The Rhine and the Romantics

With its steep slopes, rugged valleys, bizarre rocks and fairy-tale castles, the scenery of the Rhine sparked the interest of the late 18th-century Romantics, who yearned for unspoilt landscapes to paint. The invention of steam ships and the lifting of Napoleon’s Continental Blockade in 1815 sparked a real urge to travel among the English. In the middle of the 19th century, the first tourists stepped off the train at Rolandseck station and onto the Rhine ships.

One of the first was Lord Byron, whose 1816 travel poems about the Rhine made it famous in England. Today, Bacharach claims to be the home of Rhine Romanticism, for at least three good reasons. On his second trip to the Rhine in 1840, Victor Hugo honoured Bacharach by describing it thus: “I am currently in one of the most beautiful, most pleasant and most unknown towns in the world.” With his 1801 verse starting ‘At Bacharach on the Rhine … Lived a sorceress … She was so beautiful and fine … And enraptured many hearts’, Clemens Brentano also ensured that the world-famous Lorelei, the epitome of Rhine Romanticism, had her home in Bacharach. Heinrich Heine picked up on Brentano’s version of the Lorelei in his poem, which was set to music by Friedrich Silcher as the world-famous Lorelei Song.

Lorelei Rock at St. Goarshausen, Romantic Rhine

Lorelei Rock at St. Goarshausen, Romantic Rhine

Bacharach, Romantic Rhine

View of Bacharach, Romantic Rhine

The most famous of all the legends of the Rhine has its roots at the narrow point of the Rhine near St Goarshausen, where the river is just 130 metres wide. The current has nowhere to flow through the steep cliffs and many ships were wrecked, fuelling the myth of a beautiful blonde lady sitting high on the cliffs who caused the sailors down below to lose their minds. But there are many legends surrounding this spot: In the 19th century, Clemens Brentano adopted the name of the cliffs, which go deep into the riverbed, for the enchanting blonde lady. Pure Rhine Romanticism.

Since 2014, the beautiful park-like Rhine promenade in Bacharach has been home to a Rhine Romanticism sculpture at Platz der Poesie. This honours all three poets who are ‘in the same boat’ as far as Bacharach is concerned. The artwork was designed by sculptor Liesel Metten, who was born in Bacharach. Another Metten sculpture, this one of the Lorelei, is just a few metres away near the jetty.

Above them all towers Stahleck Castle and the old Postenturm, from which there are beautiful views over Bacharach and the Middle Rhine valley. The old walls, fortified towers and narrow streets charmed the Rhine Romantics and have the same effect on many visitors today.

The Museum am Strom on the riverbank stands right at the entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The former power station in Bingen has been converted into an extraordinary museum. This museum is also home to the permanent ‘Rhine Romanticism’ exhibition, the feel of which is ever-present even from the museum, with its views of the Mouse Tower, the Binger Hole, the ruins of Ehrenfels castle and over the river to the Niederwalddenkmal monument. It gives an impression of the artistic interpretations of the Rhine scenery near Bingen. There are three rooms fitted with original 19th century furniture, where you can feel what life might have been like in the time of Rhine Romanticism.

Metten sculpture of the Lorelei in Bacharach, Romantic Rhine

Metten sculpture of the Lorelei on the riverbank in Bacharach, Romantic Rhine

At the Romanticum in Koblenz, visitors can experience Rhine Romanticism on a trip on an imaginary river steamer through the Middle Rhine Valley from Deutsches Eck to the cliffs at the Lorelei, with various surprising interactive experiences.

Into the 19th century, the Rhine valley continued to captivate poets, painters and musicians, the Romantics who came to find inspiration for works of art among the natural Rhine landscape, which they held in very high esteem. The fascination this landscape inspired still charms visitors today and Rhine Romanticism is still alive in many places.

Romaticum museum in Koblenz, Romantic Rhine

Interactive exhibition in the Romaticum museum in Koblenz, Romantic Rhine

Katz Castle near St. Goarshausen, Romantic Rhine

Katz Castle near St. Goarshausen, Romantic Rhine

More leisure tips for culture lovers at the Romantic Rhine:

More information about holidays in the Romantic Rhine region

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the romantic Middle Rhine Valley at Romantischer Rhein Tourismus GmbH.

Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site

The whole region here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a charming combination of stunning nature and important cultural heritage.

Romantic Cities: Trip to Koblenz

The only city on both the Rhine and the Moselle: From Deutsches Eck, it is just a short walk to the narrow streets of the old town in Koblenz, past the Romanesque Basilica of St Castor.

Schwarzes Icon, das einen Kompass zeigt

Rhine in Flames

Enjoy the spectacle of the Romantic Rhine valley and its castles illuminated in the radiance of the "Rhine in Flames".

Kulturzentrum Festung Ehrenbreitstein

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Loreley Tourist-Information

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Schloss Stolzenfels

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