If you’re new to European river cruising, you might be drawn to the Rhine and Danube Rivers – and for good reason. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of exploring a Rhine River Cruise with Viking alongside a group of travel buddies. We were among 192 guests aboard the Viking Helvetia. Remembering my Rhine River Viking cruise just might encourage you to take the step to booking one.
Our journey took us through some of the most historically significant cities in Germany and France. From the comfort of our ship, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside and snapped plenty of envy-inducing photos. If you’re eager to explore Europe by water, you won’t want to miss out on the adventure that awaits on the Rhine.
Embarking on the Rhine from Amsterdam
Amsterdam, a city of endless charm and vibrant culture, is an unmatched destination for anyone seeking a one-of-a-kind vacation experience. From strolling through beautiful flower markets to admiring the stunning architecture on walking and canal tours, there is no shortage of things to do and see.
And what’s a visit to Amsterdam without indulging in the quintessential outdoor cafe experience and savoring a delectable sweet treat or coffee?
Amsterdam is also famous for its coffee shops- with a “k”. While visiting these famous spots may have lost a bit of its luster now that marijuana is legal in the US, it is still an intriguing opportunity to experience a different culture.
Imagine school-aged kids ordering up rounds of ganja – it’s not a taboo either, just a part of life in the Netherlands.
Enjoying the laid-back atmosphere while sipping on a refreshing beverage and soaking in the local scene is a must. Amsterdam is definitely a destination for the adventurous at heart.
First Stop: Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Welcome to the Netherlands, home of the stunning Kinderdijk in the South Holland province. This picturesque area boasts 18th-century windmills and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join a guided tour through the serene wetlands (umbrellas provided by Viking) and witness the power of these historic structures.
Plus, don’t forget to stop by the charming village of Kinderdijk for some delicious Dutch cheeses and Juniper liquor to take home with you.
On to Koblenz and Rudesheim, Germany
Travel to Koblenz and step back in time with a visit to Marksburg Castle, a major site of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through the castle, which was once used for protection, you’ll be transported to a world of history and beauty.
If you’re up for the challenge, climb the stairs and explore the tight spaces inside this 700-year-old fortress. Take in the stunning views of the river and hilltop homes from the castle’s commanding perch. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience!
After Koblenz, picture yourself gliding down the Middle Rhine, savoring the breathtaking views of ancient castles, quaint villages, and lush vineyards. Make sure to pack your binoculars, camera, and a cozy blanket (depending on the season) to snag a spot on the deck. It’s a perfect place to soak in the picturesque scenery.
Perhaps a glass of champagne will make it even more desirable.
Docking in Rudesheim that evening, my friends and I indulged in the local delicacy of apple strudel and a coffee from an inviting café in the pedestrian-only Drosgelgasse. Don’t miss out on the delectable wines produced from this region.
As the sun sets, embrace the nightlife and groove to the beat of energetic music with a chilled brew in hand at a buzzing discothèque. We found that was the only thing to get into after the sun went down in this small town.
Lovely Heidelburg, Germany
Travel back in time to Heidelburg, the historic capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, where the oldest university in Germany (1386) and the scenic Neckar River Valley await. The must-see Heidelburg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands tall as a Romanesque cathedral dating back to the 11th century.
We also had some free time after the Heidelburg tour, where my friends and I found a charming outdoor cafe and enjoyed tasty Italian food and drink.
Strasbourg and Colmar, France, Will Wow You
On the Viking Rhine River cruise, Colmar and Strasbourg were personal favorites, with the latter being the largest port on the Upper Rhine. Come see for yourself why these stops have pleasantly surprised and continued to capture my heart.
Our day started with a guided tour of Kehl, followed by one of Strasbourg, where we went to the famous European Parliament and the famed cathedral. An optional excursion was to do an Alsatian Wine Tasting excursion, which we passed on.
Once you’re done with the touring, explore Strasbourg on foot with your friends, as I did. Yet again, we found a cafe for a meal (quiche, salads, and onion pie), and another for sweets (macarons, chocolates, and fruit desserts).
Having Our Best Day
Embark on a journey to the charming town of Strasbourg, an enchanting city that echoes the perfect blend of French and German cultures. Walk along the winding streets while admiring the vibrant flowers and medieval architecture. If you can’t decide which culture is more apparent, don’t worry – that’s the charm of Strasbourg!
You’ll find a patchwork of quaint shops filled with antiques, textiles, knickknacks, and souvenirs. Don’t miss visiting the Strasbourg “Notre Dame” (Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg), where you’ll witness its soaring and intricate Gothic architecture.
Another do-not-miss is the 16th-century astronomical clock, a breathtaking representation of life from birth through death. Take a stroll along the picturesque canals of the little Ill River, and prepare to be amazed by the picturesque cobblestone streets and charming half-timbered wooden houses in Old Town.
With everything so lovely to look at, Strasbourg is a place you’ll never forget.
I was particularly drawn to the half-timbered houses and the Schwendi Fountain, sculpted by Bartholdi (State of Liberty fame). Again, we stopped for more sweets.
Breisach and the Black Forest
Breisach is the ideal starting point for a magical journey through the Black Forest of Germany. A scenic bus ride took us through the charming city and onto the mystical, lofty forest, where a light drizzle added to the enchanting atmosphere.
Our destination offered a variety of local shops, talented glassblowers, cuckoo clockmakers, a Black Forest cake tasting, and some free time to explore. The mountain air, rolling meadows, and dense forest scenery left us feeling as if we had entered a magical fairytale. I seriously felt like I stepped into a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale book!
Viking thoughtfully provided umbrellas for the rainy weather. As the day concluded, the option to visit Colmar, France, was offered.
Cologne, Germany — Unforgettable!
Experience the breathtaking architecture and beauty of Cologne, a city that promises to enchant any traveler. Get lost in the winding streets of Old Town and marvel at the stunning gothic splendor of St. Martin’s Church and Germany’s largest cathedral, the Cologne Dom.
Its soaring spires and stained glass windows are a sight to behold and will leave you speechless. Dating back to 1248, this UNESCO World Heritage Site took 632 years to complete.
After our two-hour guided tour, my friends and I had a fantastic lunch in a riverside restaurant. The colorful skinny buildings that were our backdrop were so lovely.
Cologne offers an exquisite blend of art, culture. One of the most enjoyable experiences was visiting the Museum Ludwig, which we did on our own. It features a rare collection of modern art from Pop Art to Surrealism, with special emphasis on Picasso’s masterpieces.
The diverse collection was nothing short of astounding, leaving me speechless as I wandered through its halls.
Another highlight of my trip was visiting the Cologne Chocolate Museum, where I indulged in the finest chocolate delicacies ever served. I savored the smooth, velvety taste of Lindt chocolate in the picturesque glass wing before browsing through its virtual shop for sweet mementos.
The visit was capped off with a decadent feast at the Chocolat Grand Cafe, where every bite was sheer heaven.
FYI: There was a lot of walking on this day, plus very busy skinny streets to get through.
Extended Stay in Basel, Switzerland
Welcome to Basel, the perfect destination for modern-day explorers! Here, where the borders of three European countries meet, you can wander along the banks of the mighty Rhine River, surrounded by stunning historical buildings and charming old-town vibes.
Speaking of charm, the red sandstone Rathaus – Basel’s Town Hall – is a crown jewel in the city center, flanked by architectural marvels in Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic styles. Trust us, you’ll want to stop and take a photo (or six!).
But that’s not all! As a seasoned traveler, I loved Basel for its abundance of world-class museums, easy-to-use accordion-style buses (that are either free or very affordable), and fantastic pastry and chocolate shops offering unique Swiss treats you won’t find anywhere else.
From chocolate barks adorned with dried fruits and nuts to mouth-watering pastries, Basel has a little something for everyone.
Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe
If you’re traveling to Switzerland, put the Swiss Alps on your to-do list! On my trip, my friends and I took a Cogwheel train to reach the “Top of Europe” and boy was it worth it. It does cover 70% of Switzerland; it would be a shame to miss it.
We added a little luxury to our adventure by hiring a private driver who picked us up from our Viking River Cruise ship and took us to where our journey began. As we traveled for hours through the Swiss Alps to the top of Jungfraujoch, we made stops at a few charming towns and had to switch trains a few times.
My favorite stop had to be Interlaken, it was breathtaking! However, the highlight of our journey was witnessing the Aletsch glacier between Konkordiaplatz and Riederalp. This place is a UNESCO World Heritage in 2001 site for a reason, and it was quite the spectacular sight to see. You won’t be disappointed!
What’s Included With Your Rhine River Cruise
On Viking River Cruises, your journey isn’t just about the destination, it’s about the experience. Take in the guided tours with state-of-the-art audio headsets, indulge in regional specialties and drinks (including beer and wine!) with every meal, enjoy live lectures and performances onboard, all included in the price of your trip.
And let’s not forget about the friendly, professional representatives who will make you feel like family by the end of the week. Your Rhine River Cruise will be nothing short of enchanting.
And this was my favorite photo of the whole trip! We crossed a bridge to tour a castle where the scenery and setting was absolutely marvelous.
Enjoy your Rhine River cruise!
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