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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

The Rhine is Europe’s busiest river, although there is little sense of this as you drift effortlessly past steep vineyards guarded by craggy castles of the Rhine Gorge, sleepy riverside towns basking on the banks.

There are many highlights of a Rhine voyage; the rolling hills of the Black Forest, the half-timbered houses and market squares of Strasbourg and the Roman legacy of Koblenz and Boppard, as well as the gorge itself.

Further north, boats moor in the heart of Cologne, dominated by the magnificent cathedral, with some continuing to Amsterdam. The Rhine is ideal as a first river cruise. There’s plenty of choice of activity, from hiking and cycling to castles and museums, and most of the docks are conveniently close to town centres, making it easy to explore independently.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 4 days

Getting there & doing it

There are dozens of permutations of Rhine cruise. Some ships only sail the Romantic Rhine, from Cologne, through the gorge to Bingen and back, while others continue the whole navigable length, between Basel and Amsterdam, which takes anything from a week to 12 days, depending on the number of ports visited.

Others combine the Rhine with the Moselle or the Main, or sail on through the Main-Danube Canal onto the Danube and across to the Black Sea, a journey of some 22 days.

Viking Cruises is the market leader (over 18s only), with multiple itinerary combinations and a modern fleet of luxurious, Scandinavian-inspired ships.

When to do it

Rhine cruises operate from March to November, with a separate Christmas markets season of shorter in December. May/June and September tend to be the most pleasant, with warm weather and fewer crowds.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Ama Waterways [River Rhine]

Ama Waterways [River Rhine]

Guildford, Surrey, Germany

A luxury river cruise line company offering a list of scenic, riverboat, all-inclusive itineraries on European, Asian & African waterways. They operate a modern fleet of classy riverboats on the Rhine, with all sorts of permutations of cruises. Excursions are included in every port.

Avalon Waterways [River Rhine]

Avalon Waterways [River Rhine]

Richmond, Surrey, Germany

River cruising specialist with smaller, intimate but luxurious ships. Their modern Suite Ships have some of the smartest cabins on the Rhine, with larger than normal rooms and open-air balconies. Their cruises appeal to active travellers, offering cycling, hiking and kayaking.

Viking Cruises [River Rhine]

Viking Cruises [River Rhine]

Basel, Germany

The world’s largest river cruise company and the market leader for River Rhine cruises. They have a modern fleet of luxurious, Scandinavian-inspired ships with multiple itinerary combinations. Luxury, over 18s only.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Amsterdam

North Holland, Netherlands

Rows of houses near a canal in daytime

Picturesque Golden Age canals, premier league art, cosy cafés, and liberal urban living combine to make Amsterdam one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals.

Round-ups

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Round-ups that include this experience