Strung along the outside of a horseshoe bend in the Rhine, 21km south of Koblenz and 14km upriver of St Goar, BOPPARD is a sizeable and attractive place, which is reasonably touristy, even if it has few real sights. Its great assets are its riverfront promenade and a chairlift that takes visitors to the Vierseenblick, a point above town where a couple of hikes start. Boppard also produces some good Rieslings.
The town centres on its right-angled Marktplatz, home to a Friday-morning market and the late Romanesque Severuskirche in which tender medieval frescoes venerate its patron saint. The square south of the church is the busiest and adjoins main shopping-street Oberstrasse. Crossing it is Kirchgasse, a short walk along which brings you to the Römer-Kastell, a preserved part of Boppard's fourth-century Roman walls. Of the 28 watchtowers that once graced the military camp, four have been preserved and illustrations on information boards in the Römer-Kastell help conjure up how things would once have looked.
Back on Oberstrasse, and a couple of minutes' walk west along it, is Karmeliterstrasse, named after a Carmelite monastery that once stood here. Its church, the Karmelitenkirche, is noteworthy for particularly egalitarian carvings on its Gothic choir stalls which celebrate farmers alongside monks and prophets. Local farmers have taken this to heart, and for as long as anyone can recall have placed the season's first ripe grapes in a niche outside alongside the Traubenmadonna, or Grape Madonna, to receive her blessing.
The Rhine is just north of here, and you can stroll along Boppard's riverfront promenade back east towards the town centre. Rearing up a little beyond the Marktplatz, the Alter Burg is easily the most impressive building on the front. Built in 1340 as a stronghold and tollhouse for the Elector Balduin of Trier, it now houses the Museum der Stadt Boppard (April– Oct Tues– Sun 10am–12.30pm & 1.30–5pm; free; Tel:06742/103 69). This local-history collection makes much of local cabinetmaker Michael Thonet (1796–1871), the inventor of bentwood furniture. By soaking layered strips of veneer in hot glue then bending them into shape in metal moulds he created elegantly curved furniture that became all the rage in the mid-nineteenth century. His curved-frame chairs – effectively two hoops joined together – are the best known, having graced thousands of European cafés since the turn of the twentieth century.
The view from the hills just north of Boppard is known as the Vierseenblick, or Four Lakes View, because the four sections of the Rhine visible from here look unconnected. Optical illusions aside, the views are very fine, and the pleasant wooded terrain is home to a few good hikes which are detailed in brochures available from the tourist office. The most adventurous, the Klettersteig, takes in some precipitous sections with the aid of chains and ladders. The Vierseenblick can be reached by a chairlift (April– Oct daily 9.30am–6.30pm; 6.20 return) at the northern end of town, or a 5km walk – signposted to Gedeonseck, the name of a viewpoint with an attendant café and restaurant.
Accommodation options include Weinhaus Heilig Grab, over the road from the Hauptbahnhof at Zelkesgasse 12 (Tel:06742/23 71; Price: 61-80), a historic winehouse with two hundred years of tradition and a lovely shady garden with a few basic rooms. A pleasant and more luxurious waterfront alternative is Bellevue, Rheinallee 41 (Tel:06742/10 20, Web: www.bellevue-boppard.de ; Price: 101-120), which still exudes 1887 grandeur and where the choicest antique-decorated rooms overlook the Rhine. Gourmet meals in its elegant Chopinrestaurant come with piano accompaniment (mains around 17). For heartier food and lower prices try the Severusstube, Untere Marktstrasse 7 (Tel:06742/37 18), a snug inn with wood beams where dishes including the rack of lamb or half-kilo Schweinehaxe should satisfy the largest of appetites for 7–12.