River Cruises through Different European CitiesRuss Bily
Casino, discotheques and noisy bars are for passengers of sea cruises. The passengers of river cruises are offered more – the possibility to admire the ancient and beautiful buildings and amazing medieval castles. Elegant, comfortable ships of small size allow tourists to admire new and new picturesque places every day while delivering passengers directly to the city center. This perfect opportunity to see many cities is available for river cruises.
Only in Europe, half a dozen large shipping companies specialize in river cruises. They offer cruises on the Rhine, Main, Elbe, Danube, Vltava, and many other rivers. Those parts of the rivers, on which a journey is possible, will bring you on board river vessels to picturesque and, to some extent, untouched landscapes, as well as to historical cities with a rich cultural heritage. In Eastern and Central Europe, passengers of cruise ships expect cultural, ancient and modern sights.
In this article, I’ll show you the most exciting river cruises through different cities of Eastern and Central Europe.
Danube River cruise. From Prague to Budapest
From the splendor of Prague, through the greatness of Vienna, to the magnificence of Budapest, you’ll treasure every moment of this memorable Danube River cruise, with guided sightseeing in each city. You’ll also visit Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, and Melk’s splendid Benedictine Abbey on your way. Sail through the fascinating Main Danube Canal and witness the scenic beauty as you cruise past quaint towns. Attend a beer tasting, experience the music, art, culture, and historical sights in romantic medieval cities, and a memorable vacation is guaranteed!
In my article “The Best Way to Travel Between Prague, Budapest, and Vienna,” I have mentioned the possibility to travel between Prague and Budapest on a river cruise. Choosing this option, you can enjoy seeing some of Central Europe’s capitals—Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest—as well as many small towns along the way.
During the cruise, you’ll be able to enjoy Prague with guided sightseeing as well as time to explore this marvelous city on your own. You’ll walk along the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River, one of the most beautiful places in Prague. Its towers and sculptures are worth to be seen. From this bridge, you will have fantastic views over many Prague’s medieval towers, churches, palaces, the National Theatre in Prague and the Prague Castle complex. You’ll admire the Old Town Square, the real heart of Prague. You’ll see the elegant tower of the Old Town Hall with the world-famous Astronomical Clock, the monumental Church of St. Nicholas and many colorful houses of many styles.
In one of my articles, I gave you 5 Recommendations of What You Can Do in Prague.
Then you’ll travel to Germany’s Nuremberg by motorcoach. There you’ll see the Imperial Castle, one of the most important fortified imperial palaces of the old Roman Empire with its myths, legends and a dazzling history of power and pride. You’ll be able to visit Weinstadel, a typical medieval wine warehouse, located on the riverside, which represents a masterpiece in terms of traditional architecture. You’ll see Albrecht Durer House, Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Subterranean Town Hall Chambers, St. Lorenz Church, The Hospital of the Holy Spirit, and Germanic Museum, designed especially for hosting collections related to German culture, art, and history. You can also wander across a charming Weißgerbergasse street with impressive, half-timber, multicolored houses, a famous area for relaxation in a complete fairy-tale medieval landscape.
Instead of Nuremberg, you can go to Roth, located about 25 km south of Nuremberg. There’s also lots to do in the city, as there are often festivals ranging from Turkish Night to floral competitions.
Then you’ll set sail for medieval Regensburg and visit St. Peter’s Cathedral with its Treasury and adjoining the Bishop’s Palace or Niedermünster, a former abbey with numerous 12th-century frescoes, and the excavated remains of Roman buildings. You’ll be amazed by the Stone Bridge and the Bridge Tower Museum, the last surviving of the bridge’s three towers. The heart of Regensburg’s beautiful UNESCO-World-Heritage-status Old Town focuses around the Alter Kornmarkt or Old Cornmarket. Here you’ll see the oldest surviving part of the town, the Roman Tower dating from the 2nd century, and the Herzogshof, a residence of the Dukes of Bavaria, the Old Chapel with its sumptuous Rococo interior, as well as the 17th-century Baroque Carmelite Church. Other highlights include the Regensburg Museum of History in an old monastery with its excellent displays of Roman and medieval artifacts, and the Old Town Hall with its old apartments, medieval courtroom, art collection, and antiquities.
In Passau, built on its ancient and medieval roots to flourish as a buzzing port town, you’ll be excited by the romantic setting of northern Italian-style buildings and homes interspersed with trees. Stroll through the cobblestone streets of Passau’s Old Town, visit the City Hall and many museums. It also houses the New Bishop’s Residence. Listen to the largest pipe organ in Europe in the grand St. Stephen’s Cathedral. To browse a collection of religious relics, stop at the Cathedral Treasury and Diocesan Museum.
Then you’ll stop at the Melk Abbey, beaming proudly over the Danube Valley, is one of Europe’s great sights. Established as a fortified Benedictine Abbey in the 11th century, it was destroyed by fire. What you will see today is 18th-century Baroque Place. High above the grand entry are the Latin words “Glory only in the cross” and a large copy of the Melk Cross, one of the abbey’s greatest treasures. There is also Abbey Museum with Marble Hall with an impressive 1731 ceiling fresco and a library. Enjoy walking in Abbey’s Park with its picturesque Baroque pavilion.
Then Vienna is waiting for you with its famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Vienna State Opera House, with its Belvedere Palace, a large and beautiful palace complex in the center of the city, the Hofburg Palace, an impressive building at the Heldenplatz with a long history, and the rich heritage of three empires, which can be seen in the treasury of the Habsburgs, located in Hofburg. You can also visit numerous Viennese museums, for example, Albertina Museum, the Museum of Art History and the Museum of Natural History, and many other places of interest.
Finally, you’ll visit magnificent Budapest, often called “Eastern Paris,” “the city of bridges,” and “the pearl of the Danube.” You’ll visit Buda Castle district with the Royal Palace, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. Stroll across the most famous and beautiful Chain Bridge. A visiting card of Budapest is its Parliament, located on the banks of the Danube river, so I recommend you to see it all in lights at night while enjoying a Danube cruise.
In my article “Best Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days”, you can find the detailed information about the most exciting places in Budapest.
Rhine and Main Cruise through the Heart of Europe
You’ll start with Cologne, the oldest city in Germany, located on both sides of the Rhine River. The most famous landmark in the city is Cologne Cathedral, the epitome of high Gothic architecture.
Without a doubt, Cologne is a cultural city boasting a total of 36 museums and over 100 galleries. From Museum Ludwig, including significant collections from Picasso and the largest pop art collection to the Roman-Germanic Museum with its famous Roman mosaic, and even Chocolate Museum, there is something for everyone. You can also visit the Fragrance Museum, which showcases a collection of ancient perfume bottles and famous Cologne water.
Visit my “The Must-see Cities in Germany” article.
Then you’ll explore sights of the Rhine River from Koblenz to Boppard. Enjoy live commentary and take in the scenic panorama of the majestic castles, churches, and vineyards along the shores of the Rhine, then explore popular Boppard attractions. Enjoy a round-trip cable car ride to see the historic Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the east bank of the Rhine. See the sights like Karmeliterkirche or Bodobrica.
Next, go to Rhine Gorge, and Rüdesheim am Rhein, one of Germany’s most prolific and scenic wine regions. Next, to its extensive vineyards, the city’s rich cultural and historical background make it one of the most intriguing places to visit in the country. At the heart of Rüdesheim’s old town, visitors can find the charming Drosselgasse, a cobbled street filled with historic buildings, restaurants, bars, and shops. Located close to Rüdesheim are several noteworthy castles which are best explored through a river cruise. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Middle Rhine Valley offers one of the largest concentrations of historic castles of any river regions. Sights include the dazzling Castle Rheinstein and Reichstein as well as the ruins of Ehrenfels, Castle Klopp, and the Mouse Tower.
Then you’ll see Mainz, a capital of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate and an old university town, which lies on the left bank of the Rhine opposite the mouth of the River Main. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it’s the most northerly part of the Upper Rhine plain, and has a rich cultural history, and is home to many internationally-renowned festivals. Visit Mainz with its Museum, the Gutenberg Museum, Roman-Germanic Central Museum, Museum of Ancient Navigation, Mainz State Museum, St. Stephen’s Church, and the Iron and Wood Towers.
Pretty Miltenberg, one of Germany’s best preserved medieval villages and a labyrinth of winding alleys and lanes will be waiting for you. The trickling fountain, ornately carved from stone and complete with dancing cherubs, and the intricately detailed Gasthaus Zum Riesen, which claims to be Germany’s oldest tavern, are highlights of this gorgeous village. In the afternoon, pass under Miltenberg’s red brick bridge and continue cruising to Wertheim, navigating the gentle bends that characterize the River Main. While Wertheim is entirely off the main tourist trail radar, it’s a delightful surprise to those who happen upon it on a Main River cruise, and all the better for its peaceful, untouched quality.
You’ll arrive in Würzburg, contrasting with the quaint towns. This is a lovely Bavarian city, founded in the 10th century as the center of the kingdom known as Franconia, sitting resplendently on the banks of the Main. Neat blocks of grand pastel buildings are peppered with the spires and domes of the city’s many churches. The real jewel in Würzburg’s illustrious crown, however, is the Residenz, a truly stunning example of a Baroque palace.
Then you’ll take a drive along the Romantic Road, perfectly named in view of the romantic sights that pass by as you travel further into this German fairy tale. Arrive at spectacular 16th-century Rothenburg ob der Tauber, crowning a hill with astonishing views over the meandering river. Explore its narrow, cobbled streets lined with tall, gabled, half-timbered houses surrounded by perfectly preserved medieval walls. A short drive will take you to Marktbreit, nestled in the southernmost point of the Main, a romantic medieval town with elegant buildings that recall the grandeur of days past. Wander the Old Town and admire its Renaissance-style town hall, 16th-century castle and baroque trading houses.
Finally, you’ll arrive at Bamberg, one of the most beautiful small towns in all of Europe, and UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site. Bamberg sits on seven lush green hills, akin to its Italian inspiration. Take in the historic Old Town and impressive multi-spired cathedral. The most noticeable and intriguing landmark is its Old Town Hall, which sits on an island in the middle of the river, flanked by bridges on either side. From here you can see Little Venice, the Riverside fishermen’s houses. On leaving Bamberg, you’ll join the Main-Danube canal, a superb feat of German engineering that connects several great European arteries, and you’ll have the last stop in Nuremberg.
Vltava River Cruise
This river cruise is small; it lasts one-two hours, up to one full day, but it’s still charming, especially suitable for families with small children and anyone who wants to enjoy a unique experience, discover a lot of new information, and just admire the passing sights, including the Charles Bridge and other landmarks, and enjoy the complimentary refreshments provided on board.
Take in landmarks such as the Powder Tower, one of the city’s medieval gateways; the National Theatre; and bustling Wenceslas Square, the scene of the protests that marked the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Take a guided walking tour around the exterior of UNESCO-listed Prague Castle. View the monumental walls as your guide shares the castle’s history. See the delightful Valdstejn Garden, an Italian-style garden attached to the 17th-century Valdstejn Palace. Then, explore the baroque neighborhood of Mala Strana and Kampa Island, home to the famous graffiti-covered Lennon Wall. Walk to nearby Jan Palach Square, a grand square named after a 20th-century Czech student who gave his life here in the struggle again communist rule. Next, stroll along stylish Parizska Avenue on route to the history-steeped Jewish Quarter. Hear tales of Prague’s Jewish heritage as you view the beautiful streets, and then continue to beautiful Old Town Square — Prague’s medieval heart. Visit the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock, and then walk to the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787.
Elbe River Cruise
You can also discover East Germany’s dramatic landscape with a cruise along the Elbe River, visiting Berlin, Potsdam, Wittenberg, Meissen, Dresden, Saxon Switzerland, and Prague.
You’ll start your unforgettable journey from Berlin, Germany’s vibrant capital, which lies on the flatlands at the confluence of several rivers and lakes. You’ll discover Berlin, a breathtaking blend of rich history and forward-thinking architecture. See the Reichstag with its spectacular glass dome, the historic Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and many other iconic sites.
Then you’ll travel to Potsdam. Tour Sanssouci Palace, a perfect example of German Rococo architecture, built by Prussian King Frederick the Great in the 18th century. Continue to Wörlitz Park, Germany’s first landscaped park with English-style gardens, and stroll the grounds.
Then you’ll transfer to Wittenberg and follow in Martin Luther’s footsteps to view many of Wittenberg’s historic landmarks. Tour inside Luther’s House and St. Marien’s Church, where he preached. See the Castle Church where Luther posted his “95 Theses”.
You’ll have a stop in Meissen, visit Meissenware factory, which produces high-quality porcelain. Discover how this trademarked porcelain is created by hand, then tour the museum. Proceed to Castle Hill for a walking tour through Old Town.
Visit Dresden, nicknamed “Florence on the Elbe.” Go to Augustus bridge, where you’ll have a fantastic and picturesque view. From Augustus Bridge across the Castle Square, you can get to Dresden Residential Castle. Dresden was the home of Saxony’s Kings for almost 400 years, that’s why it has such beautiful Renaissance building. On the west side of the Castle Square is situated Dresden Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The next stop you should do is on Dresden’s beautiful public square – Theaterplatz. You can have a guided tour in one of the world’s beautiful and prestigious opera houses. Visit famous Dresden’s highlight – the Zwinger – a complex of museums which are situated in a magnificent Baroque palace of the 18th century. This building houses Dresden Porcelain Collection, the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments, the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Zoological Museum and the Historical Museum.
Then cruise through the magnificent, soaring rock formations of the Saxon Switzerland region, then dock at the spa town of Bad Schandau. From there you’ll make your way to the famous rock tower known as the Bastei (Bastion), formed by water a million years ago, to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Elbe.
Finally, you’ll go to your last destination, beautiful Prague, the “City of a Hundred Spires,” and visit its amazing sights.
Whether you’re exploring the Rhine, the Danube, the Elbe, or another European river, the magic of river cruises lies in the riverboat you’re aboard and the landmarks you visit. The places you’ll discover are the must-see sights you have to experience. You’ll be able to have the unique access to local culture and the exclusive destination experiences you just can’t get on your own.
If you want to experience real European life and return home with new positive experiences, don’t hesitate to explore Europe on a riverboat. It will take you to medieval castles, Gothic cathedrals, ancient monasteries and iconic cities.