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 Middle Rhine (Mittelrhein) 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 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.
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.
The KD Rhine Pass for €32 gives unlimited travel on KD boats for a day. It is very good value for longer cruises and available from various tour operators such as Get Your Guide but not directly from KD itself.
Rhine River Day-Trip Cruise Season
Rhine River day-trip and excursion cruises from Rüdesheim is 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 coming 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.
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|
|Loreley Rock R|
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 and right 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.
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
Rüdesheim can be reached easily 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 is very expensive – follow signs to parking lots a few block inland of the river for cheap day parking in Rüdesheim and most Rhine River towns.
Direct trains from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main station) takes 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.
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.
Rüdesheim lives of tourism (and wine) and caters very well for 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 are still German by far. 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.
- Tips and Deals on Rhine Cruise Lines from Rüdesheim
- Rhine in Flames Firework Spectacles (Rhein in Flammen Feuerwerkfahrten)
- Savings Deals on Rhine River Cruises
- Winter Day Trip Cruises on the Rhine – fairly rare except on Advent weekends but Rüdesheim and Boppard are the most likely departure ports when cruises are available.
- Rüdesheim Tourist Information Office
- Deutsche Bahn (English website of German Railways) for timetables and tickets to Rüdesheim.
- KD Rhine Pass from Get Your Guide