Main River Cruises
Main river cruises offer a fascinating voyage through the heartlands of Germany. This peaceful river seamlessly brings together past and present, unfolding everything from deep forests and vine-covered hills to fairytale castles and flower-bedecked towns.
A tributary of the Rhine, the 329-mile Main rises in southern Germany and connects to the Main-Danube canal, the man-made waterway linking it to the Danube River. Further downstream, the Main snakes through central Germany, passing the velvety forests of Bavaria and castle-topped trail of the ‘Romantic Road’ before joining the Rhine near Frankfurt.
The Main’s long history is evident along its banks. Ancient Celtic tribes settled along its shores, and, during Roman times, numerous towns sprang up by its waters. In the 8th century AD, Charlemagne consecrated the original Würzburg cathedral and dreamt of connecting the Main and Danube – a vision realised 1,000 years later with the 1992 opening of the Main-Danube Canal. By the Middle Ages, the Main was nurturing mercantile activity and kindling inventions such as the world’s first printing press in Mainz in 1436. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the river formed the heart of Germany’s industrial revolution. In World War II, Allied bombs ravaged many of its towns, although all have now been restored to their former glory.
Why Main river cruises?
Avalon Main cruises bring you close up to lush, rolling scenery and a string of picture-postcard places, from turreted country castles to quintessential Bavarian towns. Most Main cruises call at historic Nuremberg, sitting where the Main-Danube Canal and the Danube meet. Famed for its post-World War II War Crime Tribunals, Bavaria’s second-largest city is all half-timbered townhouses and pretty squares crowned by an impressive castle. Some cruises also include stays in the Czech Republic capital of Prague. This Gothic and Baroque masterpiece lies within easy reach of Nuremberg, making it a natural addition to Main sightseeing.
Flowing downstream from Nuremberg through the locks of the Main-Danube Canal, the Main arrives at beautiful Bamberg. Founded in 902 AD, this UNESCO-protected town boasts winding streets and a majestic ‘Kaiserdom’ cathedral. The river then heads east through idyllic, vine-clad hills to Würzburg on Germany’s famous ‘Romantic Road’. This ancient wine town is famous for its UNESCO-listed Residenz, a superb Baroque bishops’ palace. Nearby is charming Rothenburg, a vision of gabled houses and Gothic churches. Further upstream, chocolate-box Wertheim serves up crooked streets and glass-blowing studios. Another gem is Miltenberg, whose high-gabled houses and cobbled squares cluster around a Gothic Town Hall. From here, the Main continues to Frankfurt, Germany’s business capital. The skyscrapers of this vibrant city tower over botanical gardens and absorbing old town dominated by the step-gabled Römer town hall.
Main cruises are also ideal for visiting Germany’s magical Christmas markets. Each December, the medieval towns along the river host traditional fairs packed with stalls selling festive souvenirs, ‘Lebkuchen’ gingerbread and warming ‘glühwein’ in snow-dusted squares.
Main, Rhine, Danube & Moselle cruises
Avalon Main river cruises extend to the interconnecting Danube, Rhine and Moselle rivers. Flowing through six countries, the Rhine traverses some of Europe’s loveliest scenery, passing castle-dotted hills and the spectacular Rhine Gorge. Other highspots include timber-framed Rüdesheim and majestic Cologne, with its twin-spired cathedral. Many cruises end or start at Amsterdam, letting you experience its postcard-pretty sights. Others, meanwhile, travel the Upper Rhine to picturesque Strasbourg and Basel, or take in the peaceful Moselle, meandering through wine country to Cochem and sometimes including a visit to Paris. Some other Main cruises, meanwhile, take in the Danube, visiting the great capitals of Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Belgrade before sailing to the breathtaking Danube Delta on the Black Sea.