Spring and Summer in Germany are dotted with festivals. May Day in Bavaria, Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin and Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) that takes places along the Rhine river. A spectacular display that occurs at five different destinations, it is a highlight for cruisers, visitors and locals.
History of the Rhine in Flames
The event has a bit of a spotty history, starting back in the 1930s. It was begun by Kunibert Oches, the director of the Landesverkehrsverbandes Nordrhein, and lit the 26 kilometers of water between Linz and Bad Godesberg with fireworks exotically referred to as Bengal Fire.
The event was held for several years before World War II put a damper on everything. This effectively put the festival on hiatus until area residents organized (and paid) to put on the glamorous event once again in 1948. It even counted Queen Elizabeth II as an attendee in 1965.
That alone didn't save the event, however. The large expense and organization it took to put on the show meant a particularly motivated group needed to lead it - enter the cruise ship companies. Cruises on the Rhine were already a popular activity and adding a festival into the mix rocketed their desirability. Rhine in Flammen was back in full force from 1986 onwards.
The event has been taking place for over 30 years. It pairs beautifully with the numerous river bank wine festivals that also take place at this time and attracts around 300,000 visitors each year.
What is the Rhine in Flames?
So, what exactly is this spectacular display? It is a series of magnificent firework displays that light up the river in Bonn, Rüdesheim - Bingen, Koblenz, Oberwesel and St. Goar - St. Goarshausen. This annual festival occurs on five different dates, spreading the festival over the warmer months when the whole of the country spills outside. Taking advantage of its location on the river, the fireworks pop off around 22:00 with the arrival of beautifully lit ships. The skies explode as elegant ships parade below.
Rhine in Flames in Bonn
Date: May 6, 2017
The first leg of the festival takes place in Bonn with the best viewing at Rheinauen Park. Traditionally, it happens on the first Saturday in May.
Rhine in Flames in Rüdesheim - Bingen
Date: July 1, 2017
Enter into summer by gliding through the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Castles are aflame and ships are magically illuminated.
Rhine in Flames in Koblenz
Date: August 12, 2017
The biggest stop on the Rhein in Flammen happens in Koblenz in the heat of the summer (usually the second Saturday in August). Almost 80 boats and over 20,000 passengers soar through the fireworks from the village of Spay to Koblenz's iconic Deutsches Eck where the Rhine and Moselle meet.
Rhine in Flames in Oberwesel
Date: September 9th, 2017
Synchronized to music, 50 boats make their entrance to an explosion of color. And if you can't make the fireworks, you can at least attend the Weinmarkt Oberwesel (wine market) that runs from 9th to 12th and 16th to 17th of September.
Rhine in Flames in St. Goar - St. Goarshausen
Date: September 16th, 2017
On the last stop in the fireworks riverside parade, the convoy of ships pause between the German castles of Burg Maus and Burg Rheinfels foot of the Loreley. About 50 colorfully lit passenger ships finish the fall finale with the party continuing on both shores of the river.
Visitor Info for Rhine in Flammen
While visitors are free to watch from the shores, the best seats are as part of the show abroad a ship. Our post on cruising the Rhine will help you identify your best options with different vendors providing different price points and programs.
Most tickets start at €49 (and can go much higher). Tickets can be purchased from the tourist offices in town, online (select the city and tickets and the site will take you to the city site), or directly from the boat companies.