The ancient, picturesque town of Cochem sits on the banks of the Mosel River. Cochem and the surrounding Mosel River Valley are famous for some of the steepest vineyards in the world and the Reisling produced there. This town dates back as early as Celtic and Roman times, first documented in the year 886!
The town was besieged during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) but survived relatively unscathed. However, they were not as lucky when King Louis XIV of France brought his troops to town. The French conquered the town in 1689.
After a period of rule switching between France and Prussia, the town was officially annexed to the kingdom of Prussia in 1815. The castle, Reichsburg Cochem, was taken over by the Nazis in 1942. By the end of World War II, Cochem became a part of the newly created state of Rhineland-Palatinate in 1946.
Nearby is the ancient Roman town of Trier and medieval castle Burg Eltz. With just over 5,000 residents, this charming little town knows how to make a lasting impression – it’s one of my favorite places in the world!
What We Did
The first thing we wanted to do upon arrival to Cochem is just to explore the city. You can walk pretty much anywhere in the city. There’s the main street for cars that runs alongside the river, but then there’s a tangle of narrow cobblestone streets back behind the street. This is where you’ll find a lot of shops and restaurants, even the main town square. Here you can see lots of medieval architecture and many of the famous half-timbered houses.
The Imperial Castle is the largest castle on the Mosel River. Dating back to at least 1130, the castle was used to collect tolls on the river. The castle was almost completely destroyed by King Louis XIV’s troops. Thankfully, it was restored in 1868 by Counselor of Commerce Louis Ravené, a Berlin businessman. In 1942, Ravené was forced to sell the castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice. The Nazi government then used the castle as a law school. By the end of World War II, the castle belonged to the newly created state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
The castle can be reached from the town by a 10-15 minute scenic walk uphill. The tour of the castle offers incredible views of the town below and a look into the Knight’s Hall, Dining Hall, Trophy Room, and the bower (the private apartment for the lady of the castle). You can also see a suit of armor said to have belonged to an Austrian man of the 15th century – it is over 7 feet tall!
Mosel River Cruise
The best way to see the Mosel River Valley region is by boat of course! We took a half-day trip to Beilstein, a few towns downriver. We booked a river cruise through Moselle Tours for €17,00 round trip each. The river cruise lasts about an hour (be sure to bring your sunscreen if you plan on sitting on the top deck!). On the way to Beilstein, the boat passes through a lock which is a neat experience if you’ve never passed through one before!
Beilstein is a tiny, sleepy little town, but filled with historic charm. The first stop on everyone’s list was the Bortolot Eiscafe (ice cream shop). Fantastic relief on a hot summer day. (Side note: there’s practically no air conditioning in Germany because “it never gets that hot…” LIES! It was 90°F practically our whole trip in July!) There’s another castle here called BurgMetternich. This castle was built in the 12th century and was destroyed in 1689 by French troops. The castle is still largely in ruins today and can be visited for €2,50. Beilstein has a few cafes and hotels lining the riverfront street. It is a delightful little town to just roam around.
Where We Ate
One of my favorite places we ate was Zum Dudelsack. The greatest part about this place was the view. The upper level of the restaurant was open to the outside with views of the river and surrounding vineyards. They also lined the balcony with grapevines. The food here was pretty good. It wasn’t the absolute greatest schnitzel we had, but it was still pretty good. This was also a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine. We drank plenty of Reisling later, this was our break for our normal red.
The town has several wine bars (I’m sensing a trend here – they must be proud of their steep vineyards or something). Restaurants and cafes line the riverfront street and the winding streets inside. Our favorite place was the Ratskeller. It was in the wine cellar of the Rathaus (or town hall) but, sadly, it has since closed. Our hotel also had a great Italian restaurant onsite. A word to the wise, don’t get the schnitzel there. Leave the pasta to the Italians and the schnitzel to the Germans.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in Hotel Arkade which was THE perfect location. It wasn’t on the main busy street so the noise level was not an issue. It was on the interior square and our room even faced the Rathaus. We could look out the window and people watch to our hearts’ content. We could also hear the town bells signaling the passing of every hour which is honestly one of my favorite parts of Europe.
What We Wish We’d Known
Parking in the city is hard to come by. And even if you do happen to find an available spot, traffic makes it difficult to back out. We found it much better to park just up the street right outside the main town. There is a gated parking lot with a daily rate. Just be sure to have exact change. The automated machines do not give change.
Cochem is one of the most adorable and endearing towns in the world. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of major cities, it’s only an hour and a half south of Cologne and an hour and forty-five minutes west of Frankfurt.