Rhine River Cruises
One of Europe’s longest rivers, the Rhine threads 766 miles through Switzerland, Liechtenstein Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea. This meandering path makes Rhine river cruises truly fascinating and scenic, passing plunging Alpine slopes, rolling vineyards, fairytale castles and charismatic cities. With such a dazzling variety of places, cultures and landscapes to capture the imagination, it’s no wonder the Rhine has inspired poets and artists through the ages.
The Rhine is divided into three key segments – the Upper Rhine in Switzerland, the Middle Rhine through Germany’s hills, and the Lower Rhine, where the landscapes soften into the lowlands of the Netherlands. In Germany, the Rhine meets two major tributaries, the Moselle of northeastern France and the Main, which flows across the country before linking with the Danube via the Main-Danube canal.
Unsurprisingly, the Rhine has a rich history. In early times, Germanic tribes settled along the river before making way for the Romans, who made it the outer threshold of their Empire and built fortresses along its length. Civilisation developed quickly during the Middle Ages, with the Rhine becoming a backbone for trade and commercial activity. During Napoleonic times, it became a highly disputed boundary between France and the lands west of the river – a struggle that echoed down the centuries to contribute to the beginnings of both World Wars.
Why Rhine river cruises?
Avalon Rhine cruises delve deep into some of Europe’s most scintillating and dramatic scenery. From turreted castles to lush vineyards and quaint timbered towns, cruising this mighty river is a feast for the senses. Many Avalon Rhine cruises cover the full length of the Rhine, gliding from the pretty Swiss town of Basel to Breisach, perfectly situated for exploring Germany’s beautiful Black Forest. From here, the river threads to the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg, renowned for the medieval houses and winding canals of its La Petite France district. Further downstream lies Speyer, home to an imposing Romanesque cathedral, and Germany’s oldest university town, Heidelberg, dominated by a brooding red sandstone castle.
The Rhine then snakes to Mainz, where the world’s first printing press was invented in 1496, before reaching Rüdesheim. This archetypal Rhine valley town sits amid terraced vineyards and is famed for its cobbled, tavern-lined Drosselgrasse. Rüdesheim also marks the gateway to the Rhine’s showstopper, the breathtaking, UNESCO-listed Rhine Gorge. Here, the steep-sided valley is speckled with romantic castles and culminates in the Lorelei Rock, where nymphs are said to have lured sailors to their deaths. Next comes 2,000-year-old Koblenz and imperious Cologne, with its soaring ‘Dom’ and charming old town. The Rhine then winds towards the North Sea, trickling into distributaries that lead to Amsterdam, with its photogenic canals, gabled townhouses and rich museums. Other Dutch gems await nearby, including windmill-dotted Kinderdijk and historic Edam, renowned for its round cheese.
Rhine cruises offer an added attraction each December, when the riverside towns stage festive Christmas markets. From the twinkling ice rink of Heidelberg to Strasbourg’s market steeped in the aromas of glühwein, cookies and sweets, our Rhine Christmas cruises welcome you into a magical winter world.
Rhine, Moselle, Main & Danube cruises
Many Avalon Rhine cruises include voyages along the Moselle, Main and Danube rivers. Rhine-Moselle cruises feature the charming wine town of Bernkastel, Roman Trier and time to enjoy the French capital of Paris as an exciting bonus. Other itineraries encompass Germany’s Main river and the Danube, calling at medieval Nuremberg and great capitals including Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. Some cruises follow the Rhine, Moselle and full course of the Danube, journeying right across beautiful central Europe in a once-in-a-lifetime voyage.