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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrNestled deep in the heart of the UNESCO-listed Romantic Rhine Valley, framed by four mountain ranges, vineyard-covered fertile hills, and traversed by two of Europe’s most picturesque rivers (the Rhein and Mosel), lies Koblenz, one of Germany’s not-so-hidden ‘hidden gems’. The eclectic mix of medieval architecture and striking surrounding nature make this one of the most picturesque towns in the Rhine Valley, even though it certainly still appears to be way off most tourist radars. A town of just over 100,000 inhabitants, Koblenz boasts a rich history spanning back more than 2,000 years. Its surrounding hills are brimming with fortified ancient cities, dotted between world-class vineyards. The architecture and historical value of the city make it a worthwhile inclusion on any itinerary of this section of south-west Germany. If heading to Cologne, you’ll find Koblenz merely 100kms away.
- Koblenz is one of the main trading center for Mosel and Rhine wines.
- Nero Claudius Drusus , a military commander in the Roman Empire, established a city here in 9 BC.
- For 18 years during the 18th century, Koblenz was part of France, then was handed over to Prussia for 4 years and was occupied by the Allies from 1919 until 1929.
- Remains of a bridge, built under order of Julius Caesar in 55 BC, are still visible today.
- Three of the city’s main exports are pianos, barges, and mineral water.
Brief HistoryThe ancient Romans may be credited with being the first to establish a bonafide city where Koblenz now stands, yet archaeological discoveries date human settlement here to at least 1,000 years beforehand. The Romans built a fortification here and made this a very pivotal military base. The city’s location on the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine (the name is a derivative of ‘confluence’) has always played a major role in its role as one of the most hotly-contested cities in this part of Germany.
Several Frankish Kings called Koblenz home right up until the city was declared a property of the Catholic Church, in the 11th century. It spent more than seven centuries being effectively ruled by archbishops, after which it was a leading pawn in the constant battles between the French and German empire.
City OverviewAlthough almost two dozen villages have now been incorporated into Koblenz’s metropolitan area, making the city appear much larger than it actually is, the landmarks of great interest for tourists are still found in the Old Town Center (Altstadt). It is here that the Mosel and Rhine Rovers blend into one.
HighlightsHere are the main points of interest in Koblenz:
German Corner - Deutsches EckThe tip of land at the confluence of the two rivers is the heart and soul of Old Koblenz, in every way. This is not only where you’ll enjoy fantastic riverside views, but also where you can admire the impressive, 37m-tall bronze statue of King Wilhelm I on horseback. You can climb the gigantic monument for even better photo ops. Behind the corner (literally) is Old Town, which is easy to navigate on foot and very enjoyable, especially since traffic through it is heavily restricted. Info boards direct you to the various points of interest and because they are all in German, you may want to print this guide and take it with you for easy reference.
Festung EhrenbreitsteinThis monumental, 19th-century fortress is perched atop a 120m-high hill on the eastern banks of the Rhine, right opposite the German Corner. The fortress was built in an attempt to evade further French incursions and was meant to be a first line of defence for Koblenz. It is from its constructions that the city became a major military base for many decades. Ehrenbreitstein was brought to full combat mode (which included a 1,500-men strong army and the use of 80 cannons) a total of eight times.
The best way to reach it is by cable car, which starts just a few hundred meters south of the Corner, along the riverside. This is Germany’s longest cable car ride and, aside getting you to Ehrenbreitstein in a jiffy, it also grants fantastic views along the way. The fortress itself is a very interesting place to visit, and now home to a few museums, including the State Museum of Koblenz (Landesmuseum) which displays comprehensive historical and archaeological collections.
Stolzenfels CastleConsidering this whole region of the Rhine Valley is famous for its fairytale castle, it’s definitely worthwhile to include a few more in your itinerary. Stolzenfels Castle is 6kms south of Old Town and also built along the riverside. The former holiday residence of the King of Prussia in the 1800s, it was originally built almost six centuries beforehand. Its original purpose was to have a permanent fixture from where to collect river tolls from passing boats. Expanded through the centuries and beautifully restored, the castle is open for guided tours, albeit only in German. Nevertheless, the gorgeousness of the place, with its opulent décor and stunning gardens, are appreciated in every language. The steep 15-minute walk up from the riverside is a great bonus, as are the several beer gardens located along the shores of the Rhine. They make for the perfect post-castle-visit beer appreciation break.
Military Musem - Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung KoblenzKoblenz’s Military Museum is an absolute haven for anyone who loves nothing more than to ogle at four floors brimming with wartime machinery, weaponry, and all sorts of other battle-related cool stuff. The aim of the museum is to showcase the evolution of war and, in particularly, how the equipment has evolved over the years. Tanks, helicopters, guns, machine guns, cannons, rockets, artillery; you name it and, if it can fire something, you’ll find it here. The museum is on the northern side of the Mosel River, only one block back from the shores.
Electoral Palace - Kurfürstliches SchlossSouth of Old Town, along the Rhine and just before the bridge which connects the two shores, is where you’ll find the impressive and rather palatial Kurfürstliches Schloss. This neoclassic building was constructed in 1842 as a private residence for the last Archbishop to preside over Koblenz, the palace is nowadays used by various offices of the Federal Government. Whilst most parts of the palace itself are not for public viewing, the riverside gardens and a gorgeous site not to be missed. In summer, concerts are held within its grounds.
St. Castor BasilicaLocated in the heart of Old Town, the Basilika St Kastor is revered for its historical important and protected not only under the UNESCO banner, but on a specially drafted segment of the Hague Convention. Construction was completed in 836 AD, although archaeological excavations have confirmed the suspicion that it was built atop an earlier place of worship. This site, historians believe, has been a worshipping site of one denomination or another, since before the time of Christ. You’ll find many priceless religious relics within its interior, as well as sculptures and frescoes.
The Church of Our Lady - LiebfrauenkircheThe Baroque and Gothic architecture of this Old Town masterpiece make it the most beautiful-looking church in the entire city. Small yet beautifully decorated, with striking vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows, this 12th-century Romanesque church is as enticing as it is simple. A plaque just outside demarks its painful history and notes how the Liebfrauenkirche was almost completely destroyed during WWII.
CuisineThe cuisine of Rhineland is not all that dissimilar to it neighboring States, so you’ll find similar local specialities here that you’re likely to taste in Cologne. Moreover, despite the diminutive size of Koblenz, and especially its historic center, you’ll come across a wide selection of international cuisine on offer, including the ubiquitous Italian, but also Japanese, Thai, and even Greek. Local specialties are classic, tasty and hearty, and include Döbbekooche (a baked potato casserole with bacon and onions) and Rhineland Sauerbraten, a much sweeter version of the sweet and sour beef roast casserole, due to the addition of sultanas.
Where the region really shines, however, is in the wine department. Incidentally, exploring the local wineries of the region also grant you the chance to taste some of the most traditional dishes here, some of which are not longer even prepared in restaurants. Hire a car and take yourself on a day-long winery tour, looking out for properties displaying bottles of wine, a broom, or a bunch of birch twigs tied up with colorful ribbons. These properties are known as Straußwirtschaft, or wine cottages, and it’s here that you’ll have the chance to not only taste some of the finest drops of Rhine or Moselle in Europe, but you’ll also savor delicious, home-cooked meals. Being such responsible drinkers, Germans combine snacks and meals with their wine-tasting tours.
NightlifeHelped along by a love affair with wine and beer, Koblenz’s social life is still very much alive once the sun sets yet note that this town is not renowned as a party capital of late-night haunt. A plethora of beer gardens, pubs, and microbreweries (called brewpubs) dot Old Town Center, with many traditional establishments showcasing the classic décor of long, dark wooden benches and pine-covered walls. The city’s Irish Pub is remarkably authentic and is ideal if you want to be a bit adventurous with your beer tasting, yet speak not a word of German. The expat folks working behind the bar will certainly help you out. Live music and a cool crowd make this a tourist favorite.
Whatever you do, include another stroll after dinner to the German Corner, where you’ll see the beautifully-lit monument as well as arguably the best views of the city and fortresses across the rivers, illuminated. You’ll also find a few riverside cafés and dessert stands.
ShoppingThe Old Town is brimming with many craft and souvenir shops, which are revered in the region for selling some of the most unique homewares, clothing and artifacts in the entire region. There’s an entire section of Lohrstrasse, at the southern end of Old Town which is pedestrian-only and the most popular commercial strip of all. It ends at the Lohr Shopping Center, home to more than 100 shops and eateries.
How to Get inKoblenz is about half way between Cologne and Frankfurt and makes for an ideal stopover point if traveling between the two cities, although just 2 days ought to suffice. Within an hour’s drive of two major international airports (those of Cologne and Frankfurt), Koblenz is easy to reach by high-speed train or bus. The Central Bus Station is within walking distance to the Old Town.
How to Get Out and AboutOnce in old Town, you’ll have very little reason to jump on a bus, taxi or train, as all attractions are accessible either by walking, taking ferries across either river or, in the case of the main fortress, by hopping on the cable car. Bicycle renting and riding is exceptionally rewarding and makes touring the city very easy. Your hotel and hostel can help you book a bike rental and, to save time, have your wheels waiting for you upon arrival.
AccommodationKoblenz boasts a wide range of accommodation choices, from exclusive boutique B&Bs to hostels, hotels and even a riverside campground.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jul 24, 2015