The Rhine River is one of Europe’s prominent destinations when it comes to river cruising. Originating in Switzerland, this massive 1,233-kilometre waterway spans through six countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands before emptying at the Port of Rotterdam. 

The famed river has shaped Central Europe’s commerce, trade, and culture for centuries. It was once a vital trade channel reinforcing the dominance of historic cities like Cologne, Strasbourg and Amsterdam. To this day, the Rhine River still plays a significant role in Europe’s economic affairs. This storied river still serves as a major trade route for cargo ships that transport different goods vital to Europe’s economic lifeline. 

Avalon Waterways cruises along Rhine River.
Avalon Waterways in one of its Rhine itineraries.

Moreover, the Rhine River is also home to stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fairytale-like landscapes, and iconic castles. Vibrant vineyards also accentuate the Rhine riversides making it one of the sought-after destinations in the whole of Europe. 

Cruise lines that visit the Rhine River

Tracing the Rhine River through the heart of Europe allows immersive encounters with storied capitals. Additionally, cruising this waterway gets you to charming villages linked by the waterway’s historic role in commerce and lore. For 2024, a good number of cruise lines offer itineraries for Rhine cruising. 

Avalon Waterways offers 8-day ‘Romantic Rhine’, 5-day ‘The Best of the Rhine’, 8-day ‘Romantic Rhine for Wine Lovers‘, and 8-day ‘Active & Discovery on the Rhine’ 2024 sailings. AmaWaterways on the other hand, also lines-up cruises that feature the beauty of Rhine via different itineraries including 7-night ‘Enchanting Rhine’ and  7-night ‘Captivating Rhine’. The 7-night ‘Treasures of the Main & Rhine’, and the 11-night ‘Rhine & Moselle Fairytales also form part of the line’s offering.

Additionally, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises offers a number of Rhine River cruises such as the 8-day ‘Castles Along the Rhine’ and 11-day Remarkable ‘Rhine & Historic Holland’. Moreover, the line also includes 8-day ‘Rhine River Valley’, and the 8-day ‘Rhine Holiday Markets’.

Uniworld ship cruises along the Rhine
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises in one of its Rhine sailings.

Luxury lines such as Scenic, Emerald, Viking, Tauck, and APT also highlight several all-inclusive itineraries for Rhine. Scenic offers 8-day ‘Rhine Highlights’, 8-day ‘Windmills, Tulis, and Belgian Delights’, and the 8-day ‘Rhine Christmas Markets’. Emerald Cruises lines-up 11-day ‘Rhine Castles & Moselle Vineyards’, 8-day ‘The Majestic Rhine’, and the 8-day ‘Jewels of the Rhine’. In addition, Australian Pacific Touring (APT) offers 27-day ‘The Festive Spirit of Switzerland with Magnificent Europe’, and the 12-day ‘Christmas Markets on the Rhine’. 

Meanwhile, Viking Cruises lists 8-day ‘Rhine Getaway’, and a 15-day ‘Grand European Tour’ sailings. Furthermore, Tauck Cruises highlights its 2024 Rhine sailings with 8-day ‘The Romantic Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel’, 10-day ‘The Rhine, Swiss Alps & Amsterdam’, 8-day ‘Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure’, and the 10-day ‘Autumn Along the Rhine: Munich’s Oktoberfest’.

What to visit on the Rhine River

A cruise down the Rhine River offers access to a wealth of history, culture and natural beauty across several European nations. In Amsterdam, guests explore the city’s awe-inspiring canals and stunning landmarks by bicycle before visiting the Anne Frank House. Further along, the majestic Rhine Gorge stuns guests with 40 miles of vineyards, cliffs and storybook towns in the UNESCO-listed stretch.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town, Petite France, in Strasbourg captures the vibe of medieval France with its winding canals and half-timbered houses.  This is one destination in a Rhine cruise where guests could say that time did not lapse. 

Petite France at Strasbourg
Visit the scenic neighbourhood of Petite France in Strasbourg.

On the other hand, the lush Palatinate Forest offers nothing but majestic and stunning scenery. This expansive greenery already serves as a cruise highlight by just marveling at its grandeur while passing through. 

Come springtime, Holland’s Keukenhof Gardens welcome guests with intricate tulip designs and vibrant floral arrangements. Moreover, the Keukenhof Gardens is considered as the world’s largest flower gardens.

Additionally, for more Instagrammable entries, guests must not miss visiting Kinderdijk. This place houses a system of 19 windmills built in the 1700s and is the largest concentration of old windmills in Holland. 

Meanwhile, they say that no Rhine River cruise is complete without visiting Cologne, Germany’s cultural wonder. Guests are treated to jaw-dropping art museums and a gigantic and imposing Cathedral. 

From awe-inspiring urban capitals like Amsterdam to villages lost in time, the Rhine unveils Europe’s diversity through ports rich in culture, nature and history. Cruising this magnificent waterway allows intimate perspectives of storied sites dotted along the river’s winding course through valleys and vineyards connecting the heart of Europe.

Shore excursions to look forward to


Amsterdam is definitely a go-to destination when it comes to river cruising along the majestic Rhine. This destination offers attractions such as its historic canals, the Van Gogh Museum, and the house of Anne Frank. Guests explore the city by visiting diamond and cheese factories, as well as the Amsterdam Windmills. There are also several charming and stunning villages to go to. 


Basel is Switzerland’s third largest city and offers a lot of places to visit for Rhine River cruisers. The well-preserved 15th century Old Town leaves visitors in awe because of its intact medieval architecture. The Cathedral is a classic example of this.  

Meanwhile, Basel offers attractions like Europe’s biggest Toy Museum, the Paper Mill Museum and Switzerland’s first and most popular 150-year old zoo stun visitors of all ages. Additionally, Basel blends old world charm with dynamic museums and recreation appealing to cruisers who visit the place. From the historic Marktplatz square to exhibits reviving childhood nostalgia, Basel is one unmissable destination.


Cologne offers more than what cruisers and tourists alike have imagined. Tagged as the cultural center of the Rhine, this stunning city houses famous cathedrals, including the highly celebrated Shrine of the Three Kings believed to be the resting place of the three ‘kings’ in the story of Jesus’ birth. In addition, couples may visit the famed “locks of love” fence and capture some Instagrammable moments. The Museum of Ludwig that contains some of Picasso’s masterpieces is also worth the visit. 


Heidelberg is also a favorite place of Rhine cruisers. The iconic Heidelberg Castle, charming old town, ancient stone bridge, and Germany’s oldest university, are among the top destinations for shore excursions. During the Spring season, Heidelberg hosts different cultural events like the Spring Music Festival, Castle Illuminations, and traditional Christmas Market which are sure hits among tourists. 


Located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, Koblenz is known for its impressive fortresses and monuments like Deutsches Eck, vibrant nightlife, and stunning valley views, making it a top destination in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate to experience history, culture, outdoor activities, and scenic beauty.


Rüdesheim is located in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley of Germany. Top excursions in this wine town include wine tastings through the vineyards, riding the cable car up to the Niederwald Monument for scenic views, meandering the narrow medieval lanes of Old Town, and sampling the town’s signature Rüdesheimer coffee.

Rüdesheim Vineyard along the Rhine
The vineyard in Rüdesheim along the Rhine.


The French city of Strasbourg offers a lot of amazing places for cruisers to explore. Guests are always in awe when visiting Petite France which is famous for its canals and half-timbered houses. Additionally, Strasbourg’s Notre-Dame Cathedral located at the UNESCO Heritage-listed Grande Île is also one of the city’s famous landmarks. This massive 142-metre cathedral is one of the world’s tallest churches and tagged as the tallest still-standing structure built entirely during the Middle Ages. 

Best times to cruise the Rhine River

Cruisers may book a Rhine River itinerary anytime of the year. Depending on guests’ preferences, one’s experience in cruising the majestic waterway is sometimes shaped by the cruising season. Certain seasons optimize sightseeing, shore excursions, events, and outdoor enjoyment along the river. 

Spring season brings blooming scenery, mild temperatures ideal for biking and hiking, and festivals like the tulip celebrations in Holland, Cologne’s May Day, and Wiesbaden’s wine festivities. 

On the other hand, Summer season allows extended daylight for visiting the many open castles and enjoying the sunny 70-80 degree weather, though guests must also expect larger crowds and higher prices. Summer is the peak season for river cruisers and tourists. 

Meanwhile, during the autumn season, stunning foliage complements the vineyard-dotted valleys, with 50-60 degree temperatures perfect for the vibrant autumn harvest festivals and local wine samplings. Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich is also one River River cruise highlight that guests look forward to. 

Moreover, the Winter season is said to attract the fewest river cruisers. But holiday markets like Cologne’s famous Christmas Market and other festive holiday events are worth every cruiser’s while. The cooler climate also means smaller crowds at riverside castles and towns which is perfect for guests who prefer lesser crowds. 

Peak summer draws maximum crowds but offers the warmest weather to savour long Rhine days. Those preferring cultural festivals in a cooler climate should visit in spring or fall. For holiday magic, brace for chillier winter days rewarded by festive German markets and intimate tours. Ultimately the “best” season depends on one’s preferences – but the enchanting Rhine enthralls all year round.

What to pack for the cruise

Booking on a river cruise along the majestic Rhine River promises a majestic and awe-inspiring journey through picturesque landscapes and charming European towns. For guests to have a seamless and enjoyable experience, packing strategically is key. Whether you’re cruising through Germany, Switzerland, France, or the Netherlands, this guide outlines the essentials for your Rhine River adventure.


Cruisers must make sure to bring comfortable clothes for daytime excursions, smart casuals, semi-formal or formal wear for evening galas or dinners. Guests must take into consideration the climate so they’d know whether to bring light jackets or sweaters. 

Some shore excursions also include swimming activities so it would be best if guests are prepared with their swim attires. Also, packing a pair or two of comfortable shoes for tours and shore excursions is highly recommended. 

Travel Essentials

Cruise lines remind guests to bring Important travel documents such as passports, visa, IDs, credit cards, cruise itineraries, and insurance documents. It will also be best if they have local currency with them.  


Aside from cameras and smartphones, guests must not forget to also bring with them their adapters, chargers, and power banks. 

Medicines and Health Supplies

Bringing prescription medications with copies of prescriptions and first aid kits is always a must when cruising.  Packing personal hygiene supplies is also necessary. 

Daypack/Small Bag

Guests must make sure that they have their daypacks or small bags that contain their essentials for the day especially during shore excursions. 


During long days sailings, guests are encouraged to bring with them their favorite books, tablet, or e-reader. A copy of a travel guide or destination maps are also recommended. Additionally, guests must secure copies of important contacts aside from having them saved on their phones. Contact information of the cruise line, ship crew, and any of the local guides is also advised. 

Where to fly to cruise the Rhine River

Rhine cruises start at Basel in Switzerland. Most ships are homeported at St. Johannspark or near the Dreirosenbrücke. 

The nearest airport to Rhine River ports is the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, also known as Basel-Mulhouse Airport. It is only six kilometres away from the city center. In addition, the airport is located on the borders of France, Switzerland, and Germany, which peculiarly makes it a tri-national airport. 

It is always advised that cruisers include pre-cruise and post-cruise accommodations when booking for a river cruise.  The Central Business District (CBD) of Basel has plenty of hotels to choose from.