Cookie Policy Privacy Policy

Visiting Trier, Germany with Kids

Visiting Trier, Germany with Kids

Unless you live in Germany, or studied history in university, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Trier. Which is a shame really, because this picturesque little town has a lot to offer. Is it worth visiting Trier? Definitely.

Trier Porta Nigra 4
My son grinning at me from the other side of the old Roman city gate, the Porta Nigra, in Trier.

My husband filmed some incredible footage of Trier, the Mosel valley and our favourite place to stay in the area, Ernst.

Serious history

Founded in the 4th century BCE by the Celts, Treuorum, as it was then called, was an important centre before the Romans arrived in the first century BCE. The Romans built up the city as the capital of Gaul, and it functioned as the administrative centre for most of the Western Roman Empire. The city then passed to the Franks, France, and Prussia over the next century, as well as being home to one of the Prince Electors.

Trier Konstantinbasilika 2
Inside the old Roman Imperial Throne Room, now a church.
Trier Konstantinbasilika 2-2
Just as imposing from the outside, this Roman building is 1500 years old. See those little people next to it? It is that big.
Trier Porta Nigra 1
My son peering through the windows of the Porta Nigra.

Roman ruins

What is so amazing about all this history, is the evidence is still standing. Not a few stone pillars either, but giant structures. It was a complete surprise to me that there were so many Roman ruins in such good condition this far north. For my son, who has been steeped in Asterix and Obelix, it was very cool to run around inside the the Porta Nigra, one of the Roman city’s giant gates to the city. For me, the Konstatinbasilika was a highlight. It was once an Imperial throne room, and the brick room is impossibly huge – it was just mind blowing that it’s been standing for 1500 years. My husband was excited to see the Roman amphitheatre, where they staged all the usual bloody spectacles. It was beyond creepy to go below ground and see the holding chambers for animals and slaves. If you like, you can try out Roman food as well at Zum Domstein. They have a short Roman menu with dishes based on the recipes from De re coquinaria, a 4-5th century Roman cookbook. I tried it, and it was good, but you may want to share the pork dish, it was a lot of meat!

My son in front of the Elector Palace in Trier.
My son in front of the Elector Palace in Trier.
Trier Konstantinbasilika Palasgarten2
The small but perfectly formed Trier Electoral Palace Gardens
Trier Konstantinbasilika Palasgarten3
A nice bicycle in the Electoral Palace Gardens.
Trier Konstantinbasilika Palasgarten4
Playground right next to the Trier Electoral Palace, with one for smaller kids right behind it.

Medieval sites and more

Right in the centre of the town is the High Cathedral of Saint Peter, the oldest one in Germany. It was first built in the 4th century, and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt twice before making it to the 11th century. Throughout the buildings there are many different architectural styles represented, and even when it was first completed, it was already one of the biggest ecclesiastical complexes outside Rome. Next to the Konstantinbasilika is the Kurfürstliches Palais, a 17th century Baroque confection next to its stark Roman cousin. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside generally, as it is an administrative building, but the gardens are pleasant.

Trier Hauptmarkt
Hooray for carousels, this one is in the Hauptmarkt in Trier.
Trier Cathedral 1
The Cathedral of Trier
Trier amphitheatre 4
The Roman amphitheatre in Trier, imagine lions! Gladiators!
Trier amphitheatre 2
Tramping up the stairs to the stands in the amphitheatre.
Trier amphitheatre 1
The very creepy underground level at the amphitheatre.

Manageable size

Trier is not a big city, so that makes getting to all the things you want to see quite easy. There is a hop-on hop-off tour bus, which we tried out. It’s a bit expensive for a city as small as Trier, but check online for deals ahead of time. There is also one of those little trains that is actually an articulated bus, that runs tours through the city as well. In good weather, there are plenty of places to eat out in the squares, try the restaurants down the Johann-Philipp-Straße from the Konstantinbasilika – it opens up into a square, the Kornmarkt, with several options. We tried the Italian restaurant, Donna Mia Trier, and were pleasantly surprised. The Hauptmarkt, the square between the Porta Nigra and the Cathedral, is surrounded by older buildings, has a carousel in good weather, and several places to get ice cream.

Trier electoral palace garten 1
Climbing trees just outside the Electoral Palace Gardens.

If you have more time, and older children

We had to give the museums of Trier a miss, as we only had a day, but the collections of the Stadtmuseum, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (Archeological Museum), and the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) are all well regarded.

Nearby Trier, Germany

There are loads of things to see within a short drive or train journey from Trier. Burg Eltz, one of the most beautiful castles in Germany, is close by, as are the endless wineries of the Mosel valley. There are river tours that leave from several towns, including Trier.

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

Pin it for later!

 

Originally published in spring 2017, updated in January 2019

Follow:

Where to eat in Heidelberg

Where to eat in Heidelberg

Our lovely south German home of Heidelberg is beautiful, with its castle, old town, and river views. It’s also a very popular day trip destination for international and German tourists alike. That means it can be a little challenging to find good food, as there are the usual tourist trap places with substandard dishes and high prices. I’ve collated the best places for dinner, a quick lunch, German food, other restaurants, coffee, and breakfast below, because I’d hate for your visit to my town to be ruined by a bad meal. I’ve included a map at the end of the post so you can plan accordingly.

Looking for things to do in Heidelberg? How about my GPS-enabled audio tour? Need help getting from Frankfurt to Heidelberg?

The lovely Neuenheim Marktplatz on a spring evening.
The lovely Neuenheim Marktplatz on a spring evening.
The Marktstübe in Neuenheim
The Marktstübe in Neuenheim

Where to find German food in Heidelberg

If you’re looking for good German food, Heidelberg has definitely got you covered. We’re at the edge of several different regions, so depending on your tastes, you can find something you like. For Flammkuchen, the popular thin-crust pizza analogue, the Marktstübel in Neuenheim is cozy in the winter and allows you to stretch out in the summer with their terrace under the trees in the Neuenheimer Marktplatz. You’re a bit away from the Altstadt here, so you’ll find mostly locals. 

The Kulturbrauerei in the old ballroom
The Kulturbrauerei in the old ballroom

For a traditional big pork knuckle and local bier, the frequently recommended Kulturbrauerei in the Altstadt is a local institution for a reason. They also run the tiny old student pub Zum Seppl, and either one is atmospheric and lovely. They have much more than just pork knuckle, and it’s easy to have a good salad, fish, or schnitzel and spätzle (thick Swabian egg noodles). Our favourite is the Palatinate wurst with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. The Zum Seppl is a 300-year old student hang out and there are carvings all over the place, as well as fencing swords, photos, old drinking mugs, and all sorts of old student-y paraphernalia. When the university has been here since 1386, there are some very old student institutions! You will definitely need to make a reservation for dinner, particularly if you want to eat in the Zum Seppl, as it is very very small. 

Is this not the best view ever? Sitting outside Mahmoud's in the Altstadt
Is this not the best view ever? Sitting outside Mahmoud’s in the Altstadt

There is a large and multi-generational Turkish population in Germany, so I include my favourite middle eastern restaurants here too. Mahmoud’s has two locations, one off the big bus and tram exchange at Bismarckplatz, but the smaller one down a side street and in front of the red stone catholic church is my favourite. Their falafel with halloumi is something special for sure, and the prices are excellent. This will seem odd, but if you’re over near the newer university campus, there is a secret I will share with you. In the Mathematikon building on Berlinerstraße, there are two grocery stores, a toiletries and cosmetics shop, and a few cafes. In the back of the REWE grocery store there is a counter serving chicken Doner Kebab, and I promise you, the sweet man that runs this counter makes an incredible Doner with fresh flatbread for shocking 2.80€. This is why there is a queue that starts at 11:45. If you’re at that end of town anyway, it’s perfect. I time my grocery shopping for lunchtime, for this very reason!

The terrace at Cafe Rossi
The terrace at Cafe Rossi

Where to find other food in Heidelberg

If you’re a bit Flammkuchen and Schnitzeled out, no one would fault you for seeking something different. For a nice lunch, try Cafe Rossi near the Bismarckplatz, they also do a lovely late breakfast as well if you’ve been out late the night before, and have a decent kid’s menu. We had a generous smoked salmon and bagel with fresh juice and tea. In the summer, they have a nice terrace with a little fountain that has been recently renovated. 

Lunch with an indoor play space? The restaurant at the top of the Galeria Kaufhof department store right on Bismarckplatz has a large area for kids with little slides and other toys. The food on offer is a selection of standard German fare with a stirfry to order counter, cakes, and a salad bar. The views over the old town and the Heiligenberg across the river are amazing from this vantage point, so it’s worth it even if you just want some coffee and cake and a bit of a break from walking. You do have to walk through the toy section to get there from the store, so take the outdoor elevator out front if you want to avoid this. 

In the tourist zone? Here’s where to go

If you’re near the Marktplatz, deep in the tourist end of Heidelberg, I would suggest going to Mahmoud’s (mentioned above). Other decent options include Hans im Glück for burgers, or Vapiano for Italian. The other restaurants on the Marktplatz are overpriced and not very good. 

Coffee at Coffee Nerd
Coffee at Coffee Nerd

Best places for coffee in Heidelberg

Germans are all about the mid-afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen break (coffee and cake), and Heidelberg is well served by places for a little sit down. It’s worth noting the coffee tends towards the strong and Italian, not the American style flavouring and large sizes. The resident cool kid spot is Coffee Nerd, with excellent strong coffee and pastries. With locations in Weststadt and Neuenheim, Nomad has some of the best croissants I’ve had – they also serve breakfast and lunch. If you’re going for authentic Heidelberg, it’s hard to beat Göbes. This local bakery will have local specialties and seasonal treats. If you need some quiet and a bit of room to spread out, the cafe at the top of the Galeria Kaufhof department store at Bismarckplatz is your best bet, as mentioned above, with the added bonus of an indoor play space for small kids. 

Play area in the Galeria Kaufhof restaurant
Play area in the Galeria Kaufhof restaurant
River Café for a lovely breakfast
River Café for a lovely breakfast

Best places for breakfast and brunch in Heidelberg

My absolute best recommendation for brunch is the weekly Sunday brunch at the Weinstube in the Heidelberg Castle. That’s right, you can have brunch overlooking the inner castle courtyard in a lovely dining room built right into one of the castle buildings. It’s a three-hour affair with a full appetizer buffet, a main meal you collect in the kitchen and have a little chat with the chefs, and then a fancy dessert buffet. You need to book quite far in advance for this one, so if this is something you’d like to do, you need to book as soon as you know you will be visiting. Over in Neuenheim, River Café does a lovely breakfast in a much shorter time span, but again you will need to book ahead. In the summer, you can take advantage of their lovely terrace not far from the river. If you’re looking for a budget option, the Wiener Feinbäckerei Heberer on the Hauptstraße does a nice range of German breakfast spreads: bread, jam and butter, served with slices of cheese and salami, and a few egg options as well. 

A view over the castle courtyard with your brunch?
A view over the castle courtyard with your brunch?

Here’s a handy map:

Do you know a great Heidelberg restaurant I’ve missed? Let me know!

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

Pin this for later!

Our lovely south German home of Heidelberg is beautiful, with its castle, old town, and river views. Let me tell you about our favourite places to eat around town.

Follow:

Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Packing List for Germany: Spring Edition

Spring is a tough season to pack for when you’re heading on a multi-city trip through Germany. I find it hard to dress for and I live here.  Go for layering and be realistic about your planned activities. Above all, be ready to walk! 

Different cities have different styles, but there are a few elements that will let you blend in a little better.

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on one, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Gym clothes are for the gym – you won’t find people wearing yoga trousers unless they have literally just finished a class, and even then, they will change before going out on the street. This goes triply so for sweatpants. Try a relaxed pair of flowy trousers or more structured yet stretchy ponte if you’re looking for comfort. A dark pair of slim or skinny jeans, a nice top and a cardigan, with a scarf thrown over the top, will do well in any German city. I have joked with my husband there is a German Dad uniform on the weekends: chinos in a dark colour, t-shirt or collared shirt, and a v-neck jumper on top. Seriously, I saw every single dad dressed like this in a Frankfurt museum the other day. 

Outerwear

Spring is a changeable season everywhere, and if you’re planning on visiting Berlin or Munich, be ready for wind. A good trench coat, ideally with a water resistant or waterproof coating, will be your best friend, and it works well layered with a sweater or cardigan. It looks equally nice on top of jeans as a nice dress when you’re heading out for dinner. This is where I find more technical rain coats fall down – you want to go to a nice restaurant, but Gortex just doesn’t fit the bill. Unless you’re planning a serious hiking holiday (in which case you’ll need a lot of other clothes anyway), bring a trench or another nice wind and rain resistant jacket. 

Something Navy pink trench // Marks & Spencer Stormwear cotton trench // Sam Edelman Packable trench // London Fog trench with detachable hood

Scarves

A few good scarfs, from silk to lightweight knit, will fill in the gaps when the weathers takes you by surprise. They take up practically no space in your luggage (I like to shove mine into my shoes) and it makes any outfit that bit more sophisticated. Wear it in your hair, pull it around your shoulders when you’re on an open-top bus tour, tie it to your bag for a pop of colour, sleep under it on a long train journey – I love a good scarf or three when traveling. You will see everyone in Germany wearing scarves in all weathers – men and women.

Marks & Spencer brushed scarf // Silk and cashmere wrap // Tartan Blanket Company Oversized scarf in two tone // Story of Shanghai silk scarf

Shoes

You will be walking everywhere, so bring sensible shoes, everyone says. Yes well, sensible doesn’t have to mean ginormous gym shoes. You’re in luck, because The Thing over here for several seasons has been crisp white trainers with anything. I personally love my Italian Supergra hightops, but any low-profile white trainer will do the trick. The second most ubiquitous shoe choice are sleek ankle boots, and these are also easy to find in seriously comfortable options. I love my Blundstones, and wear them everywhere… they are fully waterproof, slip on easily, and with a little polish look good as new no matter what I throw at them. 

White Supergra trainers // TOMS Carmel sneaker // Lacoste Carnaby trainer // ECCO Women’s Soft Sneaker

Blundstone 558 Women’s boots // ECCO Bella Women’s zip-up boot // Camper Bowie boot

Dresses

I am a dress and cardigan woman through and through, but I truly believe it’s one of the easiest travel outfits ever. Even in spring. Bring several pairs of leggings to wear underneath and you’ll be fine. I personally prefer leggings to tights for daytime wear, as I find them more breathable and forgiving over a long day. I just tuck a pair of black socks on under black leggings, and with ankle boots, honestly no one notices. A good midi dress with a cardigan, leggings, ankle boots, trench coat, and scarf can take you pretty much anywhere looking put together and feeling super comfortable. It turns hot in the afternoon? Whip off those leggings or the cardigan. The wind picks up? Do up your cardigan and coat, wrap the scarf around your shoulders for an extra layer. 

H & M striped shirtdress // Marks & Spencer grey midi dress // Madewell sweater dress // Universal Standard Geneva dress

Bags

I am not a fan of daypacks. I know they are practical, but they look huge, and when you’re going in and out of museums, squeezing onto busy public transport, and walking down small streets, they are a pain to you and to everyone else around you. Stick with a practical crossbody bag or messenger bag. It’s easier to keep it in eyesight in case of pick-pockets, and easier to access. Honestly, a small water bottle you can refill, your camera, your phone, your wallet, tissues, a snack bar, a lipstick, keys, plasters – there’s not much else you need for a day out. I love my GATTA Lola bag, which is a padded DSLR camera bag but looks like a purse. Take advantage of my search for stylish camera bags right here.

GATTA Lola camera bag

One-week Spring Germany packing list

Three dresses – one shirtdress, one super easy jersey dress, one sweater dress

One midi skirt – either plain or a bit flashy, ASOS is a great source for this length. I like midi skirts for travel as they give you more coverage in case you are visiting religious sites, or end up clambering into tour boats, or sitting on stone walls

One pair of stretchy skinny jeans

Two cardigans

One turtleneck sweater

Two t-shirts (I like H&M for these basics)

Two pairs of leggings

Trench coat

For accessories:

Three scarves

Two pairs of earrings

Two necklaces

Cotton underwear

Bras

Sunglasses

Camera bag/cross-body bag

One pair ankle boots

One pair trainers

Cosmetics and toiletries

I keep my cosmetics pretty streamlined in general, so when I travel there’s nothing really different than my usual routine. I do often opt for make-up remover wipes, and throw a bunch of cotton pads in a zip-top bag with my favourite exfoliator squirted all over them. But that’s it! It’s worth noting that in Germany, most women go for a fresh-faced look with minimal eye makeup and neutral lip colour.

Make up (foundation, concealer, mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil)

Make-up remover wipes like these

Ziptop bag with cotton pads soaked in Pixi Glow Tonic

Medicines

Charging infrastructure

This is our family name for all the cables, chargers, and whatnot required to keep everything plugged in and charged while we’re away. Mine is a bit different as I have to bring my CPAP machine with me (a device with a mask I need to wear when I sleep, it’s to deal with sleep apnea), so I bring a surge-protected power bar with built-in USB ports for plugging in my devices. But my husband brings just a plug-in USB charging block, that has the brightest light on it ever, so it functions as a nightlight as well. We’re also adding a couple of universal plug adapters to our infrastructure as well.

Pin for later!

Heading to Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, or Cologne? I've got you covered with a practical packing list for spring time in Germany.

Follow:

Visit the Keukenhof Tulips

Visit the Keukenhof Tulips

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on one, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

I have always loved tulips, so visiting the largest flower garden in the world, planted with millions of bulbs and only open a few weeks a year, was a dream of mine. This past spring we spent a glorious day exploring Keukenhof, and were pleasantly surprised to find out its an easy way to see spectacular tulips with kids along for the ride, and even when the weather is against you. 

Brilliant tulips at Keukenhof
Brilliant tulips at Keukenhof

A little history

The Keukenhof name actually refers to the kitchen garden of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, as the original gardens incorporated this area and the hunting grounds from her 15th-century estate. A succession of merchants held the lands after the Countess’ death, but it wasn’t until 1949 that the Mayor of Lisse created the gardens in their current form. It was originally created to showcase the wide array of Dutch flowers available for export. It has grown to be the one of the largest flower gardens in the entire world, with 7 million tulips newly planted every year. Truly, I have never, ever seen flowers like these. 

I think these were possibly my favourite tulips at Keukenhof
I think these were possibly my favourite tulips at Keukenhof

When to visit Keukenhof

This is the most important piece of information: the gardens are only open for a few weeks a year, mid-April to mid-May. There are different flowers blooming at different times of that visiting window, so there will always be something to see. However, if you’re also aiming to visit the surrounding fields of tulips, aim for mid-April. You can check this flower radar site for community uploaded photos of the flower fields to see what’s happening, too. Obviously the weather plays a part in this too, and when we visited in mid-April in 2018, the long cold winter had delayed the tulips out in the fields. Keukenhof was still gorgeous, however, and well worth the trip.

More little canals and colourful plantings
More little canals and colourful plantings

Finding your way around Keukenhof gardens

Pick up a Keukenhof map just past the entrance gates. The gardens are arranged into smaller areas and special vistas, but there’s no real need to plan it out. You can wander the paved paths and take in the incredible plantings as you go. The gardens are large, but you can easily see it all in a day, with time for a leisurely lunch and some playground time. There aren’t guided tours unless you’re booking with a large group, but regardless with a little reading beforehand and a map, you will be fine. 

The gardens open early, at 8am, so if you’re really keen to get photos with no one else in them, I’d say arrive as early as you can manage. At the end of the day, the visitors tail off as well and the garden closes at 7:30pm, so you can catch golden hour on the tulips. Ideally, staying close by makes this more feasible, of course. All that being said, we had a bit of a disaster of a morning, and didn’t get to the gardens until 10am, and left around 3pm, but it was completely manageable, and not that busy. I think this was partially due to the surrounding tulip fields not being out yet, but still, the gardens are large, if you walk into the park a bit straight off, you’ll find a quiet spot quite quickly. 

Look at that delicate purple on these ones.
Look at that delicate purple on these ones.

What to see at Keukenhof

There isn’t a bad vista at Keukenhof, really. The gardeners plant over seven million bulbs every year, so scale is impressive. It’s large, but not huge, so it’s easy to wander a bit and then check the map to see what you’ve missed. It’s not like Kew Gardens in London, say, where if you don’t concentrate you can miss half of it. However, I would say make sure you make time for the central pavilion, that’s where I saw some of the most incredible tulips I have ever seen in my life. Reds so red they would not show up properly on my camera, dozens of frilly tulips all with perfect perfect edges, variegated (mixed colour) tulips that would blow your mind, and the biggest flower heads ever. I also particularly enjoyed the Tulipmania exhibit, and the cross-section tulip pot that showed how the flowers grew up from the bulbs. 

How cool is this cross-section of tulips growing in a pot?
How cool is this cross-section of tulips growing in a pot?

I would suggest heading over to the big windmill and booking your spot on a whisper boat tour as soon as you arrive if the surrounding fields are in bloom. There is no point in doing it if they are not, speaking as someone who sat there frozen on the boat staring at dirt fields for 40 minutes. But even though there was nothing doing, we still had to wait for an hour for the next available tour, so I can imagine it books up quickly when everything is out and blooming. 

 

Where the whisper boats start their tour from Keukenhof
Where the whisper boats start their tour from Keukenhof
The windmill at Keukenhof
The windmill at Keukenhof

The plantings change every year, so even if you’ve been before they gardeners will have thought of some other incredible way to display their flowers. It blows my mind that they dig up, and then plant again anew, over seven million bulbs. 

Playground plus coffee hut at Keukenhof. Other botanical gardens, take note!
Playground plus coffee hut at Keukenhof. Other botanical gardens, take note!

There is quite a good playground, thoughtfully combined with a little hut selling snacks and coffee. There’s also a fun hedge maze right next to the playground, and all of this neatly appears about halfway through your visit if you’re just wandering through the paths. Be prepared to pay a bit more for your lunch, if you eat on site, and we found the food to be a bit sub-par. I’d suggest packing snacks with you, and do your best with the lunch situation. We’ve been spoiled with reasonably priced German cafes at every castle and garden, so I was not prepared for the not-great expensive food, particularly as everything had been quite good on our Netherlands road trip so far. 

Vibrant purples at Keukenhof
Vibrant purples at Keukenhof

Why go to Keukenhof when you can visit the Dutch bulb fields for free?

Good question. If you’re coming from overseas and don’t have the luxury of timing your travel exactly for the flowers, it means you can see gorgeous tulips regardless of what the weather is like. We had to work with my son’s Easter break, so delaying another two weeks wasn’t possible for us. The plantings in the Keukenhof are impressive and creative, and while the sheer number of flowers in the tulip fields are incredible, they are in rows and that’s it. The flower farms are growing these flowers for the bulbs, you see. Keukenhof is also meant as a showcase for the most incredible flowers Dutch flower growers can produce, so you will see some incredible one-off beauties that never make it to the mass market fields. Sure, if you’re not keen on paying the entrance fee, the bulb fields are definitely impressive – but to me, Keukenhof and the bulb fields are two different things… like comparing tulips to daffodils, if you will. Oh, you know I had to. 

 

Getting to Keukenhof

It’s quite easy to organize travel to Keukenhof from Amsterdam. We stayed at the Ibis Styles just outside Haarlem and they had bus services listed in the lift. It’s an easy drive, if you rent a car, and there is plenty of well-organized parking. Here is the route from Amsterdam. 

You can also take the train to Leiden, and then the special bus to Keukenhof. Buy a combi-ticket, which gets you your bus transfer and entry ticket in one transaction, and allows you to skip the ticket-buying line when you get to the gardens. 

Buying tickets for Keukenhof

If you drive and don’t arrange for a specific tour, do buy your tickets in advance. It allows you to walk up to the gate, get your ticket scanned, with a minimum of fussing. You don’t need to print them out, they can scan the tickets directly from your phone. If you’re coming by transit, either arrange for a full transfer from Amsterdam which is easiest and not much more expensive, or buy a combi-ticket for bus transfer from Leiden station, which includes your entry ticket. 

Keukenhof hotels

You can choose to stay in Lisse, the town where the gardens are located, to make it easy to arrive early or stay late. 

Booking.com

We stayed in the Ibis Styles in Haarlem, a nice town within easy distance of both Amsterdam and Keukenhof, yet cheaper and less frantic than Amsterdam itself. 

Booking.com

 

Keukenhof 

Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse, Netherlands | www.keukenhof.nl

 

Pin for later!

 

Suitcases and Sandcastles

 

Follow:

Cochem Castle

Cochem Castle

I love castles, and I have visited a lot of them in our region of Germany. So when I tell you this is one of the best ones, you know I had quite a few to compare it to! It has a great combination of location, ease of access, and history. The town of Cochem itself is gorgeous, and well worth a weekend stay.

Looking through the many arches at Cochem Castle
Looking through the many arches at Cochem Castle

Is it Cochem Castle, or the Reichsburg, or what?

Cochem is the town the castle is located in, and you can definitely call it Cochem Castle in English. ‘Reichsburg’ means the Imperial Castle, so Reichsburg Cochem just translates to Imperial Castle Cochem. You have probably seen other castles called ‘Schloss’ and this refers to their status as more of a palace as opposed to a defensive fortress (a ‘Burg’). In a land full of castles, you’ve got to start dividing them up somehow, right?

Suits of armour are everywhere
Suits of armour are everywhere
Can you imagine leaning by this window, reading a letter?
Can you imagine leaning by this window, reading a letter?

A bit of history

On the hill 100 metres above the town of Cochem, the castle was initially a fortification built around 1056. The first mention in print was in 1051, and in 1157, King Konrad III officially dubbed it an Imperial residence. The town of Cochem was important in wine growing and fishing through this period, and was well connected to the city of Trier. In the late 1690s, the castle and the town were taken by the French during the Nine Years War. Unfortunately, the French Sun King wanted to make sure the region was fully subdued, so he instructed his troops to wreak havoc. 

The castle lay in ruins for nearly 200 years, until the Berlin merchant Louis Ravené had it rebuilt as his family’s summer residence in a Neo-gothic style popular with the rich-people-rebuilding-castles movement of the 19th century. The castle has been owned by the city of Cochem since 1978. 

The beautiful hunters hall at Castle Cochem
The beautiful hunters hall at Castle Cochem
The Great Hall at Castle Cochem
The Great Hall at Castle Cochem

Should you do the tour at Cochem Castle?

Definitely. Like most German castles, you need to join a guided tour to see the interior rooms. There are many tours in English during high season, but you will want to check the times for English tours in the autumn and winter. The English tour was only available once a day when we visited in October – check their website in advance for the exact time of the English-language tour so you don’t miss it. The tour itself is one of the best I’ve been on. The guide knew a lot about the castle and the city of Cochem, but wasn’t overloading us with lists of every single noble who lived in the building. They have definitely designed the tour with children in mind as well, because there were some chocolate rewards and little surprises along the way. Even if you’re not travelling with children, you will be grateful they are entertained. 

It’s extremely unusual for a German castle tour, but you are allowed to take photos throughout the interiors, though turn off your flash. 

Peering down into the yard at Castle Cochem
Peering down into the yard at Castle Cochem
Always look up when you go on these castle tours
Always look up when you go on these castle tours

Join a Medieval banquet

If you plan ahead, you can join in a full experience of a medieval meal with costumed musicians and a castle tour. Most Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 6pm, you can join a group at the castle for a full meal, glass of wine, a special castle tour, and a take home stone mug. The tour is in German, but you can get a sheet with the English information on it. The whole package is €49 per adult and €24.50 per child (6-17 years old). If you’re thinking of booking one, do it soon, as they sell out months in advance. 

Cochem Castle is stunning in the autumn
Cochem Castle is stunning in the autumn

What time of year to visit Cochem Castle

In the summer, you have the benefit of the full leafy trees, sidewalk terraces, green vines clambering over everything, and the breeze off the Mosel. You also will have more crowds of visitors to contend with. Even though there were fewer tours available, the castle wasn’t that busy. The benefit of visiting in the autumn has to be the gorgeous colours of the grape vines. All over the castle, and the surrounding hills, the multicoloured vines transform everything into a riot of deep reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. 

The view from the cafe in the Cochem Castle
The view from the cafe in the Cochem Castle
Classic Schnitzel in the castle cafe
Classic Schnitzel in the castle cafe
Even the placements were cute
Even the placements were cute

What to eat

The cafe up at the castle itself is lovely, and we had a great meal of schnitzel at a reasonable price. I would say at least a little bit cheaper than the restaurants down in the town right on the river, so it’s definitely worth staying up here to have lunch. There’s an impressive selection of cakes, including a proper Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) and the underrated Frankfurter Kranz, so if it’s afternoon and you just need a coffee and a sweet thing, have it up here with a view down over the town. 

View from outside the Cochem Castle
View from outside the Cochem Castle

Where to stay

I’ve got your weekend in Cochem covered in this post, but if you’re just looking for some quick hotel recommendations, I would check out these ones:

  • Hotel Germania, right next to the main bridge and in the Altstadt
  • Hotel am Hafen, across the river but next to the bridge, with good onsite restaurant
  • Zum fröhlichen Weinburg, a little ways back from the river, quiet and good value
  • Altes Fährhaus Cochem, is on the other side of the river with gorgeous views of the castle and town, and offers bike rentals on site
  • If you’re happy to be just outside of town, the little village of Ernst is our favourite spot, and the Altes Pfarrhaus our Mosel home away-from-home. A lovely Dutch family runs this small hotel, and the food is lovely, with a quiet terrace overlooking the river. 
The Cochem Castle lit up at night
The Cochem Castle lit up at night

How to get there

From Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, Cochem is about a two and a half hour journey by train, with one or two changes, depending on the time of day. From Cologne, it is about two hours with one change. It’s a beautiful journey no matter which way you arrive, however, as most routes will take you along the Rhine and the Mosel. You can book your ticket right here in English:

To get up to the castle from the town, you can walk up, which is a little intense with quite a few stairs. Or, you can take the shuttlebus. There’s a detailed schedule on their website here. If you’re travelling with small people, it would be best to take the shuttle and save their legs for the tour. 

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

Pin for later!

 

Follow: