For nearly 2,000 years the Rhine has been a key trade route through Germany. The river has also served as a conduit for religious, intellectual and artistic ideas, as the grand medieval cathedrals of Mainz, Worms and Speyer attest. Outside the towns, the vine-covered slopes offer great hiking and cycling trails.

Mainz's Dom St Martin cathedral is a magnificent house of worship. Romanesque in style, the nave is lined with tombstones forming a veritable portrait gallery of 13th to 18th-century power mongers (Marktplatz; 9am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, to 4pm Sat, 12.45pm-3pm & 4-6.30pm Sun; free).

The 40 miles of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen are World-Heritage listed. Known as the Romantic Rhine, this stretch of river is lined with hilltop castles and medieval villages. Cycle the Rhein-Radweg or take a cruise with Köln-Düsseldorfer (+ 49 221 2088 318; £38).

Extensive Roman ruins make Trier a virtual theme park of Roman culture, from the Porta Nigra gate to the Kaiserthermen bath complex. You can see all the ruins with a combination ticket from the tourist office (+ 49 651 978 080; £5).

The German Wine Road traverses the Palatinate, Germany's largest wine-growing area. Starting in Bockenheim, it winds south to Schweigen, past welcoming wine estates. Bikes can be rented in Worms at Radhaus-Mihn (+49 6241 242 08; Von Steubenstrasse 8; £10 per day).

The Gutenberg Museum explores the technology of printing that made the world as we know it. Highlights include Gutenberg's original 42-line Bible (+49 6131 122 644; Liebfrauenplatz 5; 9am-5pm Tue-Sat, 11am-3pm Sun; £4).

Kuz is a dynamic Kulturzentrum (cultural centre) with a constantly changing programme of events. Visit for the summer beer garden and live music (+49 6131 286 860; Dagobertstrasse 20b, Mainz).

Rustic Strausswirtschaft (winery-cum-eatery) Weingut Caspari allows you to sample Moselle wines and local specialities such as boiled ham with potato purée and sauerkraut (+49 6541 5778; Weiherstrasse 18, Trarbach; dinner Mon-Fri, lunch and dinner Sat; mains £4-£11).

For quality local beer, visit the vaulted chambers at the Eisgrub-Bräu microbrewery. Order a mug of Dunkel (dark) or Hell (light). The Monday to Friday lunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet (+49 6131 221 104; Weissliliengasse 1a, Mainz; lunch and dinner; mains £5-£15).

Restaurant & Hotel Hohenzollern is on the Rotweinwanderweg (Red Wine Hiking Trail). The impressive multi-course menu features dishes such as pork tenderloin with sour cream and herbs (+49 2641 9730; Am Silberberg 50, Ahrweiler; £47 four-course menu).

Zweierlei is a restaurant and bistro serving German nouvelle cuisine. Sample innovative flavours such as ravioli stuffed with smoked trout and green onions (+49 6232 611 10; Johannesstrasse 1, Speyer; lunch and dinner Mar-Sep, closed Mon Oct-Apr; mains £6-£28).

Hotel Günther has prime riverfront rooms. The decor is neutral, verging on bland, but the views over the pretty village and scenic region of Bopparder Hamm compensate (+ 49 6742 890 90; Rheinallee 40, Boppard; from £55).

Located in Deidesheim, one of the German Wine Road's most picturesque villages, Gästehaus Ritter von Böhl's timbered exterior looks like something out of a fairy-tale. It occupies the grounds of a charity hospital dating back to 1494, but recent renovations have seen rooms transformed to a modest modern style (+49 6326 972 201; Weinstrasse 35-37, Deidesheim; from £65).

A one-time Carmelite nunnery, the 15th-century Hotel Hof Ehrenfels is a classified historic monument. Most of the rooms have spectacular cathedral views - just remember that views of the cathedral come with a regular dose of peeling bells (+49 6131 971 2340; Grebenstrasse 5-7, Mainz; from £85).

Hotel Villa Hügel is a stylish villa overlooking Trier. Comfortable, if slightly corporate, rooms offer all the expected amenities. A champagne buffet breakfast is served on the terrace (+49 651 937 100; Bernhardstrasse 14, Trier; from £106).

Designed by art nouveau architect Bruno Möhring and on the banks of the River Moselle, the Hotel Bellevue is artfully styled. The rooms feature velvet-covered chairs and sofas, and heavy draped curtains. The gourmet restaurants serve local and Mediterranean cuisine (+49 6541 7030; An der Mosel 11, Traben; from £115).

How to go
You can reach the region from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, flying with Ryanair, or the main Frankfurt Airport. British Airways, bmi and Lufthansa fly to Frankfurt Airport from a number of British cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and London (from £110).

Find your way
Car rental is available at Frankfurt Airport and Frankfurt-Hahn from £27 per day. The Rhineland- Pfalz-Ticket lets you take any regional train, bus or local bus (£16 per day; valid after 9am Mon-Fri, all day Sat & Sun).

The article 'Mini guide to Rhineland, Germa' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.