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Heidelberg Germany

European Jewels

16 Days from Budapest to Amsterdam

An all-encompassing voyage highlighting the full spectrum of European culture, history, art, architecture, and world-class food and wine.

Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

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.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Budapest

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 with a visit to the Parliament, or discover the Budapest that locals love on a special walking tour of the city’s most important landmarks.

Budapest panoramic highlights with Parliament visit

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 from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, past some of the city’s most striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, the state opera house and St. Stephen’s Basilica—and on to your next destination: the truly stunning Parliament Building, which you can explore inside and out. Today's excursion also takes you to the top of the 771 ft. high Gellért Hill, which is capped by the spectacular Citadella, where you can enjoy gorgeous views of Budapest and the Danube below.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 3: Cruising the Danube River, Vienna

Today is your day to relax onboard, enjoying the luxuries of your river cruise ship while soaking in the spectacular scenery all around you as your ship heads for Vienna. Come up to the Sun Deck to admire the city’s landmarks strung along the riverbanks.

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. Begin your day with an itinerary highlight—our “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum. Then, you can choose between two different guided tours: an Imperial city highlights tour or an Imperial Crypt of the Habsburgs walking tour.

“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum

The Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). The doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here: View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery. Then move onto the Kunstkammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your tour ends in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.

Vienna - Imperial city highlights

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. 

Day 5: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Weissenkirchen (Melk)

Awaken to the spectacular scenery of the Wachau Valley, one of the most beautiful stretches of river landscape in all of Europe. 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, including a wine tasting. Prefer to go for baroque? Visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinarily opulent library. Later, you can stretch your legs with a vineyard hike.

Weissenkirchen village walk with 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. Later, sample some Wachau wines at a local winery where your guide will share various details about why these extraordinary wines are so unique.

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: Passau

Just before reaching Passau, the ship will pass through the famous Schlögener Schlinge—a “gooseneck” or hairpin turn in the Danube. Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn and Ilz— Passau is well known for its ornate baroque cathedral. 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.

Passau walking 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 grand new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt 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 one 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).

“Let's Go” bicycle ride along the Inn River

The Inn River rises in the Alps, near Innsbruck (hence the name of the famous Swiss ski resort) and flows through three nations (Switzerland, Austria and Germany) on its way to Passau, where it joins the Danube. While the Danube bike path may be Europe’s best-known route for bicyclists, the Inn River bike path, which follows the river from Innsbruck to Passau, has plenty of fans. The route through the Inn River valley outside Passau is an especially attractive stretch, with great views of the lovely countryside, picturesque villages and the sparkling clear river itself. Your guide will make sure you know the local traffic and safety rules before you and your group set out along the partly flat and paved path. You’ll be traveling on both sides of the river, crossing between Germany and Austria as you cross the Inn, and your journey will include a comfort stop before returning to the ship. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise at the same time.

Day 7: Regensburg

Today in Regensburg, you can travel through time or get a crash course in making craft beer, then watch high-tech robots assemble the Ultimate Driving Machine. Regensburg is a friendly town with quaint cobblestone streets, historic Roman ruins and a medieval city center. The remnants of Regensburg’s golden age are still on display, but don’t let its illustrious history fool you into thinking the town’s best days are all in the past.

BMW factory visit

Here is your opportunity to see German engineering, famous the world over, in operation as you tour the state-of-the-art BMW factory on the outskirts of Regensburg. About a thousand cars a day roll off the assembly line here, many of them in the BMW 3 series. You’ll see various stages of the process, from rolls of sheet metal being stamped out into body parts to watching elements of the car being robotically assembled. Follow an already assembled car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

Note: For safety reasons, BMW does not allow those with pacemakers or insulin pumps to participate in factory tours. The plant is closed on Sundays and holidays, so no visit is possible if the tour lands on those days.

NOTE: If the tour lands on a day when the BMW factory is closed, we will visit the Museum of Historical Maybach Vehicles instead.

Day 8: Nuremberg

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 join a panoramic tour of the city, 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.

Nuremberg city tour with WWII Rally Grounds and Documentation Center visit

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.

NOTE: The permanent exhibition at the Documentation Center will be closed until the fall of 2023. In its place, a special temporary exhibition may be available.

Onboard: This morning, 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. A formidable set of locks, 16 in all, lifts your ship to the crest of the European “continental divide.”

Day 9: Bamberg

Your floating boutique hotel 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. Like Rome, the city is built on seven hills—but in Bamberg, a church tops each one.

Bamberg walking 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 is the magnificent Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), which sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden. Cross the cobblestone footbridge to the Old Town Hall, which is adorned with colorful frescoes, and ramble along the narrow lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses.

Franconian “Village Day”

If you’re interested in 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.

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)

Your ship will dock in the charming Franconian town of Würzburg, where you can visit the extraordinary Würzburg Residence, one of the most opulent baroque palaces in Europe.

Würzburg Residence visit with Court Gardens

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.

Fairytale Rothenburg

Step into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg with its great stone walls surrounding the medieval core, linking towers, bastions, and parapets. Narrow cobblestone lanes will lead you past the charming old monastery, Germany’s oldest half-timbered houses, and splendid fountains before winding your way to the town’s perfectly Medieval Market Square, a hotspot for locals and guests alike. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see magnificent Town Hall (which seamlessly blends together Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture), spirited dance performances and on special occasions—knights pulling horses through the city in a wonderful spectacle. Savor a taste of the beloved Bratwurst, a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or pork. Take some time to explore the town and have lunch on your own after your tour. This afternoon, you’ll have a chance to explore or shop on your own.

Day 11: Wertheim

After today, you may never eat a pretzel again without thinking of the town of Wertheim. You’ll meet one of Germany’s best pretzel makers, as well as the owner of a historic wine estate. If you’re more in the mood for a scenic bike ride, you are welcome to do that as well.

Wertheim walk with local treats

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 a historic winery that produces Franconian wines. Its charming sandstone 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 wine tasting.

“Let's Go” Wertheim bicycle tour

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 fairytale town with half-timbered homes and quirky cobblestone lanes, nestled amidst beautiful mountain scenery. You can pedal your way along flat stretches of the riverside path, passing red sandstone quarries, farms, verdant fields and meadows, and charming villages. Then you'll bike back to Wertheim, where you can explore this enchanting medieval town with its historic castle and town center, or you can visit a nearby wine estate for some well-deserved wine tasting.

Day 12: Frankfurt (Heidelberg)

Frankfurt is known as the “Mainhattan” of Europe due to its profusion of bankers and soaring skyscrapers, which coexist with the city’s traditional Old Town architecture. Choose a brief tour that gives you an overview of this major European financial and trade center. Alternatively, visit romantic Heidelberg and its Renaissance castle.

Heidelberg 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. Later, enjoy a leisurely lunch on your own and explore the culinary treasures and charming shops in town before boarding the coach back to your ship.

Note: lunch is not included with this excursion.

Day 13: Rüdesheim

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. The town is best known for its narrow avenue of shops and wine bars called the Drosselgasse. Experience the most spectacular scenery on the Rhine later in the afternoon as you cruise past the famous Middle Rhine Valley.

Abbey Eberbach medieval monastery tour with Riesling tasting

Kloster Eberbach is a former Cistercian monastery built in the Romanesque and early Gothic 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.

Day 14: Cologne

Enjoy a delightful tour of Cologne’s Old Town, where three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its stunning Renaissance façade. Wander through the historical center and take in its charming atmosphere and narrow alleyways flanked by old houses. No matter how you choose to explore Old Town, you’ll also have ample free time to explore the city on your own.
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 delightful tour of the Van Gogh Museum. Afterwards, explore the city with a canal ride or on foot with a local expert.

Van Gogh Museum visit

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. You’ll also have a chance to explore the new all-encompassing 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 Canal cruise

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. 

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 Airport Schiphol for your flight home.
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Amsterdam (Embark)

Arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. 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.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Amsterdam

Enjoy the luxury of a full day in the “Venice of the North,” starting with a delightful tour of the Van Gogh Museum. Afterwards, explore the city with a canal ride or on foot with a local expert.

Van Gogh Museum visit

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. You’ll also have a chance to explore the new all-encompassing 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 Canal cruise

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. 

Day 3: Cologne

Enjoy a delightful tour of Cologne’s Old Town, where three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its stunning Renaissance façade. Wander through the historical center and take in its charming atmosphere and narrow alleyways flanked by old houses. No matter how you choose to explore Old Town, you’ll also have ample free time to explore the city on your own.
In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 4: Rüdesheim

Experience the most spectacular scenery on the Rhine this morning as you cruise past the famous Middle Rhine Valley. Later, 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.

Abbey Eberbach medieval monastery tour with Riesling tasting

Kloster Eberbach is a former Cistercian monastery built in the Romanesque and early Gothic 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.

Day 5: Frankfurt (Heidelberg)

Vibrant Frankfurt, often referred to as the “Mainhattan” of Europe, boasts world-class museums, soaring skyscrapers, cozy wine taverns and lovely parks. Choose a brief tour that gives you an overview of this major European financial and trade center. Alternatively, visit romantic Heidelberg and its Renaissance castle.

Heidelberg 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. Later, enjoy a leisurely lunch and explore the culinary treasures and charming shops in town before boarding the coach back to your ship.

Note: lunch is not included with this excursion.

Day 6: Wertheim

After today, you may never eat a pretzel again without thinking of the town of Wertheim. You’ll meet one of Germany’s best pretzel makers, as well as the owner of a historic wine estate. If you’re more in the mood for a scenic bike ride, you are welcome to do that instead.

Wertheim walk with local treats

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 a historic winery that produces Franconian wines. Its charming sandstone 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 wine tasting.

“Let's Go” Wertheim bicycle tour

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 fairytale town with half-timbered homes and quirky cobblestone lanes, nestled amidst beautiful mountain scenery. You can pedal your way along flat stretches of the riverside path, passing red sandstone quarries, farms, verdant fields and meadows, and charming villages. Then you'll bike back to Wertheim, where you can explore this enchanting medieval town with its historic castle and town center, or you can visit a nearby wine estate for some well-deserved wine tasting.

Day 7: Würzburg

Your ship will dock in the charming Franconian town of Würzburg, where you can visit the extraordinary Würzburg Residence, one of the most opulent baroque palaces in Europe.

Würzburg Residence visit with Court Gardens

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.

Day 8: Cruising the Main River, Kitzingen (Rothenburg)

Step into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg and visit a medieval castle that’s been described as a miniature Versailles. Spend a relaxing day onboard as your ship wends its way along the Main River between Würzburg and Bamberg. It’s something of a truism to say that this route takes you from wine to beer, and you’ll see the transition as you sail past the vineyard-covered slopes around Würzburg toward Bavaria’s famous beer-brewing center, Bamberg. Along the way, you’ll pass delightful little villages and romantic castle ruins, drift under lovely old bridges, and have plenty of time to observe the fascinating variety of vessels plying the river, from heavily loaded barges to jaunty little pleasure craft.

Fairytale Rothenburg

Step into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg with its great stone walls surrounding the medieval core, linking towers, bastions, and parapets. Narrow cobblestone lanes will lead you past the charming old monastery, Germany’s oldest half-timbered houses, and splendid fountains before winding your way to the town’s perfectly Medieval Market Square, a hotspot for locals and guests alike. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see magnificent Town Hall (which seamlessly blends together Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture), spirited dance performances and on special occasions—knights pulling horses through the city in a wonderful spectacle. Savor a taste of the beloved Bratwurst, a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or pork. Take some time to explore the town and have lunch on your own after your tour. This afternoon, you’ll have a chance to explore or shop on your own.

Day 9: Bamberg

Your floating boutique hotel 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. Like Rome, the city is built on seven hills—but in Bamberg, a church tops each one.

Bamberg walking 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 is the magnificent Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), which sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden. Cross the cobblestone footbridge to the Old Town Hall, which is adorned with colorful frescoes, and ramble along the narrow lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses.

Franconian “Village Day”

If you’re interested in 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.

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: Nuremberg, Cruising the Main-Danube Canal

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. A formidable set of locks, 16 in all, lifts your ship to the crest of the European “continental divide.” 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 join a panoramic tour of the city, 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.

Nuremberg city tour with WWII Rally Grounds and Documentation Center visits

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.

NOTE: The permanent exhibition at the Documentation Center will be closed until the fall of 2023. In its place, a special temporary exhibition may be available.

Day 11: Regensburg

Today in Regensburg, you can travel through time or get a crash course in making craft beer, then watch high-tech robots assemble the Ultimate Driving Machine. Regensburg is a friendly town with quaint cobblestone streets, historic Roman ruins and a medieval city center. The remnants of Regensburg’s golden age are still on display, but don’t let its illustrious history fool you into thinking the town’s best days are all in the past.

BMW factory visit

Here is your opportunity to see German engineering, famous the world over, in operation as you tour the state-of-the-art BMW factory on the outskirts of Regensburg. About a thousand cars a day roll off the assembly line here, many of them in the BMW 3 series. You’ll see various stages of the process, from rolls of sheet metal being stamped out into body parts to watching elements of the car being robotically assembled. Follow an already assembled car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

Note: For safety reasons, BMW does not allow those with pacemakers or insulin pumps to participate in factory tours. The plant is closed on Sundays and holidays, so no visit is possible if the tour lands on those days.

NOTE: If the tour lands on a day when the BMW factory is closed, we will visit the Museum of Historical Maybach Vehicles instead.

Day 12: Passau

Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn and Ilz— Passau is well known for its ornate baroque cathedral. 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.

Passau walking 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 grand new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt 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 one 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).

“Let's Go” bicycle ride along the Inn River

The Inn River rises in the Alps, near Innsbruck (hence the name of the famous Swiss ski resort) and flows through three nations (Switzerland, Austria and Germany) on its way to Passau, where it joins the Danube. While the Danube bike path may be Europe’s best-known route for bicyclists, the Inn River bike path, which follows the river from Innsbruck to Passau, has plenty of fans. The route through the Inn River valley outside Passau is an especially attractive stretch, with great views of the lovely countryside, picturesque villages and the sparkling clear river itself. Your guide will make sure you know the local traffic and safety rules before you and your group set out along the partly flat and paved path. You’ll be traveling on both sides of the river, crossing between Germany and Austria as you cross the Inn, and your journey will include a comfort stop before returning to the ship. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise at the same time.

Day 13: Weissenkirchen (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, including a wine tasting. Prefer to go for baroque? Visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinarily opulent library. Later, you can stretch your legs with a vineyard hike.

Weissenkirchen village walk with 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. Later, sample some Wachau wines at a local winery where your guide will share various details about why these extraordinary wines are so unique.

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 14: 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. Begin your day with an itinerary highlight—our “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum. Then, you can choose between two different guided tours: an Imperial city highlights tour or an Imperial Crypt of the Habsburgs walking tour.

“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum

The Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). The doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here: View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery. Then move onto the Kunstkammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your tour ends in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.

Vienna - Imperial city highlights

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. 

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 15: Budapest

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 with a visit to the Parliament, or discover the Budapest that locals love on a special walking tour of the city’s most important landmarks.

Budapest panoramic highlights with Parliament visit

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 from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, past some of the city’s most striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, the state opera house and St. Stephen’s Basilica—and on to your next destination: the truly stunning Parliament Building, which you can explore inside and out. Today's excursion also takes you to the top of the 771 ft. high Gellért Hill, which is capped by the spectacular Citadella, where you can enjoy gorgeous views of Budapest and the Danube below.

Day 16: Budapest (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home. Or you can extend your stay in beautiful Budapest with our exciting optional post-cruise extension.

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