24 Jun 2022

The top 6 cities on the Rhine River


Rhine River Rhine River

River Cruising


History & Culture

One of Europe’s longest rivers, the Rhine River sails right through the heart of the continent, passing through some of Europe’s most beautiful and interesting regions on its way.

Below, we list our top six cities on the Rhine River you need to visit.

Our list of the top 6 cities on the Rhine

Amsterdam, is a vibrant city, bustling with people and culture while still maintaining a laid-back vibe. Considered to be one of Europe’s most open-minded cities, there is much to see and learn in Amsterdam, making it one of the best cities on the Rhine River to visit.  

The architecture of The Netherlands’ capital is immediately recognisable to visitors, especially in the historic centre, which is home to over 7,000 classified buildings. Also known as the ‘Venice of the North’, Amsterdam boasts an intricate canal system, with 1,200 decorative bridges linking over 90 islands within the city.  

Amsterdam is also home to the River Amstel, which creates marshy ground around its banks. Due to this, many of the surrounding buildings are built on top of wooden plinths, giving the city a unique look.  

Top attractions in Amsterdam 

  • Rijksmuseum: This museum houses one of the world’s largest art collections. Among the collection are works by Vermeer and Rembrandt, a showcase of still-life paintings and a study in the Dutch landscape.
  • Van Gogh Museum: This collection of over 500 paintings and 200 drawings by Van Gogh – arranged in chronological order – takes visitors on a journey through the life and works of one of the world’s most famous artists.
  • Anne Frank House: Visit the home of Anne Frank – the house which became a hiding place during WWII for the teenage Holocaust victim and diarist. Take a virtual journey through this emotional building and learn about Anne’s life along the way.


Basel, Switzerland Basel, Switzerland
Basel, Switzerland

Basel is a feast for the eyes, boasting a kaleidoscope of architectural fusion. Here, you’ll see modern skyscrapers and historical buildings standing side by side. Although one of Switzerland’s smaller cities, Basel is not short on attractions and even has a remaining Old Town area.

Basel is one of the key cities along the Rhine for art lovers and history buffs, hosting a multitude of galleries and museums and home to a thriving art scene. An intimate and charming city, Basel has a number of parks to visit and waterfront areas to stroll along – and visitors will be drawn to these areas in the city’s good weather, with the Swiss gem basking in a many as 300 days of sunshine per year. 

Top attractions in Basel

  • Art Basel: This Swiss city is home to the world’s largest art fair, which takes place each summer. Here, visitors will see installations and collections from artists across the globe in this spectacle of art and design. A bonus for art lovers: Don’t miss a visit to Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland’s largest art museum.  
  • Altstadt: Visitors to the city should not miss out on trip to Basel’s Old Town. Here, among the cobblestone-clad streets, you’ll find many Swiss heritage sites. The buildings here date back as far as the 14th century, and a themed walk around the Altstadt is sure to delight.
  • Basel Minster: This medieval church is an architectural wonder! Its red sandstone façade and twin towers surely make this minster stand out. A trip up a narrow spiral staircase inside the church provides visitors with spectacular views of Basel and the Rhine. 

Strasbourg is the capital of France’s Alsace region, and one of the few cities on the Rhine to border Germany. Translating to the ‘City of Roads’, Strasbourg’s centre is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. A blend of classic Gothic architecture and more modern buildings, this city has a long and tumultuous history.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the city suffered much destruction during religious struggles. Its absorption into France in the late 17th century saw much of the city repaired – but troubles arose for Alsace again during WWI and WWII, having been annexed by Germany multiple times.

These days, Strasbourg has since become the seat of Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Parliament. 

Top attractions in Strasbourg

  • Petite France: A trip to Strasbourg’s historic quarter, known as ‘Petite France’, is like taking a journey back through time. Its winding streets are full of timber-framed houses, most famously the ornate Gothic building Maison Kammerzell.
  • European Parliament: Not only does the architecture of the European Parliament stand out – with its circular shape and glass exteriors – there is also much to be learned about the functions of the Parliament here.
  • Strasbourg Cathedral: This cathedral is an exemplary display of Gothic architecture. Standing at 142m, this cathedral was once the world’s tallest building – it is now the sixth-tallest church in the world. The cathedral’s astronomical clock is not to be missed, displaying automated moving figures throughout the day.
Cologne, Germany Cologne, Germany
Cologne, Germany
Cologne (or Köln to the locals) is a cultural hub located in the heart of Germany’s Rhineland, making it one of the top cities to visit on the Rhine River. With much of the inner-city area having been destroyed during WWII, its subsequent rebuilding has created a unique cityscape, with the mighty Rhine splitting the city in half.   

Cologne is famous for its Karneval season, which begins on 11th November each year at precisely 11:11am and lasts all the way through until Ash Wednesday the following February. During Karneval season, visitors to the city will see the Karneval Corps troops and many people in costume, as well as hearing themed music.

Top attractions in Cologne

  • Hohenzollern Bridge: Crossing the Rhine, this bridge is a sight to behold. The bridge’s original form was destroyed during WWII to prevent allied troops from entering the city but was quickly rebuilt following the conflict. The bridge is now an important travel route connecting Cologne to other cities.
  • Cologne Cathedral: Another stunning example of Gothic architecture along the Rhine, the two towering spires of this cathedral dominate Cologne’s skyline. This is Germany’s most-visited landmark, containing the Shrine of the Three Kings, a triple sarcophagus which is said to contain the relics of the Three Wise Men
  • Fragrance Museum: As might be apparent from its name, Eau de Cologne originates from this German city, and only scents created in the city limits can bear this title. The Fragrance Museum is housed in the world’s oldest fragrance factory and tells the story of the city’s fragrance producing history.


Charming and stylish, Belgium’s second city fuses a number of historical architectural styles with more forward-thinking advancements from modern times. Located 50km north of Brussels, the fashionable city of Antwerp has an ever-growing cultural scene.  

Antwerp has a freedom of expression that you don’t find in Belgium’s capital. Here, you’ll find a blend of old and new, with ornate buildings to admire, many cafés and coffee shops to sample, and plenty of fashion and jewellery stores to shop in until you drop.  

And don’t forget to look out for some of Europe’s best chocolatiers here - the chocolate alone makes it one of the best cities on the Rhine River to visit. 

Top attractions in Antwerp

  • Grote Markt: The Great Market Square is located in Antwerp’s old quarter. Here, you’ll find many marvels of architecture, such as the City Hall and Guildhall, and sculptures including the Brabo Fountain. From the square, you’ll also be able to take a horse and carriage tour of the city.
  • Museum aan de Stroom: A fairly new addition to the city, this museum (know as ‘MAS’) is located long the River Scheldt. The museum’s collections detail the history of Antwerp and its connections throughout the world.
  • Central Station: More than just a train station, Antwerp’s main transport hub is a feat of eclectic architecture – a blend of multiple movements and styles. The city’s Central Station should be on your list of things to visit, even if you’re not catching a train!
Zürich, Switzerland Zürich, Switzerland
Zürich, Switzerland

The Swiss city of Zürich lies on the large Zürichsee lake, which feeds into the Rhine River. This city is backed by snow-clad mountains, offering picturesque landscape views wherever you look. Zürich is also the biggest of Switzerland’s cities, meaning there is something for everyone here.

Considered to be one of the financial capitals of the world, Zürich is a forward-thinking, modern city with elegant charm. It’s also within the world’s top 10 most liveable cities, so it’s popular with tourists and locals alike! A trip to Zürich will immerse you in Switzerland’s medieval past and their contemporary outlook all at once. 

Top attractions in Zürich

  • Kunsthaus: This art museum is widely regarded as one of the most important galleries in Europe. It’s estimated that this gallery was established as early as the 1700s, and its collection boasts works spanning from the Middle Ages through to present day, including works by Van Gogh and Monet.
  • Zürich Opera House: Zürich’s neo-baroque Opera House is one of its marvels of architecture, located in the city’s largest square, Sechseläutenplatz. The Opera House first opened in 1891, and visitors can still attend regular opera and ballet performances here.
  • Grossmünster: Zürich’s largest church was built in the 12th century and features two Romanesque which stand out against the cityscape. For those wanting to get active, visitors can ascend the towers and take in views of Zürich’s skyline.


Visit the cities of the Rhine with Emerald Cruises 

Sailing in luxury along one of Europe’s most iconic waterways is a great way to see the cities on the Rhine River. The sights, sounds, cultures and traditions are just waiting to be explored, and you can discover them from the comfort of your Emerald Cruises Star-Ship.  

Interested in learning more? Download or request your free European river cruise brochure and start planning your Rhine River adventure today.

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