Situated on the Rhine River in the centre of the Rhine-Rhur region, charming Cologne is the beating heart of the beautiful Rhineland. Originally founded over 2,000 years ago by the Ubii tribe, Cologne was once the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire and served as a major trade route throughout the Middle Ages. In recent years the city has been extensively rebuilt and restructured, and is now one of the most important historical and cultural centres in Europe.
With such a rich history and heritage, Cologne is a picture book of fascinating highlights and experiences. The city’s most iconic site is without doubt the magnificent UNESCO-listed Cathedral, which has long been considered Germany’s single most popular attraction. The soaring gothic spires of this incredible 13th century structure can be seen from all over the city, however visiting the cathedral is a must to marvel at its spectacular architecture up-close and uncover the treasures within.
The city’s many other must-visit sights and attractions include the impressive Hohenzollern Bridge, which spans the Rhine near the cathedral; a collection of 12 glorious Romanesque churches including St Kunibert, St Severin and St Andreas; the beautiful Forstbotanischer botanical garden; and several galleries and museums such as the Fragrance Museum and Museum Ludwig, which boasts one of the Europe’s finest Picasso collections. For a taste of the local culture – and of the local brew – be sure to stop by Altstadt district, where bustling pubs and beer halls serve the city’s famous sweet pale ale, Kölsch.
Known as ‘The Colourful Town on the Rhine’, Linz am Rhein is chock-full of vibrant half-timbered houses and is located on the right bank of the River Rhine close to Remagen, another delightful port of call for Brabant’s river cruises.
The town has two medieval castles which are well worth visiting, Burg Linz is found right in the centre and is a hugely photogenic building, dating back to the 14th century, housing a museum in the dungeon, and a Roman glass works. Ockenfels Castle was completely destroyed in The Thirty Years’ War, but was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1920’s and is now the headquarters of a shoe company.
The historical town is well-known for its festivals such at the Rhine in Flames, a Wine Festival celebrating the renowned wines of the area, and of course the Christmas Markets which are unsurpassed.
With its beautiful, ever-changing landscape, which is marked by world-famous vineyards, imposing cliffs and steep hills, towering centuries-old castles and a string of postcard-perfect historic towns, the Lower Moselle Valley is widely considered the most picturesque section of the Moselle River.
Here the river is the much narrower than it is in the Upper and Middle Moselle regions, so you’ll be closer to the spectacular landscapes as your riverboat negotiates the waterway’s many meanders. Have your camera to hand to capture the stunning scenery, or simply sit back and enjoy the view.
Known as the 'heart of the Middle Moselle', beautiful Bernkastel-Kues is an enchanting twin-town spread along both the east and west banks of the River Mosel at the centre of the picturesque Moselle Valley. Set amongst a backdrop of stunning lush-green scenery and world-famous vineyards, including the revered Berkasteler Doctor, Bernkastel-Kues is best known for producing some of Europe's finest and most expensive wines.
As you might expect, many consider Bernkastel-Kues' plethora of wineries and taverns – there are around 100 here serving various types of Mosel and Riesling wines – as the main attraction, however the town has much more to recommend it than just the delicious local tipples.
The charming Old Town of Bernkastel-Kues is a gem, with its medieval market square, collection of well-preserved historic monuments and landmarks, and rows of gabled half-timbered houses which date back to the Middle Ages. The 15th century Spitzhauschen (Pointed House), the Renaissance-style Town Hall built in 1608 and Graach Gate – the only original town gate still standing today – are among the most popular attractions.
Take time to venture away from the historic heart of the town and you can uncover the pretty squares of Platz am Barenbrunnen and Karlsbader Platz too, as well as the ruins of Landshut Castle and the birthplace of Nicholas of Cusa – one of the earliest German humanists. Alternatively you could choose to simply indulge in a rewarding and relaxing walk along the river banks, taking in the scenic surroundings at your leisure.
The enchanting Middle Rhine Valley – also affectionately known as the ‘Romantic Rhine Valley – is Germany at its finest. World renowned for its breathtaking, postcard-perfect scenery, the Middle Rhine features imposing cliffs and picturesque rolling hills, steep vineyards, historic landmarks including a collection of magnificent medieval castles and a string of picturesque riverside cities, towns and villages such as Bacharach, Boppard, St. Goar and Linz.
The UNESCO-listed Rhine Gorge – a 65 Kilometre-long section of the Middle Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen – is particularly spectacular, with its dramatic and varied natural landscapes which are interspersed with around forty of the region’s most impressive castles and fortifications, as well as a number of charming wine villages.
As you relax on the deck of your river boat, soaking up the sunshine and perhaps enjoying a glass of wine from the vineyards you’re sailing by, you’ll quickly understand why this stunning part of the world is so highly sought-after.
If you’ve a penchant for fine wines you’re sure to adore the charming city of Rudesheim. Situated at the foot of gorgeous, lush-green Taunus Mountains in the southern region of Germany’s UNESCO-listed Rhine Valley, Rudesheim is surrounded by huge vineyards and considered the centre of the Rhine’s world-renowned wine industry.
Various types of red, white and sparkling wine are produced in this picturesque region, many of which you can sample at the welcoming taverns and bars in the centre of Rudesheim. The 15th century cobbled street of Drosselgasse – often described as the ‘merriest street in the world’ – is the place to be to try the finest local tipples and traditional culinary treats while soaking up the city’s friendly atmosphere. Wine lovers won’t want to miss the fascinating wine museum at Brömerburg Castle – one of the oldest castles in the Middle Rhine region – too.
There’s much more to Rudesheim than just delicious wines though. This remarkably well-preserved historic city harbours beginnings dating back to the Middle Ages and boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage. A number of centuries-old monuments and structures dotted around the city highlight Rudesheim’s extensive history, including the medieval half-timbered houses of the old town; the 15th century gothic tower of Adlerturm, which was originally part of the old city wall; and the aristocratic residences of Oberstraße.
The Niederwald Temple and Monument is possibly the city’s most iconic site. Presenting unspoilt views of the Rhine Valley, it’s no wonder this was a favourite spot for famed artists, writers and composers including Beethoven, Goethe and Brentano. Accessed via cable car or a relaxing walk through the vineyards, Niederwald is well worth a visit to take in the stunning surrounding scenery.
Located on one of the most picturesque stretches of the Rhine River, Nierstein is an important winegrowing town within the Reinhessen region. Along its cobbled streets, wineries stand door-to-door, with hidden courtyards turned into wine taverns at the weekends.
Stroll along the banks of the Rhine, or explore the medieval marketplace and the magnificent baroque houses. The paleontological museum is not to be missed, and is home to many fine examples of insect, amphibians and reptiles, compiled by father and son palaeontologists, Arnulf and Harald Stapf.
Above the town stands the watchtower, the highest viewpoint in the vineyards, and the view from the ‘Red Slope’ towards Saint Martin’s Church is sublime, particularly on an autumnal day. Niersteiner Glöck, the oldest named vineyard in Germany is surrounded by a solid wall, and is well known for its historical significance and for producing the amber nectar made synonymous with the area.
Part beautifully preserved medieval gem, part unofficial capital of Europe and one of the most important modern cities on the continent; Strasbourg – the glorious capital of France’s beautiful Alsace region – is as cosmopolitan and captivating as they come. The city’s cultural centre is particularly appealing, with its eye-catching old and glittering European quarters boasting an array of diverse architectural treasures.
At the very heart of Strasbourg’s cultural centre is Grande Île. This section of the city is the most popular tourist spot here and for good reason too; it was the first city centre to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in recognition of its magnificent medieval architecture and displays of Franco-German culture. No time spent in Strasbourg is complete without exploring Grande Île to the full. Here you can marvel at the mesmerising 15th century gothic cathedral, the world’s fourth largest church; visit the ancient churches of St Thomas, St Pierre-le-Vieux, St Pierre-le-Jeune, and St Étienne; take in the rows of charming half-timbered houses and medieval fortifications within ‘Petite France’; and stop-by Palais Rohan, the former residence of the prince-bishops.
The contrasting sights of the thriving European quarter are well worth a look too. This energetic district, situated in the north section of the city centre, is home to many of the continent’s most important and iconic buildings including the impressive European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament building.
Elsewhere in the city you’ll discover fine examples of art nouveau architecture, such as Palais des Fêtes; and contemporary architectural delights such as the Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain and Hôtel du Département. Don’t miss the eclecticist designs of the Neustadt (German Quarter) too. Strasbourg is also home to a collection of fantastic museums and galleries, as well as several beautiful parks such as Parc de l'Orangerie, Parc de la Citadelle – built around the remains of a 17th century fortress near the Rhine – and the Jardin botanique de l'Université de Strasbourg.
Situated in the south-eastern corner of Germany near the beautiful Black Forest, just the width of the River Rhine separates Breisach from the gorgeous Alsace region of neighbouring France. With this in mind, it may come as little surprise that this charming city shares a passion for delicious cuisine, wines and striking architecture with the pretty French settlements you can see across the water.
The historic heart of Breisach offers little to remind you that around 85% of the city was destroyed in World War Two, so meticulous has been the reconstruction of the delightful cobbled streets, pastel-hued houses and magnificent monuments. Not to be missed as you wander around this German gem is the impressive 13th century St Stephen Cathedral – Breisach’s most famous and eye-catching structure – which towers over the terracotta rooftops as a symbol of the city’s defiance; the rebuilt Rathaus; Radbrunnen Tower, originally built in the Middle Ages; and the Baroque Rheintor Tower.
If you, like many of the locals here, have a penchant for fine wines, be sure to stop by one of the many taverns dotted around the city to sample locally-produced tipples from the renowned vineyards of the Baden region; or perhaps even visit one of the biggest wine cellars in Europe, Badischer Winzerkeller.
Often overlooked by those who fly straight to the larger, well-trodden cities of Zürich and Geneva, beautiful Basel is one of Switzerland’s – if not Europe’s – most underrated destinations. Situated in a scenic setting on the River Rhine between the borders of France and Germany and boasting an eclectic mix of sights and attractions, both historic and contemporary, this charming city is sure to enchant and inspire.
Visiting Basel via river boat is the best way to experience all that this Swiss gem has to offer. You can enjoy views of the gorgeous surrounding scenery as you sail the Rhine straight into the city, then step ashore in the heart of it all to take in Basel’s many delights. The engaging medieval Old Town – one of 19 fascinating ‘quarters’ spread across the city – is a particular highlight. Here you can uncover beautifully preserved 15th century buildings, the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, the imposing Rathaus and the ancient Spalentor gate, which all stand defiantly alongside a few fabulous modern structures designed by world-renowned architects.
Known as Switzerland’s ‘cultural capital’ Basel also boasts the largest collection of museums found in any Swiss city, with around 40 to discover dotted around the many districts. Among the most interesting are the Kunstmuseum, Gegenwartskunst and Schaulager museums, which all exhibit spectacular artwork from various eras and world-famous artists; the Museum der Kulturen ethnographic museum; Antikenmuseum, which houses a huge collection of antiquities; and the Puppenhaus teddy bear museum. Basel is also home to Switzerland’s oldest and largest zoo; and is known as the ‘green city’ thanks to the abundance of pretty parks and botanical gardens.
Valleys & Vineyards of the Rhine & Moselle
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