With vineyards and castles, medieval towns and buzzing cities, the Rhine region is home to some of Germany’s most spectacular and in-demand scenery. Three days is enough time to wend your way down the river (moving south to north, as the river flows) and enjoy sightseeing excursions as you go.
Things to do in Rhine River
Welcome to Rhine River
One of Europe’s great waterways, the Rhine River runs all the way from the Alpine mountain ranges of Switzerland to its vast delta on the North Sea. Forming a natural border between Germanic peoples and external influences since Roman times, the river has been an important symbol of German nationalism through history, spawning its own version of romanticism and even forming the basis for Richard Wagner's first opera, “Das Rheingold.” Of the cities it runs through, Cologne is the biggest, with more than a million inhabitants—and it boasts many attractions, among them river cruises that allow visitors to enjoy the views of the city while cruising the calm waters. Select tours from Frankfurt highlight a section of the Rhine Valley that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, punctuated by villages, vineyards, and castles. Downstream from Mainz in the Upper Rhine, you’ll spot naturally occurring river islands. In the Middle Rhine, Koblenz unites the joining of the Moselle River with a gorge that’s part of that UNESCO site; while a little futher down, the magnificent Burg Katz towers over the legendary Lorelei rock. The famed wines of the region are nowhere better than in Boppard, where the sweet eiswein (or icewine) is a local delicacy and can be tasted on a tour. For your best chance of seeing the Rhine in all of its splendor, book a tour or cruise, and ensure easy sailing through the Rhine.
Top 10 attractions in Rhine River
With its grand Renaissance style façade and clock tower crawling with ivy, the Rathaus, or City Hall, is among Dusseldorf’s most attractive buildings, as well as being one of its oldest. Dating back to the 16th century, the Rathaus is one of a handful of buildings that remained intact after the WWII bombings, and forms an eye-catching backdrop to the city’s annual Christmas markets. The most memorable landmark of the Rathaus is the bronze equestrian statue of Elector Jan Wellem, an iconic sculpture designed by Gabriel de Grupello in 1711, which now takes center stage at the front of the building. Inside, visitors can explore the ornately decorated council hall, the Jan-Wellem hall and the Lord Mayor’s reception hall, renowned for its beautiful ceiling paintings by artists Domenico Zanetti and Johannes Spilberg....
Dusseldorf’s historic harbor was given an impressive facelift during the 1990s, transforming the bleak silos and shipping warehouses, into a lively cultural hub and one of the city’s most stylish districts. Taking its name from the abundance of media and communications company headquarters that sprung up in the area, the new Media Harbor is characterized by its ultra-modern architecture, and the glass-fronted office blocks, looming Rheinturm TV Tower and wave-inspired Gehry buildings form a sleek silhouette along the waterfront. As well as being the postcard image of modern-day Dusseldorf, the Media Harbor is also home to a selection of upmarket restaurants, bistros and bars and offers a glamorous setting for the city’s most exclusive nightclubs....
With its rows of designer boutiques and luxury department stores bordering a serene tree-lined canal, Konigsallee (King's Alley) is surely one of Germany’s prettiest boulevards, as well as being Dusseldorf’s busiest shopping street. First laid out back in 1802, Konigsallee was originally named Kastanienallee (Chestnut Avenue), but was renamed in honor of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in 1848, as an apology for the notorious incident in which Dusseldorfers bombarded his carriage with horse manure. Today, the famous shopping street is best known by its nickname ‘Kö’ and is a popular hangout for both locals and tourists, offering a huge range of shops, restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes. Along with an impressive number of flagship designer outlets and jewelry boutiques, the Kö is home to the Sevens mall, the Kaufhof Kö department store and a number of 5-star hotels, while many shoppers can be found escaping the crowds for a stroll beneath the chestnut trees....
Towering 234 meters over the modern Media Harbor, the futuristic Rheinturm telecommunications tower is Dusseldorf’s tallest building and most distinctive landmark. Built in 1982, the tower quickly became one of the city’s top tourist attractions, with its 172-meter high observation platform offering dramatic panoramic views along the Rhine riverfront, the nearby Old Town (Altstadt) and the sea of high-rises that form Dusseldorf’s commercial district. High-speed elevators take visitors to the top of the tower, where there is also a glass-fronted revolving restaurant, but the views are equally mesmerizing from the outside, with the illuminated tower also serving as the world’s largest digital clock....
The Kölner Dom, also known as the Cologne Cathedral, is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. In the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world. Amazingly, it would take 632 years to complete. Begun in 1248, the Kölner Dom was commissioned as a suitable place to house the relics of the Three Kings, acquired and delivered by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Construction was predictably slow, beginning with the east wing. At some point in 1473, construction came to a stop and it remained at rest for four centuries, marked by a crane that loomed over the south tower; until 1842, when a civic organization raised the bulk of the money to finish construction. In today’s dollars, the cost for finishing Kölner Dom would be over a billion dollars. Finally, in 1880, Germany’s largest cathedral was completed....
Hans Imhoff, a chocolatier and businessman from Cologne, opened the Schokoladenmuseum in 1993, after retiring from the confectionary business in 1992. The museum that bears the late industrialist's name is a paen to the product of the cacao bean, from its development and primitive processing in the New World by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, to modern production methods and innovations. The program discusses the role of chocolate in later South American societies and among European elite. The museum sits inside a glass-and-steel structure shaped like a ship. Inside, the tour takes visitors through the process of chocolate production from the farm to the candy store, continuing through a greenhouse where two species of cacao trees are grown and then on through the industrialization of chocolate production, including vintage advertising campaigns. Miniature machinery allow guests a closer look at the production process, and the chocolate produced by these machines can be sampled....
The waters of the mighty Rhine split Cologne in half, and the city is united across a series of seven bridges, with none more splendid than the spans of the Hohenzollernbrücke, which stretch 1,342 feet (410 meters) across the river in three great steel arches. This spectacular city landmark is almost as famous as Cologne’s twin-spired Gothic cathedral – the largest in Europe – and was completed in 1911, with four railway lines joining Cologne to cities across Europe. German troops destroyed the bridge at the end of World War II in the face of advancing Allied soldiers but it rose phoenix-like once more in 1948. Today it is both a pedestrian and rail bridge with around 1,200 trains passing over it daily and pairs of equestrian bronzes punctuating both ends. A curious tradition has recently grown up around the Hohenzollernbrücke; lovers affix padlocks to its sides and throw the key into the Rhine in exchange for eternal love....
The traditional heart of the city and one of Germany’s most famous nightlife districts, Dusseldorf’s Old Town (Altstadt) is where visitors spend the majority of their time, home to many of the city’s top attractions. As well as the scenic Rheinuferpromenade running along the waterfront and the famous Königsallee shopping boulevard just a couple of blocks east, highlights of the Old Town include the Burgplatz, with its landmark castle tower and unique City Monument; the Neander-church and Old City Hall (Rathaus), two of the only buildings still standing after WWII; and a number of museums, including the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Filmmuseum. The historic district is at its most atmospheric in the evening hours when locals and tourists gather to drink and dance at “the longest bar in the world” – the nickname given to the almost 300 bars, bier-halles and pubs built so close together that the bar counters are said to run from one venue to the next....
Old Town is in many ways, the heart and soul of the city. It's near the Köln Dom, surrounded by "the Ring," a ring of streets, botanical space, and promenades following the path of the old city's walls. Inside the ring and along the Rhine is a vibrant scene of bars, pubs, and restaurants. While it can get crowded, Old Town is known for its hustle and overall friendly vibe. Tours of Old Town include tours of the Cathedral, a brewpub tour (expect to drink a lot of Kölsch), or a cruise on the Rhine. However, the best way to experience Old Town is on foot. Confident travelers may want to practice their German in this area; if you do, pay attention to speakers - Kölsch is a beer, but it's also an accent, both of which being native to Cologne. In Alter Markt Square, you'll find plenty of both, as brew pubs and bars are plentiful. Beyond the rhythm of the bars and shops are seemingly innumerable small streets and alleys that wind through the old buildings....
Among the most iconic landmarks of Dusseldorf’s picturesque Alstadt (Old Town), St. Lambertus Cathedral is famous for its distinctive twisted tower. Originally built in the 14th century, the church tower was rebuilt after a fire in 1815 and the use of wet arbors caused it to twist. Legend however, tells a different story – a bride dressed in white came to the altar pretending to be a virgin, and the tower turned, allegedly to only return to its previous form when a real virgin appears at the altar....
Top activities in Rhine River
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- Guided Brewery Walking Tour in Cologne
- On tour with a friend and his Mercedes S-Class - true first-class service
- Personal wine tours in the heart of Germany from Frankfurt region - Mainz
- Düsseldorf Sightseeing round-trip Cruise
- KD Rhine Pass from Mainz
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Things to do near Rhine River
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