Enjoy the historic sites of Europe on a Rhine river cruise

If you want a comfortable way to see many of the major cities of Europe, with historic sites and beautiful scenery, then you’ll enjoy today’s article from Viking River Cruises, taking us on a cruise along the river Rhine.

An introduction to the Rhine

See Basel in Switzerland on a Rhine River Cruise

See Basel in Switzerland on a Rhine River Cruise

For centuries the rivers were the highways of Europe – roads were poor or non existent and so rivers were the arteries of commerce and travel, with major cities growing up along their banks and wealth being created on their shores. The Rhine is one of the longest of these European river highways, rising in the Alps and flowing through Europe until it reaches the North sea at Amsterdam. A cruise along the Rhine will take you through the landscapes and treasures of Europe at a relaxed pace as you move through your destination rather than hurrying to meet it, cruising through Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. Here’s a flavour of the things that you can see on the Rhine, starting in the upper reaches of the River at Basel and ending in the Netherlands at Amsterdam where the Rhine reaches the sea.

Switzerland and Germany

Visit Breisach in Germany

Visit Breisach in Germany

You can start your Rhine river cruise in the Swiss city of Basel, with outstanding art museums, historic sites such as the Middle Bridge and cathedral and picturesque winding streets as well as outstanding art museums.

Before long you’ll be leaving the Alpine scenery of Switzerland and moving through the  Southern Germany, and into the Alsace region, passing through Breisach. The landscape is changing to one of rolling meadows and dense forests and you can climb up to Cathedral hill at Breisach to catch some stunning views of the Rhine valley. This is a major winemaking region and so you may like to take some time out to visit a vineyard and enjoy some wine tasting.

In Strasbourg, home of the European Parliament you can explore this Alsatian city’s blend of French and German cultures—fabulous churches, medieval covered bridges, beautiful parks and some lovely Art Nouveau and modernist architecture. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a world famous cathedral.

Visit Heidelberg on a Rhine River Cruise

Visit Heidelberg on a Rhine River Cruise

Moving on down river you’ll pass through Heidelberg,  home to Germany’s oldest university founded in 1386. You can tour the imposing Heidelberg Castle, a red sandstone ruin overlooking the Neckar River and wander through the Old Town to Heidelberg’s renowned gates. At nearby Speyer you’ll find an imposing Romanesque cathedral, built in the 11th century on the site of a former basilica  and the final resting place of eight German monarchs. Its soaring interior features graceful rows of sandstone columns and a large stained glass window installed in the western façade during a later Gothic period.

In the scenic Middle Rhine Valley, the Rhine passes charming villages, castles that overlook the river from their hilltop locations and the legendary Lorelei Rock.

Dayo Castle in Germany overlooking the Rhine

Dayo Castle in Germany overlooking the Rhine

The town of Koblenz is situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle and you can take an excursion to the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle and tour its museum. From Rüdesheim wandering around the Drosselgasse, a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants, bars and shops and visit Eberbach Abbey in Hesse, where key interior scenes from The Name of the Rose were filmed.

In Cologne you can stroll through the Old Town past St. Martin’s Church and spend some time inside Cologne’s Dom, a remarkable Gothic cathedral, whose construction was begun in 1248 and was only completed in 1880.


We’re now crossing into the Netherlands and one of the first stops is Arnhem, a quaint town rich in World War II history. Visit the site of Operation Market Garden and the Airborne Museum or the beautiful 17th-century Paleis Het Loo, with richly furnished rooms and manicured gardens, for three centuries the retreat of the Dutch royal family.

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

You can take an excursion to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a tour of this ingenious network of windmills and other flood management devices. You’ll learn why the windmills were built and see how they work entering a working windmill for a tour of its mechanisms and living quarters. Sample some of the many handcrafted Dutch cheeses and jenever, a distilled juniper liquor, and try your hand at sjoelen (Dutch table shuffleboard)

Our Rhine River Cruise finishes in Amsterdam where you can cruise through this canal-laced city in a glass-topped canal boat  passing  narrow merchant houses and the renowned Skinny Bridge and get a different perspective of this vibrant, multicultural city. You can tour of the Van Gogh Museum to see works by the famous artist and his contemporaries or take an excursion to Zaanse Schans, a Dutch neighborhood that features a collection of beautifully preserved wooden windmills.

If you’re tempted by the historic places of interest that can be visited from the river Rhine, you may like to consider a Rhine River Cruise through Viking River Cruises who offer a range of itineraries along the Rhine as well as other European destinations in comfort from their elegant and comfortable fleet of river cruise ships.

Photo Credits: Photos from Viking River Cruises , Featured content photo of Heidelberg Bridge by phatfreemiguel

Other European articles to enjoy

Passion, Music and Drama at Oberammergau in Germany
Kensington Palace and tea at the Orangery in London
Planning my mini Tour de Mont Blanc in the French Alps

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  • Reply
    jen laceda
    June 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I went on a (short) Rhine River cruise in 1989 as a teenager. Since it’s been a long time, and my (pre-digital) photographs are all lost, the few things I remember: boarding the cruise somewhere near Cologne; it was May, the weather was wonderful; and we stopped at a small town called St. Goarhaus (?), which was lovely!
    .-= jen laceda´s last blog ..Club Med at Home =-.

  • Reply
    Donna Hull
    June 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    A cruise down the Rhine River sounds like an excellent way to tour that part of Europe while only unpacking once. I like that.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Saturday’s scene: Blowing Off Steam =-.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I’ve been reaing about these river cruises and they seem like a great way to see a lot of wonderful places close up on more intimate cruise lines like this one.
    .-= Arlene´s last blog ..Beware – When Fare is not Fair =-.

  • Reply
    Amsterdam Budget Hotels
    June 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I have crossed the Rhine river, while in Netherlands on way to Germany in 1989. It was an awesome experience with my family..

  • Reply
    Amy@Free Family Advice
    June 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    This sounds like a beautiful family vacation or couples cruise. I’d love to go. Maybe someday, I will.
    .-= Amy@Free Family Advice´s last blog ..Family Challenge For June 7-12 =-.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    June 12, 2010 at 4:47 am

    I’m heading to the Netherlands in August and you just got me super excited about it! Thanks for sharing the info – I can’t wait to see the windmills!
    .-= Sherry Ott´s last blog ..signs =-.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    June 14, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I love all the ruinous castles sprinkled down the Rhine and the sumptuous little riverside villages with their half-timbered buildings. These modern cruise boats sound a wonderful way to experience it all…
    .-= Mark H´s last blog ..Alicante’s Sweetest Escape: Jijona =-.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    June 15, 2010 at 6:16 am

    I have ALWAYS wanted to take a river cruise and when I get around to doing it I’ll probably choose Viking Cruises. Wrote about their China River Cruises about a year ago and have been fascinated ever since. Europe by river sounds divine.
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..Tlacotalpan, Mexico – Rainbow Colors, River Shrimp, Riveting Conversation =-.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Amazing. I would love to do that someday.

  • Reply
    June 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Wouldn’t that be awesome?

  • Reply
    July 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Yeah, the Rhine is a phenomenal site to behold. I’m a particular fan of Heidelberg. Having traveled throughout Germany, I’d really give the nod to Heidelberg as the most beautiful city in the whole country. The city has that historic vibe to it that’s increasingly being replaced in other European cities.

    A cruise on the Rhine, with a glass of wine (Riesling if you’re in Germany)…that’s life.
    Edmund´s last blog post ..Ruca Malen Malbec

  • Reply
    March 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    The Rhine doesn’t actually flow through Amsterdam, although it is connected to the river by canal. As an alternative you could visit the Dutch cities of Rotterdam or Gouda.
    Robin´s last blog post ..10 Gothic Cathedrals of Medieval Europe

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    September 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Amazing. I would love to do that someday.

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