Locals soak in the sun near the Rhine river at the Kasteler beach nestled in metropolitan Mainz-Kastel.

Locals soak in the sun near the Rhine river at the Kasteler beach nestled in metropolitan Mainz-Kastel. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

When a buddy of mine claimed that a beach bar on the Rhine River is his favorite spot in Germany other than Garmisch, I thought it a bold statement, requiring confirmation.

So a few hours later with toes firmly dug in sand and the waters of the Rhine washing over my feet at Kasteler Strand, I pondered my pal’s assertion.

Consider the setting. You’re on the east bank of the Rhine with the Theodor Heuss Bridge and the steepled/domed skyline of Mainz as a backdrop. The soft glow from the sinking sun warms, but doesn’t blind. Barges trudge up and down the river, their waves rolling to shore, producing a rhythmic hum.

I don’t agree with my friend’s assertion 100 percent, but it’s a relaxing spot — an aquatic retreat and a pleasant surprise so close to an urban area in Germany. I never thought anywhere in Germany could even briefly remind me of my native Florida, but, save the German skyline, this did.

Kasteler Strand is the beach bar outgrowth of nearby restaurant Bastion von Schönborn. On a recent Friday afternoon, a pair of bartenders served up beer, wine, champagne and mixed drinks to a few dozen folks kicked back in vinyl lounge chairs on grass and sand beaches. The only food there is pretzels, and at 1 euro apiece, they’re not cheap. The pre-evening crowd was a mix of city dwellers getting an early start to the night, bicyclists stopping by for a quick “radler” (a mix of beer and lemonade) and moms letting their kids splash in the water. On weekend nights, the whole place is packed, so said the bartenders.

The beach bar doesn’t have an address, giving it that air of mystery and making it oh-so-much cooler when you give your friends directions. If you don’t want to sit on the lounge chairs on the sand, there are spots on a grassy area. Picnic/German fest tables are there, but why would you choose to sit on those narrow/uncomfortable/unsteady benches when you can plant yourself in a beach lounger? Those looking for something a bit more sophisticated can chill-ax on stylish outdoor sofas.

Travelers tired of touring German castles and churches would likely welcome a respite at this riverside retreat.

Location: Near Rheinufer 12, Mainz-Kastel, Germany.

Directions: If you’re coming from Mainz, cross the Theodor Heuss Bridge over the Rhine River. Take your first right onto Rheinufer after crossing the river (it comes pretty quick). There will be a big parking area to your left across the street from the Reduit – a big stone fortress. Park there and walk down toward the river. You’ll see the Bastion von Schönborn restaurant. Turn right and walk toward the bridge. You’ll see the Kasteler Strand area set up right along the river bank.

Food and drinks: Come thirsty, not hungry. Beer, wine, champagne, some cocktails. Only soft pretzels to eat.

English-language menu: There’s a sign board behind the bar listing the offerings. No English, but do you need a menu to order beer, wine or champagne? The bartenders speak English if you get in a jam.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, April through October.

Prices: Beers are either 2.50 euros for 0.3 liters or 3.50 euros for 0.5 liters with a 1 euro deposit. Pretzels are 1 euro.

Phone: 06134-210-860.

Web (only in German).

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now