On the world’s rivers, travelers bend and wind through historic and dramatic landscapes reminiscent of impressionist paintings depicting vineyards, castles lining hilltops and medieval villages from the days of time past.
River cruisers enjoy access to thriving, popular cities like Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam and Prague byway of the world’s rivers. But, only on river cruises do travelers have the opportunity to step back into history and experience lesser-known towns and hidden landmarks that most travelers have passed by. Here are the top 5 hidden places to experience along Europe’s rivers.
Located at the foot of Kaiserstuhl Mountain on the French-German border, Breisach is the gateway to Germany’s Black Forest region, an area of unrivaled natural beauty. The region got its name because the pine forests are so dense, local residents described them as black. The most well-known products from this region are Black Forest ham, Black Forest cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks! Travelers can visit the workshop of a local woodcarver who produces clocks and other carvings, or explore the open-air Museum of Vogtsbauernhof to see how life was lived in this area centuries ago.
Located in the western Netherlands near the North Sea, Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. Leveled by German bombs in WWII, Rotterdam now has a modern, high-tech look. Most attractions have a strong connection to water due to Rotterdam’s location. Some highlights of the city is the reconstruction of the 18th century warship ‘De Delft’, the historic vessel ‘De Rotterdam’ and the panoramic views at the top of the 606+ foot Euromast. Travelers love visiting the Rotterdam Zoo, which attracts 1.5 million visitors a year.
Many people travel to Normandy just to walk through World War II history on landmark beaches with poignant sites such as Omaha Beach and the Pointe du Hoc monument. But there is more history hidden in the region. Where else in the world can you explore Monet’s home and lily pond garden, hike up to Richard the Lionheart’s castle, and admire the countryside donning historic sloping thatched roofs atop half-timbered houses. When looking for local food, grab some apples, dairy products or home-grown grain, all are very special to this picturesque agricultural region. Some spots not to miss is the intricate Gros Horloge astronomical clock, dating back to the 16th century and the gothic cathedral, which was once the tallest building in the world and the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Time has stopped at this UNESCO World Heritage Site city located south of Prague. Situated on the banks of the Vltava River, the town was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. If you have read Grimm Brothers fairytales, you may remember the colorful buildings that stand tall, cobblestone streets that are small and crooked and the bridges that have a romantic feel. The city boasts attractions like medieval pubs, ale-houses, galleries and graphite mines.
Lucerne is characterized by water, first as a fishermen’s village, later as a place of trade and today as a world-renowned travel destination. The lively streets, hidden treasures and beautiful façades of Lucerne’s medieval buildings form the perfect setting for a guided city tour. Contributing to Lucerne’s cityscape are the ornate historic homes lining the walled Old Town, the Water Tower and Chapel Bridge—the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. Explore the impressive Lion Monument that is dedicated to the Swiss Guards who protected the Royal House of France during the French Revolution.
River cruising is the most authentic, inspiring and hassle-free way to navigate to multiple destinations and get an overview of a region. The true enchantment of Europe are the rivers with hidden places weaving through scenic areas and picturesque towns. Tell us about your favorite, off-the-beaten-path places to experience along Europe’s rivers.