In the middle of Germany’s Moselle Valley is a small town with cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and vineyard-draped hills—Bernkastel-Kues. Its timeless charm draws travelers from all over the world (especially ones like me who were ported there on a river cruise).
Its small size doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of fun things to do in Bernkastel-Kues. There are historic wooden houses to explore, exquisite local wines to taste, a hiking path that leads to the ancient landshut castle ruins, and much more.
The Best Things to Do in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany
1. Explore the Bernkastel Old Town
Don’t miss exploring the charm of Bernkastel’s old town, Mittelalterlicher Marktplatz, filled with centuries-old, half-timbered houses (made with wooden frames visible from the outside).
Keep wandering and you will find the Rathaus (Town Hall) that stands proudly as a symbol of civic pride, boasting intricate architectural details that tell the stories of the town’s governance and prosperity. As you continue your exploration, the Spitzhäuschen (Pointed House) catches your eye with its unique pointy design, offering a glimpse into the ingenious craftsmanship of the past.
2. Cruise the Moselle River
A Moselle River cruise is a great way to see the beautiful scenery of the Moselle Valley and beyond. Different cruises (like the one we did with Avalon Waterways) takes you on a journey along the River Moselle, passing through vineyards, cute villages (like Bernkastel!), and picturesque castles. What’s more, there’s also a chance to do fun excursions on each stop so that you get to experience the best of what each town has to offer.
3. Wine Tasting @Weingut Pauly Bergweiler
With its reputation as one of the best wine-growing centers in the region, Bernkastel’s wine-tasting experience is something you should not miss out on. And at Weingut Pauly Bergweiler, a renowned winery in the town, it is not just a simple sip and swirl; it’s a cultural immersion into the heart and soul of Moselle winemaking.
Book a wine tasting and immerse yourself in the world of Moselle wines (specifically Riesling and Pinot Noir), learn about their winemaking process, and savor a variety of vintages that showcase the region’s viticultural excellence.
4. Attend the Weinfest der Mittelmosel
If your visit coincides with the Weinfest der Mittelmosel (Middle Moselle Wine Festival), held annually on the first weekend of September, be sure to join the festivities celebrating local wines, gastronomy, and cultural performances. From fireworks to parades to the coronation of the town’s Mosella (wine queen), this lively event showcases the best of Moselle’s wine and culinary traditions.
5. Hike to the Castle Ruins of Burg Landshut
Perched atop a hill that overlooks the city is the Burg Landshut Castle ruins, an ancient castle dating back several centuries. You can get a ride to the top from the Castle Landshut Express, but for a more bucket list worthy experience take the uphill hike that offers new vistas at every turn.
The hike is about a mile and takes approximately 30 minutes, but once you reach the top you will be rewarded with even better views. Plus, you’ll be able to explore the exterior of the ruins and even have a meal at the restaurant on premise.
6. Relax at a Thermal Bath
Looking to add a little luxury to your Bernkastel adventure? Why not pamper yourself with a visit to a thermal spa in one of the neighboring towns? Just an hour’s drive north from Bernkastel, the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich calls with its warm, healing waters, offering a haven of tranquility.
For another option, head northeast to the Moseltherme in Traben-Trarbach, where the therapeutic benefits of the thermal baths blend seamlessly with the picturesque Moselle landscapes.
7. Enjoy the Books and Wine at St. Nikolaus-Hospital (Cusanusstift)
Step into the magical world where books and wine come together at St. Nikolaus-Hospital (Cusanusstift) in Bernkastel. This special place, from the 15th century, is a mix of old-time charm and cultural treasures from the past. Even though the old walls have many stories to tell, the place is still alive and used as a senior citizens’ home.
As you explore the well-preserved corridors, a remarkable library unveils its treasures (with a guided tour), housing ancient books and literary wonders collected by Nicolas Cusanus, the hospital’s founder. Amidst the literary splendor, the Moselle Wine Museum awaits in the courtyard, stocked with a curated selection of delicious local wines.
8. Pass through the Graacher Tor (Graach Gate)
As you stroll through the charming streets of Bernkastel, Germany, you’ll come across the Graacher Tor gate—a real piece of history. This tall arch has been standing there since the 14th century. It’s not just a cool-looking entrance; it’s like a time machine that takes you back to when traders, knights, and storytellers passed through. Walking under the stone arch, you can almost feel the stories of the past. The Graacher Tor gate is like a living history book, connecting today with the tales of yesteryears.
9. Taste the Local Cuisine
Gear up for a culinary adventure that’ll take your taste buds on a wild ride through the Moselle region.Sink your teeth into Muselfisch, a local delicacy of baked Mosel fish, prepared to perfection with traditional spices and love. For a hearty treat, indulge in Gräwes, a delectable dish blending mashed potatoes, tangy sauerkraut, and savory bacon. You can find these and other traditional cuisine in one of the many restaurants in the town, especially around Marktplatz. A couple highly recommended are Cafe Thiesen and Restaurant Alt Bernkastel.
10. Enjoy the Views at the Grainskopf Observation Tower
Get ready for the wonder of Grainskopf—a tall observation tower in the Wehlen forest, close to the Trinity, an ancient Mosel site. The 12 meter tall steel tower is made of steel and is most commonly reached by hiking to it. You can see some of the most popular hikes to get there at Kamoot.
11. Go to the Christmas Markets
The Christmas markets in Bernkastel-Kues are a magical sight to behold. From late November to just before Christmas Eve, the town center is transformed into a winter wonderland, with over 40 lovingly decorated wooden stalls lining the streets.
You can enjoy a variety of traditional German Christmas treats, such as gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine. There are also plenty of opportunities to find unique Christmas gifts, from handmade ornaments to handcrafted toys.
12. Visit the Modern Classic Car Museum “Zylinderhaus”
The Modern Classic Car Museum “Zylinderhaus” invites classic car enthusiasts into a time capsule of German automotive history. Housing an impressive collection of over 100 meticulously restored classics, spanning from the 1920s to the 1980s, the museum showcases iconic models like the DKW Monza, the Audi Front 225 Cabriolet, and the Borgward Isabella.
Beyond cars, Zylinderhaus unfolds the two-wheeled chapters of history with a display of vintage motorbikes and bicycles from different decades, making it a comprehensive ode to Germany’s automotive legacy.
13. Go to the Moselle Wine Museum
Found within the grounds of St. Nikolaus-Hospital (Cusanusstift), the Moselle Wine Museum takes you through the rich history and culture of winemaking in the Moselle Valley.
With over 150 wines from the region, the museum not only presents an extensive collection, but also delves into the fascinating heritage of the region’s winemaking. You can also step into the cellar to experience the excellence of Moselle wines, particularly the Reislings.
14. Walk Part of the Moselsteig Trail
The 365-kilometer Moselsteig Trail, weaves through the heart of the Moselle Valley from Perl to Koblenz. With 24 stages ranging from 11 to 24 kilometers, the trail caters to all hikers, offering options from easy (like Stage 08) to challenging (such as Stage 01). Tailor your experience to fitness and preference. For time-strapped adventurers, convenient bus or train options allow you to select and explore specific stages of this trail.
P.S. For more information about each stage, you can check out the Visit Mosel website.
15. Ride the Bernkastel Panorama Train
Take a lovely 45-minute ride on the Bernkastel Panorama Train, and you’ll see the town’s beauty right before your eyes. Pass through the streets and spot famous places like the Moselle Wine Museum, which tells the story of the region’s wine history.
Marvel at St. Michael’s Kirche, an old church with a cool tower, and the cute Fiers Chapel, adding a touch of style to the whole view. This train ride isn’t just a simple tour—it’s like a visual journey through Bernkastel-Kues’ cultural and historical treasures.
The Bernkastel Panorama Train runs from May to October. You can catch it and return at the stop across from the tourist information office in the Bernkastel district. You can check out the local tourism website for their departure times and other details.
16. Visit the Nikolaus Cusanus Birthplace
Step into the medieval world at the birthplace of Nikolaus Cusanus, a renowned Catholic cardinal, philosopher, mathematician, jurist, theologian, and astronomer. Located in Kues, along the Moselle’s banks, explore the historic home of this Renaissance man, where exhibits showcase his remarkable contributions to science, theology, and philosophy. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the 15th century and gain a deeper understanding of the life and work of this intellectual giant.
17. Go Wine Tasting
Known for being a top spot for growing wine along the Moselle, Bernkastel-Kues is famous for its really good wines. Take a sip and explore the flavors that tell the story of the region’s rich wine history. From light Rieslings to strong red wines, each taste shows off the skill of the local winemakers. The steep slopes covered in vines and traditions that go way back giving Moselle wines a special taste. So, it’s not just a tasting; it’s like going on a journey into the heart of an area known for making awesome wines.
18. Visit the Mittelmosel-Museum
In the middle of Traben-Trarbach, a town near Bernkastel-Kues, you’ll find the Mittelmosel-Museum. It’s a place full of local history and culture, tucked inside a really Baroque style villa. The museum offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of wealthy noble families of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Meander through over 20 exhibition rooms filled with exquisite furnishings, artwork, and artifacts, each piece meticulously preserved to tell the stories of the past. And don’t miss the chance to appreciate the beauty of the villa itself—with its intricate detailing and elegant design.
As the day wraps up in Bernkastel, Germany, you can’t help but feel the charm lingering in the air. Whether you’re sipping on local wines, wandering through old streets, or exploring the Mittelmosel-Museum, every moment adds a special touch to this Moselle town. Bernkastel isn’t just a place; it’s an experience—a mix of tasty adventures, historic towers, and cultural treasures. So, as you say goodbye for now, it’s more like a “see you later.” Bernkastel is waiting to welcome you back, promising more magic and discoveries whenever you decide to return.
Best Tips for Visiting Bernkastel-Kues
How to Get to Bernkastel-Kues: Hahn (HHN) Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use take the line 368 bus and line 360 bus.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Taxis and Uber are available all over the city. For a more budget friendly option, you can take the public bus.
Best Time to Visit Bernkastel-Kues: Summer and Autumn.
Where to Stay in Bernkastel-Kues: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. DEINHARD’s is a great choice in the Koror district. For something on the less expensive side, try Hotel Alt Cues. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Wein- und Landhaus S A Prüm. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to VRBO that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.