View castles, medieval villages and lush vineyards on Rhine River cruises through Switzerland, Austria and Germany. A Rhine River cruise is a worthwhile experience for any traveler looking to explore ancient castles, medieval cities, old towns and lush villages. Depending on your itinerary, which could take you through Germany, Switzerland, Austria or a combination of these countries, a river cruise on the Rhine may present days or even weeks of discovering historic places like Strasbourg or modern metropolis’ including Cologne.
While some people think that storied castles will be everywhere along the Rhine, this isn’t always the case and it’s actually a good thing. There’s so much to take in along the Rhine River including “Rapunzel’s castle” near Rhine Gorge, but also intriguing signs of modern-day living like power stations and factories near Basel and other industrialized areas.
A river cruise on the Rhine offers plenty of exquisite scenery and many opportunities to learn about the history of several European cultures. One of the best times to take a Rhine River cruise is during autumn, when the “Rhine in Flames” events are going on and people who live along the waterway celebrate with wine and fireworks. Wintertime on the Rhine is stunning. Germany’s Christmas markets dot the banks of the river and they offer treats for travelers to delight all senses.
Europe’s longest river, and the most important, the Rhine begins high in the Swiss Alps as just some little droplets of melting snow. Trickling off of the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier, drips gather in volume and force, and eventually turn into the Rhine proper when the water reaches Reichenau. This famous waterway continues on flowing north, all the way to Lake Constance where it supplies Germany with a major source of water. Then, it winds through Schaffhausen along to Basel, at the point where Switzerland borders Germany and France.
Around Schaffhausen, the Rhine River takes a dramatic 75-foot plunge down into a terrific torrent called the Rheinfall. The river’s waters mellow to become fairly mild around Basel, and this is where many Rhine River cruises embark. From Basel, the Rhine makes its way nearly 870 miles to Rotterdam, where it pours into the North Sea. From beginning to end, the Rhine passes through Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria, then through Germany, France and the Netherlands.