One of the most distinguished wine regions in the world, the Rheingau is renowned for its stunning landscapes and world-class wines.
Life here is focused on relaxation and enjoyment. Take your time to explore the region, wandering through its gorgeous half-timbered wine villages by foot or enjoying the views as you meander down the river Rhine (Rhein) on a leisurely boat cruise. A 65km stretch of the river winds its way through the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley (Oberes Mittelrheintal), the steep terraced vineyards on either side of the river peppered with historic villages and some 40 hilltop fortresses and castles.
Must-visit towns include Eltville, beloved for its gorgeous rose-filled gardens and sparkling wines; Rüdesheim am Rhein, from where you can take a cable car up to the imposing Niederwald monument; and the elegant state capital of Wiesbaden. For a bit of peace and quiet, wander through the vineyards to the pretty garden at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard (Abtei St. Hildegard) in Eibingen, which overlooks vineyards that slope gently down to the river.
Hikers will pass through numerous historic towns and villages and enjoy panoramic views of the Rheingau's dramatic landscapes along the well-marked long-distance Rheinsteig hiking trail. There are also two well-maintained cycling routes - one of which connects the Rheingau with Hessen's less well-known wine region, the Bergstrasse - that incorporate both gentle and more strenuous stages.
The Rheingau's cultural highlights are both plentiful and extremely impressive. In spring, attend Germany's second largest theatre festival, the International May Festival (Internationale Maifestspiele), in Wiesbaden. In late summer, musical performances take place in scenic settings across the region as part of the Rheingau Music Festival (Rheingau Musik Festival). Head to Eberbach Abbey (Kloster Eberbach) - famous for its role in the 1986 film adaptation of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose featuring Sean Connery - for Baroque choral recitals in the atmospheric Basilica.
The Rheingau's CULINARY SPECIALTIES can be enjoyed in a variety of unique settings, from cosy wine taverns and seasonal pop-up winery restaurants to the leafy summer terraces of elegant castle wineries. Sample the local wines - predominantly rieslings and pinot noirs - at a guided tasting, on a wine walk, at a village wine festival, or even on the back of a tractor-pulled wagon. The largest wine festival in the region, with stands from a hundred Rheingau wineries, takes place at the end of each summer in Wiesbaden. Join fellow food and drink lovers for a feast in the vineyards at the annual Rhine in Flames (Rhein in Flammen), and once the sun sets over the vineyards, watch colourfully-illuminated boats pass down the river as fireworks fill the skies. In the run up to Christmas, join locals at Christmas markets all over the region for a mug of hot Glühwein made with grapes from Rheingau vineyards.