On our first official weekend as Germany residents, we decided to take a day trip into St. Goar – a little town in the Rhine Valley about an hour from Frankfurt via train. There was some meaning behind this being our first day trip. In 2008, we visited St. Goar as a part of a Contiki tour we were on. It was fun to go back and reminisce about our first time there. It looked exactly the same, except maybe bustling with a few more tourists. Is the secret about St. Goar out?
A day in St. Goar is all you really need. It is a perfect little stopover to catch your breath a bit if you are traveling throughout Germany (and in that case, I recommend staying the night there!). It is slower-paced with cute little cafes and shops, but what you really go to St. Goar for are the beautiful views along the Rhine. Go in the spring when the tulips are in bloom – you will not be disappointed!
We took an early morning train out of Frankfurt Hauptbahnof to make the most of our day in St. Goar. Our dog, Charlie, accompanied us on this trip. It was the perfect way to test him out on the train, and he did great! The views of the Rhine Valley and countryside are beautiful and made for an enjoyable train ride. In just about an hour, and one short train transfer, we were in St. Goar.
The main part of town is walking distance from the train station. Walking into town, we were immediately taken back to our trip in 2008. St. Goar is such a quaint and calm town. There is not much to “do” in St. Goar, which is part of the appeal (in my opinion). We sat down at a cafe and enjoyed a couple of lattes and the view before walking around town and along the river.
Tip: Take an early morning train and arrive before the buses of tourists. Or even opt to stay the night. The entire town will be yours.
The Rhine Gorge (65 km of riverscape) has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. Meaning, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deemed it as being of special cultural or physical significance. Across the Rhine is St. Goar’s sister town, St. Goarhausen. You can take a ferry across the river to visit the town from St. Goar. This is something we did not do during this trip, but if we are back, we certainly will. St. Goarhausen’s most famous point in town is the Lorelei Rock. It is also home to two castles, Burg Katz (Castle Cat) and Burg Maus (Castle Mouse).
Above the town of St. Goar is Burg Rheinfels, which is the largest castle overlooking the Rhine and was built in 1245. While much of the castle is a ruin, the outer buildings are now a luxury hotel, wellness center and restaurant. You can walk the path up to the castle, or take The Castle Express for 4 Euro round trip. There is also a museum included in the castle admission, which has numerous exhibits on the history of St. Goar and the castle. After touring the castle and museum, you can relax on the terrace of the restaurant, which I can only imagine has spectacular views of the Rhine. We did not visit the castle during this trip, but plan to next time. I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “you didn’t do anything!”, but we had Charlie with us and were perfectly happy relaxing and enjoying the quaint town and beautiful views with a glass of local Riesling in hand.
We spent the day walking through town and along the river, stopping in little shops and cafes along the pedestrian area. My favorite shop is a charming little cuckoo clock shop, which we actually visited in 2008 as well. Supposedly, the clock outside of the store is the world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock. There is also a beer stein shop that, although touristy, is fun to stop in. So many options and home to the world’s largest beer stein. We brought back a couple on our first trip in 2008. They made the trek again with us from the United States to Germany. Justin’s has a piece of the Berlin Wall on top. Charlie enjoyed the river and even got to meet his first Westie friends in Germany!
Tip: Explore the backstreets. They are quiet, peaceful and full of the timbered houses that Germany is known for.
The Rhine Valley is a beautiful landscape with forested hillsides, vineyards and hilltop castles. It is often referred to as “The Romantic Rhine Valley”, and we can see why. River cruises are popular and a great way to see the area. There is also a 900 km cycle route along the Rhine, which goes through Switzerland, France and Germany.
We are looking forward to exploring more along the Rhine Gorge, especially when it comes to the many vineyards. The Riesling variety originated here. And before you dismiss Rieslings because you “do not like sweet wines,” just give them a try. I think you will be surprised. In the United States, we are quick to categorize Rieslings are sweet. Sure, some German Rieslings are sweet, but many are actually dry (or “trocken”). And they are excellent. In fact, I often only see trocken Rieslings on the menus in restaurants in Frankfurt. During our trip in 2008, our group did a wine tasting in a “weinkeller” (wine cellar), which was a fun experience. If you find yourself in St. Goar for the night, this is something to look into!
So, whether you are on a tour of the Rhine Valley or just looking for a quiet day trip outside of Frankfurt, consider St. Goar. It will captivate you with its stunning views and enchanting houses around every corner.
Click through the pics below to see more of St. Goar: