Unkel – A Cultural Town on the Rhine

Unkel Was Home to Many Famous Germans Including Willy Brandt:

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Unkel a Town on the Rhine

As our river boat cruises towards Remagen and the much anticipated Remagen Bridge, we glide past yet another picturesque town, a sight that we’ve become so used to seeing along the middle Rhine. The beautiful church along the riverbank and its neighbouring yellow building were eye-catching and I take a snap of Tony against the town which I later find out is Unkel.


Unkel sits on the eastern bank of Rhine and is a municipality of Rhineland-Palatinate. The history of this picturesque town can be traced back to 886 when it was first called “Oncale”. A city wall was built in the 16th century and two of its towers can be seen along the riverfront.

During the 18th and 19 centuries, many wealthy families from Cologne and Bonn built their summer residences here, as can be seen from the magnificent mansions that fill this town. Wine and fruit growing used to the the main drivers of the economy in Unkel in the past. But whereas wine-growing has contracted, with only the best locations still being cultivated by wine growers these days, Unkel’s Haus Rabenhorst is a thriving fruit and vegetable juice manufacturer and of the leading juice companies in Germany.

Unkel’s Famous Residents

Unkel has many notable residents including famous writers and poets such as Ferdinand Freiligrath whose house, the Freiligrathhaus, can be visited in the town centre. Unkel also seems to attract German chancellors: Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of West Germany, found refuge in Unkel during the time of national socialism. Willy Brandt, the very high-profile and popular West German Chancellor spent the latter part of his life in Unkel and many famous politicians visited him here, including Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev. Willy Brandt died in Unkel in 1992.

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Unkel - Rhine River Cruise

Things to See in Unkel

The Catholic parish church of St. Pantaleon on the bank of the Rhine was what first caught my eye but this pretty town has many other interesting sights for the visitor such as:

  • Willy-Brandt-Forum – a permanent exhibition of the life and works of Willy Brandt, both as a German chancellor and a citizen of Unkel.
  • Freiligrathaus – the 1760 Baroque palace where Ferdinand Freiligrath lived from 1839 to 1841.
  • Putzgasse – the romantic street with half-timbered houses
  • Gefangnisturm – a 16th century prison tower which now serves as a museum. Viewing is by appointment (tel (0)22 24 90 28 22)
  • Patricians’ houses
  • Churches such as the Scheurener Chapel next to the town square.
  • The Rhine promenade

Getting there:
By Car – It’s easy to get to Unkel from Cologne, the Ruhr area, Frankfurt and Koblenz
By Air – Cologne Bonn Airport is the closest to Unkel. There’s an airport train directly to Unkel
By River – The KD Rhine Passes between Cologne-Mainz allows you to stop at Unkel.

Map of the Rhine River:

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