An hour by train and a world away from Frankfurt, Rudesheim Am Rhein sits charmingly along the River Rhine, surrounded by lush vineyards. At first glimpse, it is merely a hub for day-trippers from the cruise ships that dock here, but look deeper and you’ll find a fascinating wine culture that has stood the test of time.
The Rudesheim Wine Festival, dating back over 80 years, celebrates these wine traditions with much love, inviting wine lovers to hike in the vineyards, dance along the cobbled streets of Rudesheim’s old town and taste some of the world’s finest Rieslings – transforming the otherwise quiet town square into one big wine party! Over the four days (typically Thursday to Monday in mid August) of the festival, you can witness the coronation of the wine queens, once the daughters of wine merchants but now elected winery ambassadors from every village in the Rheingau region; taste local wines and the stories of bygone days from the many stalls at the square; get away from it all on a scenic hike through the tranquil vineyards of Rudesheim; and find yourself at the quirky “Wander Shoe” party, dedicated to wanderers! But the best way to sneak an intimate peek into life in this small wine-growing German town is to wait till the fourth day, when most visitors have left; the last night of the festival witnesses an intimate gathering of locals, singing and dancing uninhibitedly into the night – a spectacle not to be missed.
Though German is the dominant language of the festival, frequented mostly by locals, it is a rare glimpse into the country’s passionate love affair with wine.
Rudesheim Am Rhein
Best known for the Drosselgasse’s nighlife, an old town alley spilling with traditional German restaurants, wine gardens and the cruise ship crowds, Rudesheim Am Rhein reveals itself to visitors in layers. The town square, home to several restaurants and the town church is constantly buzzing with activity – think Sunday markets, summer festivities and music concerts. But just a cobbled street away, you’ll find yourself in a wine garden cosily tucked away under vine grapes, invited into a family cellar for a taste of the region’s famous home-grown Rieslings, as the church bells toll in the background. While the Drosselgasse and the street facing the Rhine River offer an array of restaurants, don’t leave without an intimate meal at a family-run winery like Weingut Jakob Christ or Phillips.
The vineyard-covered hills, a short walk up from the town centre, afford stunning views on the River Rhine and an immersion in more things wine; hike up to St Hildegard Abbey, the only nunnery in Germany that has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, stop by at the Niederwald Monument, built in the late 1800s to commemorate the reunifinication of Germany, and walk an hour through stunning wine-and-Rhine scenery all the way to Assmannshausen, the only home of the Pinot Noir grapes (and hence red wines) in the Rhine region. For a more romantic experience, take the cable car up to Niederwald and a chair lift down to Assmannshausen.
Located at the southern end of the Rhine Valley, Rudesheim makes an excellent base to explore the rest of the region, by train, bike or boat; hop off the train at the pretty little village of Eltville, ride an electric bike (rentals at Radkranz in the old town) to Schloss Johannisberg, the oldest winery in Germany where late harvest wines were accidentally discovered, and take a cruise all the way to St Goarshausen, soaking in the surreal Rhine scenery, along ancient castles and the legendary Lorelei rock.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, a keen hiker or just in search of a something unusual, Rudesheim Am Rhein is a chance to view Germany and its living traditions with a different lens.
Money Saving Tips
- Grab a quick and cheap bite at one of the many stalls lining the town square during Rudesheim Wine Festival; you’ll save money and get to try typical local foods like the flammkuchen, Germany’s version of the pizza.
- If you plan to make Rudesheim your base to explore the Rhine region, rent the holiday apartment offered by Hotel Hohn – you’ll save money on living and meals, and what better way to feel like a local?
Did You Know?
- The Rudesheim Wine Festivals entered its 82nd year in 2015, making it one of the oldest wine festivals in the Rheingau region.
- Assmannshausen, considered part of Rudesheim though located on the next bend of the river, is the only place in the Rheingau where Pinot Noir (red wine) grapes grow. You can see the transition in the color of the grapes when you hike from Rudesheim to Assmannshausen.
- The wonderfully sweet late harvest wines were accidentally discovered at Schloss Johannisberg (a short drive from Rudesheim) when the harvest orders didn’t reach the monks in time. Lucky us!
Sleeping in a wine barrel! When these traditional oak barrels could no longer be used for wine production, someone had the bright idea of turning them into hotel rooms. At Hotel Lindenwirt in Rudesheim, they come fitted with twin beds, attached to a lounge area and a spacious bathroom behind.