The Romans called this river Mosella or 'the little Mosa (Meuse)' because the rivers flow roughly in parallel until the Moselle joins the Rhine at Koblenz. It rises in the Vosges mountains of eastern France, and flows through a German valley considered to be one of the most beautiful in Germany, flanked by terraced Riesling and Pinot vineyards, picturesque villages and ruined castles.
'Bahl' if you're French, 'Bahzle' for Germans, this city straddles the borders of France, Switzerland and Germany with its hinterland spilling into all three. Basel was an early centre of printing, the craft brought to the city by apprentices of Johann Gutenberg in around 1460, and today boasts the world's oldest extant publishing business, Schwabe, founded in 1488. It also hosts Switzerland's oldest university, with alumni including Erasmus, Paracelsus, Nietzsche and Carl Jung. Museums are a particular speciality with collections including natural history, cartoons, Roman open-air archaeology, music, architecture, paintings, paper and even teddy bears.
As is not unusual on this river, thanks to the many medieval wars, there is a ruined castle on a hill overlooking the town.
Tiny cobbled streets lead to a spectacular medieval market square surrounded by eccentrically-poised half-timbered buildings of which the most remarkable is the boat-shaped 14th century Spitzhäuschen (Pointed House). There are lots of other things to see too, including a row of 17th century houses at St Michael's Fountain, a Renaissance town hall, an original town gate and a number of other medieval squares.
A principal town in this wine-making part of the Black Forest, Breisach boasts one of Europe's largest wine cellars, the Badischer Winzerkeller. There's a museum here, and an impressive Romanesque cathedral which managed even more impressively to survive the almost complete destruction of the town during the Second World War. The town's name means 'breakwater' because until the Rhine was straightened in the 19th century, Breisach was an island in the middle of the river.
Cochem is a picture-book town with ancient castles, vineyards, winding streets and multi-hued half-timbered houses, and reckoned to be one of the most beautiful towns on the Moselle river. Top attraction is Cochem Castle, founded in the 10th century and restored in the 19th in the Gothic Revival style, but this is just one of 79 buildings listed in Germany's Directory of Cultural Monuments for central Cochem alone, with a further 33 across the bridges in Cond and Sehl.
This town lies across a river bridge from Strasbourg and is a de facto suburb despite being across the Rhine border, making it one of the main links between Germany and France. There's a 38m high observation tower (with 210 steps) giving panoramic views of the river, a new suspension bridge for pedestrians, and a museum of medieval artefacts on Friedhofstraße.
Named Confluentes by the Romans, Koblenz straddles the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle and marks the northern end of the famous Rhine Gorge. Dominating the hill above the city is the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, part of a complex of fortifications that was once the largest in Europe after Gibraltar. Due to be demolished in 1922 it was saved by a US Army general and architecture enthusiast, and today contains a number of museums and is open to the public.
To reach it, you can ride Germany's biggest cable railway across the river to the hilltop. Other things to see are the
Basilica of St. Castor, built in 1208 and the oldest church in the district, the former Jesuit College and now City Hall, and the Electoral Palace and Gardens.
Located where the Rhine meets the Neckar, the home town of tennis legend Steffi Graf is also known as the 'city of squares' due to its unusual grid layout. Worth seeing is the magnificent Mannheim Palace, now a university, the old City Hall, a beautiful Baroque Jesuit church topped with cupolas, and the 212m high telecom tower which includes an observation deck and revolving restaurant.
Close by and not to be missed is Luisenpark, said to be one of the loveliest parks in Europe and featuring a gondoletta boating lake, an arboretum, greenhouses, a Chinese garden with tea house, a rose garden, a butterfly house and a sculpture trail.
Rüdesheim is a picturesque town with lovely streets including the charming, cobbled Drosselgasse, packed with wine taverns, restaurants and half-timbered buildings.
Well-known as one of the key political and juridical centres of the European Union, Strasbourg is slightly less famous as the home town of Arsène Wenger, Louis Pasteur, Marcel Marceau, Gustave Doré and Marie Tussaud among others.
There are lots of medieval streets and buildings here, and several medieval churches. Look out for 'Little France' aka the Tanners' Quarter, full of canals, cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. Some of the city's medieval defensive walls remain, and there are 4 'covered' bridges over the river (they're not covered anymore) on each of which stands a medieval defence tower.
If you want a quick art-fix head to the Palais des Rohan which includes three museums devoted to archaeology, decorative arts and fine arts, with works by Delacroix, Rubens, El Greco, Goya, Courbet, Botticelli and many others.
The chief attraction is probably the stupendous Gothic Notre Dame cathedral, founded in 1277. Victor Hugo and Goethe both raved about this pink sandstone giant which, at over 450ft high, was until 1874 the world's tallest building.