Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Rhineland-Palatinate
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Perhaps the most dominant feature, certainly one of the most popular, of this south western state of Germany is the Rhine River. Vineyard covered slopes of the valley create a picturesque setting for castles and palaces, churches and abbeys. A region that is well known amongst hikers and cyclists and well as cruise ship passengers. The vineyards were introduced to the region by the Romans, who set up settlements in many locations. Most notably the UNESCO listed World Heritage site of Trier, or Augusta Treverorum – suggested by some to be the oldest city in Germany. Whether you are interested in following in the footsteps of the Celts and Romans or visiting the Cold War Regierungsbunker in the Ahr Valley, Rheinland-Pfalz is a treasure trove of archaeology and history.

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Historical Towns & Cities in Rhineland-Palatinate

Roman Trier - Augusta Treverorum

Founded by the Romans around 16 BC Trier is said to be the oldest city in Germany. By the 4th century AD, as one of the tetrarchy, it was one of the largest cities in the Empire, and known as ‘the second Rome’. Trier also has some extremely well preserved Roman remains. These include a bridge over the Moselle, an amphitheatre, bath houses and the basilica built for Constantine at the beginning of the 4th century AD. Together with two medieval cathedrals these Roman monuments have been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Roman Mainz - Mogontiacum

What started out as a strategically positioned Legionary base developed into a regional administrative and military centre. Mogontiacum often served as a military base for Roman incursions into the north and east of Germany. Its position on the Rhine, at the mouth of another major navigable river – the Main, made the town very attractive to traders who set up a port. Besides a few good museums, there are a number of Roman ruins to see in Mainz, including the remnants of an aqueduct, and the foundations of a temple.

Archaeology & History Sites in Rhineland-Palatinate

Burg Maus

Originally called Peterseck Castle and completed in 1388, the fortified residence was built by Electors of Trier to enforce their toll rights on the Rhine River. But also to protect their territory against the Counts of Katzenelnbogen on the opposite side of the Rhine. As a response, they built Neu-Katzenelnbogen Castle (Burg Katz), which led the people to call the castles “Katz und Maus”. The castle was never destroyed in the region’s conflicts, but it fell into disrepair during the 18th century. In 1898 it was bought by a Cologne architect and restored as a residence while preserving its medieval style.

Hardenburg Castle

The hilltop Hardenburg Castle was built around 1210 by the counts of the Leiningen House, and is thought to be one of the most powerful castles in the Palatinate region. In the 16th century it was further fortified and expanded as a Renaissance residence for the family. After surviving the Thirty Years War as well as the attacks of Ludwig XIV, it was set alight by the French revolutionary forces in 1796. Although its interior was completely destroyed, the ruin is well preserved and now hosts a fully accessible visitor centre as well as a number of annual events.

Reichenberg Castle

Reichenberg Castle, within the UNESCO listed Upper Middle Rhine Valley, was built in 1319 by Graf von Katzenelnbogen. By the time of his death in 1331 the unfinished castle was divided between the brothers Willhelm II and Erbhard V. Willhelm II did not finish construction and the castle was abandoned for the following 700 years. In 2010, the ruin was bought by a businessman who is collaborating with the Cultural Heritage Preservation to save what is left of the castle. Since the ruin is very instable it can only be viewed from the outside.

Katz Castle

The UNESCO world heritage site Burg Neukatzenelnbogen (more simply Burg Katz) was built in 1393 by Graf Johann III von Neukatzenelnbogen. Throughout the years, it was at the center of various infighting between the two family lines of Hessen-Kasseln and Hessen-Darmstadt. After its destruction in 1806 by Napoleon, the district administrator of the region in 1896 bought the ruin and rebuilt it without care for its original medieval form. Finally, in 1989 it was purchased by a Japanese hotel manager. To this day, the castle is private property and cannot be visited.

Pyrmont Castle

Pyrmont Castle, first mentioned in 1225, is thought to have been built by Kuno von Schönberg on top of a waterfall. After it had served as a defensive structure, it was left to decay. Following French occupation in 1810 the ruin was put up for auction. In 1912, it was bought by Captain Scharmberg who proceeded to live in the castles cellar as a hermit. In 1963 it was reconstructed by Hentrich and Petschnigg, who merged the medieval and baroque features with modern architectural elements. Today the castle is mostly used as a venue for special events, but it is possible to take guided tours.

Rheinfels Castle

The UNESCO world heritage site Rheinfels Castle was built in 1245 by Graf Diether V. von Neukatzenelnbogen and was used to clear customs. After a year-long, failed occupation, the fortress gained a reputation for being impregnable. In 1570 it was turned into a complex Renaissance palace by Landgrave Philipp I. von Hessen, who managed to hold out against the attacks of Louis XIV. However, around 1796 it was blown up by the French revolutionary army. The ruins are the property of the city St. Goar since 1925 and were partially turned into a 4-star hotel.

Boppard Roman Fort

The centre of present-day Boppard on the Rhine River is built on the remains of a mid 4th century AD Roman fort, named Bodobrica. This was one of the most important military camps on the Middle Rhine. The settlement was founded by the Celts, named Baudobriga. The size attests to the fort’s importance, at 308 × 154 m covering an area of 4,7 ha. The walls were 3 metres thick facing land sides,  and 2,5 metres thick facing the Rhine side, reaching to a height 9 m with 20 towers – this was a formidable fort and is today one of the best preserved Roman forts in Germany.

German Government Bunker

Near the small town of Ahrweiler, the Cold War bunker served as a secure location for the German government to operate from in the event of a nuclear attack. Built underground between 1960 and 1972, it is an extraordinary feat of engineering as the bunker was designed to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear strike. It could accommodate up to 4,000 people for several weeks. Today visitors can take guided tours of the facility and see the living quarters, communication centres, and medical facility.

Roman Mine, Meurin

Vulkanpark is a rural geo-attraction focussed on a volcanic region in the eastern Vulkan Eifel area of Germany. A series of self-guided routes enable visitors to explore volcanology, archaeology and industrial history – and understand how the exploitation of volcanic rock has shaped the landscape since Roman times. Besides the Roman mine, the routes also take in a section of Roman walls near the town of Mayen and two Roman mound graves just outside the towns of Nickenich and Ochtendung.

Weilberg Villa, Bad Dürkheim

In 1981 the remains of a Roman Villa were excavated, and the walls partly reconstructed. Excavations revealed a wine press, and the slopes on which the villa’s ruins are found are still used to grow vines today. The earliest habitation is thought to have been around 50 BCE, but construction of the main stone-built villa began in the 2nd century CE. The site was abandoned by the 5th century. In all the Roman site is about 7.5 hectares. Today the site, which includes a reconstruction of the main house, is an open air museum.

Museums & Art Galleries in Rhineland-Palatinate

Roscheider Hof

On the outskirts of Konz, the Roscheider Hof open-air museum has assembled a set of residential and trade buildings, and a vast collection of artefacts from the mid 19th century to the 1970s. Explore the small village made up of ten historic houses collected from various Hunsrück villages. Also on show is a Reich Labour Service barrack. Set in over 22 hectares, gardens demonstrate the history of agricultural practices in the area, with livestock, a vineyard and orchards. A quick tour takes around two hours, but with many activities and much to seer, most visitors spend the better part of a day here.

Rhineland-Palatinate Open Air Museum

In Bad Sobernheim the Rhineland-Palatinate Open Air Museum brings together a range of historic buildings from this region of Germany, spanning around 500 years of rural architectural history. The museum was founded in 1973 and now has over 40 buildings in its collection, as well as an escape room – said to be the first in a German open-air museum. As well as the buildings, the museum also maintains livestock, gardens, orchards and a vineyard using traditional farming techniques.

Terra Sigillata Museum

During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD Rheinzabern, then called Tabernae, was probably the most important centre for the production of fine ceramic tableware, known as Terra Sigillata. Not only was the area rich in necessary raw materials required for the production of ceramic vessels, both clay and wood, the favourable transport conditions afforded by the Roman Rhine Valley Road, ensured great commercial success for the town. The museum explores pottery production during the Roman period, and visitors can take a guided tour to the nearby Roman Kilns.

Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Trier

Founded in 1877, this state museum exhibits artefacts from prehistory to the Baroque period, some 200,000 years of history from stone tools to elaborate Medieval art. Not surprisingly, a major focus of the museum is the Roman period, for which there are numerous displays that draw on the many archaeological finds excavated in Trier that tell the story of the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum. One particular highlight is the Trier Gold Hoard, found in 1993 it is the largest known hoard of Roman gold coins.

Romano-Germanic Central Museum, Mainz

In June 2017 the Roman-Germanic Central Museum housed in the Electoral Palace of Mainz closed to the public in preparation for the move to Neutorstraße. Expected to open in 2024, there will be around 200,000 artefacts displayed in a new, state-of-the-art facility covering an estimated 14,500 square meters of exhibition space.