The Moselle Valley is known for its sloping hills of terraced vineyards just off the Moselle river, where the grapes for the famous Moselle wines grow.
There are many options to explore the region along the Moselle – whether you decide to take one of the popular river cruises or choose to go on a road trip through the picturesque valley. An itinerary from Trier in the south to Koblenz in the north is a spectacular stretch of river that, besides the scenic landscape, invites you to discover exciting and fascinating history in the cities, as well as idyllic fairy-tale villages with half-timbered houses and dramatic castles along the way.
Our road trip along the Moselle river in Germany between Trier and Koblenz includes, in addition to these cities, Bernkastel-Kues and Cochem as some of the highlights. Moreover, there are stops in some of the winegrowing villages, resulting in the itinerary: Trier – Piesport – Wintrich – Bernkastel-Kues – Traben-Trarbach – Cochem – Koblenz.
Start out in Germany’s oldest city, Trier, founded by the Romans. Trier’s most famous landmark is without doubt Porta Nigra, the Roman city gate being one of the original four entry points to the city.
The Romans established all the necessary structures in Trier for it to be the Roman capital of the Western Roman Empire. They built bathhouses where the Roman citizens could relax precisely as they did in other Roman cities. In Trier there are still remains of the Imperial Baths and the Barbara Baths – bathing complexes that once were imposing Roman bathhouses.
The Roman Bridge across the Moselle is another reminiscence of the Roman era – although the upper part has been replaced twice throughout the years. However, the pillars still stand on the bedrock as they did two thousand years ago.
You can easily spend a day or two in Trier – both to explore the Roman ruins – and to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in a vibrant city seething with history relating to nearly all centuries back in time.
One of the top winegrowing areas along the Moselle is Piesport. One riverbank is only softly sloping and gradually flattening out, whereas the other one, the site of the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, is significantly steeper. It is at the foot of this Eifel riverbank that the ancient winegrowing community along the Moselle settled thousands of years ago.
The Romans continued the viticulture after the Celts and made use of large wine presses for the pressing process. In fact two Roman wine presses have been excavated in Piesport, one in 1985 and another one in 1992. After restoration one of these is being used at the ‘Roman Wine Press Festival’ held in October. You can be lucky to see the traditional wine pressing process of treading grapes being demonstrated using the restored 44 m x 20 m structure – requiring over 100 men to fully exploit its capacity. This process could produce up to 60,000 litres of wine!
When visiting Piesport, you may enter the wine press building to see the press parts and basins used for the traditional wine pressing procedure.
Shortly after leaving Piesport, you will, if you follow the winding river, arrive at the village Wintrich. The place was originally named ‘Vindriacum’ (a Celtic-Roman name) – meaning ‘wine-producing village’. In Wintrich one of the numerous Moselle locks is situated, allowing boats and loaded river barges to use the Moselle as a waterway for transportation.
Wintrich is a typical winegrowing village where people are occupied within wine cultivation and production. It is highly recommended to visit some of the local winegrowers and taste their specific wines and see for yourself how the process of wine production is.
For a first-class vineyard hiking experience, there is an intricate network of paths up through the vineyards at Wintrich – and there is easy access to hilltop viewpoints with strikingly scenic views of the Moselle Valley, as well as the village Wintrich.
Not far from Wintrich, you will arrive at Bernkastel-Kues which is a charming and popular river town with spectacular gabled half-timbered houses from the 17th century. In particular, the St. Michaelsbrunnen from 1606 and the Renaissance Town Hall from 1608 are noticeable in the medieval marketplace. Another eye-catching building is the Spitzhäuschen from 1416 – an extremely narrow house just off the central square.
The town is also a winegrowing centre, and you can take a sightseeing river cruise to enjoy the landscape and vineyards from a river perspective.
Another possibility is to hike through the vineyards up to the Castle Landshut which used to be the summer residence of the Archbishops of Trier. The castle has a fine lookout over the picturesque Moselle Valley. You may even continue your hike beyond Landshut up to the ‘Olymp’ – a hilltop located 415 m above sea level.
A short drive along the winding Moselle river will now take you to Traben-Trarbach which is a renowned Moselle wine district and a gem of a town from an architectural point of view. Many houses have been built in the art nouveau style and relate to the period La Belle Epoque in Germany. Rich wine traders built each their impressive mansion with associated wine cellars.
Around 1900, Traben-Trarbach was one of the most important wine-producing and wine trading towns in the whole world with over hundred wine cellars. The busy wine traders exported their high-quality Mosel wines to many countries beyond Germany. Today the bridge with the famous bridge tower is still a landmark of Traben-Trarbach.
You can visit some of the extraordinary Mosel wine cellars dating back to its heyday at the turn of the century, and a stroll in town will reveal awesome villas in the typical art nouveau style for this part of Germany. The architecture definitely contributes to the idyll in the traditional wine trading place at the Mosel River.
A beautiful town of half-timbered houses – quite unrivalled in the Moselle Valley – that is Cochem! This is the next stop on our river road trip.
Cochem’s medieval castle from the 12th century, Reichsburg, rises majestically atop the mountain, overlooking Cochem and the Moselle Valley. It is one of the absolute highlights of a Moselle river road trip – a real gem! The castle was, though, converted into a Neo-Renaissance fairy-tale style in the 1870s in accordance with the trend of the time. Today, there are only remnants of the original medieval construction – for example the octagonal tower and the building of the great hall. You may choose to take a guided tour to have the opportunity to discover all the details, including XIV-style furniture and some exceptional baroque paintings!
Cochem town features a unique baroque town hall located in the market square. The pink building used to serve as a trade hall. Later, under the reign of the archbishops of Trier, it served as the electoral council’s chamber.
The city wall is quite well-preserved, including three gates that can be dated back to the 14th century.
Finally, we arrive at Koblenz which is one of Germany’s oldest – and even one of the most beautiful cities. Although the city originally was founded by the Romans (in 9 BC), it has also been under the rule of the Franks, the archbishops of Trier, and finally Prussia.
Koblenz is probably best known for its Deutsches Eck (the ‘German Corner’) which marks the junction of the Rhine and the Moselle. The landmark played an important role as a natural defense at the time when the Order of Teutonic Knights ruled here in the 1200s. Due to its strategic location, the site has also been a natural spot for collecting tolls.
To mark the point where the two rivers meet, a monument of the mounted Emperor Wilhelm I was erected at this very location in 1897. Unfortunately, it was damaged during World War II – like many other of Koblenz’s historic buildings – but has later undergone successful restoration back to its original state.
Our itinerary ends here in Koblenz. In case you have a few more days to spend, Koblenz is also an excellent base for exploring the region beyond, since it in addition to the Moselle Valley also gives easy access to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
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Moselle Valley & Moselle River Road Trip
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Moselle Valley & Moselle River Road Trip:
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Moselle road trip – Moselle itinerary