After leaving Italy behind, it started to sink in that we really were nearing the end of this adventure. We’d been away from home for nearly two and a half months, with only the belongings we could carry from place to place. We weren’t sure what to expect from the remainder of our trip.
After a day of train travel (where we sometimes rode in our own compartment — straight-up Harry Potter style!), we arrived in Mainz, Germany. We rented a car, plugged our Airbnb address into the GPS, and began the drive along the Rhine River to Bacharach, Germany.
Scott, the dedicated and thorough travel researcher, chose Bacharach because it was a small town on the Rhine that appeared to be centrally located among a ton of different castles. As we got closer, he began to wonder if he’d made the right choice.
Well — he nailed it.
Bacharach is a charming town filled with Bavarian architecture, a tiny creek running through it, and a castle on the hillside. We loved our entire stay.
Rhine River Castles
I had no idea how much I would enjoy visiting castles. I thought they’d be cool, sure, but holy crap — it was fun! The German word for castle is burg, so everywhere you go you see signs for Burg This or Burg That and it’s how we began referring to them, too. Below is a list of the burgs we visited and a little info about them.
I’ll start with our own castle in Bacharach, Stahleck Castle. (Did you notice how when I stay in a town for five days I start saying things like “our castle”? 😆) Burg Stahleck is now a hostel and cafe, so if you ever want to sleep in a castle here’s your place!
Bacharach is a small town of roughly 2,000 people, so that made for some pretty epic morning walks (Morning Walks With Molly post coming soon!). I could easily walk up the hill to the castle, and that’s what I did on the first morning.
I learned early on in the trip, however, never to mention anything cool I did without the family because one kiddo, in particular, did not really like hearing about my discoveries without them. And I think it’s safe to say a castle within walking distance of our apartment would probably top the list.
Before we left for this crazy summer adventure, Scott had the kids hop onto Google Earth and look around for places they might want to visit. They weren’t really looking forward to the trip, so he thought this would help them take some ownership of our travels. Scott nailed it once again with this idea. Max discovered pictures of what looked like the quintessential castle — and when we realized it was a nine-minute drive from Bacharach, we definitely made a point of going. Burg Reichenstein quickly became the favorite castle of Scott and the kids, and it tied with Burg Eltz as my top two favorites.
This is one castle I was jealous to miss, but I stayed back one day to work while the fam went on without me. Fortunately, we’d made a quick stop and I saw the outside of the castle on our way back from Burg Reichenstein.
When you pay the entrance fee for Burg Sooneck, it includes a little guidebook and treasure hunt for kids. After searching for eight golden keys, the kids earn a wooden medallion necklace. This was the most kid-friendly activity that any of the castles offered — y’know, besides CASTLES.
The largest castle overlooking the Rhine is now in ruins, and at one point covered five times the area it does now. And if you’ve been following along with this entire journey, you’ll know we love finding miniature replicas, so we were happy to find this one.
Burg Rheinfels was at the end of a castle touring day, so we took a quick walk around before heading home before the kids turned into pumpkins.
Scott and the kids went to Marksburg Castle during my work day and based on photos alone, I was sad to miss it. It’s continually ranked as one of the top castles to visit in the area and it looks incredible.
BUT, I was a bit relieved when they came home that day and said it was their least favorite castle of all.
Oops — I mean, I felt really bad for them that they had a disappointing outing.
I saved the best for last. This castle isn’t actually on the Rhine, but part of the allure is the tucked-away location. It’s possible to take a shuttle right up to the castle, but for us peasants, there’s a 1.3 km (0.8 mile) walk through the woods to get there and it’s well worth it.
When you round the bend in the trees and open up onto a view of Burg Eltz, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Rick Steves has a great episode that includes some fascinating history on the place and it happens to be his favorite castle in all of Europe.
Burg Eltz quickly became my favorite, too, because of its beautifully remote location and experience.
The castles were (obviously) a huge highlight of our stay in Bacharach, Germany but we definitely enjoyed the whole stay. There was a playground nearby for the kids, the town was quaint, and our apartment was walkable to everything. But it quickly came time to hit the road once again for Utrecht in The Netherlands.
This is part of a series about our Winters Family Summer Adventure through Italy and beyond. You can start from the beginning of the blog series here.