Picturesque Cochem is a stop for many travelers along the Mosel River. Whether they are traveling by boat, by car, or completely powered by wine, its picturesque castle towering 300 feet above the river draws visitors to the charming town midway up the hill and up to Cochem Imperial Castle (Reichsburg Cochem) at the top.
History of Cochem Castle
The castle has a long history of invaders, getting overrun, and being rebuilt. First settled by the Celtics and then Romans, Cochem was established in the early 1000s. By 1332 Cochem was granted town rights, filled its coffers by collecting tolls from passing ships, and built town fortifications that still stand today. In 1151 it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority.
It was thoroughly destroyed in 1688 by French King Louis XIV's troops during the Nine Years' War (or Pfälzischer Erbfolgekrieg). It took almost 200 years to be rebuilt by wealthy Berliner, Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené, who purchased the ruined property for the paltry sum of 300 Goldmark. Instead of recreating its neo-Gothic look, he built an opulent fairy tale summer residence for his family (in the same year Bavarian King Ludwig II began construction on Neuschwanstein Castle).
Since that time, ownership has been transferred several times, including who claimed the land. The Palatinate region—including Cochem—have been fought over between France and Prussia until 1815, when it permanently became part of Prussia. In 1946, Cochem was part of the newly founded state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The castle also moved from private ownership to the property of the town of Cochem in 1978.
The castle today is an accumulation of its different owners' and their respective styles. Some tour guides have claimed this makes it a less authentic German castle. Indeed, it is not exactly as it first stood, but it has withstood the test of time, make it a perfect modern castle and still a delight to visit.
The largest hillside castle on the Mosel, Reichsburg Cochem dominates the area skyline. Though the castle only retains a few of its original Romanesque and Gothic elements, it is a true beauty and a museum dedicated to life in the castle.
Here are some of its top attractions:
- Octagonal Tower: At the center of the polygonal castle is the four-story Romanesque tower with 12 feet thick walls.
- Hexenturm: Legend has it that the "Witches Tower" was where women found guilty of witchcraft were thrown from the upper window.
- Neo-Gothic halls: The Rittersaal (Knight's Hall) is the largest and grandest of these.
- Secret passages: Well adorned with suits of armor and baroque furniture.
- Mosaic of St Christopher: Located on the north side of the castle.
- Sonnenterrasse: The sun terrace provides stunning views of the Mosel valley and restaurant seating to enjoy refreshments.
Visitors can wander the grounds for free, but there are guided 40-minute tours in German (with translation sheets in 12 languages) to get inside the castle. Additional experiences of a Knight’s Meal (includes a meal, drinks, tour, and souvenir) or Ghost Tour, and even a falconry show are available.
What to See around Cochem Castle
Up from the river and the mosaic of Cochem’s noble family tree on the bridge by the tourist office, visitors pass through the gabled, half-timbered houses and cobble-stoned streets of Cochem's Altstadt (old town). Note the unique Mosel slate tiles topping the Marktplatz (market square) buildings, like the Baroque Rathaus (town hall) from 1739. Wander its narrow streets, and you are likely to stumble on several of its 14th-century Tor (city gates), like the Fuchsloch (fox hole), the city’s smallest gate which leads to a small passage to the Mosel promenade. And you would be remiss if you left Cochem without sampling some of the Mosel's best wines or, better yet, take some home as a souvenir.
Winneburg Castle Ruin
Located on the neighboring valley of Enderttal, the ruins of this 13th-century castle are a testament to the many wars fought along the Mosel. Destroyed during the Nine Years' War in 1689, it has been left virtually untouched for the last 330 years. It is about one hour up from Cochem's town center, and visitors still frequent the site to examine the romantic ruins, as well as the spectacular views.
An impressive lookout point with an unparalleled view of Reichsburg Cochem, the easiest way to reach the summit is chairlift. An enormous cross memorializes the shepherd who lost his life trying to save one of his herd. Take a camera to capture the magic.
Hiking in the Mosel
How to Get to Cochem Castle
To reach the castle by car, signs point you to the castle from Bunderestrasse B49, which connects to K20. Driving to the castle is not possible. Drivers must leave their car in the city center, like at the parking garage on Endertstraße or Pinnerstraße. From there, visitors can walk or take the shuttle.
The Cochem (Mosel) railway station is a walking distance away from the town center and castle. There is also a bus station below the castle.
The castle's picturesque location on top of the hill means visitors have to hike to get there. The walk up Schlossstrasse only takes about 20 minutes and is clearly marked yet quite steep. It takes travelers past Martinstor (Martin’s Gate), past vineyards, past ancient fortifications, past Peterskapelle (a small chapel), all the way to the castle.
Most convenient is the shuttle bus, which runs from April to November. In the off-season, taxis may also offer a short run to the site.
Tips for Visiting Cochem Castle
Like many places along the Mosel, the regional specialty of Riesling is a must-have in Cochem. This area of Germany has been producing Riesling since 1435. Expect world-class wines with light fragrance and body, pale color, and fruity acidity. Visitors can find local wines on every menu, as well as in the shops in town to take with you.
The other Cochem product all visitors should take home as a gift is mustard or senf. Visit the 200-year-old mustard mill and discover how this gourmet mustard is created, the recipe handed down through generations. Guided tours (with tastings) are available, and a shop offers plenty of delicious jars to take home.