The Rhine is the river that defines Western Europe – a border, a fought-over frontier, an artery of transport for centuries; a microcosm of history heraldic, military and economic.
From Basel to the university city of Karlsruhe, the Rhine is Germany’s border river. There’s a cycle route on each bank. The German D8 keeps closer to the water than the French route, and each one forms part of EuroVelo 15. The wide valley here has much industry and many gravel pits, and truth be told it lacks the raw scenic appeal of the upstream river in Switzerland, but it’s an enjoyable if not engrossing ride.
Continuing downstream, it’s between Mainz and Koblenz that the river is undeniably at its finest. The Rhine Gorge is that rare scenic combination of a steep-sided valley with a broad, snaking river. This is the Rhine of legend: the sirens of the Lorelei, hilltop castles, mythical kings. You could in theory cover this section off in a day, but spend longer if you can.
Through Cologne, Leverkusen and Dusseldorf, the official route is well chosen but you may want to mix and match the route on each bank to take in different towns or perhaps stay closer to the river. You’ll feel that you’re in the Low Countries well before you reach Nijmegen, with barely a hill to be seen after Duisburg.