Ride the Rhine: Germany’s Primer Cycling Route

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Stretching 1,233 KM, the Rhine is Europe’s twelfth longest river. Crossing the borders of four countries, the Rhine is one of Germany’s premier locations for a spot of cycling. Open to cyclists of all capabilities, the route runs from the source of the Rhine to the North Sea, nestled within stunning natural beauty and picturesque towns dotted along the river banks – a number of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The first question you might have is what route do I take? EuroVelo lists seven stages, with the most popular stretch between Bingen and Koblenz, known as the romantic Upper Middle Rhine. You can do all seven or just a couple before heading back to the starting point in Andermatt. We’ve decided to detail all seven because let’s face it, if you’re going all that way, you might as well…

  1. The first stage is 230 KM from the source of the Rhine, up to Lake Constance. Located in mountainous terrain, cyclists firstly pass through Surselva, the largest Romansh region of the Grisons, and are offered the opportunity to enjoy stunning views.  Stage one ends at Lake Constance, affectionately known as the ‘heart and soul of Europe,’ and it is this point where the course presents cyclists with the uphill climb to an altitude of 2046 meters before continuing to stage two. Make sure you have the correct clothing for this part as it can feel quite a bit colder. Think about buying a fold up jacket that can be easily stored and broken out when needed, and complementing cycle clothing such as shorts and shoes, to keep you warm when you need it most.
  2. Leaving the higher ground and descending to a flatter, more populous area, stage two takes riders from Basel, via the Rhine falls on a gentler 160km route. Heading east, the route crosses Schaffhouse and the stunning Rhine falls, carrying on through towns and villages spanning the river in both Germany and Switzerland.
  3. 200KM from Basel to Karlsruhe, through Alsace and the German vineyards make up stage three. During which, you’ll pass through the “Petite Camargue” nature reserve and the Hardt forest – definitely worth getting off your bike and admiring. The route joins Basel to Karlsruhe by passing through the Markgräfler Land, a renowned wine-growing region, and travels further through the warmest and sunniest area of Germany. Passing cultural landmarks such as Baroque monuments and a castle that was once the residence of the Margrave Charles William of Baden-Durlach.
  4. Traveling for 160km through vineyards from Karlsruhe to Bingen, stage four takes riders through breath-taking scenery made up of picturesque villages and stunning landscapes. An absolute must-see is Biebrich Castle, former residence of the Dukes of Nassau, and it would be a sin to not stop to eat, or sample one of the small winemakers products offered to visiting cyclists.
  5. Leading cyclists northwest from Bingen to Cologne, via the famed landscapes of the Romantic Rhine, riders can stop to enjoy the 40 castles and palaces that line the gorge carved into the mountain side by the flowing river. If you fancy parking up the bikes for a bit, how about taking a boat ride with a loved one or going to hear legendary tales of Loreley, the beautiful siren of the rocks.
  6. The penultimate stage travels 220 KM, beginning in Cologne and ambles up towards Arnhem, via the historic town centre of Kalkar and Düsseldorf. Here you can find constructions created by celebrated architects, and enjoy a coffee in one of the many old town’s rustic cafés.
  7. The final stage of the cycle route takes cyclists 160KM through surrounding pretty port villages before the waters of the Rhine rush out into the mouth of North Sea. Take the opportunity to go for a walk along the long beaches, taking off your shoes and socks and refreshing your feet in the cool water.

The Rhine cycle route, whilst not technically challenging, is extremely varied in terms of scenery, cultural landmarks and things to see. Just make sure you’re fully prepared for the trip and know roughly how far you want to travel each day, ensuring your cycling holiday is fun, enjoyable and safe. Be sure to pack a puncture kit – I’ve heard too many stories of people forgetting one.  They have a good range at Leisure Lakes Bikes that can be easily carried from location to location.