Unless you are driving, I would recommend the KD Ferry as the most enjoyable means of getting to Bacharach. The trip on the Rhine in either direction is superb and of course a photographer's dream.
The ferry travels between Mainz and Cologne and stops at many towns along the way. The fare is quite reasonable depending of course, on where you choose to start and finish. There are excellent eateries on board all the boats. Time tables here:
We were lucky to get to cruise on a paddlewheeler which added to the enjoyment. Don't be put off if it is foggy on the Rhine early in the morning. The fog will lift before you know it.
If you don't have the luxury of time to enjoy a KD cruise to Bacharach you can also go by train. The trains are very regular in both directions also.
A slow (but scenic and fun) way to arrive in Bacharach is to take the boat. Köln-Düsseldorfer runs regular boats 4-5 times daily in each direction between Koblenz (or Boppard) and Mainz, stopping at many Rhine villages along the way. Travel time from Koblenz is 4 1/2 hours, while travel from Mainz is 3 1/2 hours. To save time but still get the river boat experience, many guidebooks recommend taking the boat from nearby St. Goar, past the famous Loreley, and on to Bacharach in a more manageable 1 hour 10 minutes. Another company, Bingen-Rüdesheimer, also offers periodic boat service between St. Goar and Rüdesheim with stops in Bacharach.
Fares vary with route and company -- check the various websites for details. If you arrived in the area by train, don't throw your ticket away. Present the train ticket at the boat ticket booth and receive a 15% discount on your boat ride. K-D also offers free passage on their boats to those with a railpass valid in Germany (note that you must use a day on a flexipass).
Bacharach has a local train station on the south end of town. It is serviced by hourly "Mittelrheinbahn" (MRB) local trains running between Koblenz and Mainz. To get to Bacharach from outside this area, you will normally need to change trains in either Koblenz, Mainz, or Bingen. Travel time from Mainz is just under 1 hour, while travel time from Koblenz is just under 40 minutes. From Bingen, it is a short 13-minute ride north.
If you are traveling directly from Frankfurt Airport, it is best to pick up a local train at the "Frankfurt Flughafen Regionalbahnhof," or regional train station. You can buy a ticket to Bacharach from the RMV local transit machines. Look for Bacharach's 4-digit numerical code posted on the side of the machine, punch it in, pay your money (EUR 10.40 per person 1-way in 2010), and take your ticket(s). The quickest connection is the RE train (direction Koblenz), changing for the MRB train in Bingen. It's also possible to take the S-8 to Mainz Hauptbahnhof and change to an MRB train there. (Note: not all S-Bahns go to Mainz Hauptbahnhof -- be sure the train does before boarding)
The International Rhine Cycle Route starts at the source of the river, in Andermatt*, Switzerland, and follows along one or both banks of the river via Lake Constance, Schaffhausen, Basel, Strasbourg, Mannheim, Mainz (left bank) or Wiesbaden (right bank), Bacharach, Koblenz, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf and then all the way down through the Netherlands past Rotterdam to the place where the Rhine flows into the North Sea.
They say the total length of the Rhine Cycle Route is about 1230 km or 764 miles (or 307 leagues, as Victor Hugo would have preferred to say).
Here in the middle section of the Rhine, where the valley is very narrow because of hills and cliffs rising on both sides, the Cycle Route is only on the left bank, meaning it runs through Bacharach along the river. The route is paved and is largely free of car-traffic, but because the valley is so narrow the cycle route is often very close to the highway.
* Update: Thanks to VT member german_eagle (Ingo) for pointing out that Andermatt is only the beginning of the International Rhine Cycle Route but not the source of the Rhine River, which starts at two different places in the Alps.
There are two little rivers called the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein which come together at a village called Reichnau (in Tamins, 65 km from Andermatt) and from there on the combined river is called the Rhine.
1. K-D ship MS Godesburg
2. K-D landing at Bacharach
3. K-D ticket office at Bacharach
One of the best ways to travel up or down the Rhine from Bacharach is to take one of the regularly scheduled ships run by the Köln-Düsseldorf (K-D) line.
In the summer months they run five ships a day in each direction. Ships going downstream leave Bacharach at 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, 15:15 and 17:15. Going upstream they leave at 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 16:30 and 18:30. (These times are from the summer 2010 schedule.)
Since the current is quite strong, travel times are much quicker going downstream than going up. For instance, it takes forty minutes to go upstream from Oberwesel to Bacharach, but only twenty minutes to go downstream from Bacharach to Oberwesel. (Including a stop in Kaub in both directions.)
Unlike the German railway system, which tries at every opportunity to eliminate human staff and make passengers buy their tickets from capricious ticket machines, the K-D ship line has at least one human salesperson at every ticket office, like the one at Bacharach in the third photo.
In the summer of 2010 I paid 5.70 Euros to take a K-D ship from Bacharach to Oberwesel and 14.80 Euros to go from Oberwesel to Rüdesheim. (The train is cheaper and faster, but you don't see as much.)
The "MS Ehrenfels" is one of five ships that belong to a smaller shipping company, the Bingen-Rüdesheimer Cruise line.
This is a company that offers day cruises down the Rhine from Bingen and Rüdesheim to see the many castles and the "Romantic Lorelei" rock.
In addition to Bingen and Rüdesheim they also have docks at Assmannshausen, Trechtingshausen, Lorch, Bacharach, Kaub, Oberwesel, St. Goarshausen and St. Goar.
MS "Ehrenfels" seats 200 people on the sun deck, 180 on the upper deck and 170 on the lower deck. Since the lower deck is heated they can also offer winter cruises such as a New Year's Eve cruise with a five course dinner and live music. At midnight they approach the city of Mainz so people can see the fireworks there to welcome in the New Year.
D-55411 Bingen am Rhein
The K-D ships on the Rhine have three sets of controls, one in a large elevated cockpit at the front end of the ship and two on either side to steer the ship as it is approaching or leaving the dock.
(I imagine other ships on other rivers are similarly equipped . . .)
Here the captain of the K-D ship "MS Godesburg" is tweaking the controls on the port side of the ship as it approaches the dock at Kaub, on the right bank of the river.
1. On a K-D ship
2. View from a K-D ship
The Köln-Düsseldorfer company describes itself as Germany’s oldest joint-stock company and the world’s most experienced river shipping line.
They say KD is the only shipping company which operates daily scheduled services along the whole stretch of the Rhine between Cologne and Mainz.
The K-D company has a fleet of fifteen ships of various shapes and sizes.
Long-distance passenger trains, like the InterCity train in the photo, are run by DB and are generally non-stop between Mainz and Koblenz, so they don't stop in Bacharach.
When you travel by this route from Frankfurt am Main to Cologne the journey takes around two and a half hours (as of 2010), which is at least an hour longer than if you took the new high-speed line that was opened in 2002.
But there is a lot more to see if you go this way, along the Rhine. Sit on the right hand side of the train, if you are going north, to see the river and the many castles along the way.
1. A TransRegio train in Bacharach station
2. A TransRegio train as seen from the ship
Most German trains are still run by the former state railway "DB" meaning "Deutsche Bahn" (German Railway), which is now a "corporation" that is 100% owned by the German government.
But since the 1990s the government has been making sporadic half-hearted attempts to introduce a small amount of competition into the railroad system. Periodically various railroad companies can bid for the right to run certain trains on certain lines for a certain number of years. One result of this is that the local and regional trains on the left bank of the Rhine between Mainz and Cologne are now run by a company called the "trans regio Deutsche Regionalbahn GmbH", which has the concession for the next fifteen years.
These TransRegio trains run roughly once an hour in each direction, but not at the same minute of each hour because this line is also heavily used by long distance passenger trains (run by DB) and by freight trains.
My impression of these TransRegio trains from the few times I have taken them is that they are clean, pleasant and punctual but quite crowded. Hopefully the company has or soon will have enough money to buy some more train units that they can couple together to make longer trains.
The railroad station in Bacharach is at the south end of town, so when you get off the train just turn right and walk north.
You can see Stahleck Castle from the platform (upper left in the photo).
There are double track railroad lines on both sides of the Rhine. This one, on the left (west) side, was opened in 1859. The line on the other side was opened in 1862.
Until 2002 this line on the left side of the Rhine was one of the busiest railroad lines in Germany because numerous long distance trains between northern and southern Germany had to pass through here (not stopping in small towns like Bacharach, of course).
But then in 2002 the new high-speed line from Frankfurt to Cologne was opened, so the really fast trains (up to 298 km per hour) now take that route.
If you are not in a hurry, however, this scenic route along the left side of the Rhine is still the way to go.
GPS 50° 3'21.01" North; 7°46'11.97" East (Bacharach station)
Almost every place along the Rhine has a small station where you can take a boat to an other place.
The boat we took was one of the 14 ships in the KD fleet and stopped at Bingen, Rudesheim and Mainz.
The ship was real beautiful with a restaurant, a small play yard on the deck and even a bar on the deck.
Off course my daughter and I want to see it all so we also looked in the toilets, the small windows where just about the water level.
When we hired the bicycles in R?desheim, the guy from the shop told us to take the ferry to the other side of the Rhine because on that side are very good cycle tracks.
so we cross the Rhine and went to Bingen from there our trip start.
You have to go through Bingen but after this town the cycle track start, you cycle from Bingen to Bacharach on quit cycle tracks along the Rhine, after Bacharach you are still able to ride on the cycle track but on the other side is a very crowded road.
The good thing of cycling along the Rhine is that it is real flat, that is a good thing for us dutchies!
When you want to hire you bicycles also in Rudesheim look for a wine store who has on his window a big signe saying: FAHRRAD.
It took us hours before we found it!!