Characterized by the snaking Mosel river, half-timbered towns, and hilltop castles, the Mosel Valley is a popular destination for German travelers. It is still relatively under-the-radar as a tourist destination, especially for North Americans. Hardly anyone I know from the US or Canada is familiar with the Moselle, so I am here to share all of my insider secrets. You can even go behind-the-scenes of this list on my Instagram stories. I love the Mosel, and have visited a handful of times since moving to Germany!
You can visit the Mosel Valley throughout the year, but you’ll find that tourism peaks from late August to early October during the wine harvest. This is a really special and lively time to visit because there are little wine festivals and special events sprinkled throughout the region. The middle of summer is a lovely time to go because everything will be green and lush with minimal crowds. The weather also permits you to hike and cycle the region more comfortably.
Spelled Moselle in English or Mosel in German, I will use these two spellings interchangeably throughout this article. Regardless of how you spell it, there are lots of fun activities and attractions to explore while traveling in the Mosel. I would recommend a long weekend stay, but you could visit as short as 48 hours or as long as a week!
What You'll Find in this Article
The 15 Very Best Things to in the Moselle Valley
Cool Attractions to Visit in the Mosel
Visit Cochem Castle
Also known locally as Reichsburg, Cochem Castle is precariously perched 300 feet above the charming town of Cochem sitting along the banks of the Moselle River. I could go on at length about how wonderful a visit to the Moselle is, but for the purpose of this post, Cochem Castle is a worthy castle to add to your list of must-visit castles in Germany. Believed to have origins dating back to 1100, this castle has seen many iterations over its long history. King Louis XIV actually had his troops destroy the castle completely in 1689, after which it sat in ruin for almost 200 years. It wasn’t until a wealthy Berlin businessman bought the ruins that the castle was rebuilt into the splendor you see today.
The original castle was built in a Romanesque style, but when the new one was constructed, it took on a largely neo-Gothic appearance. Like many of the other castles on this list, you are required to take a guided tour if you want to see the interior. If you are more interested in the views of the Moselle and surrounding area, you can simply amble up the shop-lined streets of Cochem at your own pace up until you reach the castle.
Visit Eltz Castle
One of the Mosel Valley’s most iconic attractions is Burg Eltz. This is one of the most Instagrammed places in Germany and rightfully so — it’s beautiful! Of the German castles that I’ve seen so far, this one comes closest to rivaling the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle. Its tucked away location in a perpetually mist shrouded valley in the Moselle region simply screams romance. Its relatively remote location also protected it during the war periods, which means it remains largely in its original condition.
Construction of the castle dates back to the 9th century, and this castle has been continuously privately owned by the Etlz family, whose 33rd generation of descendants still maintain the castle today. After paying for a ticket at the castle entrance, you will be whisked onto a 45 minute guided tour through the various Medieval styled rooms. Because one family has consistently owned the castle, you will find the rooms filled with original artifacts, like paintings, armor and furniture. Tours are offered in English and no photography is allowed during the tours.
Visit Stolzenfels Castle
Schloss Stolzenfels is a perfect stop if you coming to the Mosel from Koblenz or if you’ve been exploring the Romantic Rhine Region, just west of the Moselle. Stolzenfels Castle is a13th-century fortress was largely destroyed during the 30 Years War, but then rebuilt in the 1800s in neo-Gothic style. The castle can only be accessed on foot, and you’ll be required to park your car at the bottom of the steep hill.
Similar to other castles in Germany, you can only see the interior on a guided tour and photography is strictly forbidden. When I visited, the tour was only in German but there were language translation sheets for each room, offering English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese translations. In the various rooms on the tour of Stolzenfels, you’ll find paintings, weapons, armor and furnishings from the mid-19th century which were left when the castle was abandoned. I especially enjoyed the quaint gardens surrounding the castle as well as the lovely views over the Rhine.
Best Things to Eat & Drink in the Mosel
Drink Riesling Wine
This picturesque region is renowned for white wine, especially its Riesling. The Moselle Valley is one of Germany’s most important wine producing regions, although Riesling grapes are grown throughout the country. The grapes in the Moselle Valley originate from the Roman times when they brought grapes here in order to provide a local source of wine for their garrisons. You’ll find that Germans are quite proud of their white wine. In fact, Germany is responsible for approximately 50% of the world’s Riesling cultivation and production. Combined with the Upper Rhine River Valley, this part of the country produces 70% of all German wine.
Wine tastings and winery tours aren’t quite as popular as simply drinking wine in the Mosel. You’ll see wine flights every now and then, but the most common way to sample wines in the Moselle is simply to order off the menu. It is common to go into a wine tavern, called Weinstube in German, and order a small pour of whatever wine seems interesting to you. You typically order in milliliters, opting for .1 or .2 liters. There are even special mini wine glasses to accommodate this.
The white wines of the Mosel are particularly cherished for their refreshing mineral notes and fruity aromas. This flavor profile comes from a characteristic microclimate that exists here, as well as the growing conditions on the steep silty slopes along the Mosel river. Riesling wines can be either dry (trocken), semi-sweet (halbtrocken), sweet (lieblich) or sparkling, although inexperienced Riesling drinkers are likely to find all of them a bit sweet. Most of the vineyards in the Mosel are quaint family-run operations that produce mostly for domestic consumption, with some European exports. You can expect to discover some new vintners on your long weekend in the Moselle Valley!
Most of the cuisine in the Mosel is regional German fare and my favorite thing to eat is Flammkuchen. This is a German flatbread. You’ll sometimes hear people call it German pizza, but Germans (nor Italians) particularly like that characterisation. The most traditional Flammkuchen is a crispy thin crust topped with bacon, creme fraîche and white onion. You will sometimes find other toppings, such as a vegetarian version or with seasonal ingredients, but the creme fraîche is almost always the sauce. It is cooked at a very high temperature for only a couple of minutes until the creme fraîche melts slightly and the crust browns. You’ll often see it shared among friends as a starter or snack, but it can easily be ordered as a main dinner. You’ll find Flammkuchen in most places, but the absolute best Flammkuchen in the Mosel is at Zehnthauskeller in Beilstein. The crust is perfectly crisp with a good balance of topping and sauce, all of which are oozing with flavor. So good!
If you spend a long weekend in the Mosel during the fall harvest season, you are bound to come across Federweißer. Translated literally, it means feather wine. The name can be traced back to the yeast which is said to “dance like tiny feathers” in the glass. Made with the grape must from either white or red grapes, Federweißer is the first wine of the season, hence its popularity in the fall. It begins to ferment due to the yeasts but the fermentation process is not allowed to complete. The result is a slightly bubbly, unfiltered cloudy wine with a lower alcohol content than other early wines. Federweißer has a slightly fruity and sweet taste, with a strong note of the fermentation. You can think of it almost like a boozy Kombucha. Many restaurants will offer it as a special – a glass of Federweißer and a piece of Zwiebelkuchen (mentioned below) – but you can also buy it by the bottle.
Translated as onion (Zwiebel) cake (kuchen), Zwiebelkuchen is the German version of an onion tart. Although it originates from the Black Forest which is a little further south from the Mosel, you will find it all over this region. The base is made from white flour, yeast, butter, eggs and salt. It forms a savory sponge cake, which can sometimes be sort of crumbly. Steamed or sauteed slices of white onions are layered on top. Then a quiche-like filling is poured on, along with diced ham and thyme. The entire Zwiebelkuchen is baked on large sheet pans until browned, puffed and nicely cooked. Sizeable square pieces are cut out and served for lunch (it is not common for dinner). You can find it throughout the year, but it is most typical at the beginning of fall, after the glut of summer onions have been harvested.
Sunset Dinner at Burgruine Landshut
My favorite place for a romantic dinner in the Mosel is in the small town of Bernkastel-Kues . Or more accurately, above the town of Bernkastel-Kues (more about this town below). Situated inside the ruins of an old castle, Burgruine Landshut is a nice restaurant serving elevated German cuisine. There is an indoor dining room as well as a rooftop outdoor dining room, both of which offer stunning views of the Mosel river. It is open for both lunch and dinner. I think the best time to go is around sunset. The Moselle region looks absolutely gorgeous awash in those golden hour colors! This place is fairly well-known, so you should make a reservation ahead of time, especially if you are traveling in the Mosel during the fall.
Cool Activities to Do in the Mosel
Ride Ferry Boat
Now that you’ve explored some of the attractions in Mosel Valley, why not get out on the river that bears its name? There is one main ferry boat company, Gebrüder Kolb, that offers day trips along the Mosel river. With more than 20 passenger ships, Kolb is the largest provider of boat tours on the Moselle. You can board the boat going either direction on the river, and you can get off at any of the ports. The boat has a small cafe so you can order food or drinks while riding along the river.
There are three routes that the boats travel–from Koblenz to Cochem, from Cochem to Bernkastel-Kues and from Bernkastel-Kues to Trier. I think the middle region from Cochem to Bernkastel-Kues is the most scenic and has the best assortment of cute small towns, so this would be my recommendation. The scenery along the winding river is lovely, full of wineries and deciduous forests. It is especially vibrant in the fall colors. This is a flexible and laid-back way to explore the Moselle at your own pace!
Sleep in a Castle Hotel
Both the Rhine and Mosel Valleys are well known for the abundance of castles and castle ruins along the banks of the river. There are literally hundreds of them! Some have even been converted into boutique hotels. Sleeping in a castle hotel is one of the coolest things to do in Moselle Valley! Prices for castle hotels vary widely based on the amenities. For a truly wonderful stay in the Mosel, the Schloss Lieser is an ideal luxury option. It is a magnificent and imposing castle built in the late 1800s which has been completely restored in its former glory. Each room is unique, featuring furniture, art and decor reminiscent of the times. There is a lovely indoor pool and sauna at Schloss Lieser, as well as a delicious restaurant featuring German cuisine.
Bike Ride Along Mosel River
Perhaps my favorite way to experience the Mosel is by bike – and I’m not the only one. You will see lots of people cycling in the Moselle Valley. Immaculately maintained bike paths line both sides of the river almost the entire way from Trier to Koblenz. Unless you decide to bike up into the wineries or to a viewpoint, the paths are almost entirely flat. Thus biking along the river is totally manageable for all skills and fitness levels – even if you are not an experienced bike rider! In fact, you are likely to see some elderly German rides passing by you on their e-bikes.
Cycling is a nice way to drink some wine at the various wineries you pass without worrying too much about driving in a car or working around the train or ferry schedule. You can also easily stop at any towns that seem cute or interesting to you. It is also possible to bring bikes on the ferry boats (you’ll see a lot of people doing this), so you could combine ferry and bike riding together to cover a longer distance without exhaustion. We biked about 80km during our long weekend in the Mosel, which was manageable to us as regular bike riders, although not long-distance cyclists.
Hike to Gipfelkreuz in Bremm
One of the best ways to appreciate the serpentine curves of the Mosel River is to look at it from above. There are some picture-perfect viewpoints of the hairpin turns. One of the best ones is located just outside of Bremm. This view point overlooks a narrow horseshoe bend in the Mosel River, and you can see for miles. You will hike up the 300m hill through the Calmont vineyard, which is the steepest vineyard in all of Europe. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the winegrowers at work. They literally rappel down through the vineyards to pick and harvest the grapes. All the work is still done manually because machinery is too hard to manage in this terrain. Catch your breath and quench your thirst with a tangy Riesling at the Weingut Michael Franzen wine tavern on the summit of the hill.
Best Small Towns to Visit in the Mosel
Maybe my favorite small town in all of Germany, Beilstein has a special place in my heart. Located on a picturesque bend in the Mosel River, you can easily stop here on the same day as Cochem Castle (mentioned above). In fact, I recommend biking there from Cochem along the Mosel River bike path. It is a pretty short ride, approximately 20 minutes, and the path is flat the whole way.
What I love about Beilstein is all the coordinating building facades. It’s like local people purposely paint and decorate the exteriors of their home to match each other. It feels like a living museum, and clearly some tourists treat it that way because you’ll see signs that say things like “We Actually Live Here” or “Private Property, don’t just walk into our house”. The planter boxes and hanging flowers are the cherry on top of this picturesque place!
Located almost directly in the middle of the German Mosel is the charming town of Bernkastel-Kues. It looks like a model for a fairy tale German village, like those ones your grandma put out around Christmas time. Narrow cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses date all the way back to medieval times. Some of the homes even have a precarious looking lean to them! There is a colorful main street that leads to an even more colorful market square, making this a lovely place to wander with your camera at the ready. Bernkastel-Kues is also home to the 3 Michelin starred Piesport with chef Thomas Schanz at the helm.
One of the larger towns in the Mosel is Traben-Trarbach, considered to be the jewel of the central Mosel. The name comes from two towns situated across the river from one another (Traben and Trarbach), which have slowly blended into one over time. In the past, this was the second largest wine trading port in Europe behind Bordeaux. As such, you’ll find beautiful historic architecture and large mansions to house the wealthy merchants. There are some really beautiful art nouveau homes along the riverfront. You can take an architectural tour if you are especially interested. These days, Traben-Trarbach is a major transfer point for the ferry lines and a popular tourist stop in the region. It is also home to the only thermal spa in the Moselle, Moseltherme Spa, if you are looking for a relaxing wellness day during your stay.