When we have a long weekend and an opportunity to explore, chances are we are looking to visit places within a four-hour radius from our house. Burg Eltz, Cochem, Trier and Luxembourg had been on our list for a while, so we made some quick lodging reservations and mapped out a plan! Read all about our experience in Luxembourg here and read on to see what we learned in Germany!
Nestled in the mountains of western Germany, a fairy tale castle that has been in the same family for 33 generations rises high up from the bedrock. Burg Eltz is a popular destination for Instagrammers because of its picture-perfect design, but did you know its one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe? It has stood strong for over 855 years, with only one siege attempt. At ten stories high, the castle was shared by three branches of the same Eltz family, so it was partitioned into three separate homes. The castle is so beloved in Germany that it was used on the 500 Deutsche Mark note until they switched to the euro in 1992, and is an enduring symbol of German culture. Visit Burg Eltz between April and October – each changing season provides a different experience. Get there early! It opens at 9, so if you want any photos without crowds, arrive before 8. Note: It is closed between mid November and the first of April, so if you’d like to enter and do a tour, plan accordingly. It is still possible to visit and see the castle when it’s closed, but pay attention to the weather or you may end up socked in with fog (which is common once the seasons change) and no view of the castle!
Parking is only €2 per vehicle. There are two ways to walk to the castle from the parking lot: the steep hill and the longer path through the woods. I recommend the steep hill on the way down as it allows for lovely, high overlooking views of Burg Eltz. There is a shuttle bus for a small fee if you’re not able to make the trek.
Here is a little map of things around the castle. I have marked with an “x” the various places for good photo ops! You can see the two paths that lead down to the castle from parking. The one on the left is much longer. Follow the path past Kapelle St. Antonius for a more direct and picture perfect route!
We loved the tour of the castle! It takes about 30-45 minutes to walk through (depending on how many questions your kids ask the guide) and you’ll be transported back in time with all the interesting stories. The castle is well preserved and I was thrilled we were allowed to take photos inside, unlike other famous castles. Don’t miss the treasury, too!
One of the most beautiful little towns along the Moselle River in Germany is Cochem. Cochem is famous for its vineyards, wine, and beautiful scenery. The streets are lovely to wander, the colorful buildings along the river are charming, and Cochem Castle at the top of the hill is the piece de resistance! There are several hikes in the area as well as a a chair lift on the west side of town that you can take up the hill and walk out to the Pinnerkreuz lookout point. Wetterfahne is another observation deck to hike up to on the east side of the river that boasts gorgeous views over the town. Finally, Hubertushöhe lookout just outside of town provides the highest vista overlooking Cochem. Be sure to walk along the river, make your way up the hill to Cochem Castle for a little tour, grab a bite to eat on the adorable walking streets, or cruise along the river in a boat!
When we visited on a weekend in the peak of warm, sunny summer, it was very busy. Cochem would be a great place to visit in shoulder seasons to avoid the big crowds. Some of the eateries are cute on the outside but the food is lackluster and more touristy than tantalizing. There is plenty of parking at Öffentlicher Parkplatz Pinnerstraße. It is a town made for walking, but biking would be lovely, too!
In the summer there is a little train you can toot around town on, which is fun for the kids! Cochem is a popular spot for river cruises to stop, so it is a bit pricier than nearby places to eat and stay. Still, it is less busy in the morning and later in the evening so you might decide it’s worth staying in town! It is beautiful at night!
Also located on the banks of the Moselle River in Germany is Trier. The oldest city in Germany, it boasts charming Bavarian-inspired buildings, the best preserved Roman ruin north of the Alps in Porta Nigra (city gate), amphitheater, Roman baths, Roman bridge, and a gorgeous crowning cathedrals – Trierer Dom, and Liebfrauenkirche. During the holidays, Trier boasts a marvelous Christmas market! People flock to Trier for the energy of the place – it is a college town and there are plenty of cafes and shops to entertain!
We didn’t get to spend much time in Trier, but when we return we want to be sure to visit the Roman baths and amphitheater, explore Porta Nigra, enter the cathedrals, and maybe visit the Karl Marx house in town. If we are lucky we will check out the glittering Christmas markets!