Jewels of Europe by River

  • Trip Type: River Cruise
  • 15 Days | Budapest to Amsterdam
  • Group Size: Max 169

Expedition Details


Experience the cultural treasures and enchanting landscapes of five European countries as we cruise along some of the continent’s most scenic rivers: the Danube, Main, and Rhine. On board the elegant Scenic Ruby or Scenic Opal, glide from stately cities to medieval towns, and explore castle-crowned river valleys blanketed in grapevines. Encounter relics of Europe’s greatest empires—from the Romans and Austro-Hungarians to the Dutch—and delve into World War II history in fascinating cities like Nuremberg, Salzburg, and Budapest. Along the way, savor the continent’s culinary delights and rich musical heritage.

Trip Highlights

    • Alongside a National Geographic expert, explore 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including medieval Bamburg, the Wurzburg Residenz, and the grand Gothic cityscape of Budapest.
    • Sip wines and compare tasting notes from Austria’s Wachau Valley and the Rheingau region of Germany, and enjoy a pint from the world’s oldest monastic brewery outside Regensburg.
    • Enjoy expert insight from local guides during visits to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Vienna’s Museum of Natural History, whose meteorite exhibit was co-curated by a National Geographic grantee.
    • A National Geographic photographer joins every departure and gives talks on board covering technical skill and artistry.

Itinerary - 15 Days

Day 1 — Budapest, Hungary

Arrive in Budapest and embark the Scenic Ruby. Enjoy a welcome dinner on board, complete with views of the city’s grand buildings glittering under the night sky.
Scenic Ruby or Opal (D)

Day 2 — Budapest

Discover the two distinct sides of this Hungarian capital—the cobbled hills of Buda and the grand boulevards of Pest, linked by eight stately bridges that span the Danube. Climb historic Castle Hill to see the Royal Palace and Matthias Church, the stunning setting for the coronations and weddings of the Habsburg royalty. Alternatively, choose to soak in one of the city’s traditional bathhouses, or descend into the Hospital in the Rock, a secret subterranean military hospital used during World War II. If you wish, set out on a guided walk in the Buda hills, hiking up to Lions Rock.

Day 3 — Vienna, Austria

Cruise the Danube toward Vienna, tracing the border of Hungary and Slovakia before crossing into Austria. Relax in the lounge in views of colorful waterfront towns and hilltop fortifications. This evening arrive in Vienna for a private concert in the gilded halls of the Palais Liechtenstein, featuring the timeless music of celebrated Austrian composers Strauss and Mozart.

Day 4 — Vienna or Bratislava, Slovakia

Choose from among several excursions today. Bike between Vienna’s magnificent palaces, parks, and cathedrals on a guided cycling tour; or tour the Schönbrunn Palace, the baroque summer residence of the imperial family and a World Heritage site. You may instead choose to take a guided tour of the Museum of Natural History for an inside look at its meteorite exhibit, curated by a National Geographic grantee. Alternatively, visit Bratislava for a guided tour through the cobbled streets of the old town.

Day 5 — Melk, Austria

Glide into Austria’s lush Wachau Valley and dock at Melk for a tour of its Benedictine abbey, one of the world’s most magnificent baroque buildings. Or take a more active excursion, cycling along the Danube from Melk to Dürnstein or hiking to the hilltop ruins of a medieval castle. Or visit a local winery for a guided tour of the cellars and vines, followed by a tasting of the region’s celebrated Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. This evening, sip sundowners in a beautiful location in the Wachau Valley.

Day 6 — Salzburg

Spend the day in Salzburg, a baroque beauty brimming with old-world European charm. Take in views of wildflower-dotted meadows and snow-capped Alpine peaks and stroll the storybook streets of the old town, lined with lively shops and cafés. Salzburg features prominently in the celebrated 1965 movie The Sound of Music, and we’ll see the film come to life during an exclusive music and dance show with fantastic sets performed in the rolling hills above Salzburg. Enjoy a traditional Austrian lunch as you hum along to the movie’s beloved classics.

Day 7 — Regensburg, Germany

A World Heritage site set at the confluence of the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers, Regensburg once served as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. On a guided visit, venture into the medieval center to see its splendid Gothic cathedral, 12th-century stone bridge, and the Porta Praetoria—the ancient Roman city gate. Alternatively, tour the historic Kuchlbauer Brewery and its whimsical tower—a tribute to modern art. Or take a local ferry across the Danube Gorge to Weltenburg Abbey, home to the world’s oldest monastic brewery. Explore the abbey, then head to the courtyard and sip on a pint of their popular Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel. If you wish, join a biking tour to Walhalla, a hall of fame of famous Germans honoring artists, politicians, scientists and more.

Day 8 — Nuremberg

Threaded by medieval walls, crammed with half-timbered houses, and overlooked by an imperial castle, Nuremburg enjoys an abundance of charms—thanks in part to the meticulous reconstruction of the historic center following wartime devastation. The city also played center stage for German propaganda in the years leading up to World War II, and was the site of the historic trials where Nazi war criminals were brought to justice. Later, choose between touring the city’s World War II sites, bicycling along Ludwig Canal, or joining a cooking class.

Day 9 — Bamberg

Disembark in enchanting Bamberg, where the entire old town has been distinguished as a World Heritage site. This architectural treasure sits where rolling hills descend into the Regnitz River valley, and is intersected by the serene flow of the Main-Danube Canal. Take a guided walk along Bamberg’s medieval streets to discover its colorful frescoes, covered bridges, and elaborate baroque buildings.

Day 10 — Würzburg

Explore Würzburg, a city set at the junction of two ancient trade routes, and enjoy a guided tour of its 18th-century Residenz—one of Germany’s most magnificent baroque buildings and a World Heritage site. Or take a ride along the Romantic Road, winding through bucolic scenery and red-roofed towns en route to the postcard-perfect Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Walk the town’s medieval ramparts and snap photos of its sherbet-shaded houses before returning to Würzburg.

Day 11 — On the Main

Relax on board today as you take in the scenery along the Main River. From the comfort of the lounge, spy castles of all kinds, from medieval ruins intertwined with forest foliage to perfectly preserved Bavarian palaces. We’ll pass through the heart of Frankfurt before joining the Rhine in Mainz.

Day 12 — Rüdesheim am Rhein

Ride into Rüdesheim on the Winzerexpress mini-train set out to explore the city or the surrounding Rheingau wine region. Enjoy a guided visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, home to elaborate self-playing musical instruments. Then get a bird’s-eye view of the Rhine on a cable car ride to the Niederwald Monument—built to commemorate the 1871 unification of Germany. Or set out on a hike amid the vineyards of the Middle Rhine Valley, another World Heritage-designated region. Soak up the enchanting ambience of Marksburg Castle during an unforgettable medieval feast featuring local wines.

Day 13 — Cologne

Cruise through the Middle Rhine Valley to Cologne, a hub for visual arts and an architectural mosaic of Romanesque churches, modernist museums, and Gothic spires. Take a walking tour of the city and its World Heritage-listed cathedral, Or enjoy a guided visit to the Neanderthal Museum in nearby Mettmann, Alternatively, stay on board for a culinary experience.

Day 14 — Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With its gabled roofs, squares cluttered with bicycles, and canal-lined streets, Amsterdam is bursting with unique character. See this timeless city from the water during a canal cruise, and hear from your guide about its fascinating history as a center for art and seafaring trade. Or enjoy a guided visit to the Rijksmuseum, named by National Geographic as one of the world’s “Top Ten Museums and Galleries.” Alternatively, opt to ride bikes through the outskirts of the city or head to Zaanse Schans in the countryside, where we’ll see historic rural houses and a cluster of Dutch windmills.

Day 15 — Amsterdam

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch your flight home.

Optional Extensions

Related Trips

This trip is offered in partnership with Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours.

Special Offer

Book by June 30, 2018 and receive round-trip economy airfare between the U.S. and Europe for $295 per person on any 2018 departure, and $395 per person in 2019. Offer is subject to availability and valid for new bookings only, and may not be combinable with other promotions. Please call for details.

National Geographic Expert

Dave Yoder

Dave YoderDave Yoder is photojournalist focusing on human interest projects. Yoder was born in Indiana, but grew up on the foot of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where he kept pet monkeys and mongooses. Most recently, he has been living in Europe for over a decade. As a contributing photographer to National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines, his assignments have included the August 2015 cover story on Pope Francis and the Vatican, photographing a lost city in the Mosquitia jungle of Honduras, the high-tech search for a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting, uncovering the architectural mystery of the Brunelleschi Cupola in Florence, and documenting the largest ground-based telescope (ALMA) in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Dave has photographed numerous travel stories in Europe, including a Budapest to Vienna project for the New York Times. National Geographic Traveler assignments have taken him to places such as Ireland, Rome, Sardinia, and Milan as well as to Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, and beyond. He also has taught workshops in Prague and Paris. Yoder’s photo essay on bounty hunters was exhibited at the famed Visa Pour l'Image in Perpignan, France, and his work has appeared in other worldwide publications, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and Forbes.

Dave will join the following departure:

May 29 - Jun 12, 2019



  • Sep 24 - Oct 08, 2018 [RBY]
  • May 29 - Jun 12, 2019 [OPA]

[RBY] Scenic Ruby
[OPA] Scenic Opal

Expedition Cost

    Scenic Ruby
Jewel Deck
Standard Suite (E) $7,695
Standard Suite (D) $8,120

Sapphire Deck
Balcony Suite (C) $9,690
Balcony Suite (BA) $9,990
Balcony Suite (B) $10,090
Balcony Suite (BB) $10,190
Junior Balcony Suite (BJ) $10,690

Diamond Deck
Balcony Suite (A) $10,090
Balcony Suite (PA) $10,190
Balcony Suite (PP) $10,290
Balcony Suite (P) $10,590
Junior Balcony Suite (RJ) $11,390
Royal Balcony Suite (RA) $12,390
Royal Balcony Suite (R) $12,590
Royal Panorama Suite (RS) $13,190

    Scenic Opal
Jewel Deck
Standard Suite (E) $7,995
Standard Suite (D) $8,420

Sapphire Deck
Balcony Suite (C) $9,990
Balcony Suite (BA) $10,290
Balcony Suite (BB) $10,490
Deluxe Balcony Suite (BD) $10,590
Junior Balcony Suite (B1J) $10,940
Junior Balcony Suite (BJ) $10,990

Diamond Deck
Balcony Suite (A) $10,390
Balcony Suite (PA) $10,490
Balcony Suite (PP) $10,590
Deluxe Balcony Suite (PD) $11,190
Junior Balcony Suite (RJ) $11,690
Royal Balcony Suite (RR) $13,190
Royal Panorama Suite (RP) $13,590

Prices are person, double occupancy. Airfare to Budapest and return from Amsterdam is not included in the expedition cost.

Activity Level

Light or Moderate

Travelers can choose between a light or moderate activity level. For a light level of activity, they should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.

For a moderate level, travelers should be prepared for multiple hours of physical activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.