St Goar Germany Image of the Rhine river town of St Goar Germany

St Goar Germany guide: Top things to see and do

Here is my guide to St Goar, the Rhine river town that may just be the best base for exploring the famous Rhine Gorge World Heritage Site.

St Goar, sometimes written Sankt Goar, has one of the best Rhine Castles, one of the best views in the whole Valley (across to its twin village, St Goarhausen, and Burg Katz) and it’s very close to the Loreley rock, source of many a mythical tale.  

St Goar, together with St Goarshausen, makes an essential Rhine Valley day trip, and we also opted to use it as a base for several days.

Its central location halfway along the Rhine Gorge and its convenient ferry (there are no bridges along the Gorge) opens up the whole Rhine Valley to you.

In my St Goar guide I show you the town and its Castle, and also show you options if you’re planning to travel further afield.

Why Visit St Goar

Image of main street in St Goar Germany
The main street and Rheinfels Castle in St Goar

St Goar is possibly the best base for exploring the Rhine Valley, halfway along the Rhine Gorge with everywhere within reach both sides of the river thanks to the ferry.

Rheinfels Castle is one of the best Rhine castles to visit, its extensive medieval ruins full of wall walks, climbs and even a giant cellar to explore.

Image of half-timbered building in St Goar Germany
Half-timbered hotel in St Goar
Image of people at restaurant tables outdoors in St Goar
Eating out in St Goar

St Goar is one of the most underrated Rhine river towns, with many half-timbered buildings and medieval alleys to wander.

The village isn’t quite as picturesque as Bacharach, but it’s got an unbeatable view across the river to Burg Katz, one of the most beautiful castles on the Rhine.

It’s also very close to the Loreley rock, one of the most famous places in the Rhine Valley, overlooking the most treacherous stretch of water on the river.    

Best Things To Do In St Goar

1. Visit Rheinfels Castle

Image of burg Rheinfels castle St Goar Germany
Burg Rheinfels is one of the largest Rhine river castles

Burg Rheinfels – Rheinfels Castle – is the largest of the Rhine River Castles, despite much of it having been destroyed by the French in 1797.  It’s a substantial site now, so must have been vast before Napoleon’s forces captured and slighted it.

Image of sign pointing towards Rheinfels Castle Germany
A great wooden sign directing you to Rheinfels Castle
Image of Rheinfels Castle St Goar Germany
Rheinfels Castle

Rheinfels Castle was built to collect tolls from passing river traffic by Count Dieter V of Katzenelnbogen. It was begun in 1245 and later worked in tandem with another Katzenelnbogen castle, Burg Katz, across the river in St Goarshausen. Together they were competing with Burg Maus, a mile or so downstream from Rheinfels on the opposite bank of the river.

Image of child in the cellar of Rheinfels Castle St Goar Germany
Our Little Man going underground at Rheinfels Castle

The Castle is at the crown of the hill above the village, and some of its outbuildings now comprise the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rheinfels, which has three restaurants.

The extensive castle ruins are fantastic to explore. My son came along with me for the afternoon, and loved the wall walks and vast cellar which is used as a concert venue. He’s a budding numismatist (coin and note collector) and was fascinated by the Castle Museum, particularly a one billion mark note from the galloping inflation period of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

You can reach the Castle on foot, a 20-25 minute walk from St Goar train station, or catch the Rheinfels Shuttle bus (service number 699) during the summer months.   

2. Discover The Legends Of The Loreley

Image of a boat passing the Loreley rock St Goar Germany
A boat passing the Loreley rock on the right of frame

Loreley is the name given to a steep cliff overlooking the dangerous waters of the river a mile south of St Goar and St Goarshausen. It’s also the name of a mythical maiden who threw herself off the cliff into the river having been cheated on by a lover.  According to the story she then became a siren who would lure sailors and fishermen to their deaths on the rocks.

German writer Clemens Brentano introduced the story around 1800, and famous German poert Heinrich Heine wrote the poem ‘Die Loreley’ in 1824.

Image of the Loreley statue St Goarshausen Germany
The Loreley statue near St Goarshausen

There are various Loreley-themed attractions around the rock. Down at river level, there is a Lorelei statue at the end of the long breakwater just downriver from the rock.

There is also a large park at the top of the cliff, which you can access by car by following g the L338 from St Goarshausen. There’s a large music and performance area, a culture park, several superb viewpoints and trails to explore.

3. Take The Ferry to St Goarshausen

Image of the Rhine ferry leaving St Goar Rheinland-Pfalz Geramny
The ferry to St Goarshausen
Image of the St Goar ferry
Cyclists on board the ferry

The St Goar to St Goarshausen ferry is one of five Rhine ferries crossing the river between Koblenz and Rudesheim.  There are no bridges along the 65 km (40-mile) Rhine Gorge so it’s a vital transport link, used by pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks.

The journey takes less than five minutes.  You pay as you board. Cars cost €5.30, adults €1.70 and children 6-14 €1. The ferries run from 5.30 am to 9.00 pm daily, with slightly later starts on weekend days.

The ferry wharf is on the southern side of the village, with the boarding point directly below the Hotel an der Fähre.

4. Hike To The Dreiburgenblick Viewpoint

Image of Burg Katz Castle Rhineland Germany
Burg Katz from near the Dreiburgenblick viewpoint
Image of Burg Katz Castle Germany
Burg Katz from the Rheinsteig long-distance footpath

The Dreiburgenblick – Three Castles Viewpoint – is on the hilltop ridge in the village of Patersberg, above St Goarshausen on the opposite side of the Rhine from St Goar.

I joined the Rheinsteig path on Forstbachstrasse in St Goarshausen, gradually climbing through vineyards until I reached Patersberg. I then turned left and followed the ridge walk back towards the river. The main reason I went was for the views of Burg Katz, the castle that towers above St Goarshausen, and these are better some way before the viewpoint.

Once there, you can see Burg Katz, Burg Rheinfels and Burg Maus (Mouse Castle), the toll castle once owned by the Electors of Trier, around two miles downstream near the village of Wellmich.

5. Stop For A Drink At R(h)ein Chillen

Image of R(h)ein Chillen bar St Goar Germany
The R(h)ein Chuillen bar is a great spot for an evening drink

We stopped by at this riverside pop-up bar a couple of times during our evening walks in St Goar. They serve beer, wine and cocktails, so the beer helped cool me down after some long hikes in the area.

The view across the river to St Goarshausen and Burg Katz is fantastic. It’s one of the best bars on the Rhine that we found, well worth a stop.

6. Visit the Stiftskirche

Image of the Stiftskirche in St Goar Germany
The medieval Stiftskirche
Image of frescoes in a vault in the Stiftskirche St Goar Germany
15th century frescoes in a ceiling vault in the Stiftskirche

The white Stiftskirche (Evangelical Church) is the second most prominent landmark in the town, its spire the highest structure there. The crypt (closed when we visited) is from the Romanesque period (most likely 12th century) while the main body of the church was built later in the Gothic style.

The most impressive feature we found was the series of wall and ceiling frescoes in the south aisle, which are from the late 15th century.

7. See The St Goar Cuckoo Clock – The Largest In The World

Image of the St Goar cuckoo clock Germany
The famous cuckoo clock in St Goar

My son had never seen a cuckoo clock until we passed the one hanging outside Montag Steins & Clocks on Heerstrasse, the main shopping street in St Goar. He remarked on its substantial size, and he wasn’t wrong – we later discovered that it is the largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in the world.

This is a brilliant shop to visit if you’re looking for handmade German crafts. They specialize in cuckoo clocks and beer steins, but also have lots more besides. If Faye (my wife) had gone in there we would have ended up shipping half the shop home with us.

8. The Unsavoury Tales Of The Schissengasse

Image of Schissergasschen  street sign St Goar Germany
The name politely translates as Poopers Alley

St Goar has a long history as a busy Rhine river port, and this is humorously commemorated in a tiny passageway – the Schissengasse – off main street Heerstrasse.

Apparently the port was so busy that the workers didn’t even have time for toilet breaks. Nature nonetheless had to take its course, so the workers – known as Rampenschisser – would do their business (number two) on the riverbank.

When you walk through Schissengasse you pass a wild-haired bedraggled figure squatting and cackling, followed by the sound of a toilet flush. There’s also a small monument to the hard-working port poopers on the riverfront.

9. St Goar Doll and Teddy Bear Museum

Image of the Doll and Teddy Bear Museum in St Goar
The Doll And Teddy Bear Museum is currently closed

We had read about this museum on several other websites, but it is no longer possible to visit. I checked with the local tourist office and it has been closed for around five years due to the owner’s ill health.

The collection is still there and hopefully someone else will re-open the museum one day.

Where Is St Goar

Image of St Goar Rhineland Germany
St Goar and the view to twin village St Goarshausen

St Goar is on the left bank of the River Rhine, 35 km (22 miles) south of Koblenz and 25 km (15 miles) north of Bingen.

It is in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz in German), and part of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is also 103 km (64 miles) from Cologne and 100 km (62 miles) from Frankfurt am Main.

How To Get To St Goar

Image of St Goar looking towards Burg katz
Looking from the riverfront towards Burg Katz

St Goar is on the Koblenz to Bingen and Mainz train line which runs along the west side of the Rhine Gorge. The hourly regional RB26 service stops there – note that the faster services on this route, including the InterCity trains, don’t stop at St Goar.

The St Goarshausen ferry is another way of reaching St Goar if you’re travelling from the opposite side of the river. The ferry wharf in St Goarshausen is a 7-minute walk from the train station.

For train times check the Deutsche Bahn website.

If you’re driving, St Goar is on the B9 road that runs alongside the river from Koblenz to Bingen.  The A61 autobahn (motorway) also passes nearby.

And if you’re flying into Germany, the best long-haul options for getting to the Rhine Valley are Frankfurt Airport and Cologne-Bonn Airport. If you’re travelling from the UK or elsewhere in Europe, budget carriers Ryanair and Wizzair fly to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, which is close to the Mosel and Rhine valleys and 120 km from Frankfurt.

Places To Visit Near St Goar

Image of Pfalzgrafenstein Castle and Gutenfels Castle Kaub Germany
Pfalzgrafenstein and Gutenfels Castles

St Goar is midway along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, and the flexibility of the ferry over the river means you can explore either side of the Rhine in in either direction.

To the north, the nearest major Rhine river town is Boppard, a great Rhine day trip with gorgeous medieval architecture, wineries, a fine parish church, Roman ruins and a great cable car ride taking you to one of the best views in the Rhine Valley.

Image of Bacharach village and River Rhine Germany
Stunning Bacharach
Image of the gatehouse at Schloss Philippsburg Braubach Germany
Schloss Philippsburg in Braubach

A few miles beyond, and across the river, lies Braubach, a stunning half-timbered town at the foot of Marksburg Castle, the most impressive of the Rhine Castles.  

To the south, Oberwesel and Bacharach are two of the best Rhine river towns to visit, and halfway between them you’ll find Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, the iconic castle on an island in the river.

Beyond there you can travel to the castles of Sooneck, Reichenstein and Rheinstein, all of which are close to the village of Trechtinghausen, before reaching the entrance to the Rhine Gorge just after Rudesheim and Bingen.

St Goar Hotels

Image of Schoss Rheinfels Hotel and the Castle ruin next door
Schloss Rheinfels Hotel at dusk
Image of Zur Krone hotel St Goar Germany
Zur Krone Hotel

$$$$ Hotel Schloss Rheinfels – This historic castle hotel offers spectacular views over the Rhine River, spacious rooms, an outdoor pool, and a spa.

$$$ Hotel Zur Loreley – Family-run since 1920, this 3-star hotel offers accommodation with free WiFi in the central pedestrian zone of Sankt Goar. Rheinfels Castle is 700 m away.

$$ Rheinhotel St Goar– Fabulous location right on the Rhine, very welcoming, great breakfast

Hotel an der Fähre – Great location on the river, excellent value for money

St Goar – Final Thoughts

Image of the village of St Goar Germany
Sankt Goar from the river

St Goar is a great base for exploring the Romantic Rhine Valley.  Burg Rheinfels is one of the best Rhine castles to visit, and the sight of Burg Katz castle across the river is one of the best in the Rhine Valley.

It’s also one of the livelier River Rhine towns, with several restaurants and bars with outside tables busy through the evening.  It’s also very close to the Loreley rock, and roughly halfway along the Rhine Gorge, an ideal location for exploring in either direction or across the river.

Discover more of our articles on Germany here:

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David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.