While Berlin and Munich in Germany are both big cities with a lot to offer, it’s sometimes nice to get away from the crowds and experience unspoiled old-warm charm at a more laid-back pace. A trip to Bacharach will give you the chance to sip vino in wine country, interact with locals, and relax right on the Rhine River.
IM Malerwinkel (shown right), a pension or bed and breakfast run by a very sweet couple, made me feel right at home. For a single room, you will pay about $51 for one night, for a double room about $41 per person for one night, and about $28 per person for one night for a triple. There are also apartments for two people that cost about $35 per person for one night. The longer you stay, the less you pay per night. The double room my friend and I shared was spacious with a TV, balcony, and en-suite bathroom which included a bathtub. Not only that, but the owner picked us up from the train station when we arrived free of charge. The breakfast that is included in the stay is set in a neatly set up private dining room and is enormous, including breads, meats, cheeses, eggs, cereals, spreads, juices, tea, and coffee. I also enjoyed relaxing in the backyard terrace, with its well-manicured lawns and tables.
If you’re backpacking solo, you might want to opt to stay at Stahleck Castle, or Burg Castle, a 12th-century castle sitting high above the town that is now a youth hostel. The castle has a lot of history, including serving as a military hospital at one point as well as an internment camp from German youth who went against the Nazi party. Here, you’ll be able to share a dorm with other travelers, making it easier to meet people. They are also very accommodating, as a friend of mine showed up there in the rain during peak season without a reservation. Although the hostel had no beds available they made room for him as they didn’t want to send him back into the rain. For a dorm that includes breakfast and linens, you can expect to pay about $25 a night. There are also options to add a cooked dinner to your stay (about $35 total) or a packed lunch and cooked dinner (about $38 total). One warning: to get to the hostel you must walk up hundreds of stairs which can be a bit of a physical challenge, although if you can do it the views and the hostel itself are worth it.Eat and drink:
While you’ll certainly be able to find restaurants with English menus, Bacharach is the perfect place to get in touch with your adventurous side. The town’s food scene is composed of numerous small, family-run restaurants with outdoor patios and friendly staff who will be excited to meet you (even when they don’t speak English). And because it’s not really touristy, the prices tend to be a lot less-expensive, meaning you can randomly point to items on the menu without the fear of going broke because you didn’t like something. One hint: Just because something says “wurst” does not mean you will receive a thick, juicy sausage. I ordered a “wurst platter” at one restaurant and received this plate (shown above). While it wasn’t my favorite meal, I was happy that I got to try something new and authentic that I would never have had at home in New York. For a bit of history and good food and wine, try Altes Haus. Built in 1368, it’s the town’s oldest building and an important landmark.
For dessert, stop at Eis Cafe Italia. For one, they have Riesling-flavored gelato (Bacharach is known for its wine, so it really is the perfect option). What I really loved about this place, however, was the owner. He was so excited to see travelers in his shop he actually sat with my friend and I while we ate, telling us all about Germany and asking us about our home cities and what brought us there.
Your feet! The cobblestone streets have little traffic and everything is within walking distance.
Rhine River Cruise
Because Bacharach is situated right on the Rhine River, a cruise is a must. If you’re just doing a day trip there is no need to book in advance , as the KD German Rhine Line ferry runs constantly and can be caught right from the boarding piers. If you’re traveling with a Eurail pass the river cruise is included, although I would suggest only using your pass for this if you have the consecutive day option, as the cruise is so cheap you probably won’t want to waste a “travel day” if you have a flexi pass. While cruising, you will get a taste of German music as it blasts from the boat’s speakers and also get the chance to dine at a fancy on board restaurant. The best part, however, is the views of terraced hillsides and lush greenery littered with Medieval architecture. Take the ferry up to St. Goar where you can get out and explore Rheinfels Castle.
The town of Bacharach is filled with hiking trails. Hike through woods, vineyards, and mountains while also stumbling across public art. For example, while exploring a path near Stahleck Castle we stumbled upon Warren Chapel, an old Gothic church which had been turned into an art installation/memorial in memory of The Holocaust. I’d also recommend planning a picnic for your hike and going to the small supermarket in town called Nahkauf Market, where you can purchase cheese, dried meats, fruit, and crackers.
Bacharach is full of vineyards and wineries producing local vinos. Stop at a local “weinstube” (wine room) and sample some of the region’s famous sparkling Riesling. Some good local wine rooms include Altes Haus and Weingut Zum Rebstock. Another fun option is to do a “Planwagenfahrt” where you will explore the vineyards via a wagon pulled by a tractor, although you shoudl talk to the Bacharach tourism office about getting a tour in English. Visiting the wineries and vineyards on your own and taking a tour of the cellar is also a great way to get to sample wines while learning about growing and production. One popular winery to visit is Winery Stahl, with a beautiful brick arch cellar that can accommodate up to thirty people. To learn more about the Bacharach vineyards, click here.