The Rhine originates high in the Swiss Alps, flowing through or along the borders of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands before it reaches the North Sea. Many cruises of the river sail between Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Basel, Switzerland.
Popular port calls for Rhine cruises include the village of Kinderdijk in the Netherlands, which has a network of 19 classic windmills constructed around 1740. You can learn about how windmills are built and how they work to help control flooding in this beautiful, low-lying country.
Cologne, often called the Jewel of the Rhine, is the cultural capital of western Germany’s Rhineland. The city’s famous Gothic-style cathedral, which was under construction from 1298 to 1880, houses a shrine said to contain relics of the Three Magi. Spectacular examples of medieval architecture abound in the city, from the ancient city gates to patrician houses and a dozen Romanesque churches. Mixed with these historic structures are skyscrapers, museums and stylish shopping areas.
Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region of northeastern France, combines strong French and Germanic traditions. The Cathedral of Our Lady has an incredible astronomical clock that features a procession of life-size figures of the Apostles twice each day. See the Grand Ile, an island in the Ill River that is the historic, medieval center of the city; or stroll among the wonderful buildings of the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg is also home to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
Depending on the length of your cruise, you may also see the red rooftops of Heidelberg, Germany; stop in Breisach, the gateway to Germany’s Black Forest; or spend a morning in Arnhem, the Netherlands, a town rich in World War II history. Some Rhine-based cruises let you experience even more of Europe’s interior by including some time on connecting rivers like the Moselle, Main and Danube.