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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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A beginner’s guide to cruising


Cruising is a great way to see the world at a different pace. It can give you a totally different perspective on places you’ve already visited, and is also a great way of experiencing places you’ve never seen before. If you’ve never been on a cruise, it’s important to know how it differs from other kinds of holiday. Here’s our rundown of the most important things to keep in mind before booking your first cruise.

Choose where you want to go, and find out when it’s best to go there
Just as when you’re booking any holiday, it’s important to go to the right place at the right time. While cruising the Amazon river can be a life-changing experience, you may not fancy it in June, which is when the mosquito population reaches its almost unbearable height. Make sure to thoroughly research the destination you’re hoping to cruise on travel websites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet before booking the trip to ensure you get to see the very best of the destination. As a country which takes Christmas markets to a whole other level, Germany is a great place to visit in the winter, while foodies will love a trip along the Rhône in summer, when the local delicacies are at their best and the vineyards are bursting with grapes. If you’re looking for a spring getaway this year, a cruise through Holland is the perfect choice, as the spectacular bulb fields are in full bloom and the Keukenhof Gardens are at their best. River Cruise Line offers a spring cruise along the Dutch waterways which includes a visit to the famous gardens, which you can book online here.

Know what you’re paying for
Make sure to check what’s included in the listed price of your cruise before you set off. Cruises are often full-board, but you should double-check this before you board to avoid any surprises. You’ll also need to know how much it will cost to join the optional excursions offered by the cruise line, as this may affect your budget. Another thing to know when drawing up your budget is the tipping situation, which varies depending on which part of the world you’ll be enjoying your cruise. On many European cruises, a service charge will be automatically added to your bill. Other cruise lines have a fixed tipping rate, which you can choose to vary according to how you’ve found the service. On US-based ships, you’ll often be given an expected gratuity you’ll be expected to pay in cash at the end of the trip.

Don’t get left behind!
Make sure not to lose track of time when exploring when you’re in port, as there’s a real threat that the ship might leave without you. While they’ll always give you a bit of leeway, make sure to always get back to the ship on time to ensure you aren’t left stranded.

Don’t ignore the dress code
Even the most relaxed cruises will usually have at least one formal night where guests are expected to dress up for the evening meal. Keep this in mind when packing for the trip — a blazer and tie will be suitable for men, and a smart dress will suffice for ladies. If you need any last-minute formal wear before setting of on your cruise, Marks and Spencer offers a great selection with next-day delivery.

Keep these things in mind when booking your first cruise, and you’ll be sure to have a great time.

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Excursion Fürst Löwenstein wines at Kleinheubach Palace

  • Wine Tasting
  • Lowenstein
Wine TastingLowenstein

Enjoy a tour and tasting at the Löwenstein estate during a Main cruise with The River Cruise Line. The history of the Löwenstein family and their wine goes back to the time of the Roman empire, when wine played a major role. Today, the estate is a fascinating place where tradition and modernity meet high quality and rural tranquillity. It is especially well known for its excellent dry riesling, silvaner and pinot noir. During our excursion you are invited to explore the estate and visit the wine cellar in the historical stables where we take part in an informal wine tasting and become acquainted with the wines.


• The history of the Löwenstein family and their wine goes back to 1611

• The vineyards are in three wine regions of Germany: Franken, Rheingau and Baden

• Around 155,000 bottles of wine are produced at the estate each year

• The cellar holds a maximum tank capacity of 160,000 litres for white wine and 12,000 litres for red wine


• The baroque buildings on the banks of the Main and the magnificent old trees provide an exceptionally beautiful background

• See the former royal stables with their breathtaking vaulted ceilings where the wines mature

• Enjoy different wines from the Franken and Rheingau regions with bread and water

Book our Fürst Löwenstein 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.

Excursion Würzburg Wine

  • Wine Tasting
  • Wurzburg
  • Wine Tasting
Wine TastingWurzburgWine Tasting

Join our Würzburg wine trip during a Main cruise with The River Cruise Line. Würzburg and wine are inextricably linked, with many wine festivals taking place in the city and the surrounding Franconian wine country. We go behind the scenes at Bürgerspital, one of the largest and most important wine estates in Germany. Our guided tour starts at the estate courtyard and takes you to the wine presses before continuing through the wine cellars, taking in one of the most beautiful cellars of precious wood barrels in Germany and the treasure chambers that protect the oldest wine from the Stein appellation. We also see the filling and shipping departments, and end our tour with an obligatory glass of wine.


• The Bürgerspital wine estate covers 120 hectares

• The first vineyards were planted here in 1334

• In the 16th century, water was mixed with wine as punishment for unruly behaviour!


• Enjoy an informative guided tour of one of Germany’s largest and most important wine estates

• See the wine presses where the transformation of the grapes into wine begins

• Walk through the wine cellars which are home to the oldest wine from the Stein appellation

• See the filling and shipping departments, from where the wine goes to all parts of the world

• Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine

Book our Würzburg wine 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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Top River Cruises in Europe

Traveling around Europe is a wonderful adventure for any travel enthusiast. But while many people get Interrail passes and see the continent from the railroads, some travellers are seeing Europe from its riverbanks, cruising along on the Rhine, the Danube and the Moselle. This article looks at a few of the hotspots on Europe’s top river cruises.

The Danube
The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe, next to the Volga in Russia. Through the course of its 1,780 miles, the Danube passes through Germany, Austria, Romania and seven other countries. River cruises along the Danube are now very popular, with companies like The River Cruise Line offering specialist Danube cruises. There are many hotspots that rest on the banks of the Danube, with Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava at the top of the list. The Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, make sure you check out the Schönbrunn Palace, which, at over 300 years old, is one of the most historically and architecturally significant buildings in Austria. You can find out more about it on the Unesco website. In Bratislava, make sure you visit Bratislava Castle. It overlooks the city, so you can’t miss it! Its pristine white walls and terracotta roof make it a bright, beautiful focal point.

The Rhine
Travelling through six countries, a Rhine river cruise is a great way to visit Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Austria and France. The Rhine runs through some impressive big cites on its 766-mile journey, such as Strasbourg, Koblenz and Rotterdam. If any of these cities strike your fancy, then a Rhine river tour might be the right choice for you. When in Strasbourg, make sure you visit the Palais Rohan, which is a beautiful example of local, baroque architecture, but also the source of three fabulous museums: the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Archaeological Museum. Find out more about them on the official Strasbourg Museum website. A real highpoint for any Rhine river cruise is visiting the vineyards of the Rhine Valley in Germany and sampling their local wines. Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim is also particularly popular, with its traditional German architecture and relaxed atmosphere.

The Moselle
If you’re interested in ancient history, make sure you visit Trier, Germany’s oldest city. Trier had previously been taken over by the Romans and was renamed Trevorum or Augusta. The city has lots of well-preserved Roman ruins and churches. Trier also contains the Rheinisches Landesmuseum — one of the most important Roman archaeological museums in Germany. Visit the website to find out more.

Wherever you go in Europe, consider taking the rivers instead of the roads or railways. It’s a completely different vantage point and a wonderful way to experience the diverse array of towns, cities and attractions Europe has to offer.

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Cruise the Danube to Vienna & Budapest with The River Cruise Line


This ten-day cruise departs from Passau, with departure dates running from June to October 2018.

This cruise along the Danube will take you through Europe’s magnificent heartland, where you’ll make stops at some of the continent’s most beautiful cities and iconic sites.

The cruise begins in Passau, known as the ‘three rivers city’ due to its unique location at the meeting point of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Lower Austria’s Melk is the first stop, where you can join an optional excursion to the famous Benedictine Abbey. You’ll then move on to Austria’s beautiful capital, Vienna, which is famous for its magnificent opera houses and dance halls. The next stop is Budapest, Hungary’s glorious capital, where you can explore traditional ‘Buda’ and cosmopolitan ‘Pest’. Before returning to Passau, you’ll stop at Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, and Dürnstein, famous for the ruins of the castle that once imprisoned Richard the Lionheart.

The Cruise the Danube to Vienna and Budapest trip costs £995 per person, and the prices of the optional excursions vary. Book your tickets online here.

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Thames cruise aboard the African Queen 2018

African Queen

The Thames cruise aboard the African Queen is the perfect way to experience the quaint towns of southern England at a fittingly leisurely pace. Along the way, you’ll pass picturesque villages and rolling countryside, and at each stop you’ll be able to soak in the rich history of this beautiful part of the UK.

At Goring-on-Thames, you can enjoy a stroll along the river to the impressive Goring Lock, and at the market town of Wallingford, you can visit the former home of the crime writer Agatha Christie. You’ll stop at Sonning, where you can watch a performance in the 18th-century watermill that is now home to the Sonning Dinner Theatre. The final stop is at Henley-on-Thames, home to the famous Royal Regatta rowing event and the setting of the novel The Wind in the Willows.

Book a spot on the Thames cruise aboard the African Queen 2018 here.

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European river cruises: Choosing your river

If you’ve been considering going on a cruise holiday, then you might fancy one of the big hotspots, such as the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. But you probably haven’t considered taking a river cruise along one of Europe’s great rivers.

Several of the largest rivers in Europe span more than one country. So rather than choosing a country of interest, you should research which big river is right for you. You may like to make a list of your top European countries, then work out which river runs through most of them—or at least two of your top choices. Below, find an overview of the biggest rivers and the countries found along their banks.

The Volga
The largest river in Europe, the Volga runs through Russia and feeds into the Caspian Sea. The river cuts through 11 cities, including the capital. As there is so much to do in Moscow, you may like to go through The Lonely Planet’s guide to Moscowand make a few notes before you go. However, many people cruise in order to see several countries in one trip, so perhaps the Volga, which never leaves Russia, won’t appeal to many readers.

The Danube
The Danube is over 2,000 miles long. Along its meandering journey, the Danube visits Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine. The River Cruise Line offer specialist Danube cruises, with an impressive range of excursions. Find out more on the site.

The Rhine
Where the Danube travels into Eastern Europe, the Rhine sticks firmly to Central and Western Europe. It begins in Switzerland and passes through Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and finishes in the Netherlands. The German leg of the river is famous for its vineyards, so it’s the perfect cruise for any wine lovers. The Rhine perhaps has the most impressive roster of countries of any European river, but there’s also a good chance the most hardened travellers will have already been to many of the countries on the list and would prefer somewhere less touristy and more exciting places.

The Moselle
The Moselle passes through France, Luxembourg and Germany. It is a tributary of the Rhine, but a substantial river in its own right. A river cruise along the Moselle will show you Germany’s impressive castles, French mountains and Luxembourg’s charming medieval towns. A much smaller river than the others on this list, the Moselle is perfect for those who want to see some of Europe’s smaller towns and cities.Whether you take the Moselle, Rhine, Danube or something else altogether, you’ll see Europe from a completely different perspective. Bon voyage.

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Cruise Ports & Destinations - Captain's Choice


The eight-day Captain's Choice cruise has proved so popular that there will now be six sailings through his Dutch homeland to little-known gems including the Dutch Lake District of Roermond; Nijmegen, the country's oldest city; the star-shaped town of Heusden and historic Dordrecht for a tour or the Royal Delft Pottery. Capt Arts says he is delighted by the response.

He said: "There are many more modern ships operating on the rivers, offering luxurious experiences that arc quite different to the cosy atmosphere we offer aboard the Lady Anne but we find that passengers keep coming back to us." Capt Arts was born on the rivers in the Netherlands' and says he was interested in ships from a young age.

He said: "My family always had various boats and I had my first small boat at the age of six. It was inevitable that my career would be somehow linked to ships." However; he had not originally planned to be a ship's captain and studied shipbuilding.

He said: "I found I didn't like having to work inside and didn't enjoy jobs such as welding so eluting my free time I helped on a neighbour's clay boat. From there I moved to working on river cruise ships but my shipbuilding studies have always been useful in understanding the mechanics involved work as a first officer and after sitting his exams he was handed the job as captain on the 106 passenger Lady Anne.

Capt Arts, 44, said: "Lady Anne was originally called Avanti. She was built in 1903 as a cargo vessel and was converted for passenger use in 1964. She is one of the oldest vessels on the river."

Capt Arts also has another lady in his life, Jana, who he married last year. They honeymooned on the Greek island of Santorini and it was one of the only times he has taken a holiday during the sailing season.

He said: "There are 19 crew, including me, and the River Cruise Line passengers particularly like the atmosphere we create on board. They are almost always very happy and there are a lot of repeat clients. On other ships there can be many different nationalities travelling together but with the River Cruise Line, the passengers are all British and for us it works very smoothly. British clients are happy to brave all weathers and travel most of the year; we have one of the longest sailing seasons, starting in March on the Dutch Waterways and running through to Christmas and New Year on the Rhine."

The Captain's Choice cruise departs in June and July 2016, price from £749 includes return travel from the UK (by coach, rail or air as appropriate), transfers and services of a cruise director.

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