Uncover Europe’s majestic jewels
Indulge your passion for majestic art, architecture, music and history on an all-encompassing journey through four countries along three great rivers— the Danube, Main and Rhine—and to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites.
From exotic Budapest, “Queen of the Danube,” to imperial Vienna, “City of Waltzes,” to the sky-high spires of Cologne’s Gothic cathedral—centuries of intriguing history and culture unfold before your eyes. The Melk Abbey’s great library overlooking the Danube, the Würzburg Residence’s soaring ceiling fresco by Tiepolo and the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene will leave you mesmerized. And throughout your journey, tantalize your senses with exclusive wine, apricot brandy and beer tastings, along with regional culinary delicacies. Discover the grand sweep of history and the dynamic present along legendary rivers on a magnificent journey that gives you the best of Europe’s great treasures as well as off-the-beaten- path gems.
DAY 1: BUDAPEST (EMBARK)
Arrive at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
DAY 2: BUDAPEST
Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has its own distinctive character and charm. Get acquainted this dynamic and multifaceted city with your choice of excursions—whether you see it on four wheels or on your own two feet, there is much to discover in the Hungarian capital. Called the “Queen of the Danube,” in part because of the way the city hugs the banks of the river, Budapest is an enchanting city that vibrantly mixes East and West, medieval and modern. Made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—and divided by the Danube, Hungary’s capital presents an array of architectural styles that reveal its long and varied history. You’ll have two enticing ways to experience the city—a panoramic guided tour aboard a motorcoach, or discover the Budapest that locals love on a special walking tour.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Budapest city tour or Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour
Budapest city tour – This panoramic tour is a wonderful way to get an overview of the city if you have never been here before. It will carry you along elegant Andrássy Avenue from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, and past the State Opera House, taking in some of the city’s other striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the truly stunning Parliament Building—on the way to Castle Hill, which has been called the heart of the nation. The city of Buda began here, when King Béla built a strong keep in 1243 as a defense against Mongol invaders, and the Castle Hill district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll go inside the magnificent 700-year-old Matthias Church, named for one of Hungary’s greatest kings, and then wend your way on foot to the picturesque Fisherman’s Bastion, whose seven fairytale-like towers represent the seven tribes that originally settled the region. It offers a glorious view of the city and the Danube below. Note: Visits to the interior of Matthias Church may not be possible on some weekends and Catholic holidays.
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour – Get ready for a fun immersion in the daily life of Budapest—your local expert will show you how to use the metro (one of the oldest in Europe) to easily reach all the city has to offer. Start with a visit to one of the city’s irresistible market halls. Stalls spill over with produce, sausages and meats, festoons of dried paprika, cheeses and jars of honey, all of it authentically Hungarian. After you leave the market, stop for coffee and a sweet treat at Szamos Gourmet Palace, a combination pastry shop, café and chocolate maker in Vörösmarty Square. Marzipan is a favorite confection in Budapest, and Szamos has specialized in making it since the 1930s, so you might want to try some—but the shop’s truffle selection is equally irresistible. Refreshed, you’ll be ready to hop back on the tram for a visit to the gracious green spaces of Károlyi Garden, sometimes described as Budapest’s most charming small park. You’ll ramble along the boulevards and pass the Hungarian National Museum, truly getting the feel for this dynamic city, as you head back toward the ship. A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
DAY 3: CRUISING THE DANUBE RIVER
Today is your day to relax onboard, enjoying the luxuries of your river cruise ship while soaking in the spectacular scenery all around you. Come up to the Sun Deck to admire the city’s landmarks—strung along the riverbank like pearls on a necklace—as the ship sails out of Budapest toward Vienna. Today is your day to relax onboard, enjoying the luxuries of your river cruise ship while taking in the spectacular scenery all around you. A variety of activities will be available throughout the day, and you’ll have plenty of time to converse with new friends or simply unwind in your riverview stateroom or suite.
DAY 4: VIENNA
Vienna is a cultural treasure trove revered for its art and music (and sinfully rich pastries). Experience the City of Waltzes with your choice of excursions, as well as VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art—having an opportunity to see these masterpieces in complete privacy is an extra special treat reserved solely for Uniworld guests. And to cap off a perfect Viennese day? An evening concert featuring works by Mozart and Strauss. The grand dame of the Danube, Vienna was the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and remains, to this day, the political and cultural center of Austria. Klimt painted here; Beethoven and Mozart composed here; Freud developed his theories here. It’s a treasure trove of splendid architecture, astonishing art collections and inviting cafés—and it’s yours to enjoy. To begin your exploration of this delightful and historic city you may choose between two different guided tours.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Vienna city tour or Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tour
Vienna city tour – Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward- thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed. Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere.
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tour – Year after year, it’s ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world. Experience Vienna as the Viennese do and you will quickly see why—it’s not just because of its beautiful architecture, peerless cultural institutions and epic history. Vienna’s a walkable city, but its public transportation is still excellent. The pleasant parks and open spaces invite outdoor activities. Its cozy coffee houses are the stuff of legend, and so are its pastries and sausage stands. Join an expert local guide for a taste of life as the Viennese live it. Walk along Ring Street, past many of Vienna’s landmark buildings: the Museum of Applied Arts, the baroque-era St. Charles Church, Musikverein (home of the Vienna Philharmonic), the Hofburg, Parliament and City Hall, on your way to Volksgarten, Vienna’s first public park (thanks to Napoleon, who blew up the bastion that had occupied the location), with its roses and fountains. Stroll along the neighboring streets, then take a break at a coffeehouse for a typical Viennese coffee.After your break, wander through the narrow lanes of Haarhoff, pausing in Jewish Square, with its tribute to the Austrian Jews who died during the Holocaust, before wending your way to Vienna’s oldest square, Hoher Markt, where one of the city’s quirkiest sights awaits you: At noon a Vienna Secession (as the art nouveau movement was known in Austria) clock features a parade of 12 historical figures, ranging from Marcus Aurelius to Joseph Haydn, marking the hour. While you wait for the clock show to begin, sample a classic Viennese treat, sausage, from a nearby stand. The adventure ends with yet another very typical Viennese activity—taking the subway.
You have leisure time after your tour to explore Vienna on your own. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum, which houses one million old-master prints and an impressive collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko. If you’d like to get a little exercise and see a completely different side of Vienna, borrow a bike from the ship and explore Danube Island and Prater Park. (For a wonderful view of the region, ride the Ferris wheel in Prater Park.)
DAY 5: CRUISING THE WACHAU VALLEY, WEISSENKIRCHEN (WEISSENKIRCHEN OR MELK)
Named for its white church, Weissenkirchen may very well be the prettiest village in the Wachau Valley. A local expert will show you around and introduce you to some regional delicacies; later, you can stretch your legs with a vineyard hike that includes a wine tasting. Prefer to go for baroque? Visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinarily opulent library. Awaken to the spectacular scenery of the Wachau Valley—one of the most beautiful stretches of river landscape in all of Europe. The 19-mile-long (30-kilometer-long) valley was formed over many centuries by the Danube River, which slowly wore away a rocky gorge in the foothills of the Bohemian Forest between Krems and Melk. This enchanting region—which boasts steep-sided, densely wooded southern slopes and northern slopes composed of a picturesque mixture of crags and vineyards—is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape. Dotted along the banks are boutique winemaking communities and historic small towns, like the pleasant village of Weissenkirchen, which you will have the opportunity to explore on a delightfully savory excursion. If you’re feeling active, you can take vineyard hike that will lead you high above the village. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes ripened on the terraces that cling to these rocky slopes, including Grüner Veltliner, which is grown almost exclusively in Austria. Or, if you have a taste for history rather than wine, visit Melk Abbey, where you’ll explore its massive library and admire its magnificent architecture.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Weissenkirchen “Village Day” with exclusive guided “Let’s Go” vineyard hike and wine tasting or Melk Abbey with library visit.
Weissenkirchen “Village Day” with exclusive guided “Let’s Go” vineyard hike and wine tasting – You’ve seen the apricot orchards along the river banks, now taste the fruit. Begin with an easy walk to Weissenkirchen, which may be the prettiest village in the Wachau—and that’s saying quite a bit. Named for its famous white church, Weissenkirchen is simply picture perfect. Its centuries-old wine estates, houses with colorful flower boxes, lovely gardens and apricot orchards make for a wonderfully idyllic setting between the river and the mountains. Stroll through the town with your local expert, stopping at a farm store where local growers display their products, such as wild boar salami, cheeses, jams and traditional poppy-seed sweets. Apricots contribute their essence to many products: jams and brandy, of course, but also chocolates, honey, mustard and chutney, so your stop should be full of fun flavors.Stay in the village and explore a bit on your own or, if you’re up for a hike, join a group on a hike up through the vineyards. A stairway at the church will take you past the ancient cemetery and up to the hiking trail that leads through vineyards planted with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes. You’ll enjoy expansive views over the river valley as you approach your resting point, where you can sample some Wachau wines as your guide explains the qualities that make these vintages unique. Your next treat is an easy walk back to the ship; instead of a reverse hike, you can comfortably stroll back into the village via a different route, passing many small vintners along the way.
Melk Abbey with library visit – The Babenbergs, a great medieval ducal family that controlled a wide swath of Austria before yielding to the Habsburgs, were the first to erect a castle on the hill above Melk, which they subsequently gave to Benedictine monks. These monks, some 900 years ago, turned it into a fortified abbey and the greatest center of learning in Central Europe. Their library was celebrated far and wide (and still is—Umberto Eco paid tribute to it in his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose). Monks there created more than 1,200 manuscripts, sometimes spending an entire lifetime hand-lettering a single volume. Today the library contains some 100,000 volumes, among them more than 80,000 works printed before 1800. This beautiful complex, completely redone in the early 18th century, is a wonderful example of baroque art and architecture, and the views from its terrace are spectacular. As you walk through the abbey’s Marble Hall with your guide, look up at the ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger: Those classical gods and goddesses represent Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, allegorically bringing his people from darkness to light and demonstrating the link he claimed to the original Roman Empire.
DAY 6: ENGELHARTSZELL, CRUISING THE DANUBE RIVER, PASSAU
Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one—three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town with a choice of guided walks or “Go Active” with an invigorating riverside bike ride. Today you’ll open your eyes to one of the most breathtaking stretches along the Danube. Just before reaching Passau, the ship will pass through the famous Schlögener Schlinge—a “gooseneck” or hairpin turn in the Danube. It’s simply beautiful and will warrant some Instagram-worthy photos. Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn and Ilz—Passau is well known for its ornate baroque cathedral. Long ago, the town was a Roman colony in the province of Noricum, called Batavis after an ancient Germanic tribe. Today, the city is unusually well preserved, having been spared the brunt of Allied bombing during WWII, as you’ll see on your walking tour. If you’d like some active touring, join us for a guided bike ride along the Danube.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Passau walking discovery tour or Passau city tour with Old Town walk or Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” Bavarian river bicycle ride
Passau walking discovery tour – The skyline of Passau is dominated by two buildings that owe their existence to the prince-bishops who ruled the city until 1803: the great fortress looming on a hill above the three rivers, home to the bishops until the 17th century, and the green onion domes of St. Stephan’s Cathedral. As you walk through the cobblestone streets toward those green onion domes, you’ll realize that Passau retains the layout of the medieval town. However, many of the wooden medieval buildings burned to the ground in the 17th century, and the prince-bishops imported Italian artists to build a new cathedral and a magnificent new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures aunt Italian baroque and rococo style and ornamentation, complete with opulent gilding and wonderful frescoes. Your guide will introduce you to some of the architectural highlights—the rococo stairways of the New Residence; the cathedral; and the Town Hall, which boasts a magnificent atrium adorned by large paintings by Ferdinand Wagner—and make sure you get a close-up view of the point where the three rivers meet: The waters of each river are a different color. Because it’s built on a peninsula between the Danube and the Inn, the city has flooded often over the centuries; you can see high-water marks on many buildings (2013 saw the worst flooding in 500 years).
Passau city tour with Old Town walk – Board a motorcoach for a drive along the Danube, crossing over the river and climbing the hill to the Oberhaus fortress. It may look like typical red-roofed Bavarian palace now, but for hundreds of years, the prince-bishops used it to enforce their rule over the region; the citizens of Passau assaulted it twice—without success—in an effort to gain their freedom from the bishops. The bishops threw religious dissidents into the Oberhaus prisons, as well as political enemies, so it was known as the Bastille of Bavaria for a time. From the walls here you can see how the fortress dominated the city below, and you also get a fabulous view of the three rivers merging. Your panoramic tour continues with a drive through Passau, over the Inn River, and into the heart of the old city. A stroll through historic Passau shows you the highlights: the town hall, the lovely baroque churches, the twisting medieval layout. It’s no mistake that St. Stephan’s Cathedral stands on the highest ground in the old town; Passau has flooded often over the centuries. You can see the high-water marks on the buildings as you pass them, and your knowledgeable local guide can tell you about the city’s plans to control flooding in the riverfront areas as you head back to the ship.
Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” Bavarian river bicycle ride – Cyclists have a treat in store today. Borrow a bike and, with an expert local guide, take the bike ferry across the Danube to the path that borders the river. You’ll pedal through the lovely countryside between Engelhartszell and Passau—orchards and meadows glide past, along with the occasional castle, charming village or picturesque ruin. Your group will take a break for a well-deserved beer en route. Finally you’ll roll into Passau and wend your way among the lanes of the historic city center to the ship.
DAY 7: REGENSBURG
Today in Regensburg you have four (!) options for experiencing this medieval gem of a city—select one for the morning and another for the afternoon. You can travel through time, get a crash course on making craft beer, watch high-tech robots assemble the Ultimate Driving Machine or enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the town. Regensburg is a friendly town with quaint cobblestone streets, historic Roman ruins and a UNESCO World Heritage–designated medieval city center. This unspoiled gem was the capital of Bavaria for about 700 years, from the 6th to the 13th centuries. The remnants of Regensburg’s golden age are still on display, but don’t let Regensburg’s illustrious history fool you into thinking the town’s best days are all in the past. Modern Regensburg is a popular center of higher learning, with more than 30,000 students attending its various colleges and universities, and enjoys a lively cultural life. You have a variety of options for exploring this area today, from the ancient to the modern. Choose one excursion for the morning and another for the afternoon.
Featured Excursions: Choice of “2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking discovery tour or “From Hops Field to Beer Stein” farm visit or BMW factory visit or Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” bird’s-eye view of Regensburg.
‘2,000 Years in One Hour’ Regensburg walking discovery tour – People have been describing Regensburg as “old and new” for a thousand years. A single structure perfectly illustrates this: Porta Praetoria, the gate built by the Romans during Marcus Aurelius’s reign. The gate and adjacent watchtower have been incorporated into a much newer building, but the plaster has been removed to reveal the ancient stones laid so long ago. As you walk through the cobbled lanes of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, the city’s 2,000-year history is similarly revealed: the Stone Bridge built by ambitious residents in the 12th century that made Regensburg a trading powerhouse, the Gothic town hall where the Imperial Diet met for three centuries, the 13th-century fortified patrician houses, and the spectacular Cathedral of St. Peter, whose magnificent 14th-century stained-glass windows alone are worth your walk. You’ll have free time to explore on your own; it’s very hard to get lost in Regensburg because the spires of the cathedral are visible all over town, so don’t hesitate to roam. The historic quarter not only boasts almost a thousand beautiful old buildings but also many cozy pubs and some great shopping—and the ship is docked conveniently close, so it’s easy to drop your treasures off and go back for more.
‘From Hops Field to Beer Stein’ farm visit – Hops vines growing up their strings in a field tower almost twice a man’s height. They’re grown for their flowers, which add a distinctive flavor to beer—but the fields they grow in add a distinctive flavor to the hops. You could call it terroir for beer, and you can delve into hops cultivation and hops brewing today. Travel through Bavaria’s Holledau region, the largest hops-growing district in the world, and meet an enthusiastic ambassador of hops growing and beer making. She will give you a quick and lively history of hops in Germany—including Bavaria’s law governing the making of beer, which has specified since 1560 that the only ingredients permitted in beer are water, barley and hops—and lead you on a tour through the growing fields her family owns, followed by a craft beer tasting in the cozy barn turned beer hall. It’s a delicious way to get to know a fascinating aspect of the international farm-to-table movement.
BMW factory visit
Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” bird’s-eye view of Regensburg – Did you know that Regensburg residents raised silkworms at one time? It’s just one of the unusual aspects of the city that you’ll discover on a hike that begins at the ship’s dock. Meet up with your local expert and head out along the eastern gate road (that eastern gate was part of the old Roman walls), crossing the river to the narrow streets of Stadtamhof, an island in the Danube that is part of Regensburg’s UNESCO-honored medieval complex. Pause atop another bridge to take a look at boats cruising through the lock and then begin your ascent of Holy Trinity Hill; you’ll have a great view of old Regensburg from Windsor Heights, and you’ll pass some of the beautiful mansions that overlook the city—including the buildings that housed the silk plantation begun by Ludwig I in the early 19th century. Your route continues along the heights, offering views of the entire region: fields, woods, even the Bavarian forest in the far distance. After a brief rest, you’ll head back down to the town and the ship.
DAY 8: CRUISING THE MAIN-DANUBE CANAL, NUREMBERG
Head up to the top deck or find a seat with a good view—you won’t want to miss seeing the ship navigate its way through a marvel of modern engineering, the Main-Danube Canal. Your destination today is the historic city of Nuremberg, which you can explore in two different ways. The canal is the fulfillment of a millennia-long dream, permitting ships of all shapes and sizes to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea. A formidable set of locks, 16 in all, lifts your ship to the crest of the European “continental divide.” Unlike the US and Canada, where the Continental Divide is in high mountains, in Europe the watershed changes at 4,382 feet (1,332 meters), and the countryside is a gentle slope. Regardless of altitude, it’s amazing to watch each lock open and fill with water and to feel the ship rise and move forward. Later, arrive in the archetypal medieval German city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg is justifiably famous for its gingerbread and pocket watches, and it was also the site of some key moments in 20th-century history. You’ll choose between two memorable ways of exploring this exceptional city. You can hop aboard a motorcoach for a guided city tour, or you can accompany a local expert to the city’s most important WWII sites, including the enormous Nazi Party Rally Grounds—the actual site of the Nazi party rallies. The choice is yours.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Nuremberg WWII historical tour with Documentation Center or Nuremberg city tour
Nuremberg WWII historical tour with Documentation Center – Hitler considered Nuremberg the perfect expression of German culture (partly because of its significance in the Holy Roman Empire, which he called the First Reich), and so beginning in 1927, he chose to hold his massive rallies in the city. By 1933, his favorite architect, Albert Speer, had designed the vast Nazi Party Rally Grounds, where thousands upon thousands of Nazi troops saluted Hitler. (Leni Riefenstahl captured these events in her famous propaganda film Triumph of the Will.) Not all of Speer’s plans were executed, and some of his grandiose structures were bombed out of existence, but the remainder stand as vivid testimony to Hitler’s megalomania. A four-square-mile (10-square-kilometer) complex known as Zeppelin Fields contains parade grounds and a huge grandstand, the excavation site where a stadium for 400,000 people was begun—the hole is now filled with water—and the half-finished Congress Hall. Step into Congress Hall, intended to outdo and outlast the Colosseum in Rome, to walk through the Documentation Center and its exhibition “Fascination and Terror,” which covers the causes, the context and the consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror. The second part of this excursion takes you from the Rally Grounds to the Nuremberg Memoriam, dedicated to the Nuremberg trials, where you’ll visit Courtroom 600, the scene of the Nuremberg trials, and an exhibit that discusses the historic trials.After your tour, you will have some free time to enjoy the historical city center or take in some shops before returning to the ship. Note: Courtroom 600 is an active court. Visitors will only be permitted to see the courtroom during trial breaks.
Nuremberg city tour – It was never officially the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, but German rulers made Nuremberg their base for 500 years. They surrounded the medieval city with stout walls and built a great castle on a hilltop, which they expanded again and again over the centuries. Prosperous, secure and vibrant, Nuremberg lured artists and thinkers, merchants and scientists, for centuries. This is the archetypal medieval German city that you’ll discover today as you trace the great ramparts and gate towers around the Old Town. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square, gathering around the well-named Beautiful Fountain, first erected in 1396. The red sandstone Church of Our Lady stands on the east side of the square—the 14th-century façade survived WWII bombing and, like much of Old Town, was meticulously reconstructed after the war, with the original stones plucked from the rubble. Browse on your own following your tour; there is much to see and enjoy. The National Germanic Museum is one of the largest museums in the world; in it you’ll find the first pocket watch ever made (by a local craftsman), the first globe produced in Europe, a thousand period musical instruments, and innumerable paintings and drawings by German artists. The half-timbered shops in Crafts Court, next to the King’s Gate in the old wall, give you a sense of what it was like to buy goods in Renaissance Nuremberg—wooden toys, pewter cups and leather goods are for sale here, and so are commemorative coins hand-stamped on a 15th-century press. Visit Dürer House, where Nuremberg’s most famous native son, Albrecht Dürer, lived, or simply relax in a beer garden and enjoy the city’s specialty sausages and dark beer.
DAY 9: BAMBERG, CRUISING THE MAIN RIVER
Your floating time machine takes you to Bamberg today, a well-preserved town that offers a fascinating glimpse of medieval times. Explore the city on foot or opt to head deeper into the Franconian countryside to experience an authentic slice of rural life—including a tractor ride! Today, your ship will dock in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bamberg, which has one of the largest intact medieval town centers in Europe. Like Rome, the city is built on seven hills—but in Bamberg, a church tops each one. During the Middle Ages, Bamberg was split in two, divided by the Regnitz River, one side controlled by the prince-bishop and the other by the burghers (a formally defined class in medieval Germany). As a result of this division, the Old Town Hall was built on a tiny island in the middle of the Regnitz to serve both sides of town. Marvel at this medieval city’s striking architecture and stirring history on a walking tour through Bamberg’s Old Town. Or leave the city behind for an experience of Franconian rural life with a visit to a charming village in the verdant hills just outside of town.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Bamberg walking discovery tour or Exclusive Franconian “Village Day”
Bamberg walking discovery tour – Now a pleasant city with a lively student population and a world-famous symphony orchestra, Bamberg was the center of economic and political life for a huge swath of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Spared WWII bombing, the entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval layout of the city remains intact, along with 2,000 historic buildings; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late-Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will find the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well as the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately) sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden.
Exclusive Franconian “Village Day” – If you’re interested in exploring a small village and getting to know more about the landscape and local farming techniques in the beautiful Steigerwald region, this visit to a Franconian village is perfect for you. Meet a local farmer who is determined to make sure that his way of life continues for future generations; he’s dedicated to restoring the natural environment around him and making sure that school kids know more about where their food comes from. Join him as he introduces his village to you: the typical farmhouses and the crops, the hardships of the life as well as the pleasures of living among the vineyards and forests. Take a tractor ride over the rolling hills to a small-scale vintner’s where you can sample the wine they make strictly for home consumption. There you’ll share a hearty snack and learn what it takes to run a traditional farm in the 21st century. This is a unique look at daily life in a very special and historic region.You’ll spend the rest of the day on the peaceful Main River, cruising past quiet Franconian hamlets and picturesque countryside. It’s the perfect time to indulge in the many comforts of your luxury ship while watching some of Europe’s loveliest scenery glide by.
DAY 10: WÜRZBURG (ROTHENBURG)
Opulent palace or medieval castle? Whichever you decide to visit today, rest assured it will be completely enchanting. The Würzburg Residence is a 300-room palace with a famous staircase and a gigantic ceiling fresco (even larger than the Sistine Chapel’s). Or step into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg and visit a medieval castle that’s been described as a miniature Versailles. Your ship will dock in the charming Franconian town of Würzburg, where you can visit either the extraordinary Würzburg Residence—one of the most opulent baroque palaces in Europe—or a fairytale town and medieval castle.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Würzburg Residence visit or Rothenburg medieval walking tour
Würzburg Residence visit – This incredibly lavish 18th-century palace was created under the auspices of two Schönborn prince-bishops, Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl, who brought enormous knowledge and passion, as well as a budget for the best, to the project. Over the course of 60 years, they fostered the creation of a 300-room palace that contains jaw- dropping baroque art. The magnificent grand staircase boasts the world’s largest ceiling fresco, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Portions of the building were damaged by Allied bombing in 1945, but, fortunately, most of the historic furnishings had been stored off-site and key rooms were unharmed, so you can see the original—and matchless—artwork, gilding and statuary. Check out both the spectacular Hall of Mirrors and the imposing Imperial Hall, which boasts a large oval dome and 20 half-columns. Even the gardens have been restored, right down to the topiary fruit trees in the kitchen garden, which are re-creations of the trees grown there in the 18th century. Return to the ship for a delicious lunch and then spend the afternoon exploring Würzburg on your own. Head off to the central market square and pop into the local shops. Admire Würzburg Cathedral, a Romanesque structure built in 1040 and dedicated to Saint Kilian, the apostle of Franconia. Or check out Old City Hall and the 15th-century Old Main Bridge, which is adorned with statues of saints. Note: Visitors may not take photos or videos or carry backpacks inside the Würzburg Residence.
Rothenburg medieval walking tour – Step into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg. The great stone walls surrounding the medieval core stand tall, linking towers, bastions and parapets. Timber-framed houses line narrow cobblestone lanes and tiny village squares, each with its own fountain. Your first stop is Market Square and the magnificent Town Hall, which combines Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture. Close by is the Gothic Franciscan Church, revered for its famous Tilman Riemenschneider altarpiece depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata. Your tour ends with a traditional Franconian deli lunch, and then you’ll have some time to browse before boarding the motorcoach to Weikersheim Castle.Once a medieval moated fortress, Weikersheim was transformed by the Hohenlohe counts into a miniature Versailles over the course of two centuries. The double-height banquet hall is one of the most beautiful Renaissance rooms remaining in Germany, adorned with spectacular coffered ceilings and hunting scenes. Original furnishings belonging to the Hohenlohe family are on display throughout the rooms, and you’ll learn surprising details about the family and the techniques used to maintain and restore their heritage. The gardens are exquisite—and amusing too, as you will see when you stroll through them with your guide.
DAY 11: WERTHEIM
After today, you may never eat a pretzel again without thinking of the Bavarian town of Wertheim. You’ll meet one of Germany’s best pretzel makers here, as well as the owner of a historic wine estate, before heading off on a guided vineyard hike. If you’re more in the mood for a scenic bike ride, you are welcome to do that instead. Luxuriate onboard your impeccably appointed ship as it meanders down the wonderfully scenic Main River toward your next destination, Miltenberg, your port of call as you explore delightful Wertheim.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Wertheim walking tour with pretzel-making and wine tasting at a private wine estate or Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” bicycle tour from Wertheim to Freudenberg
Wertheim walking tour with pretzel-making and wine tasting at a private wine estate – This region of Bavaria is known for its amber-colored beer, spicy bratwurst, traditional soft pretzels and unique wine bottles with short necks and round bodies—and you’ll encounter several of these local specialties today. First, though, you get to see a little of Wertheim itself. Despite centuries of flooding, a great deal of the Old Town remains. The Pointed Tower, used as a jail for drunkards and shrews in the 13th century, leans toward its neighbors, not from age but because flood waters have undermined it. It’s not the only architectural wonder you’ll see on your tour. You may choose to spend some leisure time in the village or head straight to nearby Kreuzwertheim, a wine-growing area, for a hike through the vineyards—your efforts will be rewarded with a glass of sparkling wine and a wonderful view of the Main River valley. Whichever option you select, your next stop is the historic Spielmann winery that produces fine Franconian wines. Its charming timber-framed architecture, vaulted cellars and covered courtyard make for a delightful afternoon. You’ve probably tasted some yummy soft pretzels on your trip already, but these are special: Watch a fifth-generation baker make some for you and discover for yourself why he supplies some of Berlin’s top hotels! Then meet the winery’s winemaker, who will present a special tasting of three wines from his estates and share some interesting stories.
Exclusive guided “Let’s Go” bicycle tour from Wertheim to Freudenberg – Get out and about on one of the finest and most popular cycling routes in Germany, the bike path along the Main. Starting in Wertheim, a lovely medieval city with a historic castle and historic town center, you can pedal your way along flat stretches of the riverside path, passing red sandstone quarries, farms, verdant fields and meadows, and charming villages. Your destination is Freudenberg, a fairytale village with half-timbered homes and quirky cobblestone lanes, nestled amidst beautiful mountain scenery.
DAY 12: FRANKFURT
Frankfurt is known as the “Mainhattan” of Europe due to its profusion of bankers and soaring skyscrapers, which co-exist with the city’s traditional Old Town architecture. Experience Frankfurt’s many contrasts today by visiting Germany’s oldest museum or taking a guided “Go Active” bike ride. Delve into exciting Frankfurt today. A major European financial and trade center, vibrant Frankfurt boasts world-class museums, soaring skyscrapers, cozy wine taverns and lovely parks. Choose a brief tour that gives you an overview or a more in-depth walking tour and then explore on your own. There’s a lot to discover, including a great bike path along the Main, if you’d like to get out and about for some exercise.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Frankfurt walking tour or Heidelberg with castle visit
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Frankfurt walking tour – Although Frankfurt is unabashedly modern, with a dynamic international population and a skyline dominated by skyscrapers, it has a much-loved historic core, and your ship docks within easy walking distance of it. Stroll with your guide through Römer Square, bordered by the 15th-century mansions that constitute the old city hall, to the Klein Market Hall, where locals choose produce and sausage, cider and eggs, flowers and spices from the covered market’s 154 stalls. Sample Frankfurt’s beloved apple cider and sausages as you take in the colorful scene. Frankfurt’s residents come from more than 200 nations, so you’ll find plenty of international specialties, too, along with regional items. You may stay here on your own or continue with your guide to Goethe House, the house museum devoted to Germany’s national poet, who was born in this city. Though Goethe’s work belongs to the world, Frankfurters take particular pride in their native son; the rooms here display furnishings from the writer’s day, as well as family portraits and the desk where Goethe completed Faust—not to mention a puppet theater with which the four-year-old future poet played. You’ll encounter the city’s bustling present-day economic power as you walk past the Frankfurt stock exchange and continue to Main Tower. Nothing exemplifies Frankfurt more than this lofty skyscraper: The façade of a historic building is incorporated in its base and 56 stories of glass-encased offices soar above it. Ride up to the viewing platform for an amazing view of the city and its surroundings.
Heidelberg with castle visit – Walk up a cobblestone incline to Heidelberg Castle, where you’ll have a guided tour of the courtyard and the Heidelberg Tun—the world’s largest wine barrel. The views from the hilltop castle ruins, which greatly inspired writers and artists of the Romantic era, are simply spectacular. After some free time to explore on your own, we’ll head back to downtown Heidelberg by coach for an Old Town ramble with a local expert. See the Holy Spirit Church and the former students’ prison, then feel free to have lunch in town and browse the town’s many boutiques.
DAY 13: RÜDESHEIM, CRUISING THE ROMANTIC RHINE RIVER
Experience Germany’s fabled Rheingau in one of two ways today. Take in spectacular views of the region’s famous vineyards from the perspective of an aerial cable car, or venture within an atmospheric medieval monastery and taste the Rieslings made on site. Like many cities along the Rhine, Rüdesheim has a lengthy history that stretches back to Roman times. These days, the town is best known for its narrow avenue of shops and wine bars called the Drosselgasse and its impressive Niederwald Monument. Later in the day, you’ll experience the most spectacular scenery on the Rhine.
Featured Excursions: Choice of Aerial cable car ride to the Niederwald Monument or Kloster Eberbach medieval monastery tour with Riesling tasting
Aerial cable car ride to the Niederwald Monument – The huge statue of Germania atop the hill above Rüdesheim is visible for miles. Erected by Wilhelm I to commemorate the unification of Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1877, the monument may perfectly embody 19th-century imperial grandiosity—but the ride to and from it is the real point of your expedition. Hop aboard a cable car and begin your ascent to Niederwald Heights. You’ll get a great view of the town and the entire Rheingau wine-growing region as you climb high into the air, with the precipitous vineyards falling away below you and spectacular views of the Rhine valley spreading into the distance. Don’t worry if you find there are far too many glorious things to see as you ascend; anything you miss while going up, you’ll have a chance to catch coming back down. Explore the historic Niederwald Monument, then head back down into Rüdesheim, where you can enjoy some free time.Note: The aerial cable car to Niederwald Monument is covered but not heated. Cars are open on the sides, and it is recommended that you dress warmly. Afterwards, you’ll have time for some leisurely exploration of Rüdesheim’s cobblestone streets. Try a Rüdesheim coffee—a local specialty requiring elaborate preparation that is as fun to watch as the coffee is to drink—or stop by a wine tavern for a glass of the local Riesling. The Rheingau is one of the smallest wine-growing districts in the world, but it is also one of the best.
Kloster Eberbach medieval monastery tour with Riesling tasting – Style, and is considered one of the most significant architectural sites in the region. In fact, some of the interior scenes of the 1986 movie The Name of the Rose—based on the best-selling novel by Umberto Eco—were filmed here. You’ll have a guided tour of the monastery followed by a tasting of locally grown Rieslings.Back onboard, settle down on the Sun Deck and prepare to be dazzled after you leave Rüdesheim and enter the sublime landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Byron described it as “a work divine, a blending of all beauties.” Turner painted it. Wagner used it as inspiration for his opera Götterdämmerung. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this scenic 40-mile (65-kilometer) stretch of the Rhine features a stunning, castle-dotted landscape that 19th-century composers, painters and poets considered the embodiment of an ideal romantic spirit, which was later dubbed “Rhine Romanticism.” Legend plays its part here too, with shipwrecks and lost lovers attributed to the Lorelei who, so the tale goes, lured all to their doom in the Rhine. Each bend and twist of the river affords new delights: Steep riverbanks are graced with sloping vineyards and picturesque towns, and hill tops are crowned by fairytale castles. Each one of those castles tells a tale: of great families raising fortresses, of warfare and ruin, and of rebuilding through the centuries. Some castles have been entirely reconstructed; others tower above the water in majestic ruin, still an inspiration for romantics.
DAY 14: COLOGNE
You simply cannot visit Cologne without paying homage to its most notorious site, the Gothic masterpiece that serves as the city’s cathedral. A local expert will show you favorite haunts around the Old Town, introduce you to the famous local brew, and share some of the cathedral’s most intriguing and Magi-cal secrets with you. Cologne is the largest and oldest city of the Rhineland and a cultural mecca, with more than 30 museums and hundreds of art galleries. A congenial atmosphere and a mix of ancient, modern and reconstructed buildings characterize the heart of the city.
Featured Excursion: Cologne walking tour with Cologne Cathedral and Kölsh beer tasting – As you walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, you’ll find it hard to believe that more than 70 percent of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. Three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance façade. The famous 12 Romanesque churches were reconstructed from the rubble, and the cathedral, Cologne’s iconic landmark, rises magnificently in the city center. Though it was badly damaged in WWII, the great UNESCO-designated cathedral retains many of its original treasures—the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, which inspired its building in the 12th century, the 14th-century stained-glass windows that were stored safely throughout the war and the beautifully painted choir stalls—though other treasures are displayed separately. Enter the awe-inspiring nave and learn about the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.Note: The number of visitors allowed in Cologne Cathedral is regulated by a very strict schedule of time slots. Sightseeing will be arranged around the time slots obtained. On Sundays and Catholic holidays, guided tours inside the cathedral will not be possible, but individual visits are still welcomed.Mingle with the locals at a tavern for an exclusive tasting of Kölsch, the celebrated pale ale that is unique to the city. It’s one of the few German beers to have a regional appellation similar to that given to wines; its characteristic flavor comes from the unique yeast used in its brewing. It is always served in a straight-sided narrow glass called a stange, meaning a rod or stick. A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
DAY 15: AMSTERDAM
Enjoy the luxury of a full day in the “Venice of the North,” starting with a private “Morning with the Masters” tour of the Van Gogh Museum. You’ll have the museum’s extraordinary collection all to yourself, with an art historian to show you the highlights. Afterwards, explore the city with a canal ride or on foot with a local expert.
Featured Excursions: Exclusive “Morning with the Masters” at the Van Gogh Museum; choice of Amsterdam by canal or Exclusive Do as the Locals Do Amsterdam walking tour.
Exclusive “Morning with the Masters” at the Van Gogh Museum – The doors open early to give you a crowd-free viewing of an extraordinary collection. A curator will provide an expert introduction, then you can view the collection at your leisure with a guided audio tour. You’ll also have a chance to do the new all-compassing 3-D “Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience,” which uses innovative and interactive techniques to tell the artist’s life story like never before. Wander with Vincent from the rural Netherlands to the streets of Paris. Pull up a seat at The Potato Eaters’ table or at Café Le Tambourin in Montmartre. Investigate the details of Van Gogh’s paintings using a microscope and step into the life-sized Yellow House and engage with a dramatic shadow play. It’s a wonderful way to savor Vincent’s legacy and contemplate his role as an enduring source of inspiration.
Amsterdam by canal – It’s called the “Venice of the North” for a reason: Canals crisscross the heart of the old city, and bridges link some 90 islands. As the principal city in a newly independent Holland, Amsterdam was a boom town in the early 17th century, rapidly outgrowing its medieval walls. The city’s fathers responded by demolishing most of the old city and building an entirely new one, creating Europe’s first planned city. That “new” district is now 400 years old, and as you glide along the main canals, you’ll pass stately merchants’ houses built centuries ago (some of them are now house museums you can visit on your own). But the canals are not merely scenic; they are essential thoroughfares—people take water buses to work and live in houseboats along the banks—so a canal cruise also gives you a look at the busy modern city.
Exclusive Do as the Locals Do Amsterdam walking tour – Uncover some of Amsterdam’s most charming and little-known treasures with a stroll through the canal district that will take you to two very different historic residences. One is an oasis of quiet just steps from the city’s bustle: the Begijnhof, a residential court dating to the 14th century that was once home to a quasi-religious group, where you’ll find 47 townhouses (including the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam) surrounding a serene grassy courtyard. The other is the Museum Van Loon, a remarkable house museum that shows you how wealthy Amsterdam families have lived over the centuries. Willem van Loon was a founder of the Dutch East India Company, and the family’s history can be seen in the portraits, silver, porcelain and beautiful furniture found throughout the house. Behind the house, a formal garden leads to the classical façade of the coach house, which is now a gallery. This combination—house, garden and coach house—makes the Museum Van Loon unique; no other house museum in the city has managed to keep all three elements intact. Between your two destinations, you’ll pause for coffee and Dutch apple pie at a local café.
DAY 16: AMSTERDAM (DISEMBARK)
Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for your flight home.
*All fares are per guest in US Dollars based on double occupancy unless otherwise noted. Fares are for cruise or cruise/tour only for travel in the lowest category stateroom on select itineraries and departure dates. Featured fare of $7,499 applies to voyage on River Queen departing on 6/5/18. Fares do not include airfare or port charges (2018 voyages). All fares, itineraries, shore excursions and policies are capacity controlled and are subject to change at any time without notice. Availability of all suite categories cannot be guaranteed. Fares for single guests are available upon request. Additional restrictions may apply.