Approximately 800 miles long, the Rhine River is one of the most important rivers of Europe, as well as one of its most popular rivers to cruise. With its fairytale scenery, complete with beautiful castles, medieval villages, lush vineyards and notable Christmas markets, cruisers have plenty to enjoy on the Rhine River.
After the Danube, the Rhine River is the second longest river in Central and Western Europe. The river begins in Switzerland and straddles the border along Liechtenstein, before weaving through Austria, Germany, France and finally The Netherlands. The Rhine then empties into the North Sea. Let's take a closer look at the Rhine River and what cruisers can expect on this famous European waterway.
Most one-week Rhine River cruises travel between Basel, Switzerland and Amsterdam in The Netherlands, which can be seen on the Rhine River cruise map above. However, there are many variables and add-on options for cruisers to explore more Rhine River cities than depicted.
A major highlight of a Rhine River cruise is the 40-mile stretch between Rudesheim and Koblenz, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich with romantic castles and scenic towns. Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are often visible on a Rhine River sailing include the Cologne Cathedral, the historic center of Strasbourg, Speyer Cathedral and Amsterdam's canal ring.
A cruise along the Rhine River will typically include ports of call in France, Germany, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. Popular Rhine River cities visited on a river cruise include Amsterdam, Basel, Cologne, Strasbourg and Rudesheim.
From cruising rivers in Germany to rivers through France, the Rhine River is the ultimate river cruise experience simply because of the ability to explore multiple countries along one scenic passage. There's almost an embarrassment of riches on the Rhine, where one day offers a chance to explore a Gothic cathedral and the next has you tasting wine in a beautiful vineyard. In Amsterdam, dozens of museums beckon, from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum.
Strasbourg's medieval houses and cobbled streets are fascinating to explore, with a visit to the Cathedrale de Notre Dame, which dates from 1190 AD, a must.
Mainz is home to the six-towered Cathedral of St. Martin, founded in 975 AD, as well as the Gutenberg Museum, where you can see the famous 15th-century Gutenberg Bible. Every town seems to offer yet another historic and important place to see, but there is always plenty of time to sample local food and wine.
Romantics, wine and food lovers, historians and museum-goers are sure to love a Rhine River cruise. The river sailings offer a wonderful mix of activities and sights to interest a wide audience.
Themed river cruises, including wine festivals and Christmas market cruises, are quite popular as well, offering a fabulous way to be immersed in the local culture.
It's hard to imagine that there isn't something for everyone to explore along the Rhine, but if you're looking only for peace and quiet, know that this is a considerably busy waterway. When planning your Rhine River cruise, it's also important to keep an eye on the latest news regarding European river water levels and other ways bad weather could impact your voyage.