Our Viking Rhine River Cruise started in Basel. The Viking Hlin was docked a few blocks from the Basel Old Town. All the Viking Longships are modern and make it a pleasure to take a river cruise. Viking includes a shore excursion in every port. Meals include wine or beer. An espresso machine is available 24 hours a day. The top deck is open seating for great views during your river cruise adventure.
Viking offered a guided tour of Basel to start the river cruise, but I created my own Basel Self Guided Walking Tour. From the docks I walked up past the St Urbans-brunnen, Grand Hotel les Trois Rois and the Middle Bridge. The small weidling boats powered by oars in the strong Rhine River current were something I’d never seen before. Next my walk led to the Basel Minster church. The plaques, arches and sculptures around the exterior courtyard of the Basel Minster were unexpectedly intriguing. As you walk around the outside of the Basel Minster you get great views of the Rhine River too.
Next I walked to Barfüsser Square. Many museums surround the Barfüsser Square area. You could tell this is a popular place because of the high volume of trolley buses arriving and departing. After that I wandered the pedestrian only Freie Street to City Hall. In the entrance to city hall are a number of murals you can view for free.
Rhine River Cruise – Black Forest
The next morning our Rhine River Cruise found us moored at the town of Breisach. Our included shore excursion took us on a bus trip to the Black Forest. The pastoral views of St Märgen were special. Afterward we made a standard tourist stop at Hofgut Sternen, where we watched clock makers at work. One of the clocks on display was worth over $3,000. This cuckoo clock had a stream with running water and solar panels for power.
Rhine River Cruise – Breisach Old Town
In the afternoon, some passengers went to Colmar in France, but we choose to do a self guided walking tour of Breisach Old Town. Viking River Cruises provided a map for the self guided tour. We climbed the steep pathway to the BreisachOld Town walls on top of a hill over looking the new town of Breisach. It took only a few minutes to check out St Stephan’s Minster, City Hall, Radbrunnen Tower and the concert area of Tulla Turm with its small tower. Then we descended from the Old Town walls to the old fortification call the Rhine Tower. From there is was an easy walk back to the Viking Hlin.
Rhine River Cruise – Strasbourg
From our dock on the Rhine River the next morning, we took a short bus ride to Old Town Strasbourg. Our included Viking Rhine River tour started at Square des Moulin on the L’ill River. From there we walked through the Tanner’s Quarter in the area of town called La Petite France. Our next stop was the super large plaza at Place Kléber. Then it was on to Place Gutenberg, with a statue honoring Gutenberg for inventing the printing press in the 1400s. Our last stop was the Strasbourg Cathedral.
After the tour we wandered on our own past the Rohan Palace, Lycée International des Pontonniers, the Palais du Rhin and Saint Pierre le Jeune. Near the Rohan Palace we could see the long lines of tourists waiting for their chance to take a canal tour through the Old Town of Strasbourg.
Rhine River Cruise – Heidelberg Castle
The next stop on our Viking Rhine River Cruise was Mannheim. From there Viking took us on a half hour bus ride to the town of Heidelberg. We didn’t need to take the funicular up the hillside to Heidelberg Castle, because our bus took us .directly to the Castle. The grounds at Heidelberg Castle are free, however there is a small admission fee to enter the castle. Heidelberg Castle was started in the 1200s,. Newer additions around the courtyard show many styles of architecture, which gives the entire complex a haphazard appearance.
After the courtyard, we walked out on the large stone balconies, which have views over Old Town Heidelberg and the Neckar River Valley. Then we descended into a large hall inside the Heidelberg Castle. There we got the chance to see the gigantic wine barrels that have become quite famous as the largest in the world. We walked up wooden stairs to get on top of the barrels.
Heidelberg Old Town Tour
After our Heidelberg Castle tour, we wandered the streets of Heidelberg Old Town. We did the crossing of the Old Bridge through the Gate Bridge. Then we wandered the pedestrian only Hauptstrasse, past the Church of the Holy Spirit. We also checked out Café Knösel where they came up with the marketing genius of call their chocolates Student Kiss. Originally designed to market chocolates to Heidelberg University students, visitors now come from all over the world to buy their chocolates. Many other venders sell their own variation. We finished our Heidelberg Old Town tour by spending an hour at JJ Darboven eating pastry and sipping specialty coffee drinks.
Rhine River Cruise – Rüdesheim
Our Viking Rhine River Cruise next stopped in the late afternoon in Rüdesheim. This gave us the opportunity to take the short walk into the small village. We wandered on our own to see the sights. We started with famous pedestrian only Drosselgasse or Drossel Alley. Drosselgasse was filled with tourists. There were many restaurants on the two blocks that form the heart of the alley way. Breuer’s Rudesheimber Schloss got great reviews from the river cruise passengers for dinner later that evening.
Next we wandered past the historic wood buildings of the old town. The village of Rüdesheim quickly turns to vineyards. You can take a gondola from the village over the fields to the Niederwald Monument, which was built to honor the creation of the German Empire. The Niederwald Monument site has views over the Rhine River Valley and Rüdesheim
Rhine River Cruise – Romantic Rhine
The Romantic Rhine is probably what most people associate with a Rhine River Cruise. You can see more than 15 castles on an afternoon cruise between Rüdesheim and Koblenz. We started from Rüdesheim which is the best direction because your ship floats more quickly to each new castle view. Numbered markers on the banks of the Rhine River tell you how far you have traveled in kilometers, so it’s easy to figure out on a Rhine River Castles Map when you will reach the next castle. After 4 hours of non stop viewing excitement, we reached Koblenz. See more details and pictures in the Romantic Rhine blog.
Rhine River Cruise – Koblenz
Our Viking Rhine River Cruise reached Koblenz near noon after traveling the Romantic Rhine earlier that day. The cable car to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was a few steps away from our docking location in the Old Town. The cable car ride crosses the Rhine River at an exciting height with fabulous views of the Rhine and Koblenz. Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was interesting too. After paying a small fee, we wandered the museums exhibits and passageways of this huge fortress. When we visited a gigantic Lego exhibit was showing in a number of rooms and children were allowed to play with some of the exhibits. There was also a concert going on in one of the open squares.
In the afternoon, I designed my own self guided Koblenz Old Town Walking Tour Map. My walk started at the Deutsches Eck and wandered past the churches and squares of the Old Town. The perspective on the towers of St Castor Basilica was unusual. I spent some entertaining moments watching the Spitting Boy Fountain, which randomly shoots a stream of water a great distance out of the statues mouth. Several tourists waited directly in front of the boy and got sprayed. It was fun to watch their screams of surprise. I extended by walk along the Rhine Promenade, which has a few restaurants, gardens and government buildings along the pleasant treed river front pathway.
Rhine River Cruise – Cologne
For Cologone, the Viking Hlin docked almost underneath the Hohenzollern Train Bridge with a fabulous view directly to the Cologne Cathedral on the opposite bank of the Rhine River. We simply walked over the bridge. On the other side the train station, the Cologne Cathedral and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum all seemed to be trying to occupy the same space. The Cologne Cathedral and its stained glass are beautiful in pictures, but in person I was much more impressed with the use of black and white stained glass at the Gross Sankt Martin Church. After wandering Old Town Cologne on our own, we returned over the Hohenzollern Bridge and headed for the Rhinepark.
Our self guided tour of the Rhinepark was pleasant as we strolled through the gigantic park. Instead of tourists, we were now with local people. At the far end of the park, the Kolner Seilbahn Cable Car gave us the chance for an exciting ride back over the Rhine River. The cable car starts out by lifting you over the Claudius Therme thermal baths. Next we were high above the busy Zoo Bridge and the Rhine River in our two person gondola. At the other side, we arrived at the Flora and Botanical Garden, which had no admission charge. The gardens were fairly busy, but with a local experience instead of tour groups. Afterward we rode the cable car back to the Rhinepark and walked back to the Viking Hlin.
Rhine River Cruise – Kinderdijk
The last stop on our Rhine River Cruise was Kinderdijk, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kinderdijk can also be reached on day tours from Rotterdam by boat or car. The Viking Hlin docked right beside Kinderdijk so we only had to walk about 50 steps to start our included guided tour. The included guided tour let you learn first hand while inside a fully operating windmill. We toured the small rooms, climbed the narrow ladders and watched the wooden wheel turn noisily as it splashed water. The Kinderdijk windmills were built in the 1700s to remove water from the land. The certified windmill operator was there and demonstrated the use of the tremendously large harness used by one person to turn the windmill base to take the best advantage of the wind direction. It’s amazing that families still live in these windmills, but they also have regular jobs that the commute to each day.
After Kinderdijk, the Viking Hlin sped through the narrow highly urban canals to Amsterdam. The next morning we ended our Viking Rhine River Cruise right beside the Amsterdam Centrale train station. What a pleasant and enjoyable way to experience the Rhine River.