The Rhine Valley is a place of sublime romance. Not tacky greeting card romance, or heart-shaped fairy cake romance – the romance of the Rhine is one of mountains, castles and stirring music.
From the majestic peaks of Switzerland to the Rotterdam estuary, the Rhine winds its way through Germany, passing thousands of well-known landmarks and picturesque scenes. The Rhine is some 760 miles long, making it the second longest river in Europe (after the Danube's 1,501 miles), and the major cities of Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Rotterdam dotted along its banks mean there's plenty to see along the way.
As such, Rhine cruises have become some of the most popular cruises in Europe. Below are five things you won’t want to miss:
Discover a fairy-tale world of hilltop castles, wooded hills and lush vineyards on a Rhine river cruise. Find out more here
Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne’s Gothic splendour
Cologne is a welcoming city and the cathedral here is a marvel of Gothic architecture. Building began in 1248 and was only completed in 1880 as the famous spires were added.
The structure miraculously survived various allied bombing raids in WW2 and is now an enduring symbol of the area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city is also famous for its trademark scent, the original Eau de Cologne. One whiff of this and you’ll definitely be happy you stopped by.
Romantics can stroll across Hohenzollern Bridge right by the cathedral. The bridge has long been a favourite place for lovers to attach engraved padlocks onto the railings to demonstrate their everlasting love, and the keys are thrown into the Rhine. Thousands of padlocks from all around the world now line the grand bridge.
After taking in the sights stop off at one of Cologne's many bars or restaurants to quench your thirst with a traditional Kölsch beer, one of Cologne's specialties.
Basilica of Saint Castor in Koblenz
This ancient city has been inhabited since early Roman times and its spectacular setting on either side of the river Rhine makes it a popular spot for today’s travellers.
You will find one of the most striking buildings along the Rhine here in the Basilica of St Castor – an impressive church with four towers originally founded in the 9th century.
The dramatic scenery surrounding the city is as lush as anywhere in Europe and will be a great place to take some holiday photographs.
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Castle Drachenburg overlooking Bonn
Beethoven in Bonn
Visit Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven and former capital of West Germany. There is now a museum at Beethoven’s birthplace containing the largest collection of Beethoven memorabilia in the world.
This is one of the most sought after excursions on any Rhine cruise. Bonn is also a fabulous place to tour and walk around, with architecture that will transport you back to a different era as you take a romantic stroll.
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The vineyards of Zell on the Moselel river, a tributary of the Rhine
The Vineyards of Zell
German Riesling is immensely popular and if you like to enjoy a glass or two you will appreciate a visit to Zell on the banks of the river Moselle.
This tranquil river is a tributary of the Rhine that many Rhine cruises incorporate into their itinerary. Perhaps the most famous Zell vineyard is the Schwarze Katz.
According to legend, when a group of wealthy wine merchants came to Zell to buy wine many centuries ago they were offered a choice between three barrels but couldn’t decide which one to buy.
Suddenly a black cat jumped out and began swiping its paws to protect one of the barrels – they chose that barrel thinking it must have contained the best wine and the name has stuck.
Reichsburg Castle and Cochem
The beautiful village of Cochem, also on the Moselle, is home to one of the most impressive castles in the south west of Germany.
Reichsburg Castle is the largest hill-castle on the Moselle and a fantastic example of a neo-gothic restoration.
There has been a castle here for almost 1,000 years, but for much of that time it lay in ruins until a wealthy German businessman funded the restoration. It is now one of the most visited places on the Moselle.
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