The UNESCO 'Savoir vivre and sophistication' route begins in Frankfurt and runs along the Rhine, through romantic countryside whose beauty was appreciated as far back as Roman times. The route features magnificent castles, Charlemagne's cathedral and the Ruhr region, before returning to the Rhine and finishing in Düsseldorf, a shopper's paradise and one of Germany's most creative cities.
Frankfurt is first and foremost a city of modernity. Business, architecture and Europe's third-largest airport – they're all here and they're all at the cutting edge. Perhaps that's why Frankfurt has grown a particular fondness for museums that vary greatly in terms of size, style and subject matter. The city prides itself on always staying ahead of the times, whilst preserving traditions at the same time.
Bingen and Rüdesheim form the southern gateway to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which runs for around 65 kilometres to Koblenz. With the beauty of nature, breathtaking panoramic views and an incredible wealth of castles and palaces overlooking sun-drenched vineyard slopes, the valley remains one of Europe's biggest tourist attractions.
At the famous Deutsches Eck, or German Corner, where the Rhine and Moselle converge, lies one of Germany's oldest and most beautiful towns – Koblenz. Vineyards, forests and four mountain ranges form the backdrop to the city, whose 2,000-year history has given rise to beautiful churches and castles, palatial residences and grand town houses.
There are few cities in recent history that have to live with the label of 'ex-capital city', but Bonn is one of them. Nevertheless, those who thought Bonn would fade into obscurity without its capital status have been proven wrong. Previously known as the 'federal village', and now an internationally renowned hub of commerce and culture, Bonn comes across as assured and cosmopolitan as ever.
In Brühl, a small town in the Rhineland, architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design have been brought together to create a first-class work of art. A fine example of a German rococo ensemble, Augustusburg Palace and Falkenlust hunting lodge, along with their baroque gardens, have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1984.
There have been churches on the site of Cologne Cathedral since the 4th century. However, it was not until 1248 that this city on the Rhine became home to one of the foremost cathedrals in the Christian world – a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. When it was completed in 1880, it was the tallest building in the world.
Aachen Cathedral was the very first site to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status in Germany, and with good reason: built in around 790 to 800, the cathedral is of world importance in terms of the history of art and architecture, and is one of the great examples of church architecture. The final resting place of Charlemagne, it was also where German emperors were crowned for 600 years.
In its day, shaft XII at the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen was the world's largest and most modern coal-mining facility and a leading example of the development of heavy industry in Europe. Today, with its Bauhaus-influenced design, the mine is a triumph of modern industrial architecture and a centre for art and culture.
Düsseldorf becomes the focus of the fashion world when the city reveals the latest in designer fashion and high-street trends. 'The Gallery Düsseldorf' emerged from Igedo (the world's biggest fashion show in its day) and is now a biannual event that attracts international fashion designers and buyers in their droves to the Rhine city.