A mesmerizing castle overlooking a charming town in the river valley down below, the setting sun painting the sky behind it with crazy colors. Ever since I first saw Cochem castle, I have been fascinated by it. In this photography guide to Cochem castle, I will share my tips and tricks for photographing this incredible fortress as well as the best photo spots to do so.
- Meet the Cochem Castle
- Best Photography Spots for Cochem Castle
- Cochem Castle Photography Tips
- Getting to Cochem
- Other Photo Locations Nearby
Meet the Cochem Castle
The Imperial Castle of Cochem (Reichsburg Cochem) stands tall and proud at the top of the hill, some 100 meters above the streets of Cochem on the river Mosel. Visible from almost anywhere in town, it is the most notable landmark of the area that immediately draws attention.
Founded around the year 1000, Cochem сastle was almost completely destroyed by the French troops in 1689. It lay in ruins for nearly two hundred years before a rich Berlin businessman Louis Ravené bought it in 1868.
The Ravené family rebuilt the fortress from the ground up to use as their summer residence. Then, in the late 20th century they passed it over to the city of Cochem, which has taken care of it ever since.
So yes, the structure we observe today isn’t quite the original building. But let me assure you that only the pickiest of historians would really care about that. The castle looks fabulous and every bit as authentic as you would expect.
And yet, although Reichsburg Cochem castle frequents the charts of the most stunning castles in Germany, it still goes relatively unnoticed on social media. At least when compared to the well-known grands, such as Burg Eltz or the Neuschwanstein Castle.
And that is a pity because it is a remarkable fortress and an excellent photography subject. Over the days I spent in Cochem I found myself constantly coming back to it and trying different angles and compositions.
Here are some of my favorite locations to photograph Cochem castle.
Best Photography Spots for Cochem Castle
As I mentioned before, the castle absolutely dominates the skyline in Cochem. You notice it from everywhere, and there is an almost endless supply of compositions if you keep your eyes open. That said, here are the ten photo spots I loved and would recommend the most.
Each location comes complete with an example image as well as my advice on how to approach it. So feel free to jump to whichever section looks most appealing to you. For a more visual representation, I have also marked the spots on the map above.
From the Skagerrak Bridge
One of the obvious and easy-to-get images of Cochem castle is from Cochem’s main bridge – the Skagerrak Bridge. From here, you get a nice view across the water towards the castle hill.
In my opinion, if you want to capture what Cochem is in a single shot, this is the place. The majestic castle towers over the cute “fachwerk” houses and the vibrant town center down below. Mosel and its cruise ships in the foreground complete the image.
I suggest walking the entire length of the bridge before settling on the composition. The scene is effectively the same, but the perspective changes ever so slightly. So you need to find the spot that suits your taste and the conditions at hand.
I had the most luck at the farthest (eastern) end, but there are other options available. You might even cross it and continue along the opposite river bank for a more down-to-earth (literally!) angle.
To me, this is definitely a morning location. That is when you get the soft early light hitting the castle walls in front of you. Alternatively, blue hour and twilight when the castle illumination is on might score you some pleasant results.
For sunsets, however, the next location is a far superior alternative.
Mosel River Bank Near Sehl
This next location is on the Mosel riverbank in the eastern Cochem district called Sehl. From a small wooden pier, you get a sweet unobstructed line of sight all the way to Cochem castle.
This would be my go-to evening spot in Cochem as you are looking in the direction of the setting sun. With some luck, you can capture some gorgeous drama playing out in the sky above the castle.
Compositionally, there are a few things to try. If there is no wind, feel free to play around with reflections or use the riverbed as the foreground element. And then there is a simple clean straight-up “castle and the sky” type of shot, which I actually enjoyed the most.
For the latter, be sure to bring your telephoto lens. You are a fair distance away from Cochem castle and will need that reach to cut off the distracting elements. Something in the ballpark of 70-200mm will do the job.
The pier is some 15-20 minutes away from the city center by foot. Or, if you have a car, there is a small parking space along the road nearby. When I showed up it was all but empty, so I had no trouble finding a slot.
The Pinnerkreuz Observation Deck
Pinnerkreuz is an observation deck on top of the hill north of Cochem. It offers a sweeping panoramic vista of the entire town and the Mosel valley down below. Naturally, it is a popular hiking route and one of Cochem’s principal attractions.
Luckily, it is not a particularly challenging trail. At only half-a-kilometer length and an elevation gain of 75m, it will take you 15-20 minutes to complete. Sure, you might break a sweat, but hardly an impossible task by any means.
And, in case you are feeling particularly lazy, you can save the hike altogether and use the cable car instead. Sesselbahn is in operation between March and mid-November, although hours vary depending on the month. At the moment of writing, a one-way ticket will run you down 4,90€.
For photographers, Pinnerkreuz is a fantastic destination later in the afternoon, at the beginning of the golden hour. The sun will be setting behind your back, filling the valley with beautiful soft light.
Just pick a sunny day to venture up there as that light makes a world of difference. I was a bit unlucky with the weather, and have to admit that grey skies really suck the life out of the scene. I do include my image here as an example, but honestly, this one is up for a reshoot.
And of course, don’t limit yourself to grand vistas only. Zooming in on the castle is also worth exploring. Once again, a telephoto lens is indispensable for that.
The Road Above Town
This next spot doesn’t quite have a name. I can only describe it as a nondescript parking lot along the side of road B259 out of Cochem. Unless you know it is there, you will likely drive by without even noticing it.
And yet, it is totally worth checking out, for the view of Cochem it offers is, in my opinion, one of the best. You are looking down towards Mosel and the town center, with Cochem castle dominating the foreground.
You will undoubtedly notice this composition on some of the postcards sold in Cochem. And for good reason – it is gorgeous. So don’t be surprised if you meet a couple of fellow photographers when you show up.
One caveat is that this location is difficult to reach without a car. You can still do it on foot, but a 6-minute drive then becomes a half-an-hour hike uphill through the forest. Not something you would enjoy doing on multiple occasions I imagine.
The reason I say this is because ideally, you might want to come here more than once. The viewpoint works well in the early afternoon, but also in the blue hour after the sun has set. Or even during sunrise, for that matter.
The last thing to mention is that dense vegetation might obscure the lower part of the image. I suggest standing on top of one of the picnic tables, like this. Not quite well-mannered, perhaps, but you do want the shot, right?
Vineyards in Cochem
Another famous postcard angle on the castle is right in the center of Cochem, making it far easier to get to than the last one. A quick 10-minute walk from the center will bring you there.
The viewpoint “Am Tummelchen” (Aussichtspunkt “Am Tummelchen”) is situated next to a vineyard at the foot of the castle hill. This means you can photograph the castle from the front side using the grapes as leading lines.
This spot really works best in summer, both because of how the sun is positioned and the fact that there are leaves on the plants. In winter you might find the result somewhat lackluster.
As for when during the day to be here, I assume morning and afternoon are both reasonable choices. But I wouldn’t personally pick it for either sunrise or sunset. Since it’s halfway towards the castle, combining it with a visit to the inner grounds probably makes the most sense.
Aboard the River Cruise
Photography doesn’t always have to be about meticulously planning the shot and waiting for the perfect conditions. Indeed, a great way to get a decent photo of Cochem castle without too much effort is taking a boat cruise.
In summer, several companies are offering those, so just pick up whichever works best for you. No need to research or book online beforehand, just come to the riverbank and have a look at what’s available.
I recommend an evening tour for the optimal light. Also, if possible, go with the largest ship. Arguably not the most romantic choice, but you end up seating higher, which gives you a better angle.
Most of the tours last around an hour, and Cochem castle is in sight most of that time. There will be plenty of opportunities to photograph it from all the various sides. Surprisingly, being in the middle of the river makes enough of a difference to allow you to capture something hard to replicate otherwise.
As an extra tip, don’t miss out on the view towards the end of the cruise when the ship reaches the northern bridge and turns around. The outline of the castle against the evening sky is pretty cool.
From the Air
Well, technically it is not allowed to fly drones near Cochem castle. There are signs around it saying that UAS are prohibited within the entire area of the castle. What exactly that area is, however, is a bit of an open question.
Which probably doesn’t matter anyway, since you’re in Germany and might be breaking a dozen other rules regardless. I.e. not flying above the waterways (Mosel) or over private land, etc. The list goes on and on. Check this flying map for Germany for all the applicable restrictions.
Bottom line is – whether to do so is up to you. I didn’t, but given that Cochem actively uses aerial footage and photos to promote itself (drone images are all over Cochem on the postcards and even on the castle’s very own official page), I could see myself being a little lax on the regulations.
And if you do fly, you unlock a whole new universe of unique and exciting angles. Cochem castle looks lovely from higher up, so you will have plenty of ideas to play and experiment with.
Inside the Castle
I do admit that normally I am not a huge fan of exploring medieval buildings from the inside. I prefer the external grandeur to the gloss of inner chambers. Yet in this case, I made an exception and actually rather enjoyed it.
In summer and autumn, Cochem castle is open for visitors between 10 am and 6 pm. You can check the timetable on the official website, as well as buy the tickets in advance if you wish.
The basic ticket allows entry to the inner yard only and currently costs 3,50 €. Additionally, there are guided tours of the castle rooms in both German and English. These go for 7,- € (reservation required).
Unlike in some other places (yes, Burg Eltz, I’m hinting at you), photography and videography are permitted without a tripod. This means you can take pictures both inside and in the yard. Much like with a drone, this opens up a whole new layer of possibilities.
Obviously, these will be very different photos from those in all the other spots we talked about. Instead of getting the entire fortress into the frame, you will be hunting for unique and intricate details only visible up close.
Truth be told, I still like the external shots better. Still, this was a nice break from the usual pattern and a chance to challenge myself with something different.
Sehler Hütte Hiking Trail
If you don’t mind a bit of hiking, I have discovered a very cool photo spot near the Sehler Hütte in the forest south of Sehl. I haven’t seen a whole lot of images from this location in the media. So if you are looking for a fresh perspective, definitely check it out.
It is quite a walk from the center of Cochem (upwards of 40 minutes), but if you have a car, you can leave it nearby at Friedhof Cochem Sehl, reducing the hike to a very manageable quarter-hour.
From there, you need to make your way through the forest until you reach an opening to your right. There aren’t many people around (I was alone there), but the trail is well-marked and easy to follow, so you won’t get lost.
Once you find the opening, you will be treated to a magnificent view of the Mosel valley, Cochem, and the castle on the top of the hill. It is just fabulous.
It is quite a distance from Cochem, so have your telephoto lens ready, you will need it. Other than that, it is a pretty straightforward shot. Go wide or zoom in on the castle – it is all good.
This location is pretty versatile and could work well in a variety of conditions. I visited a couple of hours after sunrise, but I am sure it will be equally stunning during sunset and especially the blue hour.
The Hills Across the River
Last but not least, there are a few more short-distance hikes on the opposite side of the river directly across from the castle. These too offer some less common compositions that could be worth exploring.
To get there, cross the bridge and continue uphill through the forest and the vineyards. The trail is quite steep but not excessively long. You will need a quarter to half an hour, depending on how high you want to climb.
The farthest I would venture is the viewpoint called Wetterfahne. By then you will already be at a higher elevation than the castle. This doesn’t always make for a very compelling photo, in my opinion, so keep an eye for other options along the way.
Cochem Castle Photography Tips
Now that we are familiar with the best photo locations, let’s discuss how to approach them to get the best results possible. After all, it is not always as simple as “f8 and be there”.
So here are some tips that I hope can help you get outstanding images of Cochem castle.
Where to Start (My Favourite Viewpoints)
If you only spend a couple of days in Cochem, you may not have enough time to visit all the spots. The good news is that you don’t have to. There is frankly no reason to photograph Cochem castle from all the possible sides.
Rather, I would suggest focusing on just a few locations. My main goal was to present you with the options. It is up to you to select those that appeal to you the most.
I will, however, take the liberty of suggesting my own top favorites. In order of significance – the pier in Sehl, the Skagerrak bridge, and the road above Cochem. If you can nail these three shots, I guarantee you will be more than happy with what you achieved.
Sunset or Sunrise?
The eternal question of landscape photography. Both work in Cochem, but if I had to pick one, I would go for sunset. I adore how Cochem castle shines in the last light of the day and into the twilight and blue hour.
Sunrise too can be incredible at some of the locations. The road is the first that comes to mind. If you manage to pull off an early morning time blend there, I think you are in for a fantastic photo.
Generally, though, I feel that early morning, two-three hours after the sun has risen will be more accommodating in most situations than sunrise.
Plan for the Weather
Rather obvious advice, but weather can make or break the photo. The Mosel region is notorious for its streaks of wet and rainy days. This might be great for growing vines, but not necessarily so for photography.
Of course, you can always resort to moody pictures but I believe that having some sunshine would still be preferable. For me, that is when the Mosel valley really comes alive and attains that lovely and vivid sensation it is famous for.
In other words, if you can spend at least a couple of nights in the area, do it. That will increase your chances of getting favorable conditions. And you won’t regret it, either. There are a ton of other activities to enjoy in this charming part of Germany. So trust me, you will have a blast.
The Essential Gear
Nothing too fancy in the gear department, to be honest. Other than a camera, all you need is a tripod and two lenses: a travel zoom such as 24-105 mm and a telephoto. Don’t bother with anything super long, a usual 70-200 mm will do just fine.
Typically landscape photographers love their wide angles, but when it comes to Cochem castle, I almost never used mine. On a few occasions in the inner yard, maybe, but that’s about it. Mostly, you are just too far away and there is too much clutter to want to go wide.
Getting to Cochem
The easiest way to get to Cochem is by car. Depending on where you come from, the quickest route will likely be a combination of the A1 motorway and B259. However, if you can, I highly suggest taking a detour via B49 or B53. These run along Mosel and are super scenic.
The next best option is via trains. Cochem has direct connections to both Trier and Koblenz (travel time around 50 minutes), which are both larger transportation hubs.
In case you are traveling from abroad, the nearest airports are Frankfurt Hahn, Cologne/Bonn, and Frankfurt. From the last two, take the train to Koblenz, then change for Cochem. When arriving via Frankfurt Hahn, use the bus line 750 to Bullay, and from there the train to Cochem.
Finally, the most romantic (and extravagant?) way to reach Cochem is by boat. I would actually advise against it, as it is significantly slower than by any other means. Instead, just pick a shorter tour after you arrived.
Other Photo Locations Nearby
To me, the Mosel region is one of the most striking parts of Germany. Yes, there won’t be any epic mountains or seascapes here, but the river valley with its endless vineyards and fairytale castles is charming and adorable in a whole different manner.
Follow Mosel in any direction from Cochem, and every five kilometers you will encounter a new village worth exploring or another vista worth taking your camera out for. It is amazing. Beilstein, Bernkastel-Kues, and Traben-Trarbach are just a few examples that should be on your radar.
And then, of course, there is the magnificent Burg Eltz. Just a short half-an-hour drive from Cochem, this is one of the most astonishing castles in Germany. You have to visit it. I was so impressed by Burg Eltz that even wrote a separate photography guide about it.
Finally, the insane bends of Mosel are a great subject for landscape photography. The one near Bremm is probably the most famous, but there are others as well.
The entire area is just phenomenal, and not only for photography. It is outstanding for hiking, cycling, kayaking, and a ton of other activities. And as if that wasn’t enough, Mosel is the cradle of German winemaking. If you are into German wine, there is simply no better place to taste it.
To me, Cochem castle was a surprising discovery. I didn’t expect much but ended up fascinated and enthralled by it. And I think you will too. It may lack the grandeur and the magical feel of Burg Eltz or Neuschwanstein, but it certainly has its distinctive mystery and appeal.
I hope that with this photography guide to Cochem castle you now have all the necessary tools and information to capture some terrific images. And when you do so, let me know how it went.
If you enjoyed the article, please share it with your friends and on social media to help spread the word. And if you have any questions or comments, just leave them below, and I will get back to you.
I also have a selection of other articles that you might find useful and interesting. Feel free to check them out as well. Here are just some of my favorites:
- How to Photograph Burg Eltz – Best Locations, Tips, and Tricks
- Photographing Castle Neuschwanstein
- Mont Saint-Michel Photography Guide: Best Locations and Tips
- Mallorca Best Photo Spots and How to Plan A Trip
- A Stunning Sunrise at Laguna Torre – El Chaltén Best Hikes
With that, happy travels and let’s see each other soon!