Rudesheim, Germany, is an enchanting town with narrow streets that burst with energy and whimsy found along the banks of the famous Rhine River. With a year-round population of just under 10,000, the village feels larger — offering everything visitors can imagine for a spectacular time with authentic charm. Be prepared to double back on some sights in order to make the most of your time. Spending the day is a treat for the eyes and the soul of every traveler who strolls its cobblestone streets.
Disembarking in Rudesheim
After disembarking, you can choose to walk into town via the riverfront Rheinstraβe, taking it to the infamous Drosselgasse. Drosselgasse will transport you back in time, and into the heart of what makes Rudesheim so special, but it’s also uphill with uneven stones under your feet. For more leisurely transportation into town, especially in rainy weather, you can take the “train”. Two miniature trains that make up the Winzerexpress are probably part of your cruise itinerary, offering complimentary travel from the river front, and up and down parts of Oberstraβe, the town’s main street.
Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet Museum
The first must-see stop is Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet Museum, which resides in Bromserhof, a historic building that has been open since the fifth or sixth century, with a picturesque half-timber tower in front that was added around 1416. Taking a guided museum tour is the only way to experience the mechanical musical instruments in operation, with small group tours taking about 45 minutes. The collection of automated instruments is incredible, with some complex pieces that sound like small orchestras. In addition to hearing a variety of historic items play, the setting itself will give you chills. Viewing one of Bromserhof’s vaulted rooms with ceiling and wall paintings that date back 700 years is a rare experience.
After leaving the museum, the next stop is the Niederwald monument, just northwest of town with a journey that provides breath-taking views of the Rhine valley. There are two ways to get there. Turn left after exiting the museum and walk up Oberstraβe. Just past Kathe Wohlfahrt, a joy-filled Christmas shop, to the left you’ll find the entrance for the gondola. For eight Euros you can take a round trip ride in a two-person open car. However, if you feel the need to walk off the rich German food you’ve been eating, you can take the Von Lorch nach Rudesheim trail from just behind Siegfried’s and hike about 2.4 kilometers to the monument. This route is a serious hike, so come prepared. Either mode of transportation will take you on an uphill route through some of the Rheingau region’s most celebrated vineyards that produce world renowned Riesling grapes.
Once you’ve made it to the top, the Niederwald Monument is a spectacular sentry to see. Dedicated in 1883, it commemorates the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The entire structure is over 125 feet tall and is topped by a beautiful lady known as Germania. The relief under Germania depicts life-sized sculptures of Emperor William the First riding a horse surrounded by nobility, the army commanders and soldiers.
Make your way back to the village and stop back by Kathe Wohlfahrt, where Christmas is celebrated 365 days a year. The displays are dazzling, the customer service is wonderful, and you can ask for your treasures to be packed carefully for travel.
To balance the extreme holiday joy, you may consider a visit to the Museum of Medieval Torture just up the street, with exhibits that are painfully obvious by its name. This museum is not open year-round, so if you can handle the subject matter check their website to make sure the hours work with your schedule.
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Northeast of town, you can also hike about 2 kilometers or take a taxi (politely asking a shop owner to call one for you is one way to make it happen) and visit the Benedictine Abbey de Hildegard. Their shop sells books, artwork and wine from the Abbey vineyards, plus there’s a wine bar and a café with baked goods made by the sisters. There are guided tours of the monastery with many areas for quiet reflection and beautiful photo ops on the grounds.
One tradition to experience is the special jolt of Rudesheim Coffee served at many locations, like the Art Café at the north end of Drosselgasse. Served in special cups that are narrow at the bottom with no handles, a sugar cube is placed in the bottom of each cup and brandy is poured in to about a third full. Then, your server lights it on fire! Hot coffee is poured into the cup until it is almost full. Next comes a generous dollop of real whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
Walking down Drosselgasse will take you past historic buildings, wine shops, and many establishments with wine and beer tastings available. At just 144 meters long, Drosselgasse’s authentic atmosphere has a magical quality. You can enjoy live entertainment, regional dishes and, of course, beer and wines. Tour the Drosselkeller, an ancient vaulted wine cellar that offers wine tastings, and learn about German viniculture. The area’s Riesling wines come in a spectrum of sweetness, from the drier Kabinett, to the light, syrupy deliciousness of Eiswein (ice wine). If you didn’t know much about German wine before arriving, you will leave as a fan. Rudesheim’s sweetness and charm will leave you longing to return.