Sailing Through History and Beauty: An 8-Day Viking, Rhine River Cruise
Imagine a journey that takes you through picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and historic cities, all while you relax on a luxurious cruise ship. A Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River, from Basel to Amsterdam, offers exactly that and more. This captivating voyage combines the allure of European history, culture, and breathtaking scenery, providing travelers with an unforgettable experience. This was our very first Viking River Cruise and the one that sold us on all future Viking cruises. We fell in love with the smaller ships, low crowds, personal service and fabulous cuisine offered by Viking. We’ve cruised other shiplines, but feel Viking is a cut above all other cruise lines. Join us as we embark on a virtual tour of this remarkable journey. I hope I can do it justice, to encourage you to try a Viking Cruise if you haven’t before.
Day 1: Basel – Setting Sail on Your Viking River Cruise
The adventure begins in the Swiss city of Basel, where the ship sets sail along the serene Rhine River. As you bid farewell to the city’s medieval architecture and vibrant arts scene, you’ll be welcomed onboard with warm hospitality and luxurious amenities, setting the tone for the journey ahead. I have to add here that Viking also offers this same route, starting in Amsterdam and ending in Basel. This happened to be the one they had available in 2019. We’ve cruised with them 4 more times since then.
Day 2: Breisach, Germany
As the ship docks, you’ll find yourself surrounded by vineyards and picturesque landscapes. We explored the town’s history, tasted local wines from the Alsace region and toured the Black Forest where we purchased a much-loved cuckoo clock.
You take a motorcoach through lovely villages, like the vibrant university town of Freiburg, Germany.
Black Forest Welcome Center
Our tour led by two lovely ladies, dressed in cultural outfits with hats that helped you find them in a crowd; told us about the railway viaduct, the Ravenna Bridge. The initial structure didn’t look like this and was built in 1885. In 1927, this structure was opened for faster train speeds with a straighter pathway. It was bombed by Germans in WWII, but rebuilt in 1948 by the French, using German prisoners, as a way to transport timber to rebuild cities across Europe.
If you love architecture like I do, this is a marvel. One interesting fact is that due to the weight of locomotives and the curve of the structure, trains could only travel about 10 miles per hour over the original structure. No wonder they needed to rebuild it!
Day 3: Strasbourg – A French Gem
Within the Alsace region of France, the charming city of Strasbourg beckons. Famous for its timber-framed houses and stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, the city is a blend of French and German influences. Explore the picturesque neighborhoods and enjoy a taste of Alsatian cuisine, all while basking in the magic of this cross-cultural gem. One of our first stops was a delightful winery named Zeyssolff. We tasted a delicious Riesling from here.
Such beautiful barrels at Zeyssolff
I can’t move on from Strasbourg without sharing photos of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the little canals that make this town idyllic for all visitors.
Incredible architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg
Great view without obstructive scaffolding.
Day 4: Speyer Germany – A Historic Gem
The journey continues to this little town, steeped in history. You are greeted by the town’s impressive clock tower that is part of the Old Town Gate. The Imperial Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing as a testament to the town’s Holy Roman Empire legacy. It’s been around a long time.
Next stop was a quick tour of Colmar, France
Colmar, located in the Alsace region of France, is a picturesque town known for its charming medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant flower displays. Most of the city center is just like it was in medieval times. It’s a marvel to think these are homes that have stood for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Often referred to as the “Little Venice” of France due to its canals and half-timbered houses lining the waterways, Colmar exudes a romantic and fairy-tale-like atmosphere. The town’s well-preserved historic center features a blend of French and German influences, reflecting its rich history. Colmar is also famous for its annual Christmas markets, drawing visitors from around the world to experience its festive spirit and unique local crafts. With its captivating beauty and cultural heritage, Colmar remains a captivating destination for travelers seeking a blend of history, art, and culinary delights.
Heidelberg – A Scholarly Stop
As the ship makes its way through the Rhine Gorge, known for its fairytale castles and vineyards, you’ll arrive in Heidelberg. This historic university town boasts the magnificent ruins of Heidelberg Castle, perched high above the city. The views of the Neckar River Valley are unforgettable. We immersed ourselves in centuries of academic history and enjoyed a stroll along cobblestone streets.
Heidelberg Castle Ruins
Heidelberg Castle Ruins
This is Claudia, our cruise director, who we fell in love with! She was funny, punctual and extremely organized. She kept us on task with a smile on her face and usually a funny quip to lighten any stressful moments. After all, she was herding over 100 seniors through the ruins and medieval towns of Europe. She never treated us like ruins!
Day 5: Koblenz and Rudesheim – Castles and Vineyards
Koblenz is a medieval and somewhat magical place where the Moselle River meets the Rhine and reveals the magnificence of German castles. This massive statue is of William the First of Germany.
We toured the 13th century Marksburg Castle that overlooks the Rhine on this Viking River Cruise.
The view of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle is beautiful, showing a bend in the river.
We had lunch in Rudesheim, down a charming little alleyway, called Drosselgasse where we were entertained by a local band singing American songs. It was one of the most fun meals we’ve ever had.
This little alleyway was pretty crowded, but the lunch and entertainment was very much worth the crush.
Rudesheim is quite charming
Cruising the Rhine
Day 6: Cologne – Majestic Cathedral
No journey on the Rhine is complete without a visit to Cologne’s awe-inspiring cathedral, the Dom. The sheer grandeur of this Gothic masterpiece will leave you spellbound. Wander through the vibrant streets, enjoying local markets and exploring the city’s lively atmosphere. We strolled the streets, had a cocktail with shipmates and shopped local antique stores, where we picked up some unique souvenirs. I highly recommend shopping antique stores for better souvenir options.
During our visit to the cathedral it was covered in scaffolding, so this is the best photo I could get. There’s a pretty modern structure in front that distracts from the grandeur of the cathedral. I’d love to visit again someday, when the scaffolding has been removed.
Bruhl – Palace and Hunting Lodge
Our next stop on our Viking River Cruise was to tour the Bruhl, Germany Palace and Hunting Lodge. Small scale palace, but absolutely breathtaking.
Just a short drive from the palace, you’ll find the hunting lodge, called Falkenlust.
Day 7: Kinderdijk – Windmill Wonderland
A quintessential Dutch experience awaits at Kinderdijk, home to a UNESCO-listed collection of windmills. These iconic structures are a testament to the Netherlands’ innovative water management techniques. Discover the engineering marvels and gain insight into Dutch traditions.
Or enjoy the view from inside a windmill…
Day 8: Amsterdam – Grand Finale
The Viking River Cruise of the Rhine concludes in the city of Amsterdam. With its iconic canals, historic buildings, and vibrant culture, Amsterdam appears to offer a fitting finale to this journey. Unfortunately, this was our least favorite city of the entire tour. We were sad that it ended with such a dud! We did explore the world-class Rijksmuseum, indulge in a few Dutch delicacies, and enjoyed a fun cruise of the city canals; however, our walking tour of the city left us feeling dirty. We loved everything about this cruise and would do it again, but we have chosen something different than the walking tour in Amsterdam on our next cruise. Next time we will see the Holland Tulips!
Cigarette butts, drug paraphernalia, overcrowded streets with bicycles, polluted canals, a tour of the red light district and the smell of urine and beer were not welcoming. Our particular tour guide spent 45 minutes showing us where prostitutes work legally, legalized marijuana is sold and pointed out signs instructing patrons not to “pee in the street.” This same guide walked very fast and lost one of our members who couldn’t keep up due to physical restraints. She didn’t even try to accommodate the elderly, which I found unacceptable. Fortunately for the elderly lady, several cruise members helped her find her way back to port.
For us, with the exception of Amsterdam, a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River from Basel to Amsterdam is more than a vacation; it’s a voyage through time, culture, and natural beauty. From the stunning landscapes of the Rhine Gorge to the rich history of Strasbourg, Heidelberg, and Cologne, each day presents a new adventure. As you disembark in Amsterdam, carry with you the memories you’ve made of picturesque villages, magnificent architecture, and the warmth of the river’s embrace.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture connoisseur, or simply seeking a serene escape, a Viking River Cruise promises an experience that will linger in your heart for years to come. If you are offered an extended stay in Amsterdam, do your homework and explore outside the city. We visited a town called Haarlem on our last day and it was a major improvement!