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The Rhine River winds through Germany amid a fertile valley of villages, castles, mountains and vineyards. The Rhine has been an important trade route for the last two millennia, and the towns that have sprung up along its banks exhibit all the tradition and charm of that rich history, making it a popular region for tourism and a really exciting area to explore.
Each section of the Rhineland has its own attractions, including the winelands of Rheinhessen, the hiking trails of Westerwald, the mineral springs of Ahr and the historic Roman and Celtic settlements of Hunsruck. The region is full of fairytales and mythology, and has inspired tales such as Wagner's epic Ring Cycle and those written by Byron, Goethe and Mark Twain.
Today, bustling small towns along the river such as Mainz, Trier, Koblenz, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse and Worms all provide charms of their own. Larger cities such as Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf are attracting business to their growing metropolises and offer more cosmopolitan shopping and dining options. The variety of experiences makes the Rhineland a perfect holiday destination for just about anyone, and one of the best ways to explore is by cruising down the river itself.
Tourists are drawn to Germany's oldest city of Trier for a taste of ancient Rome, founded as a colonial capital under Emperor Augustus in 16 BC. The city became an important political and cultural centre, and many Roman buildings and monuments remain to be explored by visitors. The city has at least five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: St Peter's Cathedral, a remarkable 11th-century church holding several significant tombs; The Black Gate, dating back to around 180 AD; 2,000-year-old ruins of an Imperial Roman bath complex once frequented by Constantine; the Church of Our Lady, another beautiful church adjacent to the cathedral; and the Amphitheatre, dating back to the 2nd century. Nearby, the Mosel Valley is Germany's main wine region, filled with vineyards and cellars, while many love to embark on cruises down the scenic Mosel River.
The capital of the Rhineland, Mainz is a bustling city with a curious but exciting mixture of medieval architecture and gleaming office blocks. The city is over 2,000 years old and mixes the old and the new with alacrity. The Dom und Diözesanmuseum dominates the skyline in the centre of town, and St Stephen's Church, with its original Chagall stained-glass windows, is a popular attraction in the Old Town, as is the Schillerplatz square. The city is compact enough to enjoy walking tours around town or along the Rhine, with the Kaiserstraße boasting an attractive pedestrian boulevard and church.
Mainz is also the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, making books a popular souvenir from the city. The museum dedicated to Gutenberg is a highlight for those interested in the revolution sparked by the printed word. The museum includes a working replica of Gutenberg's printing press and is housed in a beautiful old building.
The birthplace of Beethoven and one of the oldest cities in Germany, Bonn is a journey through time. There are numerous fascinating sites from the medieval to the modern, from the galleries and museums on Museum Mile to its several beautiful churches, two of which date back to the 11th century. On sunny days, visitors can enjoy spending a few hours in the Arboretum, Botanical Garden or any of the other pleasant parks in Bonn, while the adventurous love climbing the extinct volcano on the border of Wachtberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. The Beethoven House owns the world's largest collection of artefacts and memorabilia, including several of his pianos, while the chamber music hall hosts regular performances of his works.
Tourism in the beautiful Rhineland revolves around the ancient river trade route and the several wonderful settlements along its banks. Interesting things to see and do in the Rhineland can be divided fairly evenly between the historical and the contemporary. The area is a hub of contemporary trade and its cities are trendy and modern, while its small villages exude country charm and picturesque settings. Attractions in the Rhineland include museums, fashion shows, churches, nightclubs and everything in between.
One of the largest cities in Germany, Cologne is home to some astounding Gothic and Romanesque architecture and a colourful social life which takes full advantage of its lovely outdoor spots during the sunny summer months. Elsewhere, Düsseldorf is ancient, ironically now famous for its modern architecture. Once elegant but badly damaged in the war, it chose to reinvent itself as a cutting-edge, fashionable centre of trade.
Mainz, the capital of the Rhineland, is an interesting mixture of medieval and modern architecture and was the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Trier, Germany's oldest city, has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a dream for the historical sightseer, while Bonn is vibrant and enjoys a fun nightlife scene fuelled by its large student population. Home to some wonderful museums and galleries, Bonn is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Beethoven and many of its attractions revolve around his life and music.
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