The Rhine River

Cutting deeply into mountains and winding its way through rolling hillsides, dramatic rocky gorges and past pretty Old World villages, the Rhine river is a romantic’s dream. Springing from a lake in the Swiss Alps, it charts a scenic course to the North Sea, lighting up some of Europe’s most captivating sights and customs. Immortalised by Wagner, Byron and Turner, the Rhine riverbanks are dotted with ancient castles and fortresses, award-winning vineyards, riverside cafes and dynamic cities. With beautiful scenery and enriching surprises around every turn, a journey along the Rhine is an unforgettable voyage into the heart of Europe. 

Rhine river cruises offer an added attraction each December, when Christmas markets spring up in all the riverside towns. Whether you’re doing a turn on the twinkling ice rink of Heidelberg or browsing the stalls in Strasbourg’s town square with a warming glühwein, our Rhine Christmas cruises are sure to put you in the festive spirit.

Highlights of the Rhine river

  • Basel
    • This pretty Swiss town is the first navigable point of the Rhine where Switzerland, Germany and France converge. Perhaps because of this, Basel is rich in history and charm, with world-famous choirs, theatres and museums. Its atmospheric Gothic cathedral houses the tomb of 16th-century scholar Erasmus.
  • Strasbourg
    • The capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg is a cosmopolitan hub that is known for its excellent wines. Take a stroll along the cobblestone streets, which are lined with medieval buildings, and admire the winding canals of La Petite France in the heart of Strasbourg's Old Town.
  • Rüdesheim
    • A pretty little Rhine Valley wine town, Rüdesheim is a riverside village with an unusual attraction: Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, with its phenomenal collection of self-playing instruments. Be sure to enjoy a warming liqueur coffee at the cafe nearby cafe afterwards.
  • Rhine Gorge and Lorelei Rock
    • Sail through the UNESCO-listed Rhine Gorge, a beautiful stretch of water that is sprinkled with medieval castles, award-winning vineyards and crumbling fortresses. Pass the legendary Lorelei Rock where a heartbroken nymph was said to have lured sailors to their deaths.
  • Cologne
    • Cologne is the capital of the Rhineland and is known for its tradition of perfumery, its magnificent twin-steepled cathedral - which took 600 years to build - and its chocolate museum, where you explore the history and craftsmanship of this food of the gods.

2019 cruises

Browse our 2019 Rhine cruises

For dramatic beauty, fairy-tale castles and red-roofed medieval towns, nothing beats a journey along the Rhine.

See all 2019 cruises

2020 cruises

Browse our 2020 Rhine cruises

Explore more of the Rhine with our new itineraries, experiences and personalisation options.

See all 2020 cruises

Browse our Rhine cruises

Available cruises: 72

Select when you wish to depart and we will be able to show you all tours and cruises that depart on the day you have selected.

2019
2020
2021

Rhine River cruises

Learn more about the Rhine

Fast facts

  • Countries: Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, France, Netherlands

  • Source: The Swiss Alps

  • Mouth: North Sea

  • Length: 766 miles

Did you know? 

  • The name 'Rhine' comes from the Celtic 'renos', which means 'raging flow.'

  • Wagner's epic masterpiece The Ring Cycle (De Ring des Nibelungen) is based around the Rhine, with the first in the four pieces telling the story of the 'Rhinegold' (Das Rheingold). An unprecendented work in size, scope and artistic ambition, Das Rheingold is one continuous piece of music with no interval, lasting two and a half hours. The last in the cycle, 'Twilight of the Gods' (Götterdämmerung) lasts six and a half hours, including two intervals.

  • The Rhine still has its secrets. In 2007, a 1900-year-old Roman ship was found on the banks in Cologne. 

  • Strasbourg's old town, le Grande Île ("Grand Island"), was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1988: the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre.

  • It is thought that Julius Caesar was the first to build a bridge across the Rhine River, during the Gallic War of 55 BCE.

Geography

  • The Rhine begins life in the Swiss Alps, where the Vorderrhein and Hinterrhein rivers converge. From Reichenau, it courses north and forms a natural border between Switzerland and the mini-country of Liechtenstein, and then Switzerland and Austria. The Rhine then turns west, emptying into pretty Lake Constance, then creates a boundary between Switzerland and Germany. At Basel the river becomes navigable by ship, turning north at the so-called "Rhine knee" to flow alongside the border between France and Germany.

  • In Germany, between Bonn and Bingen, the Middle Rhine continues its journey through the beautiful Rhine Gorge - a dramatic natural gateway created by geological uplift and erosion. This stretch of the river is known as 'Romantic Rhine', a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing more than 40 castles and fortresses that date back to the Middle Ages.

  • On leaving Germany, the river heads west and enters The Netherlands, where it join the rivers Meuse and Scheldt to form one of the largest deltas in western Europe. The Rhine is at its widest as it enters The Netherlands, but then splits into three main distributaries and various smaller ones. These minor waterways then flow through the Dutch Lowlands and empty into the North Sea.