Cruising the Rhine River Gorge
How can one not wax poetic about a European river lined with picturesque castles that sparked countless fairy tales and legends? From Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast to Rapunzel, these stories come to life as you sail the waters of the Rhine River through the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. Add to that vineyards clinging to lush hillsides and medieval fortresses sitting on rocky promontory overlooking the water and you have a most magical destination.
For romantics, there’s no place better to revel in your surroundings … and each other. Toast to your life together with the region’s newest wines, particularly if you sail in the autumn during or right after the grape harvest. Stroll hand in hand down a cobblestone street in the university town of Heidelberg, in the shadow of the reddish-hued sandstone Heidelberg Castle. Today, we touch on the most romance-inspiring excursions couples can have along the Rhine. For even more European river cruising ideas, read the past two weeks’ worth of romantic suggestions, on both the Danube and the Seine.
Sometimes the gray clouds turn into pouring rain. We made the most of it and stopped
for wine tasting at a sidewalk café.
This characterful capital of the Alsace region delights the senses. Visit the flower-filled, 17th-century Parc de l’Orangerie dating to the 17th century, where you can row a boat on a sparkling lake. Admire the architecture of the Place de la République in the heart of the city’s German quarter; the Rhine Palace and National Theatre are nearby. Close out the perfect day by wandering through La Petite-France on the western side of the Grande Île, known by its canals and iconic half-timbered buildings.
The Black Forest is an incredible magical place.
Make Your Own Stories in the Black Forest
The Black Forest - land of glassblowing, cuckoo clocks and gingerbread cottages. Venture into the lofty fir forests of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), through the wine villages of Ihringen, Gottenheim and Botzingen. Walk through the dense forest, watch a cuckoo-clock-building demonstration or learn to make the delicious Black Forest Cake for which this region of southwestern Germany is so well known.
Bike Through the Netherlands' Windmill Countryside
Take to the grasslands of Kinderdijk on two wheels, taking your time to enjoy 19 historic windmills of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Follow the Lek River’s polders (low-lying lands), stopping to photograph these famous windmills, built in 1740. Learn how and why they were built to pump excess water from the surrounding lands, which lie approximately five feet below sea level. Meet a mill keeper and learn about his family’s daily life before cycling leisurely back to the ship.
Picnic on a Mountaintop
From Hermann Buhl Square in Innsbruck, Austria, you can soar to the summit of the country’s largest nature park aboard the Hungerburgbahn funicular and the Hafelekar cable car. High atop this mountain plateau, sit for a spell and enjoy a picnic of local meats, cheeses, pickles, condiments and wine while enjoying 360-degree views of the Austrian Alps.
Live Out a Fairytale Fantasy
Enjoy privileged access to a royal dinner and piano recital at Namedy Castle, owned by the Hohenzollern family. Explore the princess’ private salons, the Grand Hall of Mirrors and the perfectly manicured gardens before a private champagne reception and three-course meal, paired with local wines.
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Sail through the City of Love on a river cruise in Paris … and beyond. As you glide into the city along the Seine, you’ll have a front-facing view of the iconic Eiffel Tower, greeting you as you arrive in one of the most romantic places on Earth. Playing a starring role in so many classic romances, as well as the muse for countless works of art by Monet, Van Gogh and Edouard Manet, Paris inspires couples to profess and celebrate their love. And yet it doesn’t stop there. The Seine extends to Les Andelys, with its imposing Chateau Gaillard, through Rouen and on to the beaches of Normandy, offering memorable moments for all tastes and style of travel.
Stroll through the meandering streets of Paris hand in hand, admiring the colorful Belle Epoque architecture and ducking into characterful cafes where hours pass by in the blink of an eye. Take an excursion to Monet’s Gardens or to the beautiful French village of Giverny. Or, venture to the Gardens d'Acquigny with its many bridges, canals and waterfalls, pretty little spots to steal a kiss. Today, as we did for the Danube River last week, we’ll look at some of the most romantic experiences one can have on one of the world’s most romantic rivers: the Seine.
Cross the Pont des Arts
This UNESCO-designated and world-renowned “love lock” pedestrian bridge crosses over the Seine River in central Paris. It was the first metal bridge to be built in the city and it connects the Quai de Conti at the Institut de France with the Quai des Tuileries, home to the Louvre.
Visit the Chateau d’Etelan
Fill up your picnic basket with baguettes, cheeses, olives, pâté, cornichons and wine before making your way to the first Italian Renaissance chateau to be built in France, back in 1494. The lovely grounds are an ideal place for a private picnic amidst the gardens. Be sure to see the wonderful chapel with its original wall paintings and the guard house that dates back to 1350.
Spend a Leisurely Day in Paris
Take your time exploring the city’s most famous sites, from the world-famous Sorbonne University in the charming Latin Quarter, to the 400-year-old Luxembourg Gardens. Wander song the Champs-Élysées with its sidewalk cafes and specialty shops, sure to woo you.
Explore La Roche-Guyon
If you’re in love with nature, sail through the Vexin Français Regional Nature Park to La Roche-Guyon. Or, tempt your palate with a calvados, cider and cheese tasting at a local farm in La Roche-Guyon. This region - the French Vexin - between Paris and Normandy, is a delightful natural space brimming with agricultural villages, orchards, meadows and woods. The views of the Seine Valley are breathtaking.
Go Back in Time in Rouen
Stroll through the atmospheric, medieval city of Rouen, imagining yourselves in an era long ago. This capital of Normandy boasts the spectacular Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral (immortalized in numerous Claude Monet paintings) and the famous Gros Horloge, a 16th-century astronomical clock. The half-timbered, storybook architecture is adorable and romantic at once.
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Taking this photo was a highlight of my Danube River cruise.
Muse to countless composers and writers over the centuries, the Danube River is the heart of Central Europe - and it will surely capture your own. Alongside your favorite person in the world, you can sail these legendary waters through Germany, Austria, Hungary and more, soaking up medieval villages, hillside-clinging vineyards and elegant cities. Today, I take a peek at the most romantic things you can do along the Danube.
Take a Romantic Stroll in Budapest
Budapest is built up around the Danube, so taking a hand-in-hand stroll alongside this storied waterway is one of the most authentic local experiences you can have. Start on the Pest side of the city at the Hungarian Parliament, passing the famous Shoes on the Danube monument. Continue across the 1800s stone suspension bridge, the Chain Bridge, which will deliver you to the Buda side of the city. Explore Buda Castle and Castle Hill, where you’ll enjoy swoon-worthy views. If the walk back is too much, hope on Tram 2 that runs right along the Danube back to your starting point. Later, cozy up with your loved one over a glass of Hungarian Tokaj wine or herbal tea.
The Vigado Concert Hall, exploring Castle Hill and strolling along the river.
Visit Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic
This adorable mountain town is a favorite for those who wish for an intimate, off-the-beaten-path destination. Soak up the medieval atmosphere as you visit the 13th-century castle, marked by Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. A peaceful history over more than five centuries has helped keep the architectural heritage of the town intact. Climb 162 steps to the Castle Tower, standing guard over the city in all its marbled pink glory. The views extend for miles, including the unique pattern of the Vltava River snaking through the city center.
Český Krumlov is an off-the-beaten-path destination
Take a carriage ride through Vienna
One of the most romantic ways to enjoy Vienna is via a horse-drawn carriage ride - and if you really want to up the ante, you can opt for a “riding diner,” during which you’re whisked through town with a glass of champagne in hand, passing majestic castles and famous landmarks, while enjoying a delightful meal. Whichever carriage ride option you choose, you’re sure to see the Hofburg (Imperial Palace), the Vienna State Opera, the Parliament building and Stephansdom (Saint Stephen’s Cathedral).
The Erzherzog Karl Equestrian Statue and horse-drawn carriages are just two of many things I saw in Vienna.
Explore Dürnstein, Austria
Toast to your loved one in Dürnstein in Austria’s Wachau Valley, a village of colorful riverside buildings and the ruins of a medieval castle. Learn about King Richard the Lionheart and his imprisonment in the castle, then go a bit more lighthearted and take a boat ride to one of the local beaches, while enjoying charcuterie and local Riesling. And don’t miss apricot anything - the Wachau area is known for its prized apricots and you’ll find apricot dumplings, strudel, brandy and more.
The ships dock right at the sidewalk. From there I walked into town and found this farmer pruning his apricot trees, along with a view of the castle where King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned.
If you and your favorite travel companion are big history buffs, you’ll adore Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. From the historic Old Town Hall to the Bratislava Castle (now home to the Museum of History), there is much to love. Visit the three-nave Gothic 15th-century church, site of countless coronations. Pop into the Primate’s Palace, a Classicist building from the 18th century that now houses an incredible collection of English tapestries from the 17th century. Later, wine and dine to your heart’s content on the Eurovea waterfront, a promenade, shopping center and theater square all in one.
Čumil and Schöner Náci are both landmark sculptures I found while strolling through Bratislava.
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Enjoying a welcome beer in Vilshofen
One of the perks of river cruising in Europe is the ability to walk right off the ship into a delightful town and feel immediately part of the fabric of the region. Daily life is taking place around you, shops and cafes have their doors wide open, and neighbors are out walking, talking and shopping. It’s exactly how you wanted your travel to be: authentic, spontaneous and immersive.
I had such a delightful experience in Vilshofen, Germany, on my Danube River voyage. On the final afternoon of our cruise, I was able to partake in an exclusive Oktoberfest celebration, I also had time to take an unscheduled stroll around town, soaking up the lively goings-on and visiting a beautiful park (where, in fact, I saw a piece of the Berlin Wall).
Here’s what I loved about spending my afternoon and evening in Vilshofen, about 14 miles upriver from Passau.
Sharing a beer with Kristin Karst, EVP of AmaWaterways, and Cesario, our wonderful cruise manager
Home of the Pilsner
More than 1,200 years old, the small town of Vilshofen is located about four blocks from the edge of the southern Bavarian Forest. The village was a key player in the creation of the pilsner brewing style. The Father of the Pils, Josef Groll, was born here, before moving to the town of Pils in Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic). It was there that he brewed the world’s first pale lager, the Pilner Urquell.
Attending the German Oktoberfest celebration was the perfect way to end our cruise
An Exclusive Oktoberfest Celebration
As a river-cruise guest sailing on AmaWaterways in Vilshofen, you’ll be treated to your own special area for celebration. Passengers are invited to a private tent, bustling with live music, soft pretzels and, of course, free-flowing beer. Typically, you’ll be drinking Wolfstetter, which is a crisp pilsner brewed right in town. There’s a lively beer-hall ambiance with trays of beer served by lederhosen- and dirndl-wearing hosts.
An evening walk took me through the streets of Vilshofen
What Else to See
Believe it or not, there’s more to Vilshofen than Oktoberfest celebrations and great beer. This quaint town is centered around a small main shopping street, with a few cozy eateries. Overlooking town, a Benedictine abbey is the biggest sightseeing attraction. Take some time away from the celebrations by the river and make your way to the 1909 Schweiklberg Abbey, which towers over the city like a medieval fortress. Created by Bavarian Forest architect Michael Kurz, the abbey is Art Nouveau in style, with a touch of new-Baroque. The abbey continues to do mission work in Africa, South American and Korea and has an outstanding Africa museum on site, as well as a humanities library with more than 40,000 volumes.
Seeing this piece of the Berlin Wall was totally unexpected during my walk through the park.
Come Back for Christmas
Consider a Danube River cruise around the winter holidays. The village is home to one of Germany’s most memorable Christmas markets - a floating one. The market is housed in a Wurm & Köck river cruiser, featuring a huge Christmas tree all lit up with bright lights and baubles. Shop for handicrafts, mulled wine, toasted almonds and more, soaking up the festive holiday atmosphere as the lights reflect off the placid Danube. Stick around for music concerts, Christmas readings and the nativity play.
I can’t recommend enough the opportunity for an exclusive Oktoberfest visit to Vilshofen. I’d love to share my own experience with you and get you excited about your own upcoming trip. Let’s chat!
Travel Advisor Specializing in River Cruising