I visited the Mosel region courtesy of Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus GmbH, however all editorial and opinions are my own. You can see the Instagram Stories I posted during my weekend in the Mosel, which include more tips for what to do in the Mosel, in my Instagram highlights. Hotel prices are correct at time of posting.
At the end of October, the Mosel vineyards were gloriously golden, the busiest of sights relatively tourist-free, and the welcome just as warm as I imagine it to be all year round. On the first two of my three days there I was blessed with glorious sunshine, but though I was rained heavily upon on day three, my mood wasn’t dampened at all. The snaking river, half-timbered towns, steep slate cliffs and bounty of hilltop castles were all the more atmospheric for a ghostly autumnal mist.
I covered an awful lot of ground during my weekend in the Mosel, travelling in a rental car from Trier to Koblenz via Maring-Noviand, Bernkastel, Traben-Trarbach Cochem and Wierschem, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to fit as much into such a short space of time. (I also wouldn’t recommend doing it by car, since I much prefer travelling by public transport or my own feet – but that’s another story altogether.) So, to help you focus your own schedule should you be planning a weekend in the Mosel, I thought I’d share with you my weekend’s highlights – those things to eat, drink, see and do that I think should be at the top of your list.
What to do in the Mosel
5. Visit Bernkastel’s market square
The extraordinarily charming neighbourhood of Bernkastel, with its narrow cobbled streets and tiny town square lined with gorgeous medieval buildings, is one of the four districts that make up the town of Bernkastel-Kues, which is split in half by the Mosel river. Bernkastel is a popular stop for tourists, but because it’s trickier to reach than many of the Mosel’s other half-timbered towns – there’s no train station here, and buses are infrequent – it tends to be a little less crowded.
The collection of half-timbered buildings around Bernkastel’s historic market square include the Renaissance town hall, built in 1608, and a precarious-looking building called the Spitzenhaus (“Pointed House”). Only 2 metres wide at its base, the remarkable building houses a teeny tiny pub. The market square is where Bernkastel’s annual Christmas market takes place; I can only imagine what a magical backdrop the medieval buildings make for such festivities. The hike up to the ruins of Bernkastel’s castle ruins (the Burgruine Landshut) is a steep one, but its well worth it for the views – you can even spot the market square from above.
Further information about visiting Bernkastel is available on the multilingual Bernkastel website.
4. Try the local food
With a very tight schedule involving an medieval castles and Roman remains, I didn’t have much time for exploring the Mosel’s traditional specialties, however on the Saturday night, staying at the friendly Hotel Moselschild, I was treated to a classic autumnal dinner.
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[#presstrip with @rheinlandpfalzerleben] There‘s no getting around the fact that my two-year-old iPhone 7 and I struggled to capture this, but it was so delicious that I had to share it. Venison ragout – the deer provided by a friend of the chef – with chopped squash, the thick sauce gently but firmly spiced with what he described to me as “the classic game herbs” – cloves, marjoram and bay, and served with lingonberry jam, stewed apple (though the lingonberry sufficed) and some wonderfully buttery tagliatelle. Honestly one of the best stews I’ve ever had – definitely worth stopping by here if you’re in the Mosel during game season 👌 Glass of Riesling from the Ürziger Würzgarten, very famous, very steep vineyards that are practically next door.
From the seasonal menu at the hotel restaurant, Oliver’s, I chose the venison ragout. The meat, provided by a hunter friend of the chef, had been slow-cooked with small cubes of bright orange squash in a rich brown gravy spiced with cloves, marjoram and bay. Served with lingonberry jam, stewed apple and some delightfully buttery tagliatelle, it was easily one of the best stews I’ve ever had. My accompanying glass of Riesling came from the extremely steep, red slate vineyards of the neighbouring Ürziger Würzgarten, one of the Mosel’s best known vineyards.
3. Wander into Trier Cathedral
Home to no fewer than nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, the city of Trier is positively bursting with impressive things to look at, and it was impossible not to be impressed by the city’s bounty of Roman ruins. However, the highlight of my afternoon there was a visit to Germany’s oldest episcopal church, the High Cathedral of St Peter (Die Hohe Domkirche St Petrus), with its elaborate Baroque ceilings and the extraordinary relic chapel façade. Don’t miss out on the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) next door for a double whammy of jaw-dropping religious interiors.
For more information about Trier’s cathedral, visit St Peter’s Cathedral multilingual website.
2. Visit a winery
Known as one of the world’s most prestigious producers of Riesling, the Mosel wine region is famous for its steep south-facing riverside vineyards and its red and blue slate soils, the latter of which contribute the mineral notes to the region’s fruity white wines. The Romans and Celts were planting vines here 2000 years ago, so winemaking is deeply ingrained in the Mosel’s culture and history. What better way could there be then to learn more about the very heart and soul of the region than to spend some time wandering through its vineyards and tasting the wines they produce.
The time I spent with Franz and Esther Melsheimer at their sixth-generation organic winery in the municipality of Maring-Noviand was my favourite part of my Mosel weekend. Joining one of their weekly wine harvest events, I spent much of my Saturday outside in their vineyards, learning about their winemaking processes and challenges and trying their wines. And there are really few things that make me happier than a slap-up winemakers lunch in the autumn sunshine, amongst the golden vines.
For further information about visiting the winery or joining one of Esther and Franz’s events, visit the Weingut Arthur Melsheimer website. (In German and Dutch only, but enquiries are welcome in English.)
1. Hike through the forest to Eltz Castle
No trip to the Mosel would be complete without a visit to one of Instagram’s favourite German castles: Eltz. You might have seen a thousand pictures of it already, but there’s nothing like emerging from the forest to see it for yourself, perching on its grassy rock in all its original 12th century glory.
The castle (in German, Burg Eltz) has been owned by three branches of the same family for an extraordinary 33 generations. Head inside for a fee (11€ for adults) to view their impressive collection of precious gold and silver objects in the treasury, visit the 15th century Rodendorf Kitchen and admire suits of armour in the Knight’s Hall.
It’s possible to approach Eltz Castle either by foot from the car park (an approximate 15 minute walk), from where a coach shuttle also regularly leaves. If you’re after a longer hike, it can be reached along the Eltz Castle Panorama Trail (Mosel-Traumpfad Eltzer Burgpanorama). Further details about visiting the castle can be found on Burg Eltz’s very informative, multilingual website.
What to do in the Mosel: bonus tip
Take a tour of the Imperial Castle, Cochem
Even in the off season, Cochem was extremely touristy, and the 45-minute tour of its very popular castle (Reichsburg Cochem) was very much an exercise in shepherding people through its rooms on a strict time schedule. However, there’s much for castle fans and history buffs to admire here, from an impressive banqueting hall and hidden panelled doors to fabulous views of the river. If you’ve time to spare and you don’t mind being herded along on a group tour, Cochem’s castle is very much worth a visit.
Website: Reichsburg Cochem
For more details on visiting the Mosel, head to the Romantic Germany website.
Where to stay
In Trier, I stayed at the four-star Blesius Garten, a hotel and craft brewery with two restaurants on site. My double room was calming and comfortable with a pretty view of the vineyards; the wellness area – a pool plus standard and infrared saunas – was small but relaxing. I ate at elegant Tonkas, which offers beer pairings alongside seasonal dishes made with organic local ingredients; the buffet breakfast the next morning was very good. Doubles from 100€ including breakfast.
Website: Blesius Garten (German only)
The family-run Hotel Moselschild (mentioned above) sits amongst a short row of river-facing buildings on the road between Bernkastel and Traben-Trarbach. It’s a convenient base with friendly staff, and some rooms have river views. The slightly outdated-looking Oliver’s Restaurant offers excellent seasonal food and local wines – highly recommended. Doubles from 42,50€ per person including breakfast.
Website: Hotel Moselschild (German only)
Getting to the Mosel and around
I was advised to hire a car for this trip which, given that I covering a lot of ground during a very short time, made sense for reaching sights and destinations less well (or not at all) served by public transport. Navigation was sometimes complicated, however, and I imagine that during peak season, it’s very difficult to find parking in small, touristy destinations such as Cochem and Bernkastel.
If you are less pressed for time, then travelling by bus or train would be a much more relaxing, sustainable and if you book in advance, inexpensive way to enjoy the Mosel – and of course it means you’ll be able to get stuck into the local wine. You can browse timetables, book tickets and make seat reservations at the multilingual Deutsche Bahn website.
It’s worth noting that the Mosel Valley is also prime for hiking, which would make a fabulous way to get from a to b. See the Romantic Germany website for details on regional trails.