Cruising the Rhine from Cologne to Switzerland


Climb aboard a river cruise ship from the German city of Cologne, and you can expect a fairytale journey. Historic castles, villages and vineyards are just some of the sights you will see, along with the legendary Lorelei rock, where a mermaid is said to have lured sailors to a watery grave.

You can go on short river cruises taking in brief sections of the Rhine. However, if you are looking for a longer holiday, it’s also possible to cruise all the way to Switzerland, and back to Germany in a round trip. Before you set off, take some time to explore Cologne itself, which is famous for its cathedral, with twin towers soaring 515ft, as well as many other old churches and the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine.

The Middle Rhine

The most romantic section of the river is known as the “Middle Rhine”, and recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. As you travel along this stretch of water, covering around 40 miles between Bingen and Koblenz, you will be constantly marvelling at just how much the landscape holds.

One of the first major tourist spots where cruise ships stop along this part of the river is the winemaking town of Rüdesheim. Here you can sample a glass of the local Riesling and admire the famous Niederwald Monument, a massive bronze statue portraying the fabled figure of Germania. You can also take a cable car ride up the hill for a great view of the town’s vineyards.

There are more than 30 castles to see along the banks of the Middle Rhine, many of them in ruins, including the mighty Rheinfels in St Goar, dating back to the 13th century. Another famed fortress is Marksburg, on a hill above the town of Braubach, which is the only castle along the Rhine still to be intact – making it especially fascinating to tour.

Historic Cities

River cruise ships often stop off at Mannheim and Speyer, which are both full of history. Mannheim’s most famous sight is the Schloss, an amazing baroque palace, now used by the university. Speyer has an impressive cathedral, and is a town packed with relics of the Roman era.

An optional extra on many Rhine tours is a coach excursion to the historic university city of Heidelberg. It’s well worth taking the time out to visit this famous spot, with its castle, and unspoilt old town area full of narrow streets and ancient buildings. Sadly, you won’t have time to visit the city’s 12 museums, but really the whole place is a museum in its own right, and will certainly stick in your memory.

Strasbourg to Switzerland

Back on the boat, your cruise will take you into France and to another famous city, Strasbourg, with its great cathedral towering above the historic centre, which has world heritage status. You can either take your time to explore the city or go on a tour of the Alsace region.

The lakeside city of Lucerne in Switzerland, within sight of the Alps, is another popular place to visit, with its landmarks including the famous Chapel Bridge – before you return to your cruise ship at Basle to begin the return journey!

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