In a recent blog post, we discussed the general perks and experiences only a river cruise can offer. Now, we’re stepping it up a notch by providing a preview into the experience. Arguably the biggest perk of river cruising is the ability to explore multiple cities hassle-free. So we’ve selected an area with appeal to both new and veteran river cruisers: the Rhine and Moselle rivers. A European cruise along these rivers has something for everyone: food, art, history, and above all, the ability to immerse oneself in new cultures and landscapes.
Along these rivers, several cities stand out from the rest. Let us take you on a tour of the best a European cruise has to offer:
Holland’s capital, a sophisticated city with a rich history, is often the embarking or disembarking point for European cruises.
A city with a long history of religious tolerance, Amsterdam is an eclectic and lively blend of cultures. This welcoming attitude, along with the city’s stunning blend of art and architecture, has made Amsterdam one of Europe’s most popular destinations.
Amsterdam is known for its resplendent, 400-year old canal system, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. Nearly every European cruise will include a canal excursion. The challenge becomes prioritizing what to do after the canal tour, with just one day in the city.
You won’t have to look far for entertainment off the canals; the city center is packed with things to do. The Nine Streets, a popular shopping area within the canal district, is definitely worth exploring. The city’s main entertainment areas, the Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, are also found here. The two offer great options for both day and nightlife, with an array of restaurants, cafes, theaters, and clubs.
There are many excellent art venues throughout Amsterdam – below offers one possible line-up for day-trip visitors:
Those looking to venture beyond the city center have many options. Art lovers should head towards Vondelpark and the Museumplein, where the big three museums are located: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum.
In a city sporting 60 museums, the Rijksmuseum is a stand-out. The Netherland’s national museum hosts an array of Dutch masterpieces stretching as far back as the Middle Ages. First opened in 1885, recent renovations have modernized the entire facility. Visitors will find, amongst many treasures, a wide array of Rembrandts and pieces by Johannes Vermeer.
Just a short walk away is the Van Gogh Museum, the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works. Visitors looking for a stylistic change can stop by the Stedelijk Museum, a mere stone’s throw away from the Van Gogh Museum. The permanent residence for the National Museum of Modern Art, visitors will find the world’s most admired works, including pieces by Kandinsky, Chagall and Picasso.
Travelers looking to bring home their own piece of art should head to the Spiegelkwartier, just north of the Rijksmuseum. Also known as the Mirror Quarter, the area has been the Netherlands’ art and antique trade hub for eighty years. The quarter also sports various small shops, cafes, and restaurants.
For a more general shopping and authentic Amsterdam experience, head to the neighboring De Pijp district for the Albert Cuyp! An Amsterdam staple since 1905, the city’s largest market gives visitors a true taste of Amsterdam life. Whether you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up or a memento to take home, the Albert Cuyp can deliver.
Again, there are many historical sites within Amsterdam – we are providing a potential route for those with limited time:
The Anne Frank House, located along the canal belt’s edge, is a venue that attracts nearly a million visitors annually. Visitors can walk through the reconstructed annex, view the famous diary itself, and explore multiple exhibits. Be sure to purchase a ticket online if you’d like to start your historical trek here: from 9AM to 3:30PM, the museum is only open to those with online tickets. General admission, where visitors can buy tickets at the museum itself, is from 3:30 PM to close.
Moving back towards the Old Center, visitors will find the Amsterdam Museum, an interactive chronicle of the city’s rich history and development. While the institute delves into the city’s yesteryears, it also makes a point to explore current and future Amsterdam. A five minutes’ walk north will bring you to the National Monument in remembrance of WWII; five minutes more brings you to the Old Church, Amsterdam’s oldest surviving building.
Continuing your historical tour will bring into the Plantage district, which hosts the Dutch Resistance Museum and Jewish Cultural Quarter.
Recently, travelers have skipped the wait for the Anne Frank House and instead headed straight to the Dutch Resistance Museum. The Verzetsmuseum transports visitors back to the 1930s and 40s to ask one tough question: what would you do, under the circumstances? Through numerous artifacts and personal accounts, the museum reveals what everyday life was like in the Netherlands during WWII.
The Jewish Cultural Quarter is composed of several organizations: the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagoge and its Ets Haim library, the Dutch Theater, and the National Holocaust Museum. One ticket purchase provides entry into all five institutions, though one day may not be enough to explore them all.
While not directly along the Moselle River, Luxembourg’s capital is still a popular European cruise destination. Once a leading European stronghold, tours of this impressive city are often available through built-in day trips.
Luxembourg City’s origins extend back to 963, when Count Siegfried acquired a rocky promontory and its small fortress, ‘Lucilinburhuc’. In the following centuries, a city with its own fortifications grew around this initial structure. Due to its location, Luxembourg was one of Europe’s most important stronghold cities until its dismantlement in 1867.
What remains of the city’s ancient barricades are still impressive, and the dismantling allowed the city to grow beyond its initial borders. The expansion produced a uniquely two-tiered city featuring a blend of architectural styles. Its newfound accessibility also allowed Luxembourg to become a leading European capital, with significant industrial and cultural influence.
A Day in Luxembourg City:
Our day-long tour of Luxembourg City begins at the Mudam – Museum of Modern Art Grand Duke Jean. Designed by renowned Chinese-American architect leoh Ming Pei, the building blends the man-made with the natural world. It’s a work of art onto itself, with its position along the city outskirts offering excellent views of the Old Town.
Inside, visitors will find contemporary works in both traditional exhibition spaces as well as functional places. Works span a range of mediums – from painting and sculpture to fashion and graphic design: the only criteria is a commitment to contemporary creation.
Tour the three-story collection independently, or sign up for a guided tour. But take note: the museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Next, head south to the Bock Casemates, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994. The tunnels, a crucial element to the city’s immense reinforcements, first broke ground in 1664. Stretching over 14 miles (or 23 kilometers), the casemates housed armies, their workshops, and an array of businesses – all underground.
When Luxembourg was declared neutral state in 1867, the majority of the city’s fortifications were demolished. However, destroying the casemates would have damaged the city. As a result, key connections were sealed, but the vast majority of the passages were untouched.
Today, visitors can explore nearly 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) of the Bock casemates. Open from February to November for independent explorers, guided tours are offered April through September. Tours in English are offered beginning either at 4:00 or 6:00 PM.
Luxembourg is the only Grand Duchy, or nation whose monarch is a Duke or Duchess, in the world. Which makes the Grand Ducal Palace the only residence of a leading Duke or Duchess and a stop worth making. Nestled in the heart of Old Town, the Ducal family’s town residence boasts not only stunning architecture, but also an impressive array of art and antiquities.
Guided tours of the Palace are offered throughout the week, with a portion of ticket sales supporting the Ducal’s foundation.
A few blocks’ stroll will bring you to the Notre-Dame Cathédral, the only cathedral in Luxembourg. Built in the early 1600s, it received cathedral status in 1870. While mainly Gothic in construction, the Cathedral boasts Baroque and Renaissance influences as well.
In addition to the grandiose construction and beautiful stained glass windows, the Cathedral is home to another notable work: the famous Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted statue. With the power to work miracles, the Lady is the patron saint of both Luxembourg City and country. If you stop by the Cathedral, be sure to pay your respects to this city’s great lady.
End your journey through the city with two of its famous bridges: the Adolphe Bridge and Passerelle Viaduc.
The Adolphe Bridge, named after Grand Duke Adolphe, was built between 1900 and 1903. The structure was a record-holder at the time for the world’s largest stone arch. While no longer the largest, the bridge offers fantastic panoramic views of the city. It also stretches above the beautiful, forested Pétrusse valley, so there are great views across and below the bridge.
The Passerelle Viaduc, or the Old Bridge, is also a great photo-op. Built at the crux of 1860, the bridge connected a new railway station to the city center. Spanning the Pétrusse valley in a series of stone arches, it offers another perspective of Luxembourg City. It’s the perfect place to stop and soak in the views before returning to the ship.
RÜDESHEIM AM RHEIN
Our final stop along this preview European cruise experience is Rüdesheim am Rhein. Situated in Germany’s Rheignau wine region, the area is famous for its Rieslings and scenic beauty. The town itself dates back to the Middle Ages, with its half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and surrounding fortification preserving its medieval roots.
Despite its small size, Rüdesheim’s unique offerings make it a popular destination. On a European cruise, you’ll have a perfect view of the many castles and ruins dotting the Rhine riverbank. After soaking in the splendor from the ship, the challenge becomes what to see first on land:
A Day in Rüdesheim:
Any trip to Rüdesheim would be incomplete without visiting Drosselgasse. The heart of the old town, Drosselgasse boasts a single cobble-stoned street lined with historic buildings and authentic charm. The small area is packed with the city’s best restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Live music and dancing can be enjoyed almost constantly and well into the night. Whether you spend an hour or the whole day, don’t miss out on the magic of Drosselgasse.
The Rheingauer Wine Museum, just a short walk from Drosselgasse, is another must-see. The museum is actually housed within Brömsberg Castle, one of the region’s oldest castles. The residence of the Archbishops of Mainz until 1937, Brömsberg castle was acquired by Rüdesheim in 1941 and converted into the museum.
Visitors can explore 2,000 exhibits on the region’s history of wine production, from ancient times to modern day. The museum displays an array of wine-related paraphernalia: historic wine production tools, precious glassware, decorative corks and corkscrews, and fine art. And, of course, visitors can sample the region’s wine while overlooking the vineyards from the castle terrace.
If you’re not feeling too relaxed after the wine, journey outside the city to the Niederwald Monument. If the wine’s taken its toll, fear not! There’s a cable car that takes visitors directly to the moment and provides stunning views of the vineyards.
The Niederwald Monument, constructed between the 1870s and 1880s, commemorates the German Empire’s unification after the Franco-Prussian War. The impressive structure once embodied the German people’s national pride, but today serves as an important historical relic. Built along the edge of a forest overlooking the river valley, the panoramic views alone are worth the trek.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a stroll over to the Adlerwarte Niederwald, an eagle observatory and rehabilitation center. Founded in 1968, the Adlerwarte Niederwald’s mission is two-fold: to nurture wounded birds of prey and return them to the wild, and to repopulate eagle species. Visitors can see nearly 40 species of predatory birds, including eagles, falcons, owls, and vultures. The property also includes well-marked hiking trails, leading to different scenic points throughout the area.
Last but not least on your Rüdesheim tour is the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard. North of Rüdesheim, the monastery is home to nearly 50 Benedictine nuns and their vineyards, workshops, and store. Hospitality is a main tenet of the Benedictine faith, and visitors are welcomed with open arms.
Explore the abbey and its grounds and even join the sisters in prayer. Stop by the Abbey shop, where the nuns sell handmade ceramics and artwork along with their own production of wines and liqueurs. Want to try the wine before buying a bottle? Head to the wine bar to sample the different styles!
While these day-trip overviews provide great insight into these cities, nothing can compare to experiencing the locations for yourself. Better yet, many European cruise itineraries include most or all of these locations on a single trip. If you’re interested in planning your own excursion, contact Atlas Travel’s Vacations and Cruises team!