(UPDATED AUGUST 2022) A cruise vacation is one of the best ways to travel and see the world. My favorite way to do this is on a river cruise through the beautiful cities of Europe. My husband, Eddie, and I love cruising Germany’s ports-of-call with Viking River Cruises and waking up in a new place each day. Here is what to expect at the cruise ports in Germany, based on my Rhine, Danube, and Paris to Swiss Alps Viking River Cruises.
Situated between gently rolling hills, Bernkastel is the “Pearl of the Moselle” Valley. Expect to be transported to a romance novel with you as the starring role in this beautiful German cruise port. The excursions of Bernkastel take you through picturesque medieval squares with skinny alleyways, half-timbered houses, and many statues. The town square features a medieval marketplace, beautiful Fountain of St. Michael, and the 1608 Rathaus (Town Hall).
There is a sister town in Bernkastel called Kues, so you may see the town mentioned as Bernkastel-Kues. The bridge united the two in 1905. Regardless of the name, the wine scene is the star of this gorgeous medieval town. The cruise excursion will know the best places to take you to sip some vino and fully enjoy the sweet wines from this region, which is known for producing some of the best vintages in Germany.
We took part in Viking’s Bernkastel-Kues Wine Tasting optional tour. The two-hour wine tasting at Dr. Pauly Bergweiler and walking tour took us over the cobblestones to a sampling of fantastic sweet Riesling wines with much education. We even had a taste of ice wine (my favorite!) at the end.
Foodie Tip: Consider dining off of the boat for your night in Bernkastel. We enjoyed a delicious traditional German meal at Gasthaus-Burkard, a cozy and tastefully-appointed restaurant.
Cochem is a quintessential fairy-tale looking city and where you will see a 1,000-year-old Reichsburg (imperial) Castle, the iconic landmark of the city. It is gorgeous perched atop a steep hill. Underneath, the lively Old Quarter and medieval town gate, perfect for strolling the windy streets with timber-framed houses and doing some souvenir shopping. There is an excursion that takes you to the castle with Viking, or you can walk it if you feel up to it.
Look for the 15th century St. Martin’s Church and the 17th century Capuchin Monastery (now a cultural center), all within the downtown area. Cochem is the perfect place to sit outside, enjoy a crepe and glass of green wine (very young wine), and soak up the amazing scenery. There is lots of shopping to do in Cochem, with a great selection of souvenirs, clothing, baubles, and gourmet food products.
At the Historic Mustard Mills (oldest mustards in the world), we did some sampling of the delicious condiments and brought some home with us. Being that Cochem is on the Moselle River, it is also an excellent place for a Riesling or Dornfelder wine tasting.
Foodie Tip: Take a break from exploring and enjoy a tasty pastry and coffee or tea from Café Flair.
Koblenz is the perfect storybook city of Germany, at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. Here, we had the best guide of our cruise (Paris to Swiss Alps), making stops at every attractive city feature, even more interesting than the next. Koblenz is another cobblestoned town (wear comfortable walking shoes!) with medieval churches, gorgeous bursts of colorful flowers, and another ancient market square.
The coolest thing we did in Koblenz was to ride the cable car that takes you across the Rhine River and up to a spectacular viewpoint of the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. From here, you can see the Upper Middle Rhine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I is quite stunning and a gorgeous place to walk around for photo-ops of the beautiful area.
Look for the Basilica of St. Castor, the oldest building in Koblenz, dating back to 836. Germany Corner is where your tour begins and one of the essential parts of Koblenz. And while I cannot remember the name of the light yellow building trimmed with orange below, it has a particularly amusing cuckoo-clock that shouldn’t be missed. I won’t spoil the surprise for you!
Mainz is home to Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the famous Gutenberg Bibles and movable type. At the Gutenberg Museum (circa 1900), you will see the printing technologies of that era that were used by Gutenburg, a replica of his workshop (originally in Strasbourg), woodblock print from the late 1700s, and two of the most elaborately printed book remains of all time. It is fascinating!
Mainz (a 2,000 year-old-city) was also an important trade center at one time. Commerce is still big, with great shopping all around. The marvelous Mainz Cathedral is 1,000 years old and stunning inside and out. Mainz Cathedral’s walls are tombs of archbishops and other prominent German figures; you’ll see the landmark cathedral’s six tall towers jutting out from a hillside in Old Town.
Eddie and I walked to it and found many other stately churches and architecture around the area. We also had a decadent iced coffee drink at Cafe Extrablatt.
The most intriguing Mainz attraction for me was St. Stephen’s Church. It is here that you’ll find Marc Chagall’s blue stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the Old Testament. The original structure from 990 AD was damaged in WWII, but restored 1973, adding the tranquil Chagall addition.
Tip: Don’t miss the riveting water fountains around town.
Bewildering architecture and three ornate, imperial cathedrals make up the landscape in Speyer, which may become one of your favorite cruise ports in Germany. The most well-known is Speyer Cathedral (circa 1041), the largest Romanesque-columned hall crypt in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are eight emperors (some famous Holy Roman Emperors) entombed at the Speyer Cathedral. Both the architecture and decor are spectacular!
Cathedral Square is a great place to browse the charming shop-lined streets, have a cafe (what they call having a coffee/beverage in Germany) or tea at Maximilian Cafebar, or indulge in a tasty pasta meal from Porto Nuova. You’ll find the most tantalizing pastries and sweets of the entire river cruise (Paris to Swiss Alps) here in Speyer.
I was referred to the Technic Museum Speyer and had a pleasant visit there. Inside the museum are dozens of vintage automobiles, locomotives, historic fire engines, musical organs, and machines. A Boeing 757 plane you can walk through, Space Shuttle Buran, houseboat, and submarine are outside.
Trier is a wealth of history in the Moselle Valley and was once the regional capital for the Holy Roman Empire. Our guided tour with Viking River Cruises started with incredible views from the outskirts of town. Next, we stopped at Aula Palatina’s Electoral Palace, a gorgeous 4th-century pink Rococo palace. While you can’t go into the palace, the Baroque grounds and 18th-century sculptures are worth a visit.
One of the most impressive attractions in Trier is the Romanesque Cathedral of Trier, built under the direction of Helena, mother of Constantine the Great after he converted to Christianity. The ancient sandstone city gate, Porta Nigra (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is where we enjoyed hanging out. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trier is the birthplace of Karl Marx. A massive statue in his likeness is near the Porta Nigra. Be sure to check out the Trier Imperial baths, Augusta Treverorum’s 4th-century enormous bathing complex.
Foodie Tip: Look for Ditsch eatery (known for pretzels since 1919) in the center of town and try a Pizza Spargel, a tasty pizza/bagel handheld with bacon, asparagus, and hollandaise. It is delicious!
Shopping Tip: For incredible ladies fashions, check out Parfümerie Edith Lucke.
Germany: A Country with the Most Beautiful Cruise Ports
You’ll find yourself amazed by the fairytale settings, impressive architecture, rolling hills, vineyards, romantic streets, and appetizing food in these cruise ports of Germany. There is truly no better way to see so many superb places than from the comfort of your Viking River Cruise, offering a new port each day. That is my kind of travel.
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