Germany’s western river has been at the heart of commerce and industry for centuries. The cycle route following its course – EuroVelo 15, or German national route D8 – gives you a close-up view of both this industry but also some delightful rural scenery.
Here, in its northern reaches, you’ll begin in the business hub of Düsseldorf, ride past the industry of Duisburg, and emerge into a landscape of small towns and riverside villages – of which the cathedral town of Xanten is surely the finest. All this time, a steady stream of Rhine barges keeps pace with you.
You might be wondering why this guide only covers 130km from Düsseldorf to the border with the Netherlands, when the full route in Germany is some 800km. The answer is that I like to ride the routes for cycle.travel’s detailed guides rather than just doing “desktop research”, and I haven’t ridden the full Rhine yet. But it seemed a shame not to write up the section I have written! You can see a brief introduction and a map of the full route here.
Note that at present, there are major dyke rebuild works between Rheinberg and Kleve. As a result, you may find yourself diverted away from the official route. The diversions are well signposted with bright yellow cycle signs.
This is a two-day route for most tourers, but you could stretch it out to three with more time in Düsseldorf and Xanten.
Flat, mostly traffic-free, and easy to navigate, this is an ideal route for the first-timer.
Almost all the route is paved, though on the dykes, this sometimes entails a paving stone pattern that can be a bit jarring on your arms. In any case, it should be suitable for any bike. There’s a gravel section around the lakes at Vynen, but you can easily reroute if you’re on narrow tyres.
Cafés and supermarkets are fairly easy to come by. If you’re visiting from overseas, note that many small German retailers don’t take Visa or Mastercard (or often, any cards at all), so take a few Euros out in Düsseldorf.
Yes, it’s consistently signposted with both EuroVelo 15 and D8 logos, in the German style of hanging route logos off a fingerpost sign.
Between Düsseldorf and Duisburg, there’s a route on each bank. We’ve chosen the west bank largely because the industry of Duisburg is an acquired taste, but with several bridges along this stretch, you can chop and change as you like.
North of Duisburg, EuroVelo 15 follows the west bank, but there are alternative local routes on the east bank.
The Rhine route continues at each end, downstream to the Netherlands or upstream through Germany towards Switzerland. EuroVelo 3, the Pilgrims’ Route, heads east from Wesel. There are too many local routes to mention, from Dutch-style knooppunt networks to a football-themed tour.
The route is mostly well chosen, but the currently signposted course away from the river through In Den Haesen is curious, and we’d suggest staying by the river.
The lakeside gravel tracks between Xanten and Vynen are pleasant enough, but if you’re on a skinny-tyred road bike, you’ll find it more comfortable on local roads.
There are frequent local trains following the east bank of the river, and a handful of lines on the west bank too. There’s no station at Millingen, so you’ll either need to backtrack to Kleve or continue on towards Arnhem.