Rhine River cruise in Europe
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Rhine River - Best Tours & Trips 2019

The romantic Rhine, which flows more than 700 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea, is home to fairy-tale medieval castles, riverside villages, terraced vineyards, and spooky legends. Having inspired travelers and artists for hundreds of years, it’s now one of the most popular cruising rivers in Europe – with many options available. Let Stride help you sort them all out, and soon you can be humming your own version of “Castle on the Rhine.”
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Travel Style

Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Itinerary Focus

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 352 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

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Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions

Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Top Rhine River Experiences and Attractions

Top Rhine River Experiences

Sailing through the 40-mile-long Rhine Gorge in Germany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where more than 40 castles and fortresses stand guard on hilltops.

Gazing up at the Lorelei Rock, where a lovelorn siren who plunged to her death is said to haunt the area, luring sailors to their doom in the swirling waters below.

Sipping a fragrant German white wine on deck as you glide past terraced vineyards clinging to steep hillsides.

Watching the world go by from your own balcony as you travel in comfort from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, via Germany and France – by far the most common itinerary.

Spending time before or after the cruise in Amsterdam – with canals for streets, bicycles galore and world-class art museums, it’s one of Europe’s most alluring cities.

Exploring the German city of Cologne, home to one of Europe’s most splendid Gothic cathedrals, known for its signature twin steeples.

Wandering Koblenz, a 2,000-year-old city where the Rhine and Moselle rivers join -- and perhaps taking a scenic side-cruise up the Moselle.

Discovering Heidelberg, the old German university town that showcases stunning medieval architecture and a Gothic castle.

Enjoying an excursion to France’s Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine, where French and German customs mix to add flavor to the cultural stew.

Strolling wine-country towns like Kaysersberg in Alsace-Lorraine and Germany’s Rudesheim – their names may be unfamiliar, but you won’t soon forget the storybook settings, or the local vintages.

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Rhine River Trip Reviews

8 Rhine River Tour Reviews - Summary 88% Recommend

4.5 out of 5
Excellent 7
Great 0
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 1
Value
4.5
Guide
4.8
Activities
5.0
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.5
Meals
4.8

Tour Reviews Write a Review

The most amazing river trip in Europe

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Traveling from Belgium through 6 countries to Switzerland is one of the most amazing travel experiences in Europe, especially if traveling with Grand Circle Travel. The ship's crew and staff are the most professional and personable folks that I've ever had the fortune to travel with. Not only have I traveled European rivers with these folks once, but have done so several times. For a single traveler, traveling with Grand Circle is a great bargain, as there is very seldom an extra charge for traveling solo and if their is, the price is very modest. You can't go wrong with these folks.

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Operator Grand Circle Cruise Line

i had a wonderful time

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

In May of 2016 we did the Heart of Europe Grand Tour which started in Amsterdam and ended in London. Both my husband and i had a wonderful time and saw sites we may have never seen before(we have been to Europe before but only to Germany and Amsterdam) Our Tour Guide was Ron Lazet and he was wonderful and very knowledgeable. Would recommend these tours for anyone. I hope to be able to do another tour in the near future

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Operator Image Tours

We loved it.

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

"We loved it. You do a great job. Location was in the most scenic part of the Rhine and shopping and train were very close.
Natalie brought with her lots of local information and train, boat schedules station schedules which were very helpful. as the book did not have that much information."

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Operator Untours

Incredible experience

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Incredible experience sailing on the Grand European tour from Amsterdam to Budapest! Just wonderful! The tours were interesting, and most allowed for adequate free time to explore the areas visited. But the staff! Beyond compare.

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Operator Viking River Cruises

Misleading and often just plain dishonest.

1.0
  • Value 1.0
  • Guide 3.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 3.0
  • Transportation 1.0
  • Meals 3.0

We paid for a 3 week luxury river cruise but received a large group bus trip across Europe with many days of packing and unpacking. I called our Viking representative when we received an email message just 2 days prior to departure that mentioned a possibility of problems with low river levels. I was assured that everything was "normal" In reality, as we learned later from ship personnel, nothing has been normal for at least 3 months. About 2 weeks prior to departure, we received by mail, lovely personalized booklets describing all the details of our voyage on the Viking Lif, which we were to board in Russe, Romania. Instead, we boarded the Viking Aegir but not at Russe, because the Danube was too low. Instead we rode buses upstream to a port on the Romanian side directly opposite our first scheduled stop at Nikopol, Bulgaria. We had a beautiful cruise through the Iron gate gorge, but after three more scheduled stops in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia, our voyage was terminated in Mohacs, Hungary, an unscheduled place two days short of reaching Budapest. So we were herded into buses for a 1.8 hour ride each way to our scheduled stop at Kalocsa. The next day we retraced the journey to Kalocsa and continued an extra 1.5 hours to reach Budapest. We lost the entire morning in Budapest and spent the night at the Marriott hotel. The next day we lost the entire afternoon in that city because we had to take a 4 hour bus ride to Vienna. Where we were put aboard the Viking Embla. Our voyage on that ship ended two steps later at Passau Germany. After a day in Passau we went upriver for a short distance and it seemed that we had entered the canal to take us to the Main river. But much to our surprise, it was a dead end channel for an industrial port. We spent two days there with our balcony room moored tightly against another Viking ship so there was nothing to look at but the scenery at that site was even worse than looking at someone else's window and the balcony was unusable anyway due to the unpleasant odors at that site. The pattern continued with a long round trip bus ride the next day to our scheduled stop at Regensburg and a 3 plus hour trip the following day to Nuremberg where we finally boarded the Viking Lif. A crew member told us that the Lif had not traveled east of Nuremberg for 3 months. We sailed from Nuremberg to scheduled stops in Bamberg, Wurzburg, and Werthiem and then our voyage terminated for good at an unscheduled port in Mainz. Once again we endured a long round trip journey to our next scheduled stop at Koblenz, followed by a 10 plus hour bus trip (with lunch and a walking tour in Cologne) to Amsterdam and a night in a hotel. Despite a promise that our bags would be in our rooms (they did take great care to provide us with tags so they could easily keep our bags organized) all the baggage was dumped in the hotel garage and it took a good 15 minutes of searching to find it and then take it to our rooms ourselves. There is much more, but it would only be more descriptive of the misery of this trip. We know Viking didn't cause the low river levels, but they did not need to lie to us and make us suffer because of it.

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Operator Viking River Cruises

Rhine River Tours and Travel Guide

Rhine River Attractions & Landmarks Guide

A voyage along the Rhine River has attracted travelers and artists for hundreds of years. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a trip down the Rhine was considered a mandatory part of the European grand tour, and the castle-rich hilltops and colorful legends along Germany’s scenic Rhine Gorge inspired poetry by Heinrich Heine and opera by Richard Wagner.

The 700-mile-long river, which flows from Switzerland to the North Sea via France, Germany and the Netherlands, has also been a key means of transport and trade through Western Europe. “The Rhine combines every quality a river can exhibit,” wrote Victor Hugo, citing its “rapidity,” “breadth,” “sinuosity,” “translucency,” “historical reminiscences,” “regal dignity,” “mysterious influence,” “glittering streams” and “phantoms.”

What is the best time to take a Rhine River cruise?

Rhine river cruises run all year round, with peak season in the summer and, surprisingly, winter - when many families and couples attend cruises to see the famous European Christmas markets.

The weather along the Rhine can get quite hot in the summer, and it will also be very crowded. Shorts, skirts, and short sleeves are suggested, with maybe some light long sleeve layers and pants for the evening.

In the wintertime especially you can definitely expect some snow flurries and chilly days. Bundle up with lots of layers so you can enjoy wandering the Christmas markets!

The Rhine Gorge

Today the Rhine ranks with the Danube as among the most popular of all European cruising rivers. Its Rhine Gorge segment, which courses about 40 miles through steep hillsides dotted with more than 40 castles and fortresses, is one of the highlights of world river cruising, and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small fairytale towns and villages line its banks, vineyards cling to terraced slopes, and large, intriguing cities await exploration as well.

Most Rhine cruising itineraries journey between Basel, Switzerland, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands; you can travel in either direction. The standard length is about a week, but you can easily extend it to 12 or more by combining the Rhine with the Moselle River, which branches off the Rhine at the German city of Koblenz and leads toward Luxembourg, or the Danube, which is connected to the Rhine by the Main Canal and leads to Budapest, Hungary, and beyond – a two- or three-week super cruise. If you’re pressed for time, some shorter, five-day cruises are also available from Basel, stopping at Dusseldorf in Germany rather than continuing on to Amsterdam.

Typical Rhine River Cruise Itineraries

A standard Rhine River cruise route, will include the German cities of Cologne, whose landmark is its Gothic twin-towered Dom Cathedral; Koblenz, site of the huge Ehrenbreitstein Castle; and Heidelberg, which houses the country’s oldest university as well as memorable Romanesque architecture.

The town of Breisach, gateway to Germany’s lovely Black Forest; the towns of Rudesheim and Kayserberg, among others, offering tastes of the wine country; and Strasbourg, France, with its canals, cathedral, and Alsatian choucrout (a hearty dish bearing both French and German influences) all help make Rhine port excursions some of the finest in Europe.

Not surprisingly, most every major European river cruise line operates on the Rhine, so it’s essential to compare and contrast not just itineraries but prices (don’t forget to check what’s included!), ship size, cabin sizes, amenities, and languages spoken aboard, among other things.

The good news is that Stride can help you make sense of it all, allowing you to book your Rhine cruise with confidence -- knowing you’ve chosen the cruise that’s right for you. And soon you’ll be gazing up at the same Sleeping Beauty-style castles on the Rhine that have enchanted travelers and artists for centuries.

Rivers Combined - The Rhine & the Moselle

Oftentimes, you’ll find Rhine River cruise itineraries also include the Moselle River. The Moselle joins the Rhine at Koblenz, and provides an extremely picturesque journey. Wine lovers will note the pristine German rieslings that come out of the regions the Moselle flows through.

From the Rhine, you will branch off to the left to travel through the French region of Lorraine, famous for being the home of Joan of Arc. With ancient castles and ruins dotting the hillsides, the Moselle provides the perfect journey for history lovers as well.

The Rhine & the Rhone

The Rhone is another popular river cruise destination, and a great cruise in its own right. If you’re looking for a cruise that touches on a greater variety of European sights and cultural activities, you might consider a cruise that includes both the Rhine and the Rhone rivers.

The wine regions are a consistent theme for these rivers, and especially if you’re interested in tasting some classic French varietals from famous Burgundy. If you choose a Rhine cruise that includes the Rhone, pay special attention to the land portions on the itinerary. Some may include longer stays or extensions in major cities like Amsterdam or Paris.

Find more useful tips in our blog post "Top Ten Tips for Choosing a European Cruise Line." 

Top Rhine River Travel Companies

Things to Know Before You Go

River cruises along the Rhine are perfect for those travelers seeking a less crowded European river cruise than the Danube, but are eager to see many similar sights.

Rather than traveling in and east-west direction, Rhine river cruises travel north-south through the Netherlands, western Germany, and some far eastern parts of France.

Unlike many other river cruises through Europe, the Rhine touches on some views of a more industrial side of Europe. You will absolutely see a smattering of castles, and gorgeous countryside, but expect a few industrial plants and factories along the way as well. The Rhine, like all important rivers, has gone through many iterations of importance to the countries it services.

How long are Rhine River Cruises?

Rhine river cruises are usually between 8 and 15 days. This gives you a nice balance of port calls and time out on the water.

However, be sure to check the itinerary and route carefully. Many Rhine River cruises travel in smaller areas, rather than the full expanse of the river. These cruises may be similar amounts of time but hitting a different number of countries.

So when searching for a Rhine River cruise, consider whether you’d prefer to visit more sites within 1 country - meaning some smaller villages and towns, or forgo some sights in the interest of checking off more countries and larger cities.

Christmas Cruises Along the Rhine

The Rhine is an extremely popular river for people wanting to visit some of Europe’s famous Christmas markets. These delightful markets have deep roots in Germany where they are called “Christkindlesmarkt”. Because the Rhine flows through much of Germany’s western regions, it is one of the top rivers that hosts Christmas cruises.

Snow is common, so be ready for some cold weather! But it adds everything to the ambiance, as you stroll through the streets listening to carols, sipping mulled wine, and browsing stalls of crafts and food.

Rhine Christmas cruises fill up fast! Be sure to book early to secure a spot. And book extra early if you or someone you traveling with requires special assistance, such as a wheelchair accessible room. These are first come first serve on river cruise vessels.

All Rhine River cruises, tours, and packages. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.5 for all Rhine River trips.

184 trips from 40 tour companies with 8 reviews

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