Frankfurt am Main is the fifth largest city in Germany, and the largest city in Hesse. Frankfurt has a historic center, neighbored by skyscrapers in the Central Banking District. Frankfurt is also home to the European Central Bank. Frankfurt has several malls including MyZeil, a large shopping district with restaurants and businesses. Transportation is easy in Frankfurt. Frankfurt public transport includes the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and the Straßenbahn (Tram). Frankfurt is also home to two long and beautiful riverbanks lined with riverboat tours and bridges that offer excellent panoramic views of the city and the Main River. Frankfurt also has a zoo and botanical gardens.
Wiesbaden sits about half an hour west of Frankfurt, and offers a small city feel. Wiesbaden features a nice inner district that hosts many festivals and markets. The architecture of the buildings along Bahnhofstrasse is beautiful. The center of Wiesbaden also offers a casino and a large park with a pond that’s great for warm weather get togethers.
Mainz is a decently sized university town with an active nightlife and a well connected train station. If you find yourself in Mainz, I’d definitely recommend a stop at Eisgrub-Brau to share a five liter tower of beer with some friends. Mainz is also home to a massive cathedral and the Gutenberg museum.
Oestrich-Winkel is a small wine growing town on the northern shore of the Rhein. It is also home to one of the schools that UofL has an exchange with, EBS Universität für Wirtschaft und Recht. Oestrich is a quaint city with many wineries and wine stands. The specialty of this region is Riesling.
About ten minutes by train from Oestrich-Winkel, Rudesheim is a touristy town with many restaurants and shops where you can buy souvenirs and trinkets. Rudesheim also has very steep vineyards and a cable car that takes you up above the vineyards to the Niederwalddenkmal, a massive statue monument that memorializes the foundation of the German Empire in 1871. From the Niederwalddenkmal you can see across the Rhein to the city of Bingen am Rhein and the endless rows of vines. I recommend following one of the trails behind the memorial to one of many structures along the high hills that line the bank of the Rhein.
Bingen am Rhein
Bingen lies across the Rhein from Rudesheim. The easiest way to get between these two towns is the ferry that runs several times an hour. Nestled on a hill in the middle of Bingen sits a castle. The tower that protrudes from the top of the Bingen Castle is free to climb, and offers an excellent view of the surrounding city and the river. Bingen also has a lively main-street type area for shopping, ice cream, or wine tasting.
Between Bacharach and Bingen am Rhein are at least four ancient castles that sit high up on the steep hills that line the Rhein. Bacharach itself is a very interesting city, and is featured on many travel guides that claim that it is one of the most ‘well-preserved medieval cities in Germany’. I recommend the castle that perches on a high hill behind the city and the main street. There is even a tiny and cheap ice cream shop that will let you try Riesling-flavored ice cream.
Runkel an der Lahn
Runkel is the most remote town on this list, but also one of the most untouched and beautiful. Like many of the other cities and towns on this list, Runkel sits on a river with high, towering hills that line both banks. Runkel sits and the Lahn river, which also runs through nearby Limburg. The river in Runkel is picturesque and going down to a small part on the river bank allows you to have a magnificent view of the castle that stands high above the opposite bank. Exploring the castle isn’t free, but it is one of the most untouched and authentic castles that I have ever visited, and there are several vantage points that offer excellent views.
Overall, I found the Rhein-Main region to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful regions in Germany. The Rhine Valley is excellent for a drive, if you’re able to travel through it by car or by train.
*Note: Rhein is the German spelling of ‘Rhine’