Rhine River Cruise

Embracing Views from The Netherlands to Hungary

Unexpected Beauty and History

Sponsored by Viking Cruises

From stunning forests and mountains to historic architecture dotted throughout the hillsides, Rhine River cruises are all about embracing the visual appeal from The Netherlands to Hungary. The river’s beautiful port cities feature numerous examples of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, as well as an abundance of intriguing art museums.

It would take several lifetimes to experience all that the Rhine’s port cities have to offer, so we’ve been told from frequent cruisers, but you can start your planning with these spectacular destinations and the unique attractions they house.

Aerial view of Cologne, Germany
You’ll have no trouble keeping occupied whenever and wherever your river cruise ship docks

Cologne

One of Germany’s most important cultural centers, Cologne is teeming with beautiful Gothic Romanesque churches. The seat of the archbishop of Cologne, the Dom can’t be missed. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, the cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany.

However, it’s by no means the only church worth visiting if you have more time. St. Gereon’s Basilica features a very unusual floor plan with an oval dome covering the main seating area of the church. The present structure was built during the Romanesque period, but has since enjoyed many stunning additions, including an organ built by Ernst Seifert in 1898. Other churches worth adding to your itinerary include the Church of St. Pantaleon (home to the tomb of the Empress Theophanu) and Church of St. Cecilia, which houses a fascinating medieval art museum.

Amstel River, Amsterdam

Amsterdam


Travel photos for years have extolled the beauty of the Louvre, but it’s by no means the only European art museum worth visiting.

If you have time after a Viking excursion, you’ll definitely want to check out the Van Gogh Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of his work. The museum is home to more than 200 of van Gogh’s paintings and almost 500 of his drawings, as well as hundreds of letters written by the artist.

After scouring the Van Gogh Museum, stick around Amsterdam’s Museum Square, where you’ll find the works of the Dutch Masters at the Rijksmuseum and a wealth of contemporary art at the Stedelijk Museum.

For a more recent look at history, visit the Anne Frank House, the famous diarist hid during World War II. It’s a wonderful way to bring her story to life and fully understand the hardships of that era.

Traditional half-timbered houses in La Petite France, Strasbourg

Strasbourg

The largest port on the Upper Rhine, Strasbourg is a unique blend of French and German cultures. The iconic Strasbourg Cathedral is one of the world’s most impressive examples of Gothic architecture, and, for a 200-year span that ended in 1874, it was the world’s tallest building. It may no longer hold this title, but it remains an excellent place for viewing the beautiful Rhine River.

Like Gothic architecture, Art Nouveau is in abundant supply in Strasbourg. The finest example is the Hotel Brion, a large mansion constructed in 1904, featuring ornate ironwork along the foreyard and an iron veranda lit by stained-glass windows.

Strasbourg is also home to the European Parliament, which is particularly worth visiting during plenary sessions (similar to a congressional meeting in the US with all parties attending). Outside of plenary week, the European Parliament offers group tours.

“As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils.”

Heidelberg

Academics and history buffs adore Heidelberg, which is home to Germany’s oldest university. Founded in 1386, the public research university has several beautiful structures worth visiting. The Old University building was built between 1712 and 1728 and features a Great Hall honoring the university’s most inspiring figures through paintings and busts. It’s also home to a fascinating historic tower where students were incarcerated until its closing in 1914 for things like disturbing the peace.

After visiting Heidelberg’s finest academic institution, stop by the sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, which was originally built during the 13th century and was partially destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. Even in this state, the castle is a must-see with its combination of many eras of architecture and unrivaled history.

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Koblenz

An ancient city, Koblenz is chock full of historic structures and museums. No trip to Koblenz is complete without a visit to the magnificent Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, a place beautifully described by Herman Melville:

“As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils.”

Due to its high perch, which made it the perfect fortress in the 1600s, Ehrenbreitstein is best accessed via a gondola, which also allows you to take in the views of the Rhine Valley. While visiting the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, check out the Haus des Genusses, which highlights regional wines and baroque cuisine.

 Koblenz is also home to the Scientific Collection of Defense Engineering Specimens, otherwise known as the Defense Technology Museum. The museum has many intriguing examples of naval equipment and missile and artillery technology.

Whether you favor Romanesque churches or technology museums, you’ll have no trouble keeping occupied whenever and wherever your river cruise ship docks. Take in the architectural splendor of the Rhine’s finest cities—you’ll be aching to return the moment you depart Europe’s most beautiful river.

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