Short Riverboat Pleasure Trips from Frankfurt on the Mittel Rhein
Cruising on riverboat on the Rhine, especially the Mittelrhein with the famous Lorelei Rock, is a popular day-trip excursion from Frankfurt am Main, Airport or Cologne (Köln).
A day-trip excursion including a pleasure cruise on a riverboat on the Rhine River is for many travelers a highlight of a German vacation. Few tourists can afford luxurious, multiple-day riverboat cruises on the Rhine River (Rhein) but shorter day cruises are more common and fairly cheap. The Loreley Rock (Lorelei) is the most popular spot along the romantic UNESCO-listed Mittelrhein – many riverboats cruise this section of the Rhine River. Great public transportation links bring the Rhine within easy day-trip reach from Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt International Airport (FRA), Mainz, Wiesbaden, and Cologne (Köln).
Many cruise lines have special savings offerings for children, pensioners, birthdays, anniversaries, and even cyclists.
Best Parts of the Rhine for Day Tips and Day Riverboat Cruises
The Rhine is 1,320 kilometer (820 miles) long but the best part is the Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine). The Mittelrhein is the part of the Rhine Valley between Rüdesheim / Bingen and Koblenz. Here the Rhine Valley is at its most beautiful and most romantic. Statistically, a castle or castle ruin can be seen every two kilometers (1.2 miles).
The Middle Rhine was inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. The whole valley is beautiful with quaint wine-producing towns and of course numerous castles. The most famous spot is the Loreley Rock where the Rhine Valley is at its narrowest and the river flows at its fastest. Many boats pipe in music of the famous Heinrich Heine poem Die Lorelei set to rather slow, moving music.
Best Times to Cruise the Loreley Valley
The high season for Rhine day cruises is May to September when the most boats ply the Rhine river and frequent departures make unscheduled cruising easy. Boats can be very busy during school vacation periods – mostly July and August. Few who can avoid traveling during these two months will regret rather sailing the Rhine in June or early September. The weather can be even more pleasant and crowds much less even on weekends.
Rhine riverboats usually cruise the Loreley Valley from late March to late October. Boats in winter are rare but it is always worth enquiring especially during the advent Christmas market season.
Saving Time when Cruising the Middle Rhine Valley
Spending a full day on the Rhine is pleasurable but if time is limited, it is worth considering the following. With a bit of planning the best of the Rhine can even be seen on a long stopover at Frankfurt Airport.
- Rhine riverboats cruising downstream cruises (Rheinabwärts) (Mainz in the direction of Koblenz and Cologne / Köln) are much faster than upstream (Rheinaufwärts). Mainz to Koblenz takes 5h30 while the upstream cruise takes three hours longer. (The cruise price is according to distance traveled so remains the same, although returns are much cheaper than single cruises.)
- The absolute must-see section on any Rhine River cruise the Loreley Rock (Lorelei) seen on the Oberwesel – St Goar section of the cruise. (Disembark in St Goarhausen to climb to the top of the Loreley Rock for marvelous views but St Goar with castle ruins is a more interesting town.)
- The best day trip goes from Rüdesheim or Bingen to St Goar or St Goarhausen – around 90 minutes downstream (almost double upstream). The Rhine Valley here is the most beautiful and most romantic.
- Cruising from Mainz to Rüdesheim and the sections closer to Koblenz is still beautiful but less interesting and only worth it if time is not pressing.
- Trains run along both sides of the Rhine River making it easy to reach a departing port or return to larger centers. Depart from Mainz or Bingen for towns on the left bank and from Wiesbaden / Rüdesheim for towns on the right bank. Not all trains on especially the left bank stop in all towns.
A great savings deal is the KD Rhine Pass. It offers sailing on any KD regular boats for a day for only €30. It is not sold by KD itself and should be bought in advance from other tour operators, e.g. online from Get Your Guide.
Timetable for Middle Rhine River Day Cruises
The following includes the most popular stops on Rhine River day cruises. Not all boats stop at all ports and some lines are faster than others. Times indicated here are those of the largest day cruise boat operator, Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD).
Rhine Town – Left / Right bank – minutes cruising downstream (minutes upstream)
- Mainz – L – 20 (25)
- Wiesbaden-Biebrich – R – 20 (20)
- Eltville – R – 50 (80)
- Rüdesheim – R – 15 (15)
- Bingen – L -15 (30)
- Assmannshausen – R – 20 (50)
- Lorch – R – 10 (10)
- Bacharach – L – 10 (25)
- Kaub – R – 10 (15)
- Oberwesel – L – 20 (30)
- ** Passing the Loreley Rock **
- St Goar – L – 10 (10)
- St Goarhausen – R – 25 (45)
- Bad Salzig – L – 10 (15)
- Kamp-Bornhofen – R – 10 (10)
- Boppard – L – 30 (55)
- Braubach – R – 10 (15)
- Rhens – L – 10 (10)
- Oberlahnstein – R – 10 (10)
- Niederlahnstein – R – 20 (30)
- Koblenz – L
Cruises may generally be interrupted without surcharge but stops must be specified when buying tickets. Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) has the largest number of cruises and is the best choice when planning to make many stops en route. Some of the smaller lines may have only a single cruise per day.
Rhine Day Cruises from Cologne, Mainz, and Frankfurt
Traditionally, the longest day boat cruise on the Rhine River was from Mainz to Cologne (Köln) on a Köln-Düsseldorfer boat. This downstream cruise takes eleven hours but is not currently offered or possible in a single day. Even Mainz to Koblenz now requires a boat change en route.
Only a small number of scheduled boat cruises (mostly on Primus Lines) are available from Frankfurt am Main to the Rhine River. However, plenty of trains to the Rhine are available for fast transportation from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof or Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) to the Rhine for day excursions.
Several different Rhine day cruise lines operate on the Middle Rhine. Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) is the largest operator of Rhine pleasure boats with the largest variety of special savings offers too. Numerous day cruises are available from Cologne and Bonn with the Rhine Valley near Bonn very picturesque too. However, for most day-trippers, departing from Rüdesheim or Bingen is likely to offer the best options.