Viking Longships sail past Bacharach Stahleck Castle on the Rhine
Viking Longships sail past Bacharach Stahleck Castle on the Rhine (Image: Viking)

5 Best Viking River Cruises on the Rhine

Viking Longships sail past Bacharach Stahleck Castle on the Rhine
Viking Longships sail past Bacharach Stahleck Castle on the Rhine (Image: Viking)
Contributor
Jeannine Williamson

Last updated
Dec 1, 2023

Read time
5 min read

Sponsored by Viking

Spectacular scenery lined with fairytale castles and wine-growing villages are among the many highlights on the Rhine, making it one of the most popular destinations for a European river cruise.

Starting in the Alps and meandering 820 miles through Switzerland, France, Germany and Holland, Viking's extensive offerings of Rhine cruises take in every aspect of this beautiful waterway. There are week-long sailings -- ideal for first-time visitors -- through longer itineraries which are ideal for seasoned Rhine cruisers looking to discover more. Viking Longships have prime mooring spots in the center of town providing the option for easy independent exploration in between guided included and optional shore excursions. For something very different, Viking has a unique 15-day itinerary combining a Rhine River cruise with a Scandinavian sailing into the Norwegian fjords on one of its stylish ocean ships.

Here are five of our favorite Viking Rhine River cruises to help you find the perfect itinerary.

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1. Viking Rhine River Cruise: Best For First-Time Cruisers

If you're taking your first vacation on the Rhine take a look at Viking's selection of eight day sailings. They're a great introduction to the region and will leave you wanting to come back for more. Cruises include Viking's Rhine Getaway, which runs between Amsterdam and Basel and sails through captivating landscapes where Dutch windmills and tulip fields make way for German castles and vines.

You need to be out on deck for the most picturesque stretch of the Rhine between Bingen and Koblenz. You can also enjoy the view from the Lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows perfect for watching the changing landscape. The 40-mile Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the banks are lined with more than 40 hilltop fortresses and lush vineyards. Your program director will highlight many points of interest, including the legendary 443-foot Lorelei Rock where a siren is said to have lured passing sailors to their doom with her haunting songs.

The Rhine is Germany's largest wine producing area and Viking shore excursions provide plenty of opportunities for tastings in between sailing through glorious landscapes.

2. Viking Rhine River Cruise: Take a Grand Cruise Through Europe

Cologne Cathedral (Credit: Viking)
Cologne Cathedral (Credit: Viking)

Spanning the best of Europe, Viking's 15-day Grand European Tour covers all of the highlights on the Rhine and more. On this culture-rich itinerary you will travel through four contrasting countries -- the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary -- and, like all Viking river cruises, only have to pack and unpack once.

Cologne is a must-see city on the Rhine and Viking's immersive excursions include the chance to head to the roof of the towering cathedral on an exclusive Privileged Access tour for Viking guests, visit a brewery to try kolsch, the local light beer, or marvel at a UNESCO-listed palace build for Cologne's prince-archbishops.

You will sail along the Rhine to Marksburg, where the remarkable 13th century castle is the only one on the river never to have been damaged or destroyed. From here your epic Viking river cruise continues along the Main before joining the Danube and ending in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. This trip can also be sailed in reverse.

3. Viking Rhine River Cruise: Cultural Cities

The Charles Bridge at dawn
Prague Czech Republic (Image: Viking)

There's no better way to enjoy cities than on a Viking river cruise where your comfortable Longship is your floating boutique hotel. Sailing from one destination to the next at a leisurely pace, instead of traffic-filled highways you will admire an ever-changing panorama of riverside scenery.

If you enjoy city breaks then Viking's 12-day Cities of Light sailing is the cruise for you. The itinerary is bookended by two of Europe's greatest cities, Paris and Prague, and there's an overnight stay in both so you can make the most of the respective "City of Light" and the "Golden City of 100 Spires". Wherever you are, Viking ships dock in the heart of each city so the sights are on your doorstep.

Pegnitz Bridge Nuremberg Germany
Pegnitz Bridge Nuremberg Germany (Image: Viking)

Excursions will take you to Trier, with its Roman history, and Germany's oldest university town of Heidelberg with its imposing red sandstone castle. In Bamberg you can try the curious smoked beer and other stops include Nuremberg which, despite almost being destroyed in the war, has three miles of medieval walls.

Learn More About First Time River Cruising

4. Viking Rhine River Cruise: Explore Paris and Sail the Rhine

A Viking Longship in Speyer, Germany (Credit: Alamy)
A Viking Longship in Speyer, Germany (Credit: Alamy)

This fantastic three-in-one Viking vacation combines the highlights of the Rhine with hotel stays to discover the best of Paris, sparkling Reims in the heart of the Champagne region and scenic Switzerland. You can choose to start or end the 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps itinerary with two days in the French capital or the largest Swiss city of Zurich, nestling on a shimmering lake. A comfortable motor coach transfer will take you to and from your Viking ship.

The cruise also takes in ports along the lesser-known Moselle, which joins the Rhine at Koblenz. Quieter and narrower than the Rhine, the tributary winds through wine-growing regions that were first cultivated in Roman times. You will stop at Cochem, the prettiest town on the Moselle, where the old town is filled with half-timbered houses. Perched on a 300-foot promontory is Cochem Castle, the highest fortress on the Moselle which dates back more than 1,000 years. To see Cochem from another perspective you can take a guided bike tour along the riverbank or join an evening excursion celebrating the wine, music and legends of the Moselle.

A lesser-known stop on the Rhine on this Viking river cruise is Speyer. A former Roman settlement, it's one of Germany's oldest towns and noted for is large Romanesque-style cathedral and rich Jewish heritage with a traditional bathhouse dating back to 1128.

5. Viking Rhine River Cruise: A Sailing Full of Seasonal Cheer

Christmas Market vendor stall in Basel Switzerland
Basel Switzerland

Christmas markets are the highlight of Europe's winter calendar and Germany forms the heartland of the festive market scene. A Viking river cruise provides the perfect way to soak up history and culture combined with a wonderful yuletide atmosphere. The seasonal celebrations continue back onboard your beautifully decorated Viking Longship where menus showcase seasonal specialties.

Viking's eight-day Christmas on the Rhine cruise between Amsterdam and Basel includes time in Cologne which has seven Christmas markets. A giant twinkling Christmas tree forms the centrepiece of the most famous one held in front of the city’s landmark cathedral. Smaller markets along the way include Rudesheim, where you can stroll down the colorful Drosselgasse street and try the town's warming coffee laced with local brandy.

You'll also visit Breisach, the gateway to the fabled Black Forest region which is particularly magical in wintertime. Buy an authentic cuckoo clock to take home as a souvenir and treat yourself to a slice of the region's namesake gateau made with rich chocolate and dark cherries.

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