Rhine River Cruise Highlights

Rhine River Cruise Embarkation

Rhine river cruise first stop – Amsterdam…

Take the stairs from Central Station and you’ll enter a cavernous space brimming with bicycles. This recently opened underground bike parking facility can accommodate an impressive 7000 bikes. Double-decker racks hold the bikes, significantly reducing the number of bikes parked on the streets above. The city’s flat terrain makes cycling a breeze, thanks to dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs and a strong cycling infrastructure. It’s important to stay alert as cyclists zoom by, skilfully manoeuvring around unsuspecting tourists.

A place to park bikes in Amsterdam

Docked in the centre of Amsterdam, a few minutes’ walk from the Central Station, we boarded the beautiful Scenic Crystal (see ship review) at the start of our Rhine river cruise.  She is a stunning, contemporary ship and after a warm welcome from the staff, we immediately felt at home. See my Scenic Crystal ship review for more details of our home for the week.

Amsterdam, a lively canal city, charms visitors with its unique blend of history and modernity. People often refer to it as the Venice of the North due to its picturesque network of canals. As we explored, our knowledgeable local guide, Clare, shared fascinating stories about the city’s history and its inhabitants. Some guests opted for a cheese tour in Edam, while others chose to explore the scenic countryside by bike. Amsterdam is renowned for its world-class museums and iconic landmarks, including the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum. We didn’t have enough time to visit them on this trip, but we will definitely plan a visit next time we return.

Tip: Anne Frank’s house requires reservations about six weeks before your visit.

A no-fly option

This European itinerary offers the opportunity for a no-fly cruise option. The Eurostar now runs a direct train to Amsterdam and avoids the airport stress. Eurostar is a very convenient way to arrive at the embarkation point. We ended our journey in Basel and took the train back to Paris to return to London. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Cologne

Our journey continued via the Rhine canal, joining the Rhine River to travel south towards Cologne, our next port.

Arriving in Cologne, the twin spires of the impressive Cathedral (Kölner Dom) can be seen from every direction. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, this architectural masterpiece took an incredible 632 years to complete. It’s a testament to the human ingenuity and sheer determination of generations of worshippers.

Legend has it that the two towers were constructed by rival builders, who actively engaged in a race to complete their respective sides first, resulting in an asymmetric yet charming masterpiece.

Cologne also offers a thriving cultural scene with numerous museums and galleries. Beyond its historical significance, the city is known for its lively atmosphere, especially during the festive season when the famous Cologne Christmas Market attracts thousands of visitors. We enjoyed the delicious, locally brewed beer, imagining the scenes at Christmas and during the annual beer festival. Another reason to return.

The Rhine Gorge

Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2002, the Rhine Gorge is an incredible combination or natural beauty and the ingenuity human civilizations.

With *40* castles lining its banks, it offers visitors a treasure trove of historical delights. Cameras at the ready. After two weeks of rain in the area, we had beautiful sunshine. Scenic river cruising at it’s best, this was the highlight of the trip for me and undoubtably the most beautiful section of the Rhine.

The Rhine Valley is dotted with a myriad of castles and fortresses, each with its own legend and historical significance. These architectural marvels transport you back in time and provide a glimpse into the region’s fascinating history and legends.

Some of our fellow guests with the surname Cat, looked out for the castle that shares their name. They excitedly told their story to other guests and took lots of photographs as we sailed by.

Heidelberg, Germany

From our port in Rastatt, we travelled by 30 minutes by luxury coach to Heidelburg.

Heidelberg is home to several universities and a vast student population of around 39,000. This gives the city a young and vibrant feel. The Heidelberg Student Prison was established in the 18th century. This unique institution allowed students to serve sentences for minor offenses and drunken escapades while continuing with their studies. The “prisoners” decorated their cells with humorous graffiti, transforming the place into a labyrinth of creativity. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction where visitors can explore these quirky artworks.

The Heidelberg Tun

We enjoyed a fascinating tour of Heidelburg castle hearing stories of the inhabitants through the ages. The castle is home to the largest wine barrel in the world, the Heidelberg Tun. It has an incredible capacity of around 220,000 litres. Originally built in the 18th century, the Tun was used to store the local wine production for Heidelberg castle’s inhabitants but is not in use now as it leaks. It’s now a popular tourist attraction, showcasing the historical significance of wine production in the region and the elaborate craftsmanship that went into creating such a colossal barrel.

An opportunity to enjoy a unique classical concert with Scenic

One of the highlights of the Scenic Rhine itinerary is the opportunity to enjoy a private evening concert at the Baroque Palace of Rastatt, one of the most magnificent historic venues in the region. It’s a fantastic evening of musical indulgence and grandeur. Guests raved about the quality of the musicianship and the beautiful venue. The concert took place in an adjacent hall. It’s worth looking out for these special opportunities and unique events when choosing an itinerary.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg, a fascinating city situated on the banks of the Rhine, is a blend of French and German influences. Many guests took a coach trip from our docking point to explore.

The city’s rich history and strategic location have shaped its cultural identity, making it an interesting mix of architectural styles, traditions, and cuisine.

Strasbourg’s picturesque city centre, known as Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts charming half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and medieval landmarks such as the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

The European Parliament is housed here, reflecting its significance as a symbolic centre for European unity and cooperation. The diverse culinary scene, offering a delightful fusion of French and German flavours, enhances Strasbourg’s multi-cultural vibe. Visitors can explore the city’s vibrant markets, boat tours along the canals, and immerse themselves in its festive atmosphere during the renowned Christmas market, which transforms Strasbourg into a winter wonderland.

Basel and Switzerland

Basel, a picturesque city that straddles the borders of Switzerland, France, and Germany. Renowned for its interesting history, artistic traditions, and lively atmosphere, Basel offers a delightful blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication.

We ended our journey here to take the train back to Paris to return home. Some guests chose to stay and explore Basel and further into Switzerland and Scenic offer the perfect post-cruise option. The magnificent Swiss railways provide a fantastic option for further adventures.

 

Rhine River Cruise Itineraries

A wide variety of Rhine river cruise itineraries are available.

Tip: look out for the where the ship docks and the excursion options available. I prefer to take local excursions where possible and avoid coach travel.

From the stunning scenery of the Rhine Gorge to the fascinating cities and towns, I highly recommend trying a Rhine river cruise.

I help my clients to choose the right itinerary and river cruise line. Please email or use the form below to get in touch.