Ready to see more of Europe in one vacation? On a luxurious and surprisingly spacious river cruise ship, you’ll always have a familiar home base to sleep each night, and each morning you’ll wake up in an exciting new destination with a full day to explore all its wonders.
Germany’s villages, vineyards and valleys are connected by five major rivers, each with its own story to tell. Here are some of the destinations you could look forward to visiting while discovering those stories.
The city of Cologne is a giant candy store for those with a sweet tooth for Old World architecture. The Gothic spires of Kölner Dom Cathedral dominate the skyline, while the Altstadt, or Old Town, still contains many buildings from the Middle Ages. In November or December, the city sparkles with seven dazzling Christmas Markets. The aroma of roasted chestnuts and gingerbread drifts through the alleys as visitors shop for trinkets, ice-skate beneath a giant evergreen, and sip on warm mulled wine to the sounds of live bell carolers.
Located in the Rhine Valley, picturesque Rüdesheim anchors one of Germany’s most scenic wine regions. The town is best known for its Drosselgasse, a historic cobblestone colonnade lined with lively taverns and specialty shops. If you’re looking for a top-shelf Riesling, the Drosselgasse is a must visit.
The city of Wertheim is a fairytale come to life. Narrow, storybook streets are lined with colorful half-timbered boutiques, complete with breathtaking views of a castle on a hill. A trip to the ruins is definitely worth the effort, as you traverse Wertheim Castle’s grounds admiring its deep moat and imposing walls, while enjoying stunning views of the picturesque village below.
A medieval jewel situated in the middle of the river—once earmarked to become the “second Rome”—Bamberg isn’t just about history. This town is also known for its mouthwatering baked goods and iconic local Rauchbier, an unusual beer with a distinctive smoky flavor. And while beer aficionados keep the numerous local breweries in business, the Franconia area is also well known for dry whites, such as Riesling.
Nicknamed the “Florence on the Elbe” for its biergartens, Baroque architecture and world-class museums, Dresden has much to experience. You can start with its Versailles-inspired Zwinger Palace museum, the Semper Opera House and the Dresden Castle complex.
Then there’s the Green Vault, which contains the largest collection of art and historic treasures in all of Europe. For architecture, you won’t want to miss an ascent up the dome of the reconstructed Frauenkirche, considered to be the most striking church in Germany, for arresting views of both its historic interior and the surrounding cityscape.
“The Pearl of the Moselle,” Bernkastel’s medieval town square is centered on the fountain of St. Michael. It’s also the location of the famous Spitzhäuschen, or “Pointed House,” a peculiar house built in 1416 with a wide upper-level supported by a narrow ground-floor, creating its famous wobbly illusion. Perched high above the picturesque town, the ruins of Landshut Castle sit dominantly on a pinnacle looking over the river, giving you a prime place to look out at the surrounding vineyards and rolling hills to drink in the splendor of the lush Moselle Valley.
This northernmost point on the River Danube is Germany’s best-preserved medieval city. Founded by the Romans in 179 A.D., Regensburg boasts numerous historic structures including its twelfth-century Old Bridge and a historic town center proudly designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re not excited by the history of Regensburg, the city with the country’s highest concentration of bars, the nightlife can be wildly persuasive.
Situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers, the city is unsurprisingly nicknamed “The City of Three Rivers.” Bordering Austria and the Czech Republic, Passau’s geography is a popular hub for long-distance and recreational cyclists. Its main attraction is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, home to the largest pipe organ in Europe. Arrive at noon Monday through Saturday to hear the haunting sounds of nearly 18,000 pipes echo through the chambers of this incredible Baroque cathedral.