The 55-mile-long Moselle River flows serenely all the way from eastern France to Koblenz in Germany, but it's not until the last 20 miles that the landscape changes to the look we associate with the Moselle Valley. The steep river valley is covered with row after row of thriving vines and the small half-timbered houses in the villages attract like candy at the river's edge. We have driven from Trier to Koblenz and marveled at both the beauty of the Mosel Valley and how long it can take to drive 10 miles.
It might feel a bit condescending to call the Mosel a tributary, but that's exactly what it is. When we lived in Koblenz this summer, it was clear which river owned the surrounding landscape. In Koblenz, the Mosel's journey ends and the larger Rhine river swallows the small river as if it never existed.
The Moselle Valley is divided into three areas: Terrace Moselle (Lower Moselle), Middle Moselle (Middle Moselle) and Obermosel (Upper Moselle). The Lower Mosel is the area just before Koblenz, while the Upper Mosel is the area where the Mosel flows along the border with Luxembourg.
We begin our journey along the Mosel in Germany's oldest city Sort and ends in Koblenz. Trier is Rome in miniature, with no less than 8 world heritage sites. A city where you can easily spend a whole day and still not see everything. Read more about Trier in my post Trier – 8 World Heritage Sites and Riesling in Germany's oldest city. The stretch between Trier and Koblenz runs through the Lower Mosel and the Middle Mosel.
Driving a car in the Mosel Valley
It's easy to underestimate the time it takes to drive along the Moselle's winding riverside. As a true optimist, I ask Google maps how far it is from Trier to Koblenz by car. 13 miles or 1 hour and 23 minutes. On closer inspection, however, I see that this applies if we drive the highway to Koblenz. Far from the winding roads of the Moselle. With a little trickery, I manage to get Google to choose the route along the edge of the Moselle instead, and the time estimate increases a little. 20 miles or 3,5 hours.
3,5 hours - how hard would it be to cover that distance in one day? Really hard I would say. Add time to stay a few hours in 2-3 villages and at 2-3 wineries. If you drive during the summer months, you also need to allow time for traffic queues. So my very best tip is NOT to drive the route in one day, but on three days. Then you have time to both visit Trier and stay at one or two vineyards or villages along the way. In addition, you then have time to stop when you wish and can enjoy one of Germany's most beautiful roads to the maximum.
Interesting villages along the Moselle
Since time immemorial, the Moselle has flowed like a life-giving artery through the landscape. The river has been used for trade and villages naturally grew up along the river's edge. Bridges have been built across the river and towns that were once on opposite sides of the river have grown together into twin cities.
The entire stretch from Trier to Koblenz is a string of villages, but there are a few villages that stand out from the crowd.
If I had to pick just one stop along the way, this would be it Bernkastel-Kues. Medieval Bernkastel-Kues is often referred to as the heart of the Mosel Valley and is filled with delightful half-timbered houses and narrow alleys. The ruins of Landshut watch over the town from above and on the slopes around the village are some of Germany's oldest vineyards.
Bernkastel-Kues is the region's largest town with 7500 inhabitants and here you will (not entirely unexpectedly) find a large selection of wine cellars and restaurants. In Bernkastel-Kues, you can also jump on the numerous river boats that glide comfortably between the vineyards. A practical and incredibly pleasant way to get around the region.
Traben-Trarbach is perhaps not quite as charming as Bernkastel-Kues, but here you will instead find a large number of Art Nouveau houses with beautiful gardens and Grevenburg Castle from 1350. Beneath the town is a gigantic underground wine cellar that can be visited on a guided tour.
Beilstein has only 140 inhabitants, but may be Mosel's cutest little village. Beautiful as day and with all the sights on a very compact surface. On the small squares with half-timbered houses are small restaurants and wine cellars and high above the city lies the Metternich ruin with a restaurant with a panoramic view.
Trittenheim is a small village that may not attract quite as many tourists as the above villages, but is definitely worth a stop. Here there is a school and kindergarten and everyday life mixed with wine producers and wine cellars. We stopped here and had an enjoyable Flammkuchen for lunch in the sunshine. Flammkuchen is a specialty from the region that you definitely have to try. It is a thin pizza with creme fraiche and often bacon and onions. Do you recognize the pizza from northeastern France? In Alsace it is called Tarte Flambée.
It is not possible to write about the Mosel Valley without writing about its Riesling wines. Here, along the steep slopes with slate soil, some of Germany's most famous wines are produced. The sun is reflected in the river and the southern slopes are protected from the strongest winds, providing fantastic conditions for viticulture.
The largest proportion of grapes grown in the Mosel are Riesling grapes. Riesling is an exciting grape that produces fresh, dry wines with notes of green apple and citrus, but takes on notes of petroleum and dried fruit after some aging. The most famous and prized wines come from the area around Bernkastel, making it a good area if you want to explore several wineries.
The world's steepest vineyards can be found at Bremm, where the vines cling to slopes with a 65-degree slope.
There are over a hundred wineries around the Mosel and a big part of the charm of discovering the region is not stopping at the most famous wineries, but stopping at the small charming family farms. The vineyards are usually well marked (winery) and many of them also rent out rooms and have a small restaurant. Go by gut feeling and you will receive a more personal reception than at the larger wine houses.
Castles, ruins and castles
High above the Moselle, the towers of the castle watch over the small villages. The Mosel valley is full of castles and castles, but also an even greater amount of ruins. Pinnacles and towers and steep cliffs made the castles protective forts in troubled times and in times of peace the castles were an excellent way for knights and princes to display their wealth. Two real gems to visit are Castle Eltz and Burg Cochem.
Burg Cochem offers magnificent views of the Moselle from its location high on a mountainside. To find the fairytale castle Burg Eltz, however, you need to head a little way from the Mosel, to a dramatic valley surrounded by thick forest. Both castles are located between Traben-Trarbach and Koblenz.
Do you want to read more about the Moselle?
The Moselle can be explored in many ways – by car, on a river cruise, on foot on one of the hiking trails or by bike. It is very popular to book cycling packages where you cycle from Koblenz to Trier in five days and stay at vineyards and eat and drink well during the whole adventure.
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.