It’s the rock-star route of river cruising. The Amsterdam to Basel itinerary, which sails the Rhine, is one of the most popular routes in the world of river cruising.
It’s not hard to see why. The Rhine has the sights, romantic castles, and enchanting stories.
The legendary European river takes you across Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland. It includes the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002.
The Rhine Valley is lined with terraces and generously sprinkled with over 40 castles. It is a sight that no romantic should miss!
Rhine River facts
The Rhine is the waterway of central and western Europe. It starts from Switzerland and runs through Germany and the Netherlands into the North Sea.
Days needed to sail the river: The itineraries offered are eight to 15 days on average.
Cities: Amsterdam, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Koblenz, Basel, Mainz, Strasbourg and more.
River cruise lines: Almost every line has itineraries on the Rhine.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Luxembourg’s Old Quarters and Fortifications, Germany’s Speyer Catherdral, Wurzburg Residence, Roman Monuments, Town of Bamberg, Koln Cathedral, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley; Belgium’s La Grande-Place and Major Town Houses of Victor Horta, and Plantin-Moretus Museum, France’s Grande île, and Netherland’s Defense Line and 17th Century Canal Ring.
Dutch windmills – Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
See for yourself the iconic Dutch windmills and houses at the picturesque town of Zaanse Schans. It is just half an hour away from Amsterdam. In its heyday in the 18th and 19th century, the region was an important industrial area. Today, the historic windmills in the village are still fully operational. You can pop in for a tour, along with small museums and craft demonstrations in the area.
Lorelei rock – Sankt Goarshausen, Germany
Sights with stories behind them easily capture the imagination of travellers and the Lorelei rock near Sankt Goarshausen is one of them. Beware when you sail past the Lorelei rock on the Rhine river as legend has it, that a beautiful maiden threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a unfaithful lover. She was then transformed into a siren who hypnotised sailors to their destruction as they crashed at the treacherous rocks trying to reach her. Today, a statue of Lorelei watches over the treacherous stretch of water near Sankt Goarshausen.
These majestic structures will be hard to miss while you’re cruising the Rhine River. They are nearly on every bend on of the river. It’s the perfect set up to play ‘spot the castle’ and we have three highlights for you.
The eye-catching Drachenburg Castle near Königswinter was built in the 19th century by a stockbroker whose mission was to have his new mansion stand out from the crowd.
Nestled on a forested hillside on the left bank of the Rhine in Koblenz, The Stolzenfels Castle, is a fortress that was turned into a palace. Prussian Prince Frederick William had the palace rebuilt from its 13th-century ruins and transformed it to the epitome of Rhine Romanticism.
Perched high on a hill in Braubach is the Marksburg Castle and it’s the only hilltop castle of the region that has survived the test of time. It was built in 1117 and has preserved all of its medieval charm.
Astronomical clock – Strasbourg, France
Seek out the Astronomical clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral. The one that is currently standing there is the third iteration. The clock keeps track and displays the current positions of the sun and moon, the planetary calendar and it also features a large celestial globe in front of the planetary clock.
And while you are in town, try their Flammekueche/tarte flambée. It is like a thin-crust pizza covered in cheese, cream, mushrooms, and local ham.
Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum – Rudesheim, Germany
More mechanical wonders of the past can be found at Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. View the curious collection of German collector Siegfried Wendel. There are hand-cranked harmonipans; a musical chair that’s activated when sat upon; a pistol with a singing automaton bird. There is also a giant orchestrion with dolls performing with the music.
After the musical and engineering appreciation, pop into one of the coffee shops in town for Rudesheimer kaffee. It’s an alcoholic coffee drink made with sugar cubes and German brandy, Asbach Uralt. The concoction is finished off with whipped cream, vanilla sugar, and chocolate flakes.
Black Forest cake – Breisach, Germany
The cake is named after the cherry liqueur, Kirsch. It is a mandatory ingredient of the cake. And, there is a German law that states that it’s illegal to market the cake as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte if it isn’t made with Kirsch.