Winter in northern Europe means the arrival of long nights, crisp snows, and dazzling celebrations of the holiday season. Cruise in comfort along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam, disembarking along the way to explore magical Christmas markets exhibiting customs unique to each city. Wander through medieval squares filled with the sounds of traditional carollers, the scents of mulled wine and spices, and the sparkle of ornamented Christmas trees. Browse stalls displaying delicate handmade trinkets and toys, explore fairy-tale castles and cathedrals decked with tinsel, and bring home holiday cheer to brighten the new year. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.
Experience the Christmas spirit like never before at some of Europe’s oldest and grandest Christmas markets.
Discover the rich history of the Rhineland as you explore magnificent cities in France, Germany, and the Netherlands alongside National Geographic experts.
Capture spectacular images of castle ruins and gothic churches, using tips and tricks from our accompanying National Geographic photographer.
Enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann; and explore Grube Messel pit, the famed fossil site featured in National Geographic magazine where “Ida”—the world’s most complete primate fossil—was found.
Itinerary - 8 Days
1 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Embark our ship in Amsterdam and settle into your spacious suite. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner and raise your glass to the beginning of a magical trip along the Rhine.
2 Amsterdam, Netherlands
This morning, set out to explore one of the many Christmas markets set along the picturesque canals of the Dutch capital. Sample delicious treats such as oliebollen, Dutch doughnuts, or poffertjes, small pancakes topped with butter and powdered sugar. Alternatively, choose to explore the city’s medieval canals on a boat cruise, or opt for a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum, home to historical exhibitions that tell the story of the Netherlands, as well as masterpieces by famous Dutch painters from Rembrandt to Vermeer.
3 Cologne, Germany
Go ashore in Cologne, and gaze up at the intricate twin spires of the city's iconic cathedral—one of the only structures left standing in the city following the heavy air raids of World War II. Enjoy a guided tour of the city, including a walk through the rustic old town and the hallowed halls of the cathedral; and discover the distinctive red-roofed stalls of the Cologne Christmas market at your own pace, in search of hand-made gifts for friends and family. Alternatively, join an excursion to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, located near the site where the bones of an Ice Age human were recovered for the first time.
4 Koblenz, Germany
Arrive in Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Glide past the colossal equestrian statue of Emperor William I that presides over the two waterways, and observe the clash of colors where the waters meet. Disembark for a guided tour of this historic city, and delve into a colorful Christmas wonderland. During the holiday season, six of the city’s old squares are utterly transformed by sparkling lights, ornamented trees, cottage-style market stalls, and an Advent calendar fashioned out of the 24 dormers in the baroque-style town hall. Listen to traditional choirs while sampling Germany’s festive “fire cup” of mulled wine, potato fritters, and the famous Lebkuchenherzen gingerbread hearts. Alternatively, explore Cochem, a medieval gem nestled in the Moselle River Valley. A guided tour culminates in a visit to the Reichsburg Castle, a fairytale cluster of conical towers perched high above the town.
5 Heidelberg, Germany
Discover the rich history and romantic cityscape of Heidelberg. Weather permitting, visit the hilltop ruins of the Renaissance-era Heidelberg Castle and hike back to the old town. Alternatively, tour the city’s picturesque baroque-style streets, or enjoy an exclusive visit to the World Heritage site of Grube Messel, a quarry renowned for its superbly preserved plant and animal fossils. One of the best preserved primate fossils in the world—nicknamed Ida—was discovered here in 1983, and then analyzed by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum in 2009. This afternoon, we continue our cruise along the Rhine.
Enjoy a private evening concert at a fabulous Baroque Palace in the region. It’ll be an evening of grandeur unlike any other, and a chance to create memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
6 Baden-Baden, Germany
This morning we venture inland to the charming spa town of Baden-Baden, famous for its Roman baths. Choose between several ways to explore the city, including a guided tour of the old town or a hike to the 12th-century Hohenbaden Castle ruins, perched high above the town and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Black Forest. Or visit the Speyer Technical Museum. Alternatively, experience a traditional European spa.
7 Strasbourg, France
Having alternated allegiances between France and Germany several times over the course of its 2,000-year history, Strasbourg is a fascinating cultural amalgam that boasts spectacular Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture. Set out on a guided tour of the city this afternoon, including the historic Grand Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you stroll the enchanting cobblestone streets, marvel at half-timbered houses and stroll across the Ponts Couverts, a trio of covered medieval bridges. Enjoy free time to explore the ornamented stalls of Strasbourg’s famous Christkindelsmärik, one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. As you take in scents of mulled wine and spices, discover why Strasbourg is known as France’s “capitale de Noël.”
8 Basel, Switzerland
After breakfast onboard, transfer to the airport in Basel and connect with your flight home.
This itinerary is a guide only and may be amended for operational reasons such as high and low water. As such, the cruise may operate altered from that stated above.