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5 Best Cities for Pre- and Post-Cruise Stays on the Rhine River

 (Photo: Meiqianbao/Shutterstock.com)

Between its modern cities and medieval castles, the Rhine River offers the best of both worlds. One day, you could be touring modern art museums and reveling at contemporary architecture; the next, you might find yourself in a fairytale village, gallivanting through cobblestone streets lined with candy-colored houses. The best part: You can extend your trip in either one, by booking a pre- or post-cruise stay through your cruise line or organizing your own accommodations. (Note: Some cruise lines include hotels and tours in the fare, while others cost extra.) To give you a head start, we've rounded up the five best cities for tacking a little extra time onto your Rhine River cruise.

Updated November 21, 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Perhaps no other European city allows you to accomplish more in a day than Amsterdam. The quirky Netherlands capital is small, with only a fraction of the population of nearby cities like Brussels and Cologne, and full of walking and biking paths that make it easy to get around. As far as what there is to see, Amsterdam is home to three famous sites -- the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum -- as well as myriad canals and "crooked" houses, which make for great photo opps.

Who would love it: art lovers, bikers, World War II history buffs

Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, CroisiEurope

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Imagine a picture-perfect fairytale town, and it might look a little something like Lucerne. The city melds a magical landscape (thanks to its lakeside location in the mountains) with a colorful Old Town and Disney-esque castle -- all of which can be explored in just one day; Lucerne is a short bus ride away from Basel, where many Rhine River itineraries begin or end. Got more time on your hands? Savor the Swiss experience with a chocolatier tour and tasting, or escape the city limits and hike one of its nearby trails.

Who would love it: active types, chocolate lovers, those who prefer a small-town air

Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Emerald Waterways

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy

Although not actually part of the Rhine Valley, Lake Como has earned itself a spot on a number of river cruise pre and post tours. The ritzy resort town, which is less than a four-hour train ride from Basel, provides respite from the river's big cities and bustling villages. Unwind with a sparkling wine picnic by the lake, leisurely boat ride and stroll through downtown -- or break a sweat hiking, rock climbing or canyoning. For the best views, take the funicular up to the top of the mountain (don't forget your camera).

Who would love it: laid-back loungers, adrenaline junkies, those who prefer a small-town air

Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Like Lucerne, Bruges looks like something straight out of a storybook. The village is made up of ancient buildings, whitewashed cottages and vibrant town squares -- all connected by canals and cobblestone streets that make it easy to get lost. But Bruges has more to offer than charming scenery. Be sure to visit the Markt square, one of the city's many pubs, the Groeninge Museum and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which houses a vial believed to contain the blood of Christ. The town is not on the Rhine river itself; tours here are usually offered as pre and post extensions.

Who would love it: Spiritual seekers, beer drinkers, art lovers

Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, CroisiEurope

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany

On a river dominated by modern cities, Cologne (Koln) offers a hearty serving of Old World charm. The city is one of the oldest in Germany, and wears its Roman history proudly -- particularly at the Praetorium, an archeological site that allows visitors to wander through Roman ruins and remains of the medieval Jewish Quarter. Other must-sees include the famous Cologne Cathedral, Altstadt district replete with shops and beer halls, and Hohenzollern Bridge, where couples can affix a "love lock" to the bridge before throwing the key into the Rhine River.

Who would love it: Roman history buffs, beer drinkers, those who seek more Old World charm

Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, CroisiEurope

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