Waterways are an inherent component of the region, and boat trips are one of the best ways to see the sights. Excursion boats operate on the Rhein, Main and Lahn rivers. In the Mittelrhein, the most scenic route is between Bingen/Rüdesheim and St. Goar/St. Goarshausen, and includes the famed Loreley cliff. If time is short, do part of the stretch on a brief circular tour (Rundfahrt) or take advantage of interchangeable Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) boat and Deutsche Bahn tickets to go one way by boat and the other by train.
One of the delightful ways to see the German scenery is aboard a Rhein cruise ship. Trips range from one-hour rides to daylong tours, and ships depart from many locations along the Rhein and Main rivers, including Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Rüdesheim and many smaller towns in-between. If castles are your thing, then take a cruise up the Rhein starting in Rüdesheim and see the famous Loreley - a cliff on the banks of the Rhein where, legend has it, a beautiful maiden sat upon a ledge and groomed her golden hair while her haunting songs led sailors to a watery death. Information booths can be found on the banks of the rivers or consult
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Canoing along the Lahn River is one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the German countryside. You see ancient cities, cultural landmarks and varied countryside. You can rent canoes and pedal boats at numerous places between Weilburg and the river's confluence with the Rhein at Lahnstein. The towpaths (Leinpfade) along the riverbanks - once the domain of horses and oxen towing boats upstream - are now scenic, traffic-free paths for hikers and cyclists.
Among the towns and sites of interest on the Lahn's banks are the university towns of Marburg and Gießen; the historic town of Wetzlar, with its majestic cathedral; the castles and medieval ruins of Runkel, Schaumburg, Balduinstein, Laurenburg, Langenau, Burg Stein, and Nassau. Organizers can provide accommodation and equipment for weekend excursions and large groups. But book early, because these canoe trips are very popular. The regional tourism association has a comprehensive website (also in English) with specific information about commercial tour operators.
Dating back to the Roman era, the European tradition of thermal bathing is alive and well in the Rhein Main region. Whether you wish to spend a few hours in a spa to relieve stress or dedicate several weeks to invigorating your body and soul, the region has more than 30 thermal springs and health resorts for you to choose from.
To make a day of it, try one of the three largest water parks in the region: Rhein Main Therme in Hofheim (www.rheinmaintherme.de), the Taunus Therme in Bad Homburg (www.taunus-therme.de) or the Titus Thermen in Frankfurt (www.bbf-frankfurt.de). If you want to get away for the weekend or longer, there are also numerous spas in peaceful, smaller towns, which offer packages including a range of complementary activities such as yoga, Nordic walking, mud baths, etc. For more information on health resorts and spas in the region, contact the Hessen Health Resort Organization (Hessischer Heilbäderverband), www.hessischer-heilbaederverband.de, or visit www.hessen-tourismus.de.
The picturesque city of Rüdesheim on the banks of the Rhein River is well known for its scenic vistas, vineyards and historic city center. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002, Rüdesheim and the Upper Middle Rhine Valley boast numerous cultural attractions such as castles, fortresses, abbeys and well-preserved half-timbered houses. You can take a cable car to the landmark Germania statue and enjoy a panoramic view over the Rhine valley or walk the well-marked hiking and cycling routes that wind through the surrounding Niederwald hills. Among the museums is Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet, which houses a collection of automatic musical instruments from several centuries. The Drosselgasse, a narrow street lined with wine bars and shops, is a good place to try the Riesling wines from the nearby vineyards. Wine merchants in Rüdesheimand Assmanshausen also offer a special wine tasting ticket - eight different wines for 12.50 euro or ten for 15 euro. Rüdesheim is home of Asbach brandy, which is traditionally added to the local coffee speciality, Rüdesheimer Kaffee. The city also hosts several events throughout the year: the Magic Bike Rally in June for Harley Davidson fans, the Rhine in Flames riverboat parade in July, the Wine Festival in mid-August and the "Christmas Market of the Nations," where 120 exhibitors representing 12 nations feature native foods, Christmas customs and handicrafts. www.ruedesheim.de
In the great European tradition of taking the waters, Bad Homburg is known internationally as a famous spa town. It has a casino, beautifully landscaped gardens and the majestic Kaiser Wilhelms Bad. Built in 1890, the bathhouse has had its share of royal visits -- including King Edward Prince of Wales, Bismarck and the King of Siam (Thailand). Today, you don't have to be royalty to enjoy a relaxing day at the spa. The Kur-Royal Day Spa offers 15 different types of treatments, therapies and massages ...all amid luxurious settings and high vaulted ceilings. Note that while most spas in Germany are "textile-free," the Kur-Royal Day Spa does indeed require guests to wear bathing suits. If you are seeking more "active" relaxation, you can also try the Kur-Royal-Activ fitness studio, which offers the full range of equipment and courses. For more information, consult their website www.kur-royal.de.