This West Germany road trip is a real treat to any traveller. It’s blessed with that perfectly German brand of romance: castles, half-timbered houses, and gorgeous cobbled streets.
And, of course, its star player, the Rhine river, weaving its way through a landscape of lush vineyards, sweeping forests, mountain-top castles, and perfectly preserved medieval towns. You can almost hear Wagner’s operas playing in the background.
Climb aboard for a road trip through this most captivating of regions. Begin with a high dose of culture in Cologne, before trading art and architecture for nature and the outdoors in Monschau. Then swap the bucolic for the boozy in Rudesheim, before journeying back through the centuries to historic Marburg.
Arriving in Cologne, history buffs and culture-vultures won’t believe their luck. The city offers a mega medley of attractions, especially on the museum front. But visitors mainly come here for the cathedral. Because this one’s a big deal.
Seriously ornate architecture, two iconic spires, and 533 steps to the top. And then there’s the rest of the city. Light-hearted and high-spirited, Cologne knows how to live well — as you’ll see if you time your visit with the city’s uproariously fun carnival.
What else does the first stop on your West Germany road trip itinerary have to offer? Well there’s Museum Ludwig with its enormous art collection. Then perhaps treat yourself to a show at the Kölner Philharmonie. Or the Rheinpark hosts outdoor concerts if you prefer your music standing up and sweaty.
Be sure to try Kölsch, a hoppy beer drunk in tall glasses known as Stangen. Pair with Kölsche Kaviar, a type of sausage, or Hämmche, pig’s trotter. Apologies in advance to the vegetarians.
from Cologne pick-up center
The history behind everyone’s favourite sweet treat.
Farina Fragrance Museum
Learn about the city’s iconic perfume.
Stunning castle 30 minutes from Cologne.
Beer hall that serves a metre-long bratwurst.
Star player in Cologne’s slow food movement.
Brewery and fast food in gorgeous setting.
Partially covered parking.
Campingplatz Stadt Köln
Cycling distance from the city centre.
Head on to the next destination on your West Germany road trip itinerary, into the Eifel region and onwards to the town of Monschau. Here you get a two-for-one deal: a beautiful historic town and a stunning landscape.
Monschau, known as the ‘Pearl of the Eifel’, feels like a step back in time. Or a leap. Back to a world of cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and over 300 listed buildings. It’s proper fairytale material. If you saw Hansel and Gretel run past, you wouldn’t be remotely surprised.
Stroll the Altstadt, the dreamily historic old town. Visit the 13th-century castle, or the Rotes Haus, an 18th-century mansion whose unassuming exterior conceals a wonderfully over-the-top interior of antiques and tapestries.
Then head out to explore the 240 km (~149 miles) of hiking trails through the Eifel area, leading you past volcanic crater lakes and through moorlands and forests. And, before you leave, make sure to try the Aachener Printen — a traditional gingerbread-like biscuit.
Learn about the town’s famous Moutarde de Montjoie.
Felsenkeller Brauhaus & Museum
150-year-old brewery with tours.
Hellenthal National Park
64-acre park home to deer, deer, wild cats, and owls.
Locally run restaurant serving typical German food.
Hearty traditional German cuisine.
Cafe Am Roten Haus
Affordable homemade cakes.
From here, take the small train into the centre.
Camping Zum Jone-Bur
Quiet campsite a walk or bus ride from Monschau.
You’ve trekked city streets and hiked up hills. Now it’s time to treat yourself. And the next stop on your West Germany road trip is, let’s be honest, all about the wine.
The vineyards surrounding Rüdesheim have thrived for a thousand years, and its acclaimed drinks include Riesling, brandy, and Sekt, a sparkling wine. And what a setting to enjoy it all in: the Rhine river winding past mountains and dotted with islands, and charming Rüdesheim itself.
Take a cruise along the Rhine for photo ops aplenty. Visit the Niederwald Monument — reached on foot or by cable car. You can even take the trip at night when the landscape will be lit up by the moon. Visit the taverns on Drosselgasse, nicknamed "the smallest but happiest street in the world."
And for something a bit different, there’s Pfalz Castle, a comically small castle on an island that used to exact money from boats as they passed, showing that size really doesn’t matter.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
Nuns selling wine from a convent.
Gorgeous town with beautiful views and burgundy-style wines.
Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett
Musical instruments that play themselves.
German tavern food meets Mediterranean cuisine.
Regional dishes on the Rhine.
Unter den Linden
Beautiful views, tradition with a modern twist.
Stadt Rüdesheim am Rhein Drosselgasse
Uncovered parking close to center.
Campingplatz am Rhein
On banks of river, walking distance from town.
Worried about hitting your daily step count during this West Germany road trip? Marburg has you covered.
This historic town feels entirely composed of steps. Winding alleys weave their way up and down steep slopes, and some of the houses have back doors five stories above the front doors.
But that isn’t Marburg’s main selling point. This university town has a lively youthful energy, affordable and delicious food, and the Philipps-Universität – the world’s oldest Protestant university, whose alumni include the Brother Grimm.
Wander the crooked streets up and down. Then there’s the Elisabethkirche, built by the knights of the Teutonic Order to commemorate Saint Elisabeth, a pilgrimage site that brought fame and fortune to the town.
If you’re a morning person, head to the south side of the church for sunrise. Then high above it all there’s Landgrave Castle with its panoramic views. And when evening comes, the Schlosspark hosts concerts and open-air films in summer.
from Rüdesheim am Rhein
Remains of an ancient synagogue.
Quite a climb to reach but spectacular views.
Botanischer Garten Marburg
Beautiful botanical gardens.
American-style burger joint.
Rustic restaurant by Marburg castle.
Das Kleine Restaurant
Fine dining with four course menu.
Free parking short walk from center.
Damm Hammer Camping
Peaceful camping short drive from Marburg.