Rüdesheim is one of the best departure ports for day-trip excursion riverboat cruises to see the Rhine Valley, castles and Loreley Rock.
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. Excellent railway links make day trip cruises on the Rhine River easy via Rüdesheim when traveling from Frankfurt (Hauptbahnhof and Airport), Wiesbaden, Mainz and Cologne.
Pleasure Boat Cruises on the Rhine River from Rüdesheim
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 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 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 is 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 possible to continue all the way to Bonn with boat changes in Koblenz, although that is currently less easy with most boats heading to Bonn and Cologne only departing from Linz (a short train ride from Koblenz).
Riverboats also cruise from Rüdesheim upriver to Eltville, Wiesbaden and Mainz. However, the Rhine here is a much wider river and the scenery 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 no sailings departing for the Loreley Valley.
On longer cruises, the KD Rhine Pass could be a great savings deal. It is not always available and not sold directly by KD but rather through resellers such as Get Your Guide. It cost around €35 and covers all regular cruises for a day. Note that the Rhine Pass is different from the KD RheinCard that gives a 50% discount on regular cruises for a year — also a great deal for frequent cruisers.
Rhine River Day-Trip Cruise Season
Rhine River day-trip and excursion cruises from Rüdesheim are available 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 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 available during January.
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.
Cruise Times on the Rhine from Rüdesheim
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 impassible to 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 Cologne||Upriver / Towards Mainz||Direct Train|
|Bad Salzig (L)||02:15||03:50|
|St Goarhausen (R)||01:50||03:05||00:24|
|St Goar (L)||01:40||02:55|
|Passing the Loreley Rock R|
|→→ RüDESHEIM (R)||00:00||00:00||00:00|
Stops can be in reverse order for towns on opposite sides of the Rhine. As the Rhine flows north, most maps have the towns correctly on the left (L) and right R bank.
Transportation Tips for Rhine River Boat Cruises
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.
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.
There are no bridges over the Upper Middle Rhine (Mittelrhein) between Mainz / Wiesbaden and Koblenz. However, car and passenger ferries cross the Rhine frequently between many towns including Rüdesheim and Bingen as well as St Goar and St Goarhausen.
Transportation to 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.
Direct trains from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main station) take around 1:11 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 1:37 (1:54 on regional trains) and from Köln 2:00 (2:19 on regional trains).
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 with trains on that side of the Rhine.
Rüdesheim lives on 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 having a meal or drink while waiting for a boat excursion or a train.
More on the Rhine River
Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:
- Middle Rhine (Loreley Valley) — UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Area:
- Upper Rhine — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn to Linz
- Special events: Cruises to Rhine in Flames Fireworks, Christmas and New Year’s Cruises in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Rüdesheim
- Moselle River Cruises (Cochem, Bernkastel-Kues, Trier, Koblenz, Burg Eltz)
- Cruises on the Main River in Frankfurt (or better By Train from Frankfurt to the Best Rhine Cruises)
- Cruises from Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg (on the Neckar River)
- Cruises from Speyer
- Rhinefalls (Rhine Waterfalls, Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, Kreuzlingen)
Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises
- The best part of the Rhine for day-trip excursion cruises in the Middle Rhine between Rüdesheim / Bingen and Koblenz. See Savings Tips and the Best Cruise Lines cruising in the Loreley Valley.
- Save with a KD Rhine Pass on Rhine River cruises (unfortunately not always available but a potentially good savings deal on longer day-trip cruises).
- Check train times for Germany (and most of Europe) at German Railways.