vrienden op de Fiets' is a Dutch association with nearly 4000 families who offer small scale homestay accomodation for cyclists. The price is 18,50 pp/pn. In the Netherlands, you will find them in nearly every village. In Germany, the supply is rather limited with 100 hosts. But most of them are located in the Western part of Germany and that's exactly where the lower part of the Rhine runs! Along the Rhine, you will find them in Vogtsburg-Achkarren, Wiesbaden, Bad Breisig, Köln, Dinslaken, Wesel, Xanten, Kalkar, Kleve, Emmerich-am-Rhein, ...

      It's a unique way to save some money and to get in touch with the locals, far away from mass tourism and anonymous hotels.

      More info at their site : http://www.vriendenopdefiets.nl

    • LRobbins profile image

      Laurel 8 years ago from Germany

      Sounds like an amazing trip. I hadn't thought of cycling through Germany, but it sounds like a great way to see the country. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • ForTheInterim profile image
      Author

      ForTheInterim 8 years ago from Montreal

      Thanks for your comment! Yes for a longer trip I would certainly pay more attention to nutrition and make sure I was in good shape before leaving.

    • ccycle profile image

      ccycle 8 years ago from beijing

      Long-distance travel needs of a very good physical strength, nutrition and also to keep up with the hope that the exchange with you, thank you.

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