Rhine Highlights River Cruise

  • Trip Type: River Cruise
  • 8 Days | Zürich to Amsterdam
  • Group Size: Max 169

Expedition Details


One of Europe’s most legendary rivers, the Rhine meanders through a storied landscape dotted with castles, vineyards, and medieval towns. On an 8-day cruise, journey to four countries linked by this fabled waterway, discovering their intertwined histories and cultures. Set out from Switzerland to encounter Strasbourg’s charming half-timbered houses, glide along Amsterdam’s iconic canals in the Netherlands, and marvel at Germany’s magnificent castles and cathedrals from Heidelberg to Cologne. Pass through the dramatic Rhine Gorge—a UNESCO World Heritage site of stunning natural beauty—and take in panoramic views while biking along the river.

Trip Highlights

  • In the company of a National Geographic photographer, capture diverse architectural treasures, from the picturesque canals of Amsterdam to the Strasbourg’s World Heritage-listed Old Town.
  • Visit the Gothic cathedral of Cologne, one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, and go hiking in the forest that inspired the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
  • Enjoy guided visits to the remarkable Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Neanderthal Museum in Mettman, Germany.
  • Savor the distinctive culinary traditions of the regions along the Rhine, from Dutch cheeses to fine Alsatian wines.

Itinerary - 8 Days

Day 1 — Switzerland/Basel/Rhine River

Arrive in either Zürich or Basel, Switzerland, and transfer to the ship this afternoon. At this evening’s welcome reception, raise your glass to the journey ahead as we set sail on the Rhine.
Scenic Jewel, Crystal, or Opal

Day 2 — Strasbourg, France/Mittelbergheim/Black Forest, Germany

This morning, venture ashore at Strasbourg, the capital of France’s wine-growing Alsace region. Our exploration begins with a tour of the canal-laced La Petite France district, where artisans lived and worked during the Middle Ages. Then stroll through the Old Town, designated a World Heritage site for its wealth of architectural gems, including half-timbered houses, Alsatian winstubs (taverns), and Strasbourg’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Alternatively, journey to the village of Mittelbergheim and sample some of the distinctive wines for which the Alsace region is known. Or opt to go hiking in the dense woodlands of Germany’s Black Forest region, which is believed to have inspired the Brothers Grimm when they were researching and writing their famous fairy tales.

Day 3 — Heidelberg, Germany

Home to the oldest university in Germany, Heidelberg also boasts a rich literary history. Join a local guide on a tour of this delightful city, which inspired 19th-century German Romantics as well as Mark Twain, who recorded his observations of the city in A Tramp Abroad. Stroll through the Altstadt, or Old Town, and visit Heidelberg’s sandstone castle—a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Or take a funicular up the hill, enjoying spectacular views as you hike back down to town. Alternatively, embark on an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Grube Messel, a fossil site that was featured in a February 2000 National Geographic magazine story. “Ida,” the most perfectly preserved primate fossil in the world, was discovered here in 1983 and later analyzed by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jorn Hurum and his team in 2009. This evening, enjoy a private concert at a baroque palace.

Day 4 — Rüdesheim/Koblenz

Arrive in Rüdesheim and board the Winzerexpress mini-train. At Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet, peruse a large collection of mechanical musical instruments, which includes a vast array of music boxes. Then ride a cable car high above the city to the Niederwald Monument, built between 1877 and 1883 to commemorate the unification of Germany. Alternatively, go hiking through the vineyards of Rüdesheim, enjoying picturesque views. This afternoon, our ship continues to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, often called the Rhine Gorge. This 40-mile stretch of river flows past medieval towns, castles, and vineyards, and has been designated a World Heritage site for its historical importance and natural beauty. Later, arrive in Koblenz.

Day 5 — Koblenz/Cochem

Spend the day exploring Koblenz, an ancient Roman city that straddles two of Europe’s most beautiful rivers—the Rhine and Moselle. Discover the highlights of the Old Town, including the 13th-century Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) and the 18th-century Rathaus (town hall), which was formerly a Jesuit college. Or venture to Cochem, a medieval gem situated on the banks of the Moselle. Discover this fairy-tale city on a guided tour that includes a visit to the 1,000-year-old Reichsburg Castle, which presides over the valley from a hilltop perch. Alternatively, you may opt to visit a winery or go biking along the river.

Day 6 — Cologne/Mettmann

The largest city on the Rhine, Cologne boasts an intriguing blend of ancient and modern architecture. Here, amid the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, Roman ruins mix with Romanesque churches and contemporary museums. Enjoy a scenic ride on Germany’s oldest cog railway and discover Schloss Drachenburg, or Dragon Castle, which overlooks the Rhine Valley. Or stroll through Cologne’s historic quarter and get up close to the filigreed twin towers of its Gothic cathedral—one of Germany’s most famous landmarks. Alternatively, visit the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, located in the valley where the bones of an Ice Age human—a Neanderthal—were recovered for the first time.

Day 7 — Amsterdam, Netherlands/Volendam/Edam

Known as the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam is a vibrant city with an arts scene that has flourished since the Middle Ages. Cruise through the city’s picturesque canals, which form a ring of waterways that has collectively been designated a World Heritage site. You may instead choose to go biking on the outskirts of the city, or take a guided visit to the renowned Rijksmuseum to examine masterpieces including Rembrandt’s Night Watch. National Geographic’s book The 10 Best of Everything ranks the Rijksmuseum among the top 10 museums in the world. Alternatively, discover the fishing village of Volendam, with its unusual raised homes and quaint wooden church. Then head to charming Edam and sample some of the round cheese for which the village famous.

Day 8 — Amsterdam

After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Optional Extension

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 $395 per person on any 2018 departure, and $495 per person in 2019. Offer is subject to availability and valid for new bookings only, and may not be combined with other promotions. Please call for details.

National Geographic Expert

Patrick Hunt

Patrick HuntAward-winning archaeologist, author, and National Geographic grantee Patrick Hunt earned his Ph.D. in archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and has taught archaeology and art history at Stanford for more than 25 years. He is also affiliated with Stanford’s Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and is currently researching Charlemagne’s legacy and the Frankish roots of Europe. Hunt’s work has been supported by grants from the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and he frequently joins National Geographic Expeditions as a featured expert. The author of more than 20 books, Patrick has written on the wine history of the Rhine Valley and Alsace as well as on Rembrandt. He is also a National Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America and an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Hunt’s books include the best-seller Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History, Rembrandt: His Life in Art, as well as Wine Journeys: Myth and History, and most recently Hannibal. Hunt has lived several months in Europe every year since 1994 and knows that some of his ancestors dwelled and traveled along the historic Rhine.

Patrick will join the following departure:

Sep 26 - Oct 03, 2018



  • Sep 26 - Oct 03, 2018 [CRY]
  • Jun 12 - 19, 2019 [OPA]

[CRY] Scenic Crystal
[OPA] Scenic Opal

Please note: The June 12, 2019 departure follows the itinerary shown but in the reverse order, beginning in Amsterdam and ending in Basel.

Expedition Cost

Jewel Deck
Standard Suite (E) $4,195
Standard Suite (D) $4,410

Sapphire Deck
Balcony Suite (C) $5,195
Balcony Suite (BA) $5,345
Balcony Suite (BB) $5,445
Deluxe Balcony Suite (BD) $5,495
Junior Balcony Suite (BJ) $5,695

Diamond Deck
Balcony Suite (A) $5,395
Balcony Suite (PA) $5,445
Balcony Suite (PP) $5,495
Deluxe Balcony Suite (PD) $5,795
Junior Balcony Suite (RJ) $6,045
Royal Balcony Suite (RA) $6,545
Royal Balcony Suite (R) $6,645
Royal Panorama Suite (RS) $6,945

Jewel Deck
Standard Suite (E) $4,495
Standard Suite (D) $4,710

Sapphire Deck
Balcony Suite (C) $5,495
Balcony Suite (BA) $5,645
Balcony Suite (BB) $5,745
Deluxe Balcony Suite (BD) $5,795
Junior Balcony Suite (B1J) $5,970
Junior Balcony Suite (BJ) $5,995

Diamond Deck
Balcony Suite (A) $5,695
Balcony Suite (PA) $5,745
Balcony Suite (PP) $5,795
Deluxe Balcony Suite (PD) $6,095
Junior Balcony Suite (RJ) $6,345
Royal Balcony Suite (RR) $7,095
Royal Panorama Suite (RP) $7,295

Prices are person, double occupancy. Airfare to Zürich or Basel 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.