Along the Rhine

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 10/29/2015
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Amsterdam, Belgium, Cologne, Europe, Family Travel, France, Germany, Travel

Just as in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales… the half-timbered villages, looming castles and deep forests along the Rhine offer places with a sense of the magical. For me, the river’s magic is like a fairy tale, for along its path are places with stories that intrigue and landscapes that spark the imagination. There are towns and small cities whose loveliness could cast a spell – and castles and cathedrals that bring a sense of wonder. Just as fairy tales give me a chance to dream, so do the places you’ll discover when cruising the Rhine.

amsterdamIn the far north, linked to the Rhine by the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal, the city of Amsterdam is known for its 17th-century canals. Tall and narrow merchant homes, stepped roofs and sloped bridges span its narrow waterways. The city center is surprisingly small-scale and captivating. Among its neighborhoods are the Negen Straatjes (nine little streets), with names like Hartenstraat, Gasthuismolensteeg and Huidenstraat. It’s a picturesque area of boutiques, art galleries and quirky shops. Another is the Jordaan, a posh area of pretty lanes, inner courtyards, and plenty of old-fashioned bruin café’s (dark and cozy pubs).

koln_cathedralAlong the banks of the Rhine in western Germany, the modern metropolis of Köln has a history that goes back to Roman times.
Of relatively more recent vintage is the city’s Gothic cathedral. Completed in 1880, it’s described as an “exceptional work of human genius” by UNESCO. It’s also the product of some 600 years of skillful efforts that remained faithful to the original medieval plans. Visible from almost every point in the city today, the cathedral’s twin towers dominate the Köln cityscape.

Further south, between the cities of Bacharach and Koblenz, the
Rhine winds through the steep-sided Rhine Gorge. For well over
a thousand years, the narrow strips of land beside the river have been terraced for vineyards. Generation after generation of Rhineland winemakers here has produced Rieslings and other superb white wines. At Deutsches Eck (the German Corner), the Rhine meets the Moselle River. Watching over this confluence of waterways is a giant statue of the first German Emperor, William I. Along the Moselle, the steep hillsides continue – sometimes nearly vertically. The Moselle Valley’s terraced vineyards are also known for their white wines whose mineral qualities are derived from the slate bedrock beneath the hills.
Back on the Rhine, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is known for the lovely small cities tucked in amongst the green hillsides. Most date back to the Middle Ages, when their fortunes grew due to the trade and cultural exchange made possible by the river.  And perched on hilltops above the river, castles, fortresses and palaces were built to protect these towns – and extract tolls from those sailing by. Tales of robber barons and folklore abound. The legendary Lorelei was said to be a beautiful maiden who lured sailors to their deaths in the narrowest and deepest part of the Rhine.

baden_baden_thermal_springsIn Germany’s Black Forest, just east of the Rhine, the city of Baden-Baden was known as a svelte summer capital. During the Belle-Époque, the period of peace and prosperity before WWI, Europeans came here to stroll, to dine and be seen. They attended concerts, enjoying performances by musicians like Brahms, Liszt and Schumann. They came to be restored at the lavish Kurhaus (spa resort), soaking in waters warmed by thermal springs. And they gambled in the Kurhaus casino, where red velvet, gold-leaf molding and glittering chandeliers still make it one of the most opulent casinos in the world.

strasbourg_cathedralIn France, the Rhine leads to Strasbourg’s Grande Île, an island and the historic city center. It’s storybook-like, with cobblestoned lanes, half-timbered houses, leaded windows and romantic cafés. The Strasbourg Cathedral is a Gothic beauty that was built to be seen from afar. The lace-like façade climbs high, high up to a single spire (raised in 1439) and a maze of flying buttresses and gargoyles. Along with its gorgeous stained-glass windows and an 18th-century astronomical clock that still puts on a daily show, the cathedral is a testament to the craftsmanship of the Middle Ages. Called “a gigantic and delicate marvel” by Victor Hugo, it remains a pink-hued symbol of the city.

With an identity uniquely influenced by both France and Germany, the Alsatian Wine Route is shaped in the east by the Rhine. Its plains are dotted with wine-making villages with names like Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Ribeauville. White wines are their stars: sylvaner, pinot blanc, pinot gris, dry muscat, riesling and gewürztraminer. Half-timbered houses, inner courtyards and fanciful wells and fountains bring charm. And in small inns, local specialties (foie gras, charcuterie, slow-cooked stews and wood-fired tarte flambée) attract foodies from afar. Afterward, there are clear brandies to sip – made from pear, plum, cherry and wild raspberry.
Tauck’s best river cruises along the Rhine include: The Romantic Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel; Belgium & Holland in Spring; The Rhine, Swiss Alps & Amsterdam; The Rhine and Moselle; and our Tauck Bridges family adventure Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure.


Contact a Tauck Reservations Counselor by email!

To be contacted by a Tauck Reservations Counselor, please provide your name and email address as noted below. To better assist you, please also note tour or destination questions.

* Required fields

  • First Name *Last Name *
  • Email *
  • What trip/destination are you interested in? *


Thank you!

Your request has been received.


Customize YOUR TAUCK

Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll make sure
you get the most relevant information.

  • I am...
  • New to Tauck

  • A Past Tauck Traveler

  • A Travel Agent