At EuroVelo, we are convinced that cycling is the best way to experience heritage – this was also discussed during an unforgettable EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference last October in Izmir. This article is an invitation to discover the Top 10 Heritage sites along the Rhine River on your bicycle. We have picked the most fascinating ones on EuroVelo 15 to make your cycling holiday memorable.
The romantic Middle Rhine Valley
For centuries, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley region was the scenario of crucial historical and natural events. Old towns, steep vineyards, and majestic castles will bring you back in time in this breathtaking German destination. Take EuroVelo 15, on the left bank of the Rhine, and enjoy your ride through cosy villages and brightly coloured promenades during this autumn season. Then go wine tasting in the popular wine-making towns of Bacharach or Boppard and delight yourself with Rhineland specialities in the local restaurants.
Mill Network, a fantastic example of human ingenuity at Kinderdijk
Cycling along the Rhine Cycle Route will also take you to discover an exceptional example of a human-made landscape. Closer to the Rhine mouth you will find the Mill Network at Kinderdijk which is a group of buildings with a hydraulic system for land drainage. Since the Middle Ages, when construction began, the Mill Network has become an iconic symbol of The Netherlands. Nowadays, this fascinating destination attracts tourists from all over the world and it is considered a significant testimony of human ingeniousness. The excellent Dutch cycling infrastructure will make it an amazing cycling experience.
Speyer and Cologne: two of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world
Two different architectural styles and yet some of the most outstanding cathedrals in the world.
Right on EuroVelo 15, on your way from Karlsruhe to Bingen, lies one of Germany’s oldest cities, and the largest Romanesque church in the world – Speyer Cathedral. This majestic basilica was founded in 1030 and served as the burial place of kings and emperors. The red sandstone façade and the inestimable sculptures and frescoes inside have influenced European architecture for centuries. Don’t miss a stop in Speyer during your cycling trip and get yourself caught up in the vastness of the greatest building of its time.
In North-Rhine-Westphalia, another magnificent building dominates the city of Cologne. The Cologne Cathedral is for UNESCO an “exceptional work of human creative genius” and an authentic Gothic masterpiece. Germany’s most visited landmark and the highest twin-spired church in the world, Cologne Cathedral is an absolute must-see when cycling on EuroVelo 15. Other highlights of the Cathedral include stone carvings of ghoulish gargoyles jutting out of the famous gothic entrance. The Rhine Cycle Route will take you directly to the cathedral, which is also located nearby Cologne train station – a key hub in Germany. If you are travelling on EuroVelo 15 on a shorter trip, stopping by Cologne is a great idea, as you can easily go back to your starting point or combine bike and train.
Lustre and glory at the Brühl’s castles
In Brühl, not so far from EuroVelo 15 and just before Cologne, architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design have come together to create a superb masterpiece of Rococo. The Augustusburg and Falkenlust palace complex was developed in the 18th century for Clemens August, Cologne's archbishop, and ruler. The sumptuous residence of Augustusburg is connected to the country house of Falkenlust by verdant gardens and a marvelous park. Start planning your cycling trip to the town of Brühl – these UNESCO awarded castles are open for visits and annually host interesting cultural events.
The Abbey of St. Gallen
Located a few kilometres to the south of the Rhine is the former Saint Gallen Monastery. Switzerland's second oldest monastery and one of the biggest Benedictine monasteries in Europe, it was culturally highly influential for over 1200 years. The baroque cathedral and the rich library’s collection are the main features of this remarkable architectural masterpiece. The old town of St. Gallen is today a splendid traffic-free zone from where you can easily reach – either by rail or by bike – the coast of Lake Constance along EuroVelo 15.
The Rhaetian Railway: an exceptional example of inter-modality
Cyclists love trains – for those cycling on EuroVelo 15 here is a spectacular example of inter-modality across the Swiss Alps. The UNESCO awarded Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes covers 122 kilometres from Thusis to Tirano, passing 196 bridges, 55 tunnels and 20 towns along the way. On one of the most picturesque mountain routes, cyclist passengers will get to experience breathtaking views of majestic glaciers, cultural landscapes and remote villages. Therefore, get your bicycles on the train, sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery!
The star-shaped town of Neuf-Brisach
From EuroVelo 15, you can easily spot the stronghold town of Neuf-Brisach in the Alsace region. Commissioned by Louis XIV in the 17th century, the fortifications represent the final masterpiece of the military architect Vauban. Star-shaped bastions protect the picturesque town and are considered one of the most unique human settlements. The town itself is pleasant to explore and centred around the large Place d'Armes where a market of local producers is held every Saturday morning.
Strasbourg’s outstanding neighborhoods: Grande-Ile and Neustadt
Explore the city of Strasbourg, a unique UNESCO site where French and Germanic influences perfectly blend together along EuroVelo 15. The Grande-Île Island (historic centre) and its tiny pedestrian streets combine with the Neustadt (imperial quarter), an unparalleled urban creation with broad avenues and large squares into a rare architectural heritage. Contemplate the city up from Strasbourg’s Cathedral, get off your bike for a moment and stroll through the typical narrow alleys, and treat yourself to an Alsatian winstub, the traditional regional restaurants. The comforting Alsatian food is what you need after a day of cycling!
The idyllic island of Reichenau
In our Top 10 is also the gorgeous Reichenau Island in southwest Germany, at the border with Switzerland. Awarded by UNESCO as a heritage site in 2000, the Monastic Reichenau Island is a place of high spiritual and cultural influence. The three medieval churches contribute to creating an idyllic panorama. Get to the island by boat or by causeway, then take time to cycle or walk!
Take a break at Fort Bakkerskil
When you arrive at Fort (Werk aan de) Bakkerskil, you’ve reached the southernmost fortress of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie. One of the tasks of this structure was to protect the Papsluis (1815), which you’ll pass a little further down the road. This pretty fan-shaped inundation sluice could flood the polder land on the east with water from the river Bakkerskil. For hundreds of soldiers, sleeping in Fort Bakkerskil during World Wars I and II it was a chilly ordeal. Nowadays you won’t have to fear the cold, because Fort Bakkerskil has been completely restored and transformed into a cosy Bed & Breakfast.
So, prepare your cycling gear, hop on your bike and embark on an unforgettable journey along the Rhine Cycle Route, where history, culture, and natural beauty converge in a spectacular symphony of adventure. Explore these UNESCO treasures, pedal through time, and create your own stories along EuroVelo 15 – because the road to discovery is the road to inspiration!
Article by Maria Scandurra