26th June, 2023
The Romantic Rhine - river of a thousand destinations
The Rhine flows for over 765 miles through six countries – Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands - sometimes subtly changing its name: Rhein, in Germany; Rhin in France, and Rijn in the Netherlands.
Since the time when the Rhine Valley became incorporated into the Roman Empire (Latin name – Rhenus), it has been one of Europe’s major transport routes, linking Southern and Northern Europe.
So much to explore...
Take a river cruise on the Rhine and you don’t have to wait for the next memorable moment. From towering 1,000-foot cliffs, to pretty, welcoming waterfront villages…picturesque vineyards to fairytale castles… cultural treasures…delicious food and wine…there’s a new delight around every bend in the river.
Fairytale castles on the Rhine
This handsome building was built as a ‘maison de plaisance’, or pleasure palace, in 1756. After enjoying the 18th century artworks and sculptures in its two museums, stroll through the beautiful gardens, home to more than 80 species of birds.
Known as one of Germany’s most romantic castles, medieval Eltz Castle stands in the middle of the lovely Eltz Forest nature reserve.
The castle has been owned by the same family ever since 1157. Today, you can tour several of its hundred rooms, including the Armoury and the fascinating15th century Rodendorf kitchen.
Looming over 300 feet above the river, the castle (also referred to as Burg Cochem) dominates the skyline.
Although its history dates back to the 11th century, over 90% of this castle is actually a faithful reconstruction, built on the original site. The Rittersaal (or Knights’ Hall) is the grandest of the Neo-Gothic halls, and there are numerous secret passages with armour and furniture of the period. The Hexenturn or ‘Witches Tower’ is allegedly where women found guilty of witchcraft were thrown from the highest window.
This ornate ruined castle greatly inspired the Romantic era painters and writers. Turner painted it from many angles and Mark Twain described it perfectly: ‘deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful.’
While you’re there, be sure to see The Heidelberg Tun. This immense wine barrel was built from 130 oak trees in 1751, and holds 220,000 litres.
Historical towns on the Rhine
Wander up from the river and you’ll travel back in time as you walk the cobbled streets of Cochem’s ‘Altstadt’ or Old Town. Admire the gabled, half-timbered houses, and note the baroque Rathaus (Town Hall) in the market square, dating back to 1739.
Take the funicular to famous Heidelberg Castle from the Kornmarkt (town centre) and enjoy spectacular views of Heidelberg, the river and the Neckar valley.
Later, cross the iconic Old Bridge to stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk, where the University’s professors go to admire the magnificent view across the river to the town and castle.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
For live music and authentic, regional food, head for Drosselgasse – an olde-worlde cobbled street lined with timber-framed buildings.
Close by is Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, with one of the biggest collections of self-playing musical instruments in the world. A particular feature is the band of 27 automatic musician dolls.
For wine-lovers, Brömserburg Castle is a must-visit. As well as being one of the oldest castles in the Middle Rhine region, it’s home to a fascinating wine museum with over 2,000 exhibits.
This multicultural powerhouse combines medieval charm and European political clout. Start your visit in the Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site, exploring the historical buildings that line its canals.
Notable sights include Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, erected in the early 11th century, and one of the tallest churches in the world. Of particular interest are the beautiful 12th century stained-glass windows and the unique astronomical clock.
Make your way to the Quartier des Tanneurs, at the western end of the Grande Île. Every step is a photo-opportunity, and there are lots of quaint little bistros offering drinks and snacks.
The Lorelei Rock
Legendary Lorelei Rock near Sankt Goarschausen bears the name of a mythical maiden who, despairing over a faithless lover, threw herself into the Rhine and was transformed into a siren who lured hapless sailors to their doom. Her statue stands at the top of the steep, slate rock that bears her name.
Why cruise with Saga?
Each Saga cruise is perfectly-curated, with many included excursions. Enjoy all-inclusive experience with included dining and drinks, onboard gratuities, Wi-Fi, and our no-fly UK return travel service.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.
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