When you think about cute little towns and cities along the Mosel River, most people’s minds probably go straight to Bernkastel-Kues. I mean, it is gorgeous, but it’s also extremely well-known. And what happens when you combine one of the most romantic regions in Germany with a famous city? Yep – you get masses and masses of tourists. Luckily, there are dozens of adorable towns and cities along the Mosel that are just as gorgeous, if not even more so, than Bernkastel. And while I could write about almost every single one of them, these three are my personal favorites.
Piesport is a small village with less than 3,000 residents. Its history goes all the way back to the Romans, so you’ll see a number of replicas of different Roman relics that were unearthed in the area displayed around the town.
As there is a lot of history here, there are a number of buildings in Piesport that either hold historical significance or played a role in a local legend. If you’re interested in history, the self-guided tour is definitely something to check out. (I wrote a full post a while back all about Piesport, and you can find all of the links to the tour there.)
Piesport encompasses both sides of the Mosel River, and each side has a unique flair to it. On the side opposite the vineyards (called Niederemmel), you have several wineries, restaurants, and cafes. You can also walk along the Mosel River, where in the summertime you’ll see people swimming and riding jet skis. From this trail, you can also see the Moselloreley (which is the “Mosel version” of the famous Rhine Loreley).
If you cross over the bridge to the other side of the Mosel River, you will find what is usually referred to as Alt Piesport (old Piesport). This part of the village is smaller, with narrower streets and more old world charm, along with a number of wineries, hotels, and B&Bs. You can also walk along the Mosel River from this side as well, but your view isn’t quite as pretty.
What I like about Piesport is that it’s small enough to walk (including going across the bridge to the other side), and unlike other places, everything is kind of spread out throughout the village. So, you’re not limited to a central Füßgängerzone.
And if you ever saw Piesporter wine back in the States, you might have seen the labels with that iconic picture. Well, now you can see that picture perfect image in real life!
If Piesport is all about the scenery, I would say Neumagen-Dhron is all about the ambiance. Another small village with less than 3,000 residents and a Roman history, this one is especially unique as it is the oldest wine village in Germany.
And let me tell you, I have never had a wine from Neumagen that I didn’t love. They make some truly tasty wine, especially when it comes to Riesling Auslese. So, if you’re a Moscato fan, you will be in Heaven here.
As you might guess, Neumagen-Dhron is quite proud of their title and Roman roots, and while they also have replicas of various Roman finds scattered around the town, they do take it a bit further. Enter the Stella Noviomagi (The Star of Neumagen).
This is a wooden replica of a tombstone that was unearthed in the area back in the 1800s (which you can also see a recreation of on display in the town), and it is the largest floating Roman ship ever built in a German-speaking country. And just to make it even more impressive, not only can you look at it, but you can take a ride on it down the Mosel River. And drink Mosel wine at the same time.
If you’re a lover of water or boats, you might also want to check out the yacht harbor. It’s fairly small, but it’s always packed. My husband is a total water rat, and this is his favorite part of the whole town. There is even a small embankment that you can walk on that will take you all the way around the harbor.
As with Piesport, Neumagen-Dhron also has a number of wineries, restaurants, and cafes, but I think Neumagen has the edge here. So many of their restaurants have outdoor terraces with views of the Mosel, and unlike a lot of other Mosel towns, you don’t have a major road running between the restaurant fronts and the river. There is no obstruction, there is no endless stream of cars, and you can always find a table open somewhere. And in contrast to other small Mosel villages like Beilstein, it’s fairly lively year-round.
But my favorite thing about Neumagen-Dhron is the wine festival. You know, some wine festivals are hit or miss, but theirs is consistently one of the best wine festivals along the Mosel. The wine is always amazing, the food is always great, and I don’t know how they do it, but the village never feels like it’s being overrun by tourists.
Tip for the hikers – if you want a hiking experience with some of the best views you can imagine, the Moselsteig Etappe 9 will take you from Neumagen to Piesport (and further if you keep going). It goes high up into the mountains – they are mountains to a Texan – on the other side of the Mosel and gives you a complete overview of both villages.
There is even a landing up here where the paragliders jump from. So, if you’re into extreme sports, this might be something for you as well.
Piesport and Neumagen-Dhron are beautiful, but maybe you want something a little bigger. Maybe you’re looking for something more along the lines of Bernkastel-Kues in the sense of size but don’t want all the tourists. Traben-Trarbach definitely has a city vibe to it, and like Bernkastel-Kues, it’s made up of two towns, opposite the Mosel from each other, joined into one.
Now, some of you might already be familiar with their Christmas market. If you’re not, put it on your bucket list now. Like right now. Every year, they host a number of Christmas markets in their underground wine cellars, some of which date back to the 1600s. And while there are other underground Christmas markets out there, this is the only one that has a wine and culture theme. I have been to countless Christmas markets, and nowhere have I found a better white Glühwein.
Although Traben-Trarbach is a popular destination for people at Christmas, there is way more to it than just the Christmas market. Both parts of the city are visit-worthy, and kind of like with Piesport, each side has its own flair.
The Traben side is where you’ll find the underground Christmas market. I definitely get the feeling from the buildings and the layout of the streets that this side is not as old as the Trarbach side. It also feels a bit more modern in a way.
However, on this side you have a number of wineries and restaurants, and you can walk up into the vineyards either for a hike or just to get a view of the whole city.
Personally, I much prefer the Trarbach side. There are countless streets here to wander along, wineries on just about every corner, and the residents have taken impeccably good care of the buildings here. Everything on this side has a certain level of charm to it that you don’t necessarily see to the same extent on the Traben side.
As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, unlike Piesport and Neumagen-Dhron, there isn’t as much Roman history here. Instead, their history is linked more to the architecture and wine (Traben-Trarbach was once the second most important wine trading center in the world, behind only Bordeaux). If you’re interested in history, you might want to take one of their city tours. Or if you’re into history and storytelling, you might want to look into their Night Watchmen Tours, where a guide leads you by lamplight through the older parts of the city.
There are also a number of wineries on this side of the river. Many of them have cute little terraces surrounded by lights and flowers. But some of them are hidden. Don’t be fooled by wineries that just look like small indoor rooms. Most of them have hidden patios in the back that will make you feel like you’ve wandered into The Secret Garden.
What I love about Traben-Trarbach is how you can just winery hop all day long. My husband and I just recently spent an entire Saturday walking the cobblestone streets and popping into every other winery for a glass of wine. They also have small menus, so if you get hungry, there is always something tasty to pair with your wine. I would absolutely recommend the Spundekäs. So. Freaking. Good.
And just as a random add-on here, Traben-Trarbach also hosts the largest Buddha museum in Germany.
How to Get There
Here is a map showing where all three places are in relation to Bernkastel-Kues.
There are so many dreamy towns and cities along the Mosel River, and while Bernkastel-Kues is certainly one of them, there are so many others that offer unique experiences. Piesport with its postcard views, Neumagen-Dhron with its vibrancy, and Traben-Trarbach with its secret delights.