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Day by Day Itinerary

Once, the best way to travel through Europe was to cruise European rivers by river ship. And once you experience the scenic Romance of the Rhine & Mosel for yourself, you'll see that river cruising is still the best way to discover five different countries. Delight in Belgium's diverse Old World traditions ... cruise in the wake of ancient explorers in the Netherlands ... enjoy Rhineland vintages in Germany ... discover a unique side of France ... and explore one of Switzerland's most cultural-rich cities. Plus, Grand Circle's exclusive Discovery Series events will provide an even more intimate look at the region, and help you get to know its enchanting culture. Get on board for this truly relaxing and rewarding Rhine and Mosel river cruise—all for an incredible value!

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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Brussels, Belgium.

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    Discover the beauty of the Rhine River

    Arrive today in Brussels. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to the pier in Antwerp, where you'll embark on your Rhine and Mosel River cruise. Those who arrive early in the day will have a light lunch onboard, and the balance of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight or do some exploring on your own.

    Located on the banks of the Schelde River, Antwerp is Belgium's major port and has been commercially important in European trade since the eleventh century. In spite of damage suffered during both World Wars, Antwerp remains a city of beautiful historic architecture dating from the 16th century.

    In the early evening, gather for an introductory briefing about your ship. Throughout your journey, you'll receive these evening briefings—called “Port Talks”—as you sail toward your next destination so you can make the best use of your free time when you arrive.

    After your briefing, get better acquainted with your Program Director and traveling companions over dinner.

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    View the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

    After breakfast, attend an orientation briefing. Your Program Director will go over the details of your upcoming trip and answer any questions you may have. Then set off on a walking tour of this great city. You'll explore Antwerp's well-preserved Old Town, built around the Grote Markt (Town Square), and graced by the lovely old Town Hall and beautiful Guild Houses. Or marvel at the elegant spires of the Cathedral of Our Lady, or stroll along the Meir, Antwerp's main shopping street, lined with wonderfully elaborate historic buildings.

    Your afternoon is free to further discover the city on your own. You may want to visit the house of the great painter Peter Paul Rubens. He purchased a 16th-century house off the Meir when he returned from Italy in 1608 and transformed it into one of the most elegant Renaissance-Baroque houses in the Low Countries. Today it is a museum, housing many of Rubens' finest works, as well as works by some of his contemporaries. Or you could visit the Steen, the small stone castle that stands at the entrance to the city. Begun as part of a 13th-century fortification, the castle has served as a prison and today houses the National Navigation Museum. Or explore the Jewish District, which has contributed to Antwerp's rich heritage since before the 13th century.

    Later, you'll be officially welcomed onboard and you'll meet the ship's crew at the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Reception and Dinner. We cruise to Willemstad, where we dock for the night.

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    Discover the beauty of the Rhine River

    Your morning is at leisure in Willemstad to relax or explore on your own. Or, if you choose the optional Delta Works tour, you'll ride by motorcoach to see a restoration project known worldwide for its hydro-engineering, begun after flooding had devastated Holland. Originally, the province was a collection of islands—easy prey to the sea. Now the islands are connected and protected by a series of dams, dikes, and bridges. The destructive tides that flooded the islands in 1953 and claimed the lives of 1,800 people are still remembered by the inhabitants of Zeeland. Since then, the gigantic Delta Works have prevented a recurrence. This tour shows you several of the ingenious technical achievements designed over the past 35 years, giving you an impressive idea of how the Dutch have claimed, reclaimed, and protected their homeland from the threat of the sea. You'll rejoin the ship in Willemstad.

    After lunch, you'll see the 19 windmills of Kinderdijk, built around 1740. Holland, of course, is known for its windmills, and nowhere will you find more than near this little village. These sturdy windmills have been well preserved, and in 1997 were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have time to stroll around the site and take pictures of these signature attractions of Holland, which are supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

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    View the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

    After breakfast, you'll join your Program Director for a walking tour of 2,000-year-old Nijmegen—the Netherlands' oldest city. Located in the eastern part of the country near the German border, Nijmegen was built on seven hills overlooking the Waal River near its confluence with the Rhine. Site of an important battle during World War II, the city was heavily damaged and almost completely rebuilt. The town center was remarkably unscathed, however, and provides a striking contrast to the newer architecture that surrounds it. You'll have the rest of the morning to explore this historic city on your own.

    Or, join an optional tour to the Liberation Museum and enjoy a walking tour afterward. At the museum, history comes alive through captivating interactive and multi-sensory exhibits. Covering the period preceding World War II, the Netherlands' occupation, and its rebuilding following liberation, this museum provides visitors with a vivid, educational, and uplifting experience.

    Enjoy lunch onboard as you sail toward your next destination.

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    Discover St Martin while exploring Bonn

    After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of Bonn, Germany. Founded by the Romans, Bonn was the provisional capital of West Germany from the years following World War II until Germany's reunification in 1990. Today, Bonn is home to numerous museums and gardens, and a large student population who live near the University of Bonn's campus. The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to explore Bonn on your own.

    Or you can join an optional excursion to the Augustusburg Palace. Located in Brühl, a small town on the edge of the Naturpark Kottenforst-Ville nature reserve, you'll enjoy a guided tour of Schloss Augustusburg, a horseshoe-shaped palace widely considered to be a masterpiece of Rococo architecture. Built in the 18th century for Clemens August of Wittelsbach, the powerful Archbishop of Cologne, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was used by the German government until 1994 to receive special guests of state.

    Please note: Schloss Augustusburg is closed on Mondays. Travelers visiting on Mondays will instead have the option to explore the Remagen Palace Museum.

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    Explore the medieval Reichsburg Castle

    Disembark this morning for a tour of Reichsburg Castle, believed to have been originally constructed some time in the eleventh century. The castle was burned to the ground by King Louis XIV of France in 1689 during the War of the Palatine Succession. The castle remained derelict and in a state of detritus until 1868 when it was purchased by Louis Ravene, a Berlin entrepreneur who converted the castle into a summer home for himself and his family. In 1978, ownership of the castle fell into the hands of the city of Cochem, which has since opened it to the public.

    Your minivan will take you on a scenic ascent from the river valley to the top of the rocky hill on which the castle sits. You'll explore the exterior and interior, and have free time in Cochem, before returning to your ship to sail toward your next destination.

    Join us in the lounge this evening for after-dinner entertainment.

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    Encounter relaxing German outdoor cafes in Berkastel

    This morning, join your Program Director for a stroll around Bernkastel, one of the prettiest towns in the Mosel Valley. Actually, Bernkastel is two towns; its sister town, Kues, sits on the opposite bank of the Mosel. Then, you'll visit one of Bernkastel's most famous wineries to sample some of its vintages as part of an Exclusive Discovery Series event.

    After lunch, relax and enjoy the scenery as you continue your Mosel River cruise, then enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Explore Trier's main plaza

    After breakfast, join us for a tour of Trier. There were settlements here in the third millennium before Christ, and the Roman Emperor Augustus founded a thriving city here in 15 BC.

    During your tour, you'll visit the imposing Porta Nigra (“Black Gate”), a towering Roman gateway built around AD 200. This is the largest surviving city gate from ancient Roman times, and for the empire it served not only as a means of protection, but also as a symbol of strength and power.

    You'll also visit the pedestrian-only Market Square, one of the most magnificent squares in all of Germany. Here you can admire the central fountain, built in 1595. You can take some free time on your own here at the market, or view the massive basilica, built by Constantine in AD 310.

    After returning to the ship for lunch, the balance of your day is at leisure. You can use our shuttle service to revisit this delightful town and then set out to explore it on your own. You may want to visit the Frankenturm ("Tower of Franco"), built in the twelfth century. This tower is typical of the fortified stone houses built by wealthy merchants during the Romanesque period. Named for its 14th-century resident, Franko von Senheim, the tower contains the medieval family's living quarters.

    Before dinner on board, join an informative discussion about the European Union, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Please note: It is not always possible to dock in Trier, so we sometimes dock in Riol or Schweich. If that happens, you will be transferred to Trier by bus and all program features will remain as scheduled.

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    See a German church while touring Luxembourg

    Enjoy an informational walk in Zell—in the heart of one of the biggest wine-producing regions of Germany. Founded by the Romans in the first century, Zell is well-known for its vintages, which purportedly date to 2000 years ago. Today called Zeller Schwarze Katz, or Zell’s Black Cat after the town’s most famous feline, images of this frisky creature are ubiquitous here, and you’re sure to spot them on street signs, in shop windows, and during a stroll by the center of town, where a basalt cat statue arches its tail in the same manner as the cat that’s on the label of every bottle of wine produced here.

    Or, join our full-day optional tour to Luxembourg, the tiny nation whose territory comprises less than 1,000 square miles. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy located between Belgium, France, and Germany. Here, the everyday language is Letzebuergesch, which symbolizes the national identity of the people.

    Ride first by motorcoach to see the Battle of the Bulge Cemetery. Luxembourg was occupied by German forces in May 1940, and its liberation (primarily by American troops) began in September 1944. The Battle of the Bulge began with Hitler’s desperate attack through the Ardennes to attempt to drive out the Allied forces. The resulting battle, called “the greatest American battle of the Second World War” by Winston Churchill, raged here from the 16th of December 1944 through the 28th of January 1945, during which period the American troops suffered tremendous losses.

    In the city of Luxembourg, you’ll see the market square, the Palais of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and the cathedral. In addition to your tour, you’ll also enjoy lunch and some leisure time to explore on your own. Then you’ll transfer to the Mosel Valley and reboard your ship in the late afternoon. Once you embark ship in the evening, you’ll set sail for Boppard and have dinner onboard.

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    View passing landscapes while relaxing on the ship deck

    Join us on an optional excursion to one of the most beautiful castles standing on the hills that line the Rhine River, Marksburg Castle. The only 13th-century castle unchanged by war or reconstruction, it offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily life of the time. Walking through the three towers and the connecting rooms, you will fully feel what it was like to live in a castle. You'll climb a stone staircase leading to the romantic bed chamber (the only room heated with a stove), see the Great Hall with its enormous fireplace (large enough to grill a steer whole), and take in a commanding vista from the east bank of the Rhine as you stand atop the towers. Then make a discovery of a different nature as you sample regional beer before returning to Boppard.

    Or, spend the day at leisure in Boppard, where you are invited to join your Program Director for a walking tour in town before lunch.

    Boppard has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance as a cultural and historic center for the middle Rhine region. If you joined our optional Marksburg Castle tour earlier today, you have an opportunity this afternoon to stroll this lovely town. You'll see its famous Rhine Promenade and the white towers of the Church of St. Severus.

    Later, you'll be inspired as you sail the most beautiful part of the Rhine, where an imposing rock rises 440 feet above the river. Since ancient Greek mythology, there have been legends of sirens, who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren—Loreleihere, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction on the reef below the rock.

    Set sail for Speyer this afternoon, with dinner onboard tonight.

    Please note: The Optional Marksburg Castle tour features a considerable amount of walking uphill and on uneven surfaces; steep inclines; rocky terraces; narrow passages, no handrails; and dim lighting, at times.

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    Discover local culture at a Home-Hosted meal

    After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of Speyer, a town founded by the Romans in approximately AD 50 that flourished during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, much of Speyer was destroyed in the 17th century during the Palatine War of Succession and few remnants of its glorious past survive. One exception is the Romanesque Cathedral, which you'll explore on your tour. Built between 1030 and 1125, it set a new architectural standard for the time.

    Join us this afternoon for an exclusive Discovery Series Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch with a local family. Sample coffee and fresh, homemade cake as you glimpse everyday German home life.

    Please note: It is not always possible to dock in Speyer, so we sometimes dock in Worms or Germersheim. If that happens, you will be transferred to Speyer by bus and all program features will remain as scheduled.

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    Encounter beautiful views of Strasbourg

    Early this morning, we dock in Strasbourg, France.

    This morning you can enjoy a sightseeing tour by boat along Strasbourg's canals. Strasbourg has been strategically important since ancient times. It became a free imperial city of the German Empire in 1262, and then was occupied by France in 1681 and Germany in 1871. France recovered the city in 1919 after World War I. From your boat, you'll see the major sights (including the Palais de L'Europe where the European Parliament meets) and admire the city's remarkable Renaissance architecture.

    Your boat tour concludes in the town center at the Palais Rohan, which you may choose to visit during your free time. Palais Rohan, often called the "mini-Versailles," houses a gallery and three museums: an archaeological museum, a museum of the decorative arts, and a collection of European paintings. If you like, you may walk on your own from the Palais to visit the city's magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals, whose lofty single spire dominates the city. You'll then have free time to make your own discoveries around Strasbourg, where you perhaps you can use your included public transportation pass to explore more of the city on your own before enjoying a tram ride back to your ship.

    After lunch, join an optional our optional Alsatian Highlights excursion through the famous wine region of Alsace, where the culture is a delightful blend of French and German influences. Travel through the fertile Elsass region to the wooded foothills of the Vosges Mountains and drive parts of the Route de Vin, the Alsatian Wine Road, past rolling vineyards and flower-decked villages.

    You'll visit the Stork Park, where this lovely white bird is being re-populated into the local area. At one time, the bird was so plentiful in this region that it was considered the symbol of Alsace and was often mentioned in children's stories. In 1900, thousands of storks could be spotted in Alsace during the warmer spring and summer months, but by the 1980s their local population had been reduced to fewer than ten. Their numbers are again increasing, and the Stork Park offers a safe refuge for this long-legged bird. On your route, you might even spot some of their nests, high atop a local home or a church roof.

    Then, enjoy an info stroll through the quaint town of Riquewihr to discover its main points of interest. You may wish to explore the town's medieval fortress, city gates, and towers. If shopping is your interest, you'll find that the shops on the main street are cozy and inviting year-round.

    This evening, transfer back to Strasbourg and enjoy dinner onboard your ship.

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    Explore the Alsatian Wine Road in France

    This morning after breakfast onboard, you visit the spa town of Baden-Baden, nestled in the thick, deep green forests. Baden-Baden has been renowned for its thermal baths since Roman times. You'll have a tour of the resort town and free time to explore on your own.

    This evening, enjoy a Farewell Drink and Captain's Farewell Dinner as you sail toward Basel.

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    Basel is Switzerland’s second-largest city—and one with a split personality. On the one hand, the city is dominated by giant, modern chemical concerns and pharmaceutical companies. On the other, a network of narrow alleys weaves together the city’s medieval architectural heritage. This morning, we’ll enjoy the excellent public transport system with a streetcar ride, followed by a walking tour. We’ll see the lively Marktplatz (marketplace), its colorful town hall, and the twelfth-century, red sandstone Munster (cathedral) among other highlights. To make it more convenient to explore on your own, you’ll receive a one-day streetcar ticket.

    Discover fresh produce at a Strasbourg market

    After lunch onboard, you’ll have the afternoon to relax onboard or explore Basel further at your own pace. For the rest of the day, you can continue to use your public transportation day pass.

    With more than 30 museums, Basel is a well-known center of art and culture. Dating to 1662, the Museum of Fine Arts is considered the oldest public art museum in Europe. Inside, you can view old masters such as Hans Holbein, along with modern masters, such as Jasper Johns.

    The Historical Museum, which is housed in a 14th-century church, contains a collection relating to the history of culture in Central Europe. Its most notable piece is the Lallenkonig ("Babbling King"), a crowned head with moveable tongue and eyes.

    Later this afternoon, join an informative discussion on Switzerland Today.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, disembark in Basel and transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, begin your optional extension to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Switzerland.

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    View the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

    Arrive today in Basel. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to the pier, where you'll embark on your Rhine and Mosel River cruise. Those who arrive early in the day will have a light lunch onboard, and the balance of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight or do some exploring on your own.

    In the early evening, you’ll gather for an introductory briefing about your ship. Throughout your journey, you'll receive these evening briefings—called “Port Talks”—as you sail toward your next destination so you can make the best use of your free time when you arrive.

    After that, get better acquainted with your Program Director and traveling companions over dinner.

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    Discover fresh produce at a Strasbourg market

    After breakfast, attend an orientation briefing. Your Program Director will go over the details of your upcoming trip and answer any questions you may have. Then explore Basel, Switzerland's second-largest city—and one with a split personality. On the one hand, giant, modern chemical concerns and pharmaceutical companies dominate the city. On the other, a network of narrow alleys weaves together the city's medieval architectural heritage. You'll enjoy the excellent public transport system with a streetcar ride, followed by a walking tour. You'll see the lively Marktplatz, the colorful town hall, and the twelfth-century, red sandstone Munster (Cathedral) among other highlights. To make it more convenient to explore on your own, you'll receive a one-day streetcar ticket.

    After lunch onboard, you'll have the afternoon to explore Basel further at your own pace. For the rest of the day, you can continue to use your public transportation day pass. You can ride the streetcars to the border with either France or Germany, and walk across into either of these countries for a truly international day.

    With more than 30 museums, Basel is a well-known center of art and culture. Dating to 1662, the Museum of Fine Arts is considered the oldest public art museum in Europe. Inside, you can view old masters, such as Hans Holbein, and modern masters like Jasper Johns. The Historical Museum, which is housed in 14th-century church, contains a collection relating to the history of culture in Central Europe. Its most notable piece is the Lallenkonig (Babbling King), a crowned head with moveable tongue and eyes.

    Later, you'll enjoy a discussion about Switzerland Today before being welcomed onboard and meeting your ship's crew at the Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.

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    Encounter beautiful views of Strasbourg

    This morning, enjoy a sightseeing tour by boat along Strasbourg's canals. Strasbourg has been strategically important since ancient times. It became a free imperial city of the German Empire in 1262, and then was occupied by France in 1681 and Germany in 1871. France recovered the city in 1919 after World War I. From your boat, you'll see the major sights (including the Palais de L'Europe, where the European Parliament meets) and admire the city's remarkable Renaissance architecture.

    Your boat tour concludes in the town center at the Palais Rohan, which you may choose to visit during your free time. Palais Rohan, often called "mini-Versailles," houses a gallery and three museums: an archaeological museum, a museum of the decorative arts, and a collection of European paintings. If you like, you may walk on your own from the Palais to visit the city's magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals. Its lofty single spire dominates the city. You then have free time to walk the lanes of the town's center on your own. Perhaps you'll use your included complimentary public transportation pass to explore more of the city on your own.

    Later, perhaps you'll join us on an optional Alsatian Highlights tour through the famous wine region of Alsace, where the culture is a delightful blend of French and German influences. Travel through the fertile Elsass region to the wooded foothills of the Vosges Mountains and drive part of the “Route de Vin,” past rolling vineyards and flower-decked villages.

    You'll visit the Stork Park, where this lovely white bird is being re-populated into the local area. At one time, the bird was so plentiful in this region that it was considered the symbol of Alsace and was often mentioned in children's stories. In 1900, thousands of storks could be spotted in Alsace during the warmer spring and summer months, but by the 1980s their local population had been reduced to fewer than ten. Their numbers are again increasing, and the Stork Park offers a safe refuge for this long-legged bird. On your route, you might even spot some of their nests, high atop a local home or a church roof.

    Then, enjoy an info stroll through the quaint town of Riquewihr to discover its main points of interest. You may wish to explore the town's medieval fortress, city gates, and towers. If shopping is your interest, you'll find that the shops on the main street are cozy and inviting year-round. If you arrive during the fall harvest, you might even spot local wine-growers delivering the grapes that produce the region's white wines. Perhaps you'll end the afternoon sampling that wine for yourself at a sidewalk cafe and tasting one of the area's other typical specialties, such as goose liver, macaroons, or almonds.

    Join us tonight after dinner for entertainment in the ship's lounge.

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    Discover the beauty of the Rhine River

    Explore Strasbourg at your own pace this morning.

    After lunch onboard, you'll visit the spa town of Baden-Baden, nestled in the thick, deep green forests. Baden-Baden has been renowned for its thermal baths since Roman times. You'll have a tour of the resort town and free time to explore on your own.

    Before dinner, join your Program Director for an informative Port Talk as we cruise toward Speyer.

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    Discover local culture at a Home-Hosted meal

    Today, enjoy a walking tour of Speyer, a town founded by the Romans in approximately AD 50 that flourished during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, much of Speyer was destroyed in the 17th century during the Palantine War of Succession, and few remnants of its glorious past survive. One exception is the Romanesque Cathedral, which you’ll explore during your tour. Built between 1030 and 1125, it set a new architectural standard for the time.

    Join us this afternoon for a Discovery Series Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch with a local family. Sample coffee and fresh, homemade cake as you glimpse everyday German home life.

    In the evening, gather for a Port Talk in the lounge and then enjoy dinner with your fellow travelers.

    Please note: It is not always possible to dock in
    Speyer, so sometimes we dock in Worms or Germersheim. If that happens,
    you will be transferred to Speyer by bus and all program features will take place as scheduled
    .

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    View passing landscapes while relaxing on the ship deck

    This morning, you'll be inspired as you sail the most beautiful part of the Rhine. Pass Lorelei, the imposing rock rising 440 feet above the river. Since ancient Greek mythology, there have been legends of sirens, women-creatures who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren (Lorelei) here, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction on the reef below the rock.

    You'll disembark and join your Program Director for a walking tour of Boppard—a lovely town that's been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance as a cultural and historic center for the middle Rhine region. During your stroll, perhaps you'll see its famous Rhine Promenade and the white towers of the Church of St. Severus.

    After returning to the ship for lunch, join us on an optional excursion to one of the most beautiful castles standing on the hills that line the Rhine River, Marksburg Castle. The only 13th-century castle unchanged by war or reconstruction, it offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily life of the time. Walking through the three towers and the connecting rooms, you will fully feel what it was like to live in a castle. You'll climb a stone staircase leading to the romantic bed chamber (the only room heated with a stove), see the great hall with its enormous fireplace (large enough to grill a steer whole), and take in a commanding vista from the east bank of the Rhine as you stand atop the towers. Then make a discovery of a different nature as you sample regional beer before returning to Boppard.

    Or, stay on board and sail to Koblenz, set at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Originally established as an outpost of the Roman Empire and named Castellum apud Confluentes, the town became a city in the 13th century and served as the home of French refugees during the French Revolution.

    Enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard this evening.

    Please note: The Optional Marksburg Castle tour features a considerable amount of walking uphill and on uneven surfaces; steep inclines; rocky terraces; narrow passages, no handrails; and dim lighting, at times.

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    Explore the medieval Reichsburg Castle

    Disembark this morning for a tour of Reichsburg Castle, believed to have been originally constructed some time in the eleventh century. The castle was was burned to the ground by King Louis XIV of France in 1689 during the War of the Palatine Succession. The castle remained derelict and in a state of detritus until 1868 when it was purchased by Louis Ravene, a Berlin entrepreneur who converted the castle into a summer home for himself and his family. In 1978, ownership of the castle fell into the hands of the city of Cochem, which has since opened it to the public.

    Your minivan will take you on a scenic ascent from the river valley to the top of the rocky hill on which the castle sits. You'll explore the exterior and interior, and have free time in Cochem, before returning to your ship to sail toward your next destination.

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    Encounter relaxing German outdoor cafes in Berkastel

    This morning, join your Program Director for a stroll around Bernkastel, one of the prettiest towns in the Mosel Valley. Actually, Bernkastel is two towns; its sister town, Kues, sits on the opposite bank of the Mosel. You’ll enjoy strolling through the town’s market area.

    Then, tour one of the area’s most famous wineries to get a firsthand understanding of the art of winemaking—and a sample of their fine product, of course—during today’s exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Finally, spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying the scenery as your Rhine and Mosel river cruise heads toward the small river town of Issel.

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    Explore Trier's main plaza

    Disembark in Trier this morning for an included tour of this ancient Roman city. There were settlements here in the third millennium before Christ, and the Roman Emperor Augustus founded a thriving city here in 15 BC.

    You'll visit the renowned Porta Nigra, an ancient Roman fortress gate, and the pedestrian-only Market Square, one of the most magnificent squares in all of Germany. Here you can admire the central fountain built in 1595. You can take some free time on your own here at the market, or view the massive basilica, built by Constantine in AD 310.

    Set your own agenda this afternoon. You can use our shuttle service to revisit Trier and then set out to explore it on your own. You may want to visit the Frankenturm (Tower of Franko), built in the twelfth century. This “tower” is typical of the fortified stone houses built by wealthy merchants during the Romanesque period. Named for its 14th-century resident, Franko von Senheim, the tower contains the medieval family's living quarters.

    Before dinner on board, join an informative discussion about the European Union.

    Please note: It is not always possible to dock in Trier, so we sometimes dock in Riol or Schweich. If that happens, you will be transferred to Trier by bus and all program features will remain as scheduled.

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    See a German church while touring Luxembourg

    Enjoy an informational walk in Zell—in the heart of one of the biggest wine-producing regions of Germany. Founded by the Romans in the first century, Zell is well-known for its vintages, which purportedly date to 2000 years ago. Today called Zeller Schwarze Katz, or Zell’s Black Cat after the town’s most famous feline, images of this frisky creature are ubiquitous here, and you’re sure to spot them on street signs, in shop windows, and during a stroll by the center of town, where a basalt cat statue arches its tail in the same manner as the cat that’s on the label of every bottle of wine produced here.

    Or, join our full-day optional tour to Luxembourg, the tiny nation whose territory comprises less than 1,000 square miles. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy located between Belgium, France, and Germany. Here, the everyday language is Letzebuergesch, which symbolizes the national identity of the people.

    Ride first by motorcoach to see the Battle of the Bulge Cemetery. Luxembourg was occupied by German forces in May 1940, and its liberation (primarily by American troops) began in September 1944. The Battle of the Bulge began with Hitler’s desperate attack through the Ardennes to attempt to drive out the Allied forces. The resulting battle, called “the greatest American battle of the Second World War” by Winston Churchill, raged here from the 16th of December 1944 through the 28th of January 1945, during which period the American troops suffered tremendous losses.

    In the city of Luxembourg, you’ll see the market square, the Palais of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and the cathedral. In addition to your tour, you’ll also enjoy lunch and some leisure time to explore on your own. Then you’ll transfer to the Mosel Valley and reboard your ship in the late afternoon. Once you embark ship in the evening, you’ll set sail for Bonn and have dinner onboard.

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    Discover St Martin while exploring Bonn

    Gather for a walking tour of the city. Founded by the Romans, Bonn was the provisional capital of West Germany from the years following World War II until Germany's reunification in 1990. Today, Bonn is home to numerous museums and gardens, and a large student population who live near the University of Bonn's campus. Reboard your ship in time for lunch. The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to explore Bonn on your own.

    Or, you can join an optional excursion to Augustusburg Palace, located in Bruhl, a small town on the edge of the Naturpark Kottenforst-Ville Nature Reserve. You'll enjoy a guided tour of Schloss Augustusburg, a horseshoe-shaped palace widely considered to be a masterpiece of Rococo architecture. Built in the 18th century for Clemens August of Wittelsbach, the powerful Archbishop of Cologne, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was used by the German government until 1994 to receive special guests of state.

    Please note: Schloss Augustusburg is closed on Mondays. Travelers visiting on Mondays will instead have the option to explore the Remagen Palace Museum.

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    View the Old Town Hall in Nijmegen

    Following breakfast onboard, you'll join your Program Director for an included tour of Nijmegen, the Netherlands' oldest city. During this tour, you'll see the intertwining of past and present—evident in the city's combination of historic streetscapes and modern architecture. Located along the Dutch River Waal, Nijmegen is surrounded by a diverse natural setting of riverbank landscapes, woods, hills, moors, and bodies of water.

    For the balance of the morning, you'll have free time to spend as you please. Perhaps you'll shop at Nijmegen's historic Grote Markt, or visit its Museum Het Valkhof—where ancient Roman finds and remains intermingle with contemporary artwork. After lunch onboard, you can relax or continue sightseeing at your own pace.

    Or, you can join an optional tour to nearby Groesbeek for a visit to the Liberation Museum (Bevijdingsmuseum). Situated in the area where, in September 1944 the Allies launched "Operation Market Garden" in an attempt to cross the River Rhine into Germany. The museum vividly re-creates the occupation and liberation of wartime Holland through interactive displays.

    Later, attend a briefing to prepare you for disembarkation a couple of days from now. You'll also receive a briefing on Bruges, Belgium, if you have chosen to extend your trip with our optional post-trip extension.

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    Discover the famous Netherlands windmills in Kinderdijk

    This morning, you'll visit Kinderdijk to see the 19 famous windmills that were built along the river there in approximately 1740. Holland, of course, is known for its windmills, and nowhere will you find more than near this little village. These sturdy windmills have been well-preserved, and in 1997 they were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have time to stroll around the site and take pictures of these signature attractions of Holland, which are supported by Grand Circle Foundation, before you board ship and set sail for Willemstad.

    Your afternoon is at leisure, or, if you choose this optional tour, you'll ride by motorcoach to see the Delta Works, a restoration project known worldwide for its hydro-engineering, begun after flooding had devastated Holland. Originally, the province was a collection of islands—easy prey to the sea. Now the islands are connected and protected by a series of dams, dikes, and bridges. The destructive tides that flooded the islands in 1953 and claimed the lives of 1,800 people are still remembered by the inhabitants of Zeeland. Since then, Dutch technology and the gigantic Delta Works have prevented a recurrence. This tour shows you several of the ingenious technical achievements designed over the past 35 years, and gives you an impressive idea of how the Dutch have claimed, reclaimed, and protected their homeland from the threat of the sea.

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    Set off on a walking tour of this great city. You’ll explore Antwerp’s well-preserved Old Town, built around the Grote Markt (Town Square), and graced by the lovely old Town Hall and beautiful guild houses. Or, marvel at the elegant spires of the Cathedral of Our Lady, or stroll along the Meir, Antwerp’s main shopping street, lined with historic buildings.

    Your afternoon is free to further discover the city on your own. You may want to visit the house of the great painter, Peter Paul Rubens. He purchased a 16th-century house off the Meir when he returned from Italy in 1608 and transformed it into one of the most elegant Renaissance-Baroque houses in the Low Countries. Today it is a museum housing many of Rubens’ finest works, as well as works by some of his contemporaries. Or you could visit the Steen, the small stone castle that stands at the entrance to the city. Begun as part of a 13th-century fortification, the castle has served as a prison and today houses the National Navigation Museum. Or explore the Jewish District, which has contributed to Antwerp’s rich heritage since before the 13th century.

    Gather this evening for the Captain’s Farewell Drink and Dinner to toast a memorable River Cruise with your fellow travelers.

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    • Meals included:

    Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or travel to Bruges, Belgium to begin your optional extension.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Striving for Excellence

Read about our goals >

Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Ship Excellence
87%
Program Director Excellence
89%
Overall Trip Excellence
79%
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Questions and Answers

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 16 days, with 14 nights aboard a private Grand Circle river ship

Physical requirements

  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip.
  • You must be able to walk 2 miles unassisted and participate in 2-3 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 45-74°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • March and November weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones, which can be slick in wet or colder conditions

Transportation

  • Travel by 47-passenger coach, street car, small boat, tram, and 140-passenger river ship

River Cruising

  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions and tides affect European river depths; water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Private Grand Circle River Ship

    All of our Rhine, Main & Danube river ships made Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Custom-built for Grand Circle with our travelers’ needs in mind, your private river ship has a passenger capacity of 140-164, with all outside cabins. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas, but connectivity is limited in certain locations. Your cabin features a flat-screen TV, direct-dial telephone, individual heating and air-conditioning controls, twin beds that convert to sofas, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • M/S River Harmony

    The M/S River Harmony was ranked #26 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Harmony was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Melody

    The M/S River Melody was ranked #13 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Melody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Rhapsody

    The M/S River Rhapsody was ranked #19 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Rhapsody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Extensions

  • Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges

    Bruges, Belguim | Rating: First Class

    Situated in the Old Town of Bruges, the First-Class Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges allows you to enjoy the historic charm of Belgium’s best-preserved medieval city. Amenities include 24-hour concierge service, a library, wellness center with sauna and steam room, and a cozy bar and lounge. The hotel’s 118 rooms each offer air-conditioning, flat-screen TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and a spacious private bath with hair dryer.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Ameron Hotel Flora

    Lucerne, Switzerland | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    Renovated in 2008, this Superior, Tourist-Class hotel is close to Lake Lucerne and just a few minutes’ walk from the nearest train station. Amenities include a restaurant and wireless Internet access in all public areas. Your air-conditioned room features direct-dial telephone, cable/satellite TV, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2595
w/ standard air $3645
Approximate travel times

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Europe

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Romance of the Rhine & Mosel vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

  Explore the Kinderdijk windmills with fellow travelers  

Our group of 14 lifelong friends celebrated 60 years of friendship on this river cruise. We stopped to enjoy the 19 windmills in Kinderdijk.” Photo by Natale Russo, 2-time traveler from Martinez, California.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your Grand Circle vacation, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

The Battle to Free Nijmegen

How the Netherlands’ oldest city helped turn the tide of war

by Martin Kratkoczky, Operations Manager, Grand Circle Cruise Line

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, riverside Nijmegen was the first city to fall.

Visitors to Nijmegen, which lays claim to be the Netherlands’ oldest city, may not be able to recognize the horrors of war that the city once endured—and from which it has since recovered—at first glance. But if one looks closely at the center brickwork on the tower of 800-year-old Saint Stephen’s Church, it will be clear that the structure is younger than its historic age. Though lovingly restored, this detail of Saint Stephen’s tells the tale of World War II and its aftermath.

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, riverside Nijmegen was the first city to fall. The Germans fortified the region with anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns, and 300 troops armed with artillery. But the people of the city found themselves under siege not only from the occupiers on the ground, but by their intended defenders from the air, when Allied planes—thinking they were above a German city—errantly bombed Nijmegen in 1944. The city was devastated, with 750 civilians lost, and countless buildings like Saint Stephen’s destroyed.

Later that same year, the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, an attempt to protect the series of bridges over the Maas, Waal, and Rhine rivers, which would allow British troops access to forces already in the Netherlands and close the noose around the Nazis. Realizing this, the Germans tried to blow up these bridges, but that plan was thwarted by the Dutch resistance—namely, Dutch hero Jan van Hoof, who is said to have snipped the wires to the explosives.

The efforts of van Hoof and other brave Allies helped turn the tide of the war. And in 1944, the successful liberation of Nijmegen by British and American forces allowed the Allies a foothold for further progress across the Rhine.

Nijmegen, like many European cities, threw itself into rebuilding, often using original plans and traditional materials to restore the flavor of centuries past, while erasing most evidence of its recent suffering. Today, it is better known as the site of the International Four Day March, a tradition started in 1909, in which 47,000 participants (now representing more than 60 nations) walk 30-50 kilometers a day for four days in a row and are rewarded at the end with gladiolas from spectators and a royal medal. It is perhaps fitting that the city’s greatest tradition celebrates one of its proven virtues: endurance.

Strolling Strasbourg

Discover the history of Europe's cultural crossroads

"The renowned Ponts Couverts, a covered bridge spanned by four towers, is one of the loveliest on the continent ..."

Strasbourg is one of the world’s five great canal cities, along with Venice, Amsterdam, Bruges, and Bangkok. Strasbourg’s Grand Isle (Great Island) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first time an entire city center was so designated (1988), and couldn’t be prettier. The Old Town is quite large, but you can spend an entire day walking it, unlike the 45- to 90-minute Old Towns that abound in Europe.

There seem to be as many German as French speakers in the city, and its streets and bridges are all listed bilingually. The houses are primarily half-timbered, with herringbone braces, trusses, mortise and tenon joints, and upper story jetties that beetle o’er base. On many a block, you fancy yourself strolling through a Grimm’s fairy tale, mesmerized by the bygone ambiance. A great many rooftops have one, two, or even three rows of tiny windows—square, rectangular, half-almond, looking like embrasures for firing guns and arrows, or else like winking eyes. The effect is both winsome and eerie.

The city’s name means “crossroads,” and indeed Strasbourg is where the Latin and Germanic cultures have intersected for millennia. Strasbourg’s impeccable location has lent itself toward human settlements dating far back into the Bronze Age, and it was tussled over by Allemani, Huns, Franks, the Holy Roman Empire, France, and Germany for two millennia, but it remains the veritable center of Europe today—culturally and politically, if not quite geographically.

After the Thirty Years War, Louis XIV annexed the city, but exempted it from the Revocation of The Edict of Nantes, and so Protestants and Catholics were able to coexist with relative tolerance. (I say “relative” because one cannot overlook a dark chapter in the 1340s when Strasbourg’s Jews were subjected to a harsh pogrom, having been mercilessly blamed for the ravages of the Bubonic Plague.) For the next several hundred years, Strasbourg continued building its reputation as an open intellectual and cosmopolitan center. Strasbourg was where Johannes Gutenberg hid to perfect his moveable type in secret, but its greater claim to scientific and cultural fame arose hand-in-hand with its university, then and still one of the finest in Europe, and the largest in France. Famous grads include Louis Pasteur, Albert Schweitzer, and several Nobel Prize laureates.

During the French Revolution, Strasbourg’s status as a Free City was abolished, and it was placed under the draconian rule of a revolutionary cabal. It was during this period, at a dinner hosted by the new mayor, that de Lisle composed France’s national anthem, La Marsellaise. Strasbourg regained its independence, along with the rest of Alsace-Lorraine, with the World War I armistice, but was invaded by France only days later. Except for the German Occupation in World War II, it has remained a part of France ever since.

But it is also—explicitly—owned by Europe as well. It is the home of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission for Navigation of the Rhine, and others. Some of these institutions are housed in Renaissance palaces in the European Quarter, while others flank either side of a broad canal, in absolutely wonderful modern complexes designed by Richard Rogers in the mid-1990s. Le Grand Isle is thus known as “The Capital of Europe.”

So now that we’ve covered the back story, let’s move to what is front and center the principal delight of Strasbourg: exploring. The canal tour is spectacular, and if you are lucky enough to catch good weather and an uncovered boat, you’ll be snapping photos incessantly. Around the section known as Petit-France, several of the passages left all of six inches between the gunwhales and the outstretched hands of people on the bridges and canal banks. After passing the cathedral, the canals become a bit broader, and while not as exquisitely picturesque as the dense tangle around Petit-France, the rest of the waterfront cityscapes are memorable indeed, even as you pass into the modern section by the various EU organizations.

Be sure to make it back for dinner in Petit-France, as the district comes to life each night with its narrow streets, ancient timbered houses, and bustling riverfront cafes, serving up world-renowned choucroute (essentially sauerkraut, but typically dressed up with smoked meats, bacon, caramelized onions, and other savories), spaetzle (fried egg noodles), pork sausages, toile de jute (pig knuckle and gravy over spaetzle, and decidedly more delicious than that description sounds), and foie gras, washed down with delicious regional rieslings, gewürztraminers, and tokays. The local beers, Kronenbourg and Erdinger, are perhaps not up to the same rarefied standards as the multitude of German offerings on the far side of the Rhine, but they are superior to most American premium beers. And if you work up a thirst during your peregrinations, the local Kronenbourg Brewery offers a popular afternoon tour.

Of course Stasbourg’s most famous attraction is the Liebfrauenmünster zu Straßburg, or Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg. France and Germany have wrestled over it for centuries—though now it is an icon of reconciliation between them. For 250 years it was the tallest building in the world. For my money, it is the finest Gothic structure in the world, and one of the half dozen prettiest cathedrals ever built. It is justifiably renowned, alongside Rouen and Chartres and Koln, as one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture and engineering.

Begun in 1176, and completed in 1439, the cathedral represented the apex of pre-Renaissance engineering, architecture, and art. During the French Revolution, in their counter-revolutionary battle against the Jacobins, Les Enragés attempted to topple its great spires, which they felt undermined the new French spirit of liberte, egalite, et fraternite. The horrified citizenry responded by undertaking the construction of Phrygian caps atop the spires, mollifying the revolutionary zeal of their detractors by way of offering employment to their poorest citizens.

The interior is dark and sparse, in comparison to the ornate pink sandstone of its exterior. Yet it is suffused by eerily romantic light cascading through its magnificently tall and slender stained glass windows. While most of the interior is older than the façade, sporting a number of earlier Romanesque features, the pulpit is a splashy Renaissance affair, as is the immense organ.

The most famous piece is the Horloge Astronomique, a technological wonder whose uncanny accuracy was unsurpassed until the advent of the modern computer. It can effortlessly produce the dates of Easters past and future by tracking the phases of the moon for centuries. It also predicts equinoxes, leap years, lunar and solar eclipses, the positions of several planets, and other astronomical events, and can even be used as a calculator of sorts for various arcane mathematical functions. The Horloge springs to life at 12:30pm every day, and each hour a different series of animated characters parades by, enacting various routines. The most popular scene is at the highest level, where once a day the twelve Apostles walk a semi-circular path past a likeness of Christ, depicted as a rooster, who crows three times.

In the cathedral parvis (courtyard in front of the church), there are frequently street performers and exhibitions of one sort or another. (During my visit, there happened to be a rally for antique Triumph sports cars.) In the evenings, they beam changing patterns of multi-colored klieg lights up at the cathedral itself, which takes on a breathtaking array of ambiences accordingly.

Strasbourg boasts several other marvelous churches which span centuries of varying European architectural styles, including Saint-Etienne, Saint-Thomas (featuring an organ that was played by Mozart), Sainte-Madeleine, Saint-Pierrele- Jeune-Protestant (whose underpinnings date to the seventh century), and Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux-Catholique. But the secular masterpieces are equally compelling. The Palais Rohan is a marvel of German Renaissance opulence, and houses three museums. It is a splendid example of classic Baroque architecture, vaguely reminiscent of both the Louvre Palace and Versailles, with a grand appartement fronting onto the River Ill, and a petit appartement overlooking its partitioned courtyard.

The renowned Ponts Couverts, a covered bridge spanned by four towers, is one of the loveliest on the continent, not to mention Strasbourg. It adjoins the historic Vauban fortifications (Barrages Vauban) which were originally built in the 17th century as a weir for the waters of the Ill, but which now house a gallery of sculpture and a viewing terrace. This is your best vantage point from which to capture the Ponts Couverts—just be sure to set the camera to wide-angle to capture the breadth of the beauty.

Strasbourg’s many museums are divided up by era and category, making it difficult to narrow your choice (but wonderful to justify repeat visits). La Musee des Beaux Arts (housed in the Palais Rohan) and La Musee de l’Art Moderne et Contemporain are perhaps the two most renowned and great starting points. The latter displays works by modern masters from 1870 onwards, including Bracques, Chagall, Arp, Picasso, Ernst, Kandinsky, and others.

But the greatest pleasure is to sip an aperitif, then enjoy a fine Alsatian meal, then sip a digestif, down on the canals of Petit-France—one of the most indelible Old-World experiences you will ever have. And to think, I discovered Strasbourg’s charms serendipitously … At the end of my travels along the Rhine and Mosel, my companion and I had unexpected extra time to visit one more destination, and spontaneously decided to head from Wertheim to Strasbourg. It was one of the better decisions I’ve made. As we sat there at sunset on the banks of Petit-France, sipping and sighting, my friend observed: “This is as good as it gets.” Truer words are rarely spoken. Notwithstanding my penchant for falling in love with a new city every year, I can say unabashedly that Strasbourg is a keeper.