Rhine River Pleasure Day-Trip Boat Cruises from Rüdesheim

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by Henk Bekker

in Germany, N24, Rhine River

One day and short castle cruises depart frequently on the Rhine River from Rüdesheim to the Loreley Valley in Germany.

Rüdesheim is one of the best departure ports for short day-trip excursion riverboat cruises to see the Rhine River Valley, castles, and Loreley Rock in Germany.

Pfalz Castle with Rhine Boat

Rüdesheim is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. It is one of the best ports to depart from on Rhine River pleasure boat cruises: the immediate vicinity is astonishingly beautiful with many castles, vineyards, and pretty small towns that make the Rhine such a popular day-trip cruise destination. Many pleasure boats depart from Rüdesheim to the Loreley Valley on KD and numerous other Rhine boat cruise lines. Pleasure cruises could be as short as an hour or a full day. Excellent railway links make day trip cruises on the Rhine River easy via Rüdesheim when traveling from Frankfurt (Hauptbahnhof and Airport), Wiesbaden, Mainz, Koblenz, and Cologne.

Pleasure Boat Cruises on the Rhine River from Rüdesheim

Panorama of Rüdesheim seen from the Rhine
© Rüdesheim Tourist AG – Karlheinz Walter

Rüdesheim is at the southernmost point of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Upper Middle Rhine (Oberes Mittelrheintal) making it an excellent choice when exploring the romantic Rhine Valley on a day-trip excursion boat cruise.

The best Rhine River cruise from Rüdesheim is downriver to explore the Loreley Valley. From here to around Koblenz, the Rhine Valley is narrow with steep slopes – often planted with vineyards – and statistically, a castle (or castle ruin) is seen every two kilometers. The easiest to recognize — if a bit hard to pronounce by non-German speakers — is Burg Pfalzgrafenstein built on a small island in the Rhine at Kaub.

The most popular cruises from Rüdesheim are past the Loreley Rock to St Goar and St Goarhausen. However, if time allows, it is beautiful to continue further downriver to Boppard or even Koblenz. It is only possible to continue all the way to Bonn with boat changes in Koblenz on rare occasions — currently, most boats heading to Bonn and Cologne only depart from Linz (a short train ride from Koblenz).

If the schedule works, try to cruise on KD’s SS Goethe. The historic paddle steamer from 1913 cruises daily (except Mondays) in the high season from Koblenz to Rüdesheim (6 hours) and back (4 hours).

Riverboats also cruise from Rüdesheim upriver to Eltville, Wiesbaden, and Mainz. However, the Rhine here is a much wider river and the scenery is less spectacular than downriver from Rüdesheim.

Shorter circular excursion cruises are also possible from Rüdesheim to Bingen, Assmannshausen, and nearby castles. These are good alternatives if time is limited or if no sailings depart for the Loreley Valley.

The KD Rhine Pass savings deal has not been on sale in recent years but Get Your Guide offers easy booking (and often sensible cancelation options) for day-trip cruises on the Rhine departing from many popular cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Koblenz, Boppard, Ruedesheim, Cochem, and Frankfurt. Most cruise lines now also accept online ticket purchases but several still prefer to sell tickets directly at the quay or on board cruise boats.

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Rhine River Day-Trip Cruise Season

Autumn Vineyards near Rüdesheim
© Rüdesheim Tourist AG – Karlheinz Walter

Rhine River day trips and excursion boats cruise from Rüdesheim for most of the year. The main cruising season is from April to October. Early and late season, Rhine cruises are more common on weekends, although departures are available almost daily from Rüdesheim.

Cruises in winter are more limited and apart from the advent weekends usually require reservations. See Winter Day-Trip Boat Cruises on the Rhine River for more details. No Rhine River excursion cruises are likely during January, other than car ferries that cross the river in lieu of bridges.

Overnight cruises – sometimes as short as one night – are often available at reasonable prices during the Christmas season on riverboat cruise lines focusing on the German and European markets. International offerings are usually much more expensive weeklong or ten-day cruises to visit Christmas markets along the Rhine.

Boat Cruise Times on the Rhine River from Rüdesheim to Koblenz and Mainz in Germany

Map of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Listed Upper Middle Rhine area in Germany that is very popular for day-trip cruises
© Lencer / Wikimedia Commons

The Rhine River is a fast and strong-flowing river, especially in the Loreley Valley downstream from Rüdesheim. Cruising downriver is thus much faster than sailing back upriver: to Koblenz, the downriver cruise time from Rüdesheim is less than four hours but it takes more than six hours to come back. Even to nearby Assmannshausen, the downriver cruise time is only two-thirds of the upriver time, as boats have to pass through the Bingen Gap (Binger Loch), which was not navigable by most boats until the rapids were blasted into submission during the 19th century. (Using the train one way saves time but not money.)

Cruise times on the Rhine River from Rüdesheim to several major stops are around:

 Downriver / Towards CologneUpriver / Towards MainzDirect Train
Koblenz (L)03:5506:1500:57
Oberlahnstein  (R)03:2505:3500:48
Rhens (L)03:1505:25 
Braubach  (R)03:0505:1000:45
Boppard (L)02:3504:15 
Kamp-Bornhofen  (R)02:2504:0500:34
Bad Salzig (L)02:1503:50 
St Goarhausen  (R)01:5003:0500:24
St Goar (L)01:4002:55 
Passing the Loreley Rock (R)   
Oberwesel  (L)01:2002:25 
Kaub  (R)01:1002:1000:15
Bacharach (L)01:0001:45 
Lorch  (R)00:5001:3500:09
Assmannshausen  (R)00:3000:4500:03
Bingen (L)00:1500:15 
→→ RÜDESHEIM  (R)00:0000:0000:00
Eltville  (R)00:5001:1000:17
Wiesbaden-Biebrich  (R)01:1001:5000:27
Mainz (L)01:3002:15(0:51)

Stops may be in reverse order for towns on opposite sides of the Rhine. As the Rhine here flows north, most maps have the towns correctly on the left (L) / west and right (R) / east banks.

Transportation Tips for Rhine River Boat Cruises

Train Along the Rhine River near Rüdesheim

Trains provide a very fast alternative for one-way travel if time is too limited to return by boat. However, note that the return fares on Rhine boat day trips are often hardly pricier than the one-way fare.

The train on the right bank of the Middle Rhine between Koblenz and Rüdesheim runs hourly. Trains on the left bank are more frequent but require a change in Mainz or Koblenz if Rüdesheim is the destination.

When checking train schedules at German Railways, use the town name with KD added when available – the results will indicate how far the train station is from the Rhine riverboat landings in the specific town. Walking is often a better option than waiting for a bus.

Trains on the right bank are operated by VIAS but all regular German Railways / Deutsche Bahn fares and tickets are valid. The Rheinland-Pfalz Ticket is valid all the way from Kaub to Wiesbaden and on to Mainz (but not onwards to Frankfurt) despite this part of the Rhine Valley being in Hessen.

No bridges cross the Upper Middle Rhine (Mittelrhein) between Mainz / Wiesbaden and Koblenz. However, car and passenger ferries connect the Rhine frequently between many towns including Rüdesheim and Bingen as well as St Goar and St Goarhausen.

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Transportation to Rüdesheim

Boats arriving in Rüdesheim

It is easy to get to Rüdesheim by car or train making it simple to enjoy day-trip pleasure cruises on the Rhine from cities such as Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Bonn, and Köln (Cologne), or even from Frankfurt International Airport when on a long stopover.

The driving time from Frankfurt am Main or Airport is only around 50 minutes. Driving on either side of the Rhine from Rüdesheim to Koblenz takes around two hours. Parking on the Rhine River promenade in Rüdesheim is very expensive – follow signs to parking lots a few blocks inland of the river for cheap day parking in Rüdesheim and most Rhine River towns.

Trains to Rüdesheim on the Rhine River in Germany

Direct trains from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main station) take around 1:10 to Rüdesheim with the train usually continuing all the way to Koblenz. Traveling times to Rüdesheim are 1:20 from Frankfurt International Airport and 0:51 from Mainz – in both cases change trains in Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof.

Traveling to Rüdesheim from Bonn or Cologne requires a transfer to the VIAS train in Koblenz. Traveling times to Rüdesheim from Bonn are 1:40 (2:00 on regional trains) and from Köln 2:00 (2:20 on regional trains).

Drosselhof in Ruedesheim Germany

The VIA train operates only once per hour between Rüdesheim and Koblenz or Wiesbaden. More trains run on the left bank of the Rhine making it often better to return to other cities by trains on the eastern side of the Rhine.

Train schedules to Rüdesheim / Train Schedules from Rüdesheim

Rüdesheim lives from tourism (and wine) and caters very well to mass tourism with endless restaurants, bars, cafés, and souvenir shops. The narrow Drosselgasse is famous for its bars, faux Gothic, and live music – German travel guides consider it obligatory to sneer that this is what American and Japanese tourists expect but the majority of visitors by far are still Germans. The town has a few museums (torture, musical boxes) and it is fun taking the small cable car up the hill to the huge Niederwald Monument for super views and a pleasant walk back to the Rhine through vineyards.

Rüdesheim is tourism central. However, it is not an unpleasant town to spend some time in and have a meal or drink while waiting for a boat excursion or a train.

More on the Rhine River in Germany

Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:

Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises

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Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to European-Traveler.com, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.

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