Excursion Ahlbeck & the Isle of Usedom

  • Ahlbeck
  • Isle of Usedom
AhlbeckIsle of Usedom

Enjoy an optional scenic tour of the isle of Usedom with The River Cruise Line’s as part of our Baltic Isles, Berlin and Poland cruise. Usedom is the second largest island in Germany and home to an astounding range of landscapes: white beaches, marshy lowlands, wooded hills, and a number of lakes and lagoons, all of which make the island a biodiversity hotspot. Our tour crosses Usedom to visit the elegant seaside towns of Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf, where you can relax and explore at leisure.


• Usedom is a bi-national island with the larger western part belonging to Germany and the smaller eastern part belonging to Poland

• It’s the sunniest place in Germany, offering around 2,000 hours of sunshine each year

• There are currently 16 breeding pairs of eagles in and around Usedom, which is the highest population in Germany


• Ahlbeck pier, with its 280 metre long jetty and art nouveau style building, is the most famous landmark of the island

• Heringsdorf pier, the longest structure of its kind in continental Europe

• The beach promenade, which joins the three imperial resorts of Heringsdorf, Bansin and Ahlbeck

Book your Isle of Usedom trip as part of an excursion package and save money. For more unique destinations with The River Cruise Line, you can also visit the Black Sea on our cruises down the Danube.

For more information on our optional excursions, please feel free to contact our holiday advisors today.

Excursion Lucerne

  • Lucerne
  • Lucerne
  • Lucerne

Enjoy an amazing Lucerne excursion with The River Cruise Line on our Cruise the Rhine to Switzerland and Rhine Cruise and Swiss delights cruises. This small city is found in the very heart of Switzerland, nestling on the edge of Lake Lucerne and surrounded by mountains. Our excursion takes you by coach from our ship to the north-west shore of the lake where you have a full day at leisure. A packed lunch is provided.


• Capital of the Canton of Lucerne

• The most populous city in Switzerland

• German-speaking


• The old town sits on the bank of the Reuss and is filled with many old burghers’ houses and little squares with fountains

• The 14th-century Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) and the octagonal water tower, which is one of the most photographed scenes in Switzerland

• The Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), a huge figure of a dying lion hewn from the face of a rock ledge to commemorate the Swiss Guards killed during the French Revolution

• Several boat trips of different lengths explore the lake

• The mountains of Pilatus, Rigi and Stanserhorn are made accessible by cableways

Book your Lucerne trip as part of an excursion package and save money. For more information on our optional excursions, please feel free to contact our holiday advisors today.

Excursion Cologne Highlights

  • Cologne
  • Cologne

Take part in a spectacular Cologne Highlights trip with The River Cruise Line. Cologne is the largest city that nestles along the Rhine and the fourth largest city in Germany. Its roots go back some 2,000 years and it is home to a vast array of sights and attractions, all dominated by the towering cathedral which was among the most ambitious building projects undertaken in the middle ages. The old town is filled with quaint alleys which are lined with traditional old houses and adorned with monuments and fountains. Cologne is particularly beautiful in the run up to Christmas, when hundreds of stalls spread out across the city, offering a huge range of quality gifts and a wonderfully authentic atmosphere. Take a look at our German Christmas Markets cruise for a fantastic festive experience.


• Cologne was the hometown of Johann Maria Farina, who created a fragrance and named it Eau de Cologne

• It took 632 years to build Cologne Cathedral

• Cologne has a staggering 12 churches located within the city walls

• It is also home to around 40 museums, one of which is dedicated entirely to chocolate


• Enjoy the company of our Cruise Manager as we walk around Cologne

• Admire the magnificent cathedral with its ornate details

• Cross the iconic Hohenzollern Bridge

• Free time to browse the famous shopping centres

Book our Cologne Highlights excursion as part of a package and save money. For more information on our optional excursions, please feel free to contact our Holiday Advisors.

Excursion Bad Ems & the Emperor's Spa

  • Bad Ems
  • Bad Ems
Bad EmsBad Ems

Visit one of Europe’s oldest spa towns on a Bad Ems trip with The River Cruise Line. The town of Bad Ems straddles the Lahn river, a tributary of the Rhine, in Germany. In the middle ages, archbishops, knights and dukes came here in search of a cure for their ailments; in the baroque period it was barons and princesses, and in the 19th century, emperors, tsars and monarchs along with artists and scholars from all over Europe spent many weeks of the year in Bad Ems – it is dubbed ‘the Emperor’s Spa’ due to its most famous guest, Emperor Wilhelm I. To this day, it is still a sought after destination with exceptional spa facilities offering a full spectrum of treatments, but its past is still visible at every turn with impressive architecture set in a beautiful landscape. Bad Ems is also famous for the largest flower festival in Germany, which takes place at the end of August each year and attracts many thousands of visitors. During our Bad Ems excursion we follow the traces of its history and famous guests, and take in some of the main highlights.


• Bad Ems was first mentioned in official documents in 880 and received its town charter in 1324

• Some of the works by composer Jacques Offenbach were performed for the first time in the Marble Hall

• In 2014, the spa was extended with a swimming river sauna which is unique in Germany


• The Marble Hall, which was designed according to the former architectural style of a basilica with marble columns and a decorative ceiling

• The Spa Theatre, scene for numerous musical, opera and theatre events

• Benefit from the company of an experienced guide

Book our Bad Ems & the Emperor’s spa excursion as part of a package and save money. Take a look at our cruises for more beautiful destinations or contact our Holiday Advisors for further information on any of our holidays.

Excursion Walking tour of Koblenz

  • Koblenz
  • Koblenz
  • Koblenz

Join a captivating walking tour of Koblenz on a Rhine cruise with The River Cruise Line. Koblenz has a long history that spans some 2,000 years. It owes its name to the Romans, who settled here and called it ‘castellum apud confluentes’ which roughly translates as ‘castle at the confluence of the rivers’. It was then captured by the Franks and was also chosen as a place of residence for German prince electors, conquered by the French and fortified by the Prussians. In more recent times, the Deutsches Eck (German Corner), where the sparkling Moselle joins the mighty Rhine, was at the centre of much debate following the damage caused in 1945 to the statue of Emperor Wilhelm I, which had stood here since 1897. It wasn’t until 1993 that a new statue was inaugurated and today it is a popular viewing platform for tourists. All this makes for a fascinating place, with beautiful architecture set around the narrow lanes and romantic squares of the historic centre, and our walking tour with our Cruise Manager is a great way to explore.

Facts:• Koblenz is one of the main trading centres for wines of the Rhine and Moselle

• The Koblenz cable car is Germany’s first three-wire cable car and has the highest performance in the world

• During its years of active service, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which stands across from the Deutsches Eck, has never been attacked

Highlights:• St Castor’s basilica, which was given the status of a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1992

• The Church of our Lady with has a range of architectural styles

• The Deutsches Eck and the statue of Emperor Wilhelm I

• The boy in the Schängel fountain who spits water across the courtyard at random

Join our Koblenz walking tour as part of an excursion package and save money. For more information on our optional excursions, please feel free to contact our Holiday Advisors.

Excursion Medieval Eltville

  • The Rhine
  • Eltville Castle
The RhineEltville Castle

Discover a charming town on the Medieval Eltville trip with The River Cruise Line. Eltville is in the Rheingau region of Germany on the Rhine and is surrounded by beautiful scenery made up of forests, vineyards, stunning estates and castles. It rose to prominence in the middle ages when it became the residence of the archbishops of Mainz. More recently it is known for its beautiful rose gardens and was granted the title Rose City in 1988. It is also home to one of the top sparkling wine producers in the country. During our excursion you are free to explore the old town centre, which is filled with countless historic buildings, noble estates, aristocratic villas, beautiful courtyards and a romantic promenade along the Rhine. It’s a beautiful place to explore at your own pace and while away a few hours.


• Eltville was granted official town status in 1332

• It was also granted the title Rose City in 1988 by the Association of German Rose Growers

• More than 20,000 roses grow in Eltville, including the flaming red City of Eltville and Beautiful Eltville which smells like apples


• The fairytale silhouette of Electors’ Castle, which was built in 1330 and overlooks the Rhine

• The roses set out along the city wall, in the castle moat and along the Rhine promenade, which delight all who visit

• Martin’s Gate, the only remaining of the original four city gates

•  The ornate half-timbered buildings of the old school and the town hall

Book our Medieval Eltville excursion as part of a package and save money. Take a look at our cruises for more beautiful destinations or contact our Holiday Advisors for further information on any of our holidays.

Excursion Old Frankfurt & Apple Wine

  • Wine Tasting
  • Frankfurt
Wine TastingFrankfurt

Enjoy a fascinating Frankfurt tour with apple wine on a Main cruise with The River Cruise Line. The exciting city of Frankfurt nestles on either side of the Main river in Germany and is the largest financial centre in continental Europe. It’s also home to some of the world’s largest trade fairs including the Frankfurt Motor Show and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Unlike the city centre, which was destroyed during the second world war, the old town of the Sachsenhausen district is partly preserved with cobblestone lanes, small squares and fountains. This is the centre of the apple wine quarter, where traditional taverns line up one after the other and visitors sit on long benches with wooden tables, sipping apple wine from ribbed glasses. Our specially themed tour, which covers happenings on both sides of the Main River, tells the story of Frankfurt apple wine, its traditions in Old Sachsenhausen and the production process, finishing off with a glass of apple wine in a traditional tavern.


• Frankfurt is dubbed ‘Mainhattan’ because of its position on the Main river and its skyline which bears a strong resemblance to New York’s Manhattan

• Apple wine in the city’s popular social drink


• Visit Old Sachsenhausen, which nestles along the edge of the Main and is filled with taverns and fountains

• Listen to the story of apple wine and learn about the production process

• Enjoy a glass of apple wine in a traditional tavern

Book our Old Frankfurt & apple wine tasting excursion as part of a package and save money. For more information on our optional excursions, please feel free to contact our Holiday Advisors.

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Europe’s top 10 hidden gems

Hidden Gems

For anyone well-travelled around the capitals of Europe, it’s not unusual to seek something a little bit off the beaten track for a getaway. While the major cities of Western Europe offer some of the most incredible sights and culturally significant locations in the world, there are so many lesser-known destinations which offer a totally different holidaying experience.

A visit to any one of these hidden European gems will reveal a side of the continent even the most seasoned traveller may not have experienced. They can give a much more intimate view of the lives of the locals than you’ll find in one of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations. Here are our top 10 hidden European gems for inspiration for your next adventure.

Belgrade, Serbia
The Serbian capital of Belgrade is often overlooked as a tourist destination. However, it is a city on the rise, and while it’s not known as the most picturesque place on earth, it’s a fascinating city which offers something totally different to the usual European getaway.

In its long and turbulent history, the city has seen more than 40 invasions, and its eclectic architecture reflects this — concrete socialist blocks sit between art nouveau masterpieces, as well as buildings from the city’s Roman, Habsburg, and Ottoman eras.

While here, make sure not to miss the Museum of Yugoslav History to learn more about the country’s fascinating past. Beside the museum is the House of Flowers, a marble mausoleum of Josef Broz Tito. Tito is a much-loved Yugoslav revolutionary and former president who led what is often regarded as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe during the Second World War. The mausoleum is situated in a beautiful winter garden, and also features a fascinating collection of gifts from Yugoslavians to the former president.

Another must-see is the Kalemegdan, the fortress of Belgrade that now serves as the city’s central park. Time your trip to the fortress for sunset, when the views of the meeting point of the Sava and Danube rivers on one side and the whole city on the other will look their absolute best.

See Belgrade on our Danube to the Black Sea cruise.

Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava is a city defined by contrast — a sprawling metropolis which stands at odds to the luscious greenery of the flood plain which surrounds it; a tiny Old Town full of pastel-coloured, 18th century buildings at the centre of a modern city that almost 415,000 people call home; socialist-era architecture overlooked by a medieval castle; and some of Europe’s finest modern sculptures sharing postcodes with medieval churches.

To get the full flavour of the Slovakian capital, start in the Old Town. Enjoy a stroll along the winding cobbled streets and a break in one of its many quaint cafés before heading out of the centre to explore the architecture of the city’s Soviet-era expansion, including the SNP Bridge, with its flying saucer-shaped tower that houses a viewing point and restaurant.

While you’re here, make sure to visit St Martin's Cathedral in the Old Town, the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, dating from 1204. You should also check out the imposing Bratislava Castle, with its curious four-towered design — while you’re there, make sure to take the short trip to the Slavín monument, which gives the best views of the city.

Experience Bratislava on our Danube to the Black Sea, Danube Discovery cruise, and cruise the Danube to Vienna and Budapest trips.

Porto, Portugal
Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city and the home of port wine. Located on the Douro, it’s a city with a rich history spanning back to the 4th century, when it was a Roman settlement known as Portus Calle. Today, the city is seeing a resurgence as a tourist destination as it enjoys significant urban redevelopment, while still staying true to its roots and retaining its colourful charm.

Porto is extremely hilly, and many of its colourful residential buildings are built straight into the cliff face which overlooks the river. There are stairs carved directly into these cliffs, which offer an excellent walking tour of the city the like of which you won’t experience anywhere else.

Any visit to Porto should begin in the Ribeira, the Unesco-listed Old Town that features extravagant, gold-laced churches and baroque architecture. After you’ve explored this stunning area and its charming, winding streets, make your way over the Douro river to Vila Nova de Gaia, where you’ll find scores of cellars offering tastings of port, the city’s most famous export.

While you’re here, make sure not to miss the world-renowned Serralves Museum, which displays some of most cutting-edge contemporary art in the world. The building itself, a minimalist masterpiece designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Alvaro Siza Vieira, and its surrounding sculpture-filled gardens are worth a visit in their own right.

See Porto on our River Douro cruise, which explores the very best this beautiful wine region has to offer.

Kizhi, Russia
Stepping off a ship onto the enchanting island of Kizhi is like entering another world. The Unesco world heritage site, which is located on one of Lake Onega’s 1,600 islands, contains two 18th-century wooden churches and an octagonal clock tower, all constructed entirely of wood. The most famous of these structures is the iconic Transfiguration Church, which features over 30 silver-painted domes in the distinctive Russian ‘onion’ shape, creating an almost otherworldly effect.

The reserve is also home to several more 18th- and 19th-century wooden buildings that were moved here from the surrounding areas during the Soviet era. The workmanship required to create these magnificent buildings is breath-taking, making this an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Russia. While here, you can enjoy demonstrations by locals showing the traditional construction techniques of the era which made these exceptional buildings possible.

See Kizhi, as well many more of Russia’s highlights, on our Moscow to St Petersburg cruise.

Melk, Austria
Melk is sure to be a highlight of any trip along the Danube. Dominated by the magnificent Benedictine Abbey for which it is famous, this quaint city is one of Austria’s hidden gems.

Of course, no trip to Melk is complete without a visit to Stift Melk, the city’s colossal abbey which has over 500 rooms, most of which are still used as a school and monk’s quarters. Originally a castle built to defend Melk’s strategic position on the Danube, in 1089 it was donated to the Benedictine monks by Leopold II and converted into a fortified abbey. Much of the abbey was damaged in the 18th century, when it was transformed into a baroque masterpiece by Jakob Prandtauer and his apprentice, Josef Munggenast. This is how it stands today, with a plethora of cherubs, marble, and gilded ornaments.

The Wachau, the beautiful stretch of the Danube from Melk to Krems, is a Unesco world heritage site. If you’re looking for something active to do on your trip, hire a bike and enjoy a ride along this magnificent stretch of land. The north bank bike trail is paved from beginning to end and winds through the picturesque villages that dot the river, while the south bank rail merges with the road at some points but gives better views of the Danube itself.

See Melk on our Danube to the Black Sea, Danube Discovery, and Delights of the Danube cruises.

Stralsund, Germany
Stralsund was founded in 1234 and saw its most prosperous period during medieval times. Today, it stands as one of the best-preserved examples of red-brick gothic architecture in the Baltic region, and in 2002 was honoured as a Unesco world heritage site.

Start your visit to this stunning German town in the Old Market Square, where you’ll find the Town Hall, which dates from the 13th century. The square is surrounded by the region’s distinctive brick buildings, which feature vaulted arches and the intricate detailing that the medium allowed. A stroll along the cobbled streets of the Old Town will reveal several beautiful buildings, including Saint Mary's Church, the largest church in Stralsund and the world’s tallest structure from 1625 to 1647. Its 104-metre octagonal tower offers a sensational panorama of Stralsund and the neighbouring islands of Rügen and Hiddensee that isn’t to be missed.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine is another must-see, as the magnificent medieval building now houses two museums: the Museum of Cultural History and the German Maritime Museum, which is home to Germany's largest maritime collection. While you’re there, be sure to check out the monastery’s original gothic refectory, which is one of the most spectacular in Germany.

Another great place to visit, especially with kids, is the Ozeaneum. The huge aquarium, which is housed in a breath-taking modern building beside the river, was voted European Museum of the Year in 2010 and makes for an excellent day of entertainment.

Take in Stralsund’s beautiful Old Town and brilliant museums as part of our Baltic Isles, Berlin, and Poland cruise.

Breisach, Germany
Situated along the Rhine Valley where the Black Forest meets the Alsace, Breisach is a German town with both a geographical and cultural proximity to France. Visiting today, it’s hard to believe that the town, which rises above the vineyards that line the river, was almost totally destroyed during WWII. 85% of its buildings were flattened by artillery fire as allied forces crossed the Rhine in the last days of the war. Breisach has since been painstakingly restored, and the cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings retain much of their original charm.

Over its long and turbulent history, Breisach has changed hands several times and seen many conquests. Initially the seat of a Celtic prince, it has since been part of France, the Holy Roman Empire, and Germany. Through most of these changes, the town has been dominated by the impressive St Stephansmünster, the Romanesque cathedral overlooking the whole area and a must-see for tourists.

Breisach lies just 5km away from Neuf-Brisach, the spectacular star-shaped fortified town built to defend the French border after Breisach was lost to the Holy Roman Empire in 1697. Now a Unesco world heritage site, the fortifications are a must-see for any history buff. Experience Breisach on our Rhine cruise and Swiss delights, Cruise the Rhine to Switzerland, and Medieval towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley trips.

Antwerp, Belgium
While Brussels and Bruges continue to become more and more popular destinations for those looking for a European getaway, Antwerp remains one of Belgium’s hidden gems. The country’s second-largest city, Antwerp is home to a beautiful medieval centre, an incredibly impressive cathedral, and a magnificent train station — an architectural wonder of the late 19th century.

In the mid-16th century, Antwerp was one of the largest trade hubs in Europe, and its port is still one of Europe’s busiest today. It is now the diamond capital of the world, and high-end jewellery stores sit alongside designer shops like Cartier and Armani on the main shopping street, the Meir. Visit the Museum aan de Stroom to learn more about Antwerp’s history as an international hub of diamonds and see the excellent collection of precious stones.

One of the baroque era’s most celebrated artists, Pieter Paul Rubens, was a resident of Antwerp his whole life. You can learn all about his works and life in the Rubenshuis, which includes a collection of his most famous work displayed alongside the original furniture from his home and many of the tools and equipment he used to create his art.

Discover Antwerp on our Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, New year cruise to Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp, and Belgium Christmas markets trips.

Kalocsa, Hungary
Kalocsa is one of the oldest towns in Hungary, having been founded in 1AD by King Stephen the Saint. The seat of the Hungarian archbishop since 1135, the town is the religious capital of the country and home to an imposing cathedral, the archiepiscopal palace, and a seminary for priests. The city was destroyed by the Ottomans in the 16th century, and has since been rebuilt in an incredibly picturesque baroque style.

Kalocsa is most famous as the paprika capital of Hungary, and sweet, mild, and hot varieties of the spice are grown in the fertile farmland surrounding the town. The Paprika Museum explores the history of the spice the locals call ‘red gold’, and a visit will reveal how the paprika pods are processed among the aroma of the garlands of paprika hanging from the museum’s beams.

The town is also well known for its horse shows, which date back 200 years. See a traditional Hungarian horse show at Bakod Puszta, where riders in traditional costume will perform tricks and acrobatics on the horses, always riding bareback as their ancestors did. See Kalocsa on our Danube to the Black Sea cruise.

Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne is a stunning city in the centre of Switzerland, complete with panoramic views, tranquil lakes, and a perfectly preserved old town. The city reached its pomp in the 19th century, when it was host to such distinguished visitors as Queen Victoria, Mark Twain, and Wagner.

The must-see sights of Lucerne include the Chapel Bridge, said to be the oldest wooden bridge in Europe and dating back to the 14th century; the old city wall; and the Lion of Lucerne, a moving statue of a wounded lion which commemorates the Swiss Guard who were killed as revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution.

If you’re looking to soak up some culture on your trip, make sure to visit the Rosengart Collection, an excellent modern art gallery featuring pieces by Cézanne, Chagall, Miró, and Pissarro. The museum is also home to around 50 paintings by Pablo Picasso, as well as photographs taken by David Duncan Douglas, who spent years with the Picasso and his family and created an intimate portrait of the great artist’s day-to-day life. Music lovers should try to catch a performance at the Kultur und Kongresszentrum (KKL), a breath-taking and multi-award-winning postmodern concert hall famous for its near-perfect acoustics. If you’re lucky enough to experience one of your favourite pieces of classical music here, it’s unlikely to sound better anywhere else.

See beautiful Lucerne as part of our Cruise the Rhine to Switzerland and Rhine cruise and Swiss delights cruises. Any of these hidden European gems will be a great destination for your next holiday.

If you’d like more information about any of them, or have any questions about our European river cruises, get in touch with a member of our team today.

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15 must-see Unesco world heritage sites in Europe

Unesco Europe

Unesco’s mission is to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the world for generations of people to experience long in to the future. They protect some of the most breathtaking and culturally significant monuments, buildings and locations around the world, and a visit to any one of them is sure to be a delight. Here’s our pick of 15 unmissable Unesco world heritage sites in Europe. If you’re planning a trip to any of these European cities, be sure to make time to visit these magnificent sites.

1. Schönbrunn Palace — Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s 1,441-room Schönbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the Habsburg emperors. Designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi, the palace is the foremost example of Gesamtkunstwerk — a work of art that strives to masterfully synthesise several different mediums. It was also the site of the world’s first ever zoo in 1752.

The palace and gardens are some of the most immaculately preserved examples of baroque design in Europe, and they stand as testament to the power of the Habsburgs, who influenced the face of European history from the end of the 17th through to the early 20th century. A visit to Schönbrunn Palace, one of the most significant buildings in European history, provides an enlightening look in to Austria’s past.

You can enjoy an excursion to Schönbrunn Palace as part of our Cruise the Danube to Vienna and Budapest; Danube Discovery Cruise and Stay featuring Vienna and Budapest; and Danube to the Black Sea cruises.

2. 17th-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht — Amsterdam, Netherlands
Though it is not apparent if you visit the city today, Amsterdam is built on swampland. The canal district of the Dutch capital was built during the Dutch Golden Age at end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th to further facilitate trade. To achieve this, engineers had to artificially drain the swamp using a network of canals which still run through the heart of the city today. This was the largest and most ambitious example of town planning of the time, and influenced the expansion of many cities throughout the world until the 19th century.

The gabled facade of the terraced houses which occupy this area are indicative of the prosperous, middle-class culture which the booming maritime trade created. From the prosperity, the city became a hub of humanist culture and the Calvinist Reformation, which lead to the split between the protestant and catholic churches. This led to Amsterdam being seen as the realisation of the ‘ideal city’, and it was used as a blueprint around the word during the 17th and 18th centuries.

You can see Amsterdam in its full beauty on our Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent; Spring Gardens in Holland and Belgium; and The Delights of Amsterdam and the Dutch Bulbfields cruises.

3. La Grande-Place — Brussels, Belgium
Brussels’ La Grande-Place is an architectural jewel, and one of the most beautiful market squares in the whole of Europe. The majority of the buildings facing on to the cobbled square date back to the late 17th century, when they were rebuilt after they were mainly destroyed during the bombarded of Brussels by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. This reconstruction, which was supervised by the city magistrate, was remarkable not only in the speed of its completion, but in the beauty of the buildings and their architectural coherence.

The wonderful baroque buildings are accentuated with gold details, making the square a magnificent sight, especially at night when illuminated by the streetlights. Every two years in August, the floor of the square is covered in an enormous flower carpet made up of over a million vibrant begonias arranged in a geometric design.

You can see Brussels on our Christmas Cruise to Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels; Spring Gardens in Holland and Belgium; and Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent trips.

4. Historic Centre of Bruges — Bruges, Belgium
The beautiful city of Bruges, which dates back to medieval times, is still an active city to this day. It now makes most of its money through its thriving tourist industry, rather than as a hub of international trade. The magnificent historic centre spans 430 hectares, and around 20,000 (17%) of the city's total population reside in this protected site.

Some remains of the 1st-century city walls remain, but the majority of structures date back to the city’s economic peak in the middle ages. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the buildings were joined to create larger living spaces to suit the needs of the times. In the late 19th century, the majority of the city’s building facades were renovated in a neo-gothic style — this has given the city a continuity which is almost unseen in cities with as long a history as Bruges.

With its stunning visual appeal and fascinating history, it’s no wonder that Bruges has exploded in popularity over the past few years as a tourist destination. This is especially the case during December, as the city is famous for its magnificent Christmas market.

Enjoy a day in Bruges as part of our Spring Gardens in Holland and Belgium; Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent; and New Year Cruise to Bruges, Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp trips.

5. Museumsinsel (Museum Island) — Berlin, Germany
The Museumsinsel in Berlin is comprised of five museums, constructed between 1824 and 1930, which were all built with the same aim in mind: to act as the pinnacle of human thought and design, and trace the development of civilization throughout the ages. The complex is remarkable because it represents the realisation of a vision and architectural style which remained consistent for over a hundred years.

The concept for the museums originates from the age of enlightenment in the 18th century, when culture and education where held in extremely high regard. Prussia’s most renowned architects worked on the buildings over the century it took to complete the project, and the architecture is some of the most stunning in Europe.

During the Second World War, the museums took on further significance as the place where the Nazis stored the art they stole from around Europe. Today, the Museumsinsel contains some of the world’s most significant pieces of art, dating from medieval times to the modern day.

You can visit these museums as part of a trip to Berlin on our Baltic Isles, Berlin and Poland and Elegant Elbe, Berlin and Prague cruises.

6. Speyer Cathedral — Speyer, Germany
Speyer Cathedral was founded by Conrad II in 1030 during the rule of the Roman empire, and was the burial place of German emperors for almost 300 years. Flat-topped in its initial form, four towers and two domes were added to the cathedral when it was rebuilt by Henry IV following his reconciliation with the pope in 1077, leading to the impressive structure of today.

Speyer Cathedral is the largest, and arguably the most significant, example of Romanesque architecture in Europe. Its crypt houses the remains of eight emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, making it a building of huge historical significance. The size and quality of its sculptures also make it a significant artistic landmark.

The cathedral was seriously damaged by fire in 1689, and its reconstruction from 1772 to 1778 is one of the first successful attempts at monument preservation in Europe.

See the Speyer Cathedral on our Rhine Cruise and Swiss Delights and Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg cruises.

7. Grande île — Strasbourg, France
The Grand Île was founded as Argentoratum, a Roman camp which eventually gained its independence and developed into the free city of Strasbourg. The city was a centre of commerce in the middle ages, and it’s where Johannes Gutenberg created the first mobile printing press in the late 15th century.

The Grande Île, or Big Island, is Strasbourg’s historic centre. Surrounded on either side by arms of the Ill river, the island is home to the city’s central square, Place Kléber, four centuries-old churches, and the former residence of prince-bishops. It is also home to Strasbourg Cathedral, a magnificent example of gothic architecture which was the tallest church in the world from 1647 to 1874.

See the Grand Île and the rest of the historic city of Strasbourg on our Cruise the Rhine to Switzerland; Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg; and Rhine Cruise and Swiss Delights trips.

8. Cologne Cathedral — Cologne, Germany
Cologne Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of Cologne and the most visited landmark in Germany, attracting an average of 20,000 people each day. It’s one of the greatest examples of gothic architecture in Europe and a renowned monument of German Catholicism.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1248 but was stopped in 1473 and left unfinished until the 19th century. It was completed in 1880, becoming the largest gothic church in northern Europe with the second-tallest spires on the continent and the largest facade of any church in the world. Remarkably, the 19th-century builders completed the cathedral to the exact specifications of the original plans.

During the Second World War, the cathedral was badly damaged by bombing. Despite this, it remained one of the only structures left standing in an almost completely flattened city. This is because its twin spires were an easily recognizable landmark for allied aircraft to use to navigate their bombing raids. Repairs to this damage were partially completed in 1956, and the church was restored to its original appearance in 2005.

See the Cologne Cathedral on our Rhine Discovery; Christmas Rhine; and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

9. Kremlin and Red Square — Moscow, Russia
The Kremlin, meaning ‘fortress inside a city’, is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow overlooking Moskva river to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and is enclosed by the Kremlin Wall and towers. It also serves as the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation, and has been at the geographical and political centre of Moscow since the time of the tsars.

The Red Square separates the Kremlin from Kitai-gorod, a historic merchant quarter. Built as Moscow’s main marketplace in the 16th century, it remains the city’s central square. Today, the Red Square is the site of Lenin’s Mausoleum, which was designed by A.V. Shchusev and is an outstanding example of Soviet monumental architecture.

The Kremlin and the Red Square are not only some of Europe’s most historically significant sites, but are also among its most beautiful. You can see them both on our Moscow to St Petersburg cruise.

10. Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg — St Petersburg, Russia
According to Unesco, “the unique urban landscape of the port and capital city of Saint Petersburg, rising out of the Neva estuary where it meets the Gulf of Finland, was the greatest urban creation of the 18th century”. The entire city was constructed in a remarkably short period of time to a plan which included many of Peter the Great’s own ideas. Much like Amsterdam and Venice, this was done on an artificially created landmass crisscrossed with canals.

During the reign of the Soviet Union, the city was renamed Leningrad, and it is inextricably linked to the October Revolution and the rise of communism in Russia. The city is also the site of the 1917 February Revolution and the blockade of 1941–1944, during which approximately a million lives were lost. In the 21st century, the city is a centre of Russian culture, science and education.

A visit to St Petersburg will not only reveal its idiosyncratic architecture, but also some of the best tourist destinations in Europe, including the Church of the Saviour on Blood, the Winter Palace and Catherine Palace. See this and more on our Moscow to St Petersburg cruise.

11. Würzburg Residence — Würzburg, Germany
The Würzburg Residence is one of the largest and most magnificent residential buildings in Germany. It was constructed in the 18th century under the patronage of two successive prince-bishops, Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schönborn. The beautiful residence and the vast accompanying gardens stand as a testament to the power and influence held by the prince-bishops at the time — they were designed and constructed by architects, engineers and artists ranging from Vienna, Paris, Mainz, Flanders, Munich and Venice.

The residence was heavily damaged in a bomb raid during the Second World War, with only the central building coming out unscathed. Between 1945 and 1987, it was reconstructed to its current state at a cost of approximately €20 million, and it now stands as a marvel of modern conservation techniques as well as baroque architecture.

Enjoy a visit to the Würzburg Residence as part of our Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley and Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine cruises.

12. Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex — Antwerp, Belgium
Alongside Paris and Venice, Antwerp was one of three leading cities in the development of commercial printing in the 1500s. The Plantin-Moretus Museum, named after the greatest printer-publisher of the late 16th century, Christophe Plantin, is home to the oldest working printing presses in the world.

The protected complex includes the printing factory itself, as well as the former homes of the Plantin and Moretus families, in which you can see what life in Antwerp was like for a nouveau-riche family in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Platin household includes an impressive art collection featuring portraits by Peter Paul Rubens, while the Moretus’s breathtaking library contains over 30,000 perfectly preserved books from the Renaissance and baroque periods.

See the Plantin-Moretus Museum alongside the rest of Antwerp as part of our our Christmas Cruise to Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels; New Year Cruise to Bruges, Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp; and Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent trips.

13. Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue — Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is one of the most idiosyncratic cities in all of Europe. Traditional ‘Buda’ and cosmopolitan ‘Pest’, which were two separate cities until they were officially unified in 1873, are separated by the Danube and conjoined by the colossal Chain Bridge.

The highlight of the city is the stretch of land along the riverbank, which is protected by Unesco due to its huge historical significance. This land has been settled on since the Palaeolithic times, and has since been the site of the Roman city of Aquincum and the medieval urban centre of Pest. The castle of Buda was built on the opposite bank of the river in 1265 by King Bela IV, and since then the city has been home to the Hungarian monarchy. Urban development in the form of Europe’s first underground railway, the neo-gothic parliament building, and W.T. Clark’s suspension bridge has seen the city become a must-see European capital.

Experience beautiful Budapest on our Danube to the Black Sea and Danube Discovery cruises.

14. Town of Bamberg — Bamberg, Germany
The beautiful Bavarian town of Bamberg, with its magnificent cathedral and famous breweries, is one of the highlights of southern Germany. It’s a perfect example of a European medieval town, and many of the buildings survive from the period. When the Duke of Bavaria, Henry II, became King of Germany in 1007, he made Bamberg the seat of Catholicism with the intention of making it a ‘second Rome’.

The city’s most prosperous period was the 12th century, when its architecture — especially its religious buildings — had a strong influence on northern Germany and Hungary. In the 17th century, the witch trials in Bamberg claimed more than 1,000 victims. This reached its climax between 1626 and 1631 under the rule of Prince-Bishop Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim, and during this time the Drudenhaus (witch prison) was built. The building is no longer standing today, but the detailed historic accounts of the trials still remain.

Bamberg has a rich and intriguing history: in the late 18th century, it was the centre of the Southern German Enlightenment and home to eminent thinkers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and E.T.A. Hoffmann. In 1926, Adolf Hitler called the Bamberg Conference at the town in an attempt to stifle dissent within the then recently formed Nazi party.

See the historic town of Bamberg on our Bavaria and Romantic Rhine and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

15. Historic Centre of Prague — Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of Europe’s most stunning cities. Its sprawling and beautiful architecture ranges from the gothic period (14th and 15th centuries) to the baroque design of the early 18th century and the modernism of the 20th.

Situated on the banks of the Vlatava river, Prague represents some of the best examples of every period of European architecture. This can be seen in its many incredible monuments, such as the Hradčany Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral, and the iconic Charles Bridge. Prague stands as such a magnificent city today because it has avoided major works of urban renewal, and so retained its character and charm in a way few other European cities have.

Alongside its fairytale architecture, Prague is a hub of European culture, food and art. The city is also well known for having some of the best nightlife in Europe, and is famous for its magnificent beer.

Prague’s 1,100-year history is filled with prominent figures in the world of art, science and politics, including Charles IV, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Edvard Beneš. Follow in their footsteps on a visit to this wonderful city, which you can see on our Elegant Elbe, Berlin and Prague cruise.

A visit to any one of these magnificent locations is sure to be a highlight of any European getaway. Each site has its own intriguing history, and together these sites represent some of the most beautiful and influential examples of architecture, art, and design the continent has to offer. Each of these must-see European Unesco world heritage sites can be reached on one of our river cruises, which you can book online today.

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Top 10 cities to see in Germany

German Top Ten

Germany has been at the centre of some of the biggest events in European history, and has shaped much of the world as we know it today. Its rich past is filled with castles and kings, and these bygone times echo through its thriving present, where it stands as an economic powerhouse and a hub of European culture.On a trip to this magnificent country, you’ll find fairy-tale castles, picturesque villages and rolling countryside as well as bustling metropolises, vibrant nightlife, and some of the greatest collections of art in the world. Here are our top 10 cities to visit in Germany, all of which offer a delightful mix of the old and the new which defines the Germany of today.

One of the most pivotal cities in 20th-century history, Berlin is a must-see for history buffs, with sites including Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror, and the humbling Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Pieces of the Berlin Wall also still stand, covered in vibrant and often politically charged artwork from before its fall.

The city was almost completely destroyed during the bomb raids of WWII, and the beautiful pre-war buildings which remain are often marked by bullet holes from the combat, standing as a reminder of the city’s past. While here, be sure to check out the Museumsinsel, which is comprised of five museums constructed between 1824 and 1930. The architecture of the museums themselves is as breathtaking as the exhibitions they house, making this museum complex a must-see for anyone visiting Berlin.

During the Second World War, the museums took on further significance as the place where the Nazis stored the art they stole from around Europe, adding to the historical significance of this iconic landmark. Berlin is also a hub of European culture, famous not only for its museums and galleries but also its nightlife, which includes some of the best restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in the world. It’s also a very forward-thinking city, and caters to vegetarians, vegans, and those with gluten and dairy intolerances better than almost any other European capital.

You can visit this magnificent city as part of our Baltic Isles, Berlin and Poland and Elegant Elbe, Berlin and Prague cruises.

Like so many of Germany’s major cities, Dusseldorf was almost entirely destroyed during WWII. The Altstadt, the historical quarter of the city located along the Rhine, is perhaps the most perfectly restored Old Town in the whole of the country. A visit will feel like taking a step back in time, with cobbled streets and exposed-timber buildings.

Sitting side-by-side with the historical quarter are the boundary-pushing modern buildings of the city’s wharf. These impressive structures house heavy-hitting banks, advertising and telecommunications agencies, and some of Germany’s biggest fashion houses. These industries have made Dusseldorf one of the country’s wealthiest cities, and it has an art scene to rival some capital cities.

Dusseldorf has a thriving nightlife, even by German standards, and the locals claim the Altstadt is the ‘longest bar in the world’. With over 260 bars, coffee shops and bierkellers crammed into a square kilometre, this is the perfect spot to enjoy some of the country’s finest beers and wines, including the local delicacy of Altbier, a fermented dark beer which is said to taste best in the Altstadt’s historical brewing houses.

See Düsseldorf on an optional excursion as part of our German Christmas markets cruise.

Speyer was founded by the Romans and is one of Germany’s oldest cities. It’s a sleepy town located along the winding Rhine that features picturesque architecture and cobbled streets. It is most famous for its magnificent cathedral, which was founded in 1030 during the rule of the Roman Empire, and served as the burial place of the German emperors for almost 300 years. Its crypt houses the remains of eight emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, making it a significant landmark in the country’s history.

Another must-see in Speyer for both history enthusiasts and petrol heads is the Technikmuseum. It houses more than 2,000 exhibits and attracts more than half a million visitors a year.

See Speyer and its spectacular cathedral on our Rhine Cruise and Swiss Delights and Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg cruises.

Cologne is a centre of German art and culture, and it’s famous for its dramatic skyline which is dominated by the phenomenal cathedral, one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful. Regularly voted Germany’s favorite tourist attraction, Cologne Cathedral, which attracts an average of 20,000 visitors a day, while many more enjoy its spectacular façade from afar. The church, which took over 600 years to complete, is one of Europe’s greatest examples of Gothic architecture and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

Cologne cathedral, known locally as Kölner Dom, is an absolute must-see on any visit to this city — make sure to climb the 533 steps to get to the top of its south tower, which was the tallest structure in Europe until the construction of the Eiffel Tower. On your way up to the 95-metre high viewing platform, make sure to admire the 24-tonne Peter Bell, the largest working free-swinging bell in the world.

If you’re looking to soak up some culture during your stay, check out the Museum of Applied Art, which celebrates the excellent design of everyday objects, and the Museum Ludwig, which includes some of Europe’s finest modern art. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the Chocolate Museum, which takes you through the history of chocolate from its invention by the Mayans to the modern age.

Experience brilliant Cologne on our Rhine Discovery, Christmas Rhine, and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

Würzburg is located in the region of Franconia, Northern Bavaria, and along the River Main. A 20-minute-long air raid in 1945 left most of the city’s centre in ruins, but it has since been restored to its former glory.

No visit to the city is complete without a trip to the magnificent Würzburg Residence, which is regarded as one of the finest pieces of Baroque art in the world and stands as testament to the power wielded by the German prince-bishops in the 18th century. A visit to the palace and its breathtaking gardens will be one of the highlights of any trip to Germany.

Make sure to take a few hours to climb up to the Marienberg Fortress, the city’s ancient fortifications, where you’ll find magnificent views of the city on one side and the Main on the other. Enjoy a visit to the Würzburg as part of our Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley and Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine cruises.

Dresden, the capital of the German federal state of Saxony, is known for its beautiful old town and breath-taking skyline. Visiting the city now, it’s hard to believe that it was all but flattened during air raids in 1945. The largely reconstructed city now stands as a symbol of the horrors of war, and the bombings, which took more than 30,000 lives, are remembered each year with processions and ceremonies.

The jewel of the city is the Frauenkirche, the original Church of Our Lady, which was destroyed in WWII and has since been meticulously reconstructed using as many of the original bricks as possible. The golden cross on the church’s dome serves as a symbol of peace, and was donated by the English city of Coventry, which was raided by Luftwaffe in WWII.

Approximately 10 million tourists visit Dresden every year, most of them from Germany, and it’s not difficult to see why. Alongside the Frauenkirche, other popular attractions include the Zwinger and the Semper opera houses, both of which were also reconstructed to their original plans after their destruction in WWII. You’ll find all of these sights in the compact and easily walkable Old Town, which is a standout example of the architecture of the German Democratic Republic.

Enjoy a visit to dazzling Dresden as part of our Elegant Elbe, Berlin, and Prague cruise.

Bamberg is one of the gems of Southern Germany, with its picturesque medieval architecture and cobbled streets. It is home to a magnificent cathedral and several famous breweries, as well as a rich and intriguing history.

Things to see include the cathedral, the Altes Rathaus (a building perched in the middle of a bridge above the Regnitz River), as well as the Alte Hofhaltung and the Neue Residenz, the former residences of the city’s prince bishops.

While you’re in Bamberg, make sure to try the local delicacy, smoked beer. The two most famous breweries are Schlenkerla and Spezial, both of which you can sample in any of the town’s beer halls. Beer lovers may want to time their visit for the last weekend in August, when the Sandkerwa festival consumes the entire town for festivities which rival those of Oktoberfest.

See the historic town of Bamberg on our Bavaria and Romantic Rhine and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria and the unofficial capital of Franconia. During the time of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg was the undeclared capital and home to most of the German kings.

Its Old Town will give you a taste of a quintessential Bavarian city, with colourful timbered houses, Gothic churches, and cobbled streets all housed within a Medieval city wall and overshadowed by a formidable castle. While here, you’ll be able to sample the local beers alongside the local speciality of Nuremberg sausages with sauerkraut in the traditional bierkellers.

However, Nuremberg is by no means stuck in the past, with many internationally successful German brands such as Adidas, Diehl, Faber-Castell, Playmobil, Puma and Siemens all having their headquarters in the city and the surrounding towns.

Nuremberg is also a city of huge historical significance, as the Nazis focused a lot of their initial efforts on winning the city’s largely working-class population over to their cause. It was here that the fanatical Nuremberg rallies were held, and where the Nuremberg Laws outlawing German citizenship for Jewish people were enacted. The city was almost entirely destroyed by allied bombers in January 1945, and has since been painstakingly reconstructed using as much of the original stone as possible.

After the war, the city was host to the tribunal now known as Nuremberg Trials, which brought to light the atrocities of the Holocaust and prosecuted some of the most prominent figures of the Nazi party.

Experience Nuremberg and its magnificent Old Town as part of our Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine, Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley, and Elegant Elbe, Berlin, and Prague cruises.

Wiesbaden is one of Europe’s oldest spa towns, with its roots dating all the way back to Roman times, when it was called Aquae Mattiacorum. Its current name translates as 'meadow baths', reflecting both its famous thermals baths, which are powered by the 14 hot springs still flowing today, and its setting among the luscious German countryside.

In the 19th century, the city became famous as a popular gambling destination, and the legendary Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky racked up an impressive amount of debt in the city’s gambling houses in the 1860s. This experience served as inspiration for The Gambler, which many consider his magnum opus.

There’s plenty for fans of history here as well, including the grave of the infamous WWI fighter pilot Manfred von Ricthofen, better known as the Red Baron. Von Ricthofen pioneered the art of aerial combat, shooting down 80 enemy planes in his red Fokker Tri-plane before being killed by a rifle shot from Australian solider during a dogfight.

No trip to Wiesbaden is complete without a visit to at least one of its famous spas. The Kaiser-Freidrich-Therme is the pick of them all, and is decorated in the style of the Roman baths which made the city famous as a health retreat.

Visit Wiesbaden as part of our Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg cruise, and as an optional excursion on our Rhine in Flames, Captain’s Rhine Valley Turkey and Tinsel, and the New Year Rhine cruises.

Regensburg is a city which is absolutely dripping with history. Founded as a Roman settlement by Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 179AD, it was the first capital of Bavaria, and has been home to dukes, kings and bishops. One of Germany’s oldest cities, Regensburg is full of some of the most stunning examples of architecture from every period of the last 2,000 years.

Regensburg’s main attraction is its excellently preserved Old Town, which was inscribed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2006. Its remarkable preservation is largely due to the fact that it survived WWII almost undamaged, which has resulted in the city boasting the largest preserved medieval city centre in Germany. Highlights include the 800-year-old stone bridge which crosses the Danube and the city’s two astonishing churches, the Dom St Peter and the Alte Kapelle, both of which feature breath-taking interiors. If you’re in the city on a Sunday during the school year, be sure not to miss the Domspatzen, a 1000-year-old boys' choir that accompanies the 10am Sunday service at the Dom St Peter.

Another must-see includes the Schloss Thurn und Taxis, the former Benedictine monastery which was gifted to the family of Franz von Taxis, who set up the first European postal system in the 15th century. The former monastery was converted into one of the most modern palaces in the world with the state-of-the-art technology of the day such as flushing toilets, central heating, and electricity.

See Regensburg on our Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruise. If you’d like an intimate view of Germany’s luscious countryside and a chance to see several of its enchanting cities and towns, join one of our German cruises.

If you’d like an intimate view of Germany’s luscious countryside and a chance to see several of its enchanting cities and towns, join one of our German cruises.
Get in touch with a member of staff today for more information about any of our European river cruises.

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