Cruising the Rhine is a dream come true for many. Do it from the saddle of your iron horse or the deck of the Iris.
Your adventure starts in Amsterdam. What more should we say? Bikes. Canals. Tall, beautiful people who speak fluent English. Those hazy cafés. Cozy bars and superb Indonesian food. World-class art, museums and breweries. Great 2nd-hand shops and bookstores. And it’s prettier than a Dutch Master’s painting.
The biking is flat and easy along Father Rhine, the greatest waterway in the world. Much more than a shipping highway, the river is the pulsing economic vein of Germany and Europe. Around every bend, legends spring to life…the plunging Lorelei cliffs, deadly Bingen Reef, the fabled site where Rheingold is buried…to name a few ancient places that touch our souls and connect us with great literature, music and history. And what about those mighty Teutonic cities…Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn where the old blends into new. Medieval villages, rural farms and gardens tended to perfection all exist alongside sparkling modern cities. It’s diverse and exciting.
And then….along the river with 3 names! Is it Mosel, Moselle or Musel?
Well, that depends on where you are on the river as it forms a natural border with three countries we visit: Germany, France, and Luxembourg. It’s a bike and barge dream-come-true. Paved bike paths, well-marked signage and easy cycling along the Rhine’s largest tributary. Medieval market squares, half-timbered villages, gothic cathedrals and castle ruins. Wunderbar and Fantastique are the words to know!
We follow the breadcrumbs of history. The Romans “civilized” this “barbaric” region bringing their culture and the first grapevines. Little did they know at the time of Julius Cesar that this river valley would blossom into a Riesling drinkers’ paradise. On both sides of the river, the precisely-tended vineyards hug the steep slopes. We promise you the ride of a lifetime with lots of sampling along the way.
The lead city on this trip is Trier. Never heard of it? You’re not the only one. It’s hey-day was around 2nd century AD. Known as Roma Segunda at the time, Trier was an Imperial Roman city. Kind of a big deal when Constantine the Great ruled from here. You will see the remnants of this glorious past in Germany’s oldest cathedral, amphitheater, the emperor’s throne hall and famous “black gate,” the blackened remains of the ancient city wall.
Onto Luxembourg, the only Grand Duchy in Europe. It’s strategic position between two super powers made it a hotly contested area to control over the ages. If you know a little French and German, you’ll understand their mother tongue—a rich soup of both languages in one pot.
And then France. You feel a difference the minute you cross the border into the Lorraine region, birthplace of French military heroine Joan of Arc. And, Ooh-la-la the food! Those wonderful breads, Quiche Lorraine, delicate Madaleine cookies and golden Mirabelle plums you’ll find in jams, tarts and a sweet liqueur—the nectar of Gods. We finish in Metz, one of the last Roman city’s to fall to Atilla the Hun and ancestral home of the Merovingian Dynasty. Metz has great architecture from the centuries and a Gothic cathedral that took 300 years to build.
But maybe cathedrals, vineyards and castles don’t float your boat. Or beer and brats don’t sizzle your steak…If mile-high cakes don’t make your heart beat faster or if noble wines don’t tickle your fancy, then you won’t like it here. But if all this sounds better than Disney, we’ll see you soon.Read more
Amsterdam to Wijk bij Duurstede
Our adventure starts in the heart of Amsterdam, where the IRIS is docked and ready to sail. We start sailing and give you a taste of the beauty of Amsterdam seen from the water. We’ll stop to get you on your bike for a scenic ride along the prestigious houses along the Vecht, where the sophisticated traders and aristocrats of Amsterdam had there countryhomes, or better: estates. The winding little river is a branche of the Rhine, so we are allready going in the right direction: upstream. Don’t worry…it’s flat cycling and stays like that all the week! Your biking ends in Breukelen (yes, indeed: where Brooklyn NY gets the name. By the end of the afternoon, we board our barge and cruise to Wijk bij Duurstede, a small fortified town on the river Rhine. Enjoy an evening stroll and turn in your comfortable cabin!
Wijk bij Duurstede - Wageningen - Arnhem
What a magical place! No visit to Holland is complete without a ride through Europe’s largest drifting sand dunes in the National Park Hoge Veluwe. Imagine an African safari with grassy plains and weathered pines, juicy bogs brimming with rare species and hardwood forests filled with birdsong. The geography is wild thanks to an Ice Age glacier that dumped its load of sand and gravel like a bulldozer. Awaiting us on the other side is world-famous Kröller-Müller art gallery and sculpture park with the largest private Van Gogh collection in the world. The one-eared master is not alone…works by Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondriaan round out the collection. From here we roll to Arnhem ‘Home of Eagles,’ given its name by Romans stationed on the Rhine. But we won’t make the mistake of going beyond the bridge! Perhaps you recall the 1977 classic A Bridge Too Far and the failed Allied-Forces attempt to break through German lines and take several bridges (including Arnhem) in Operation Market Garden? Renamed the John Frost Bridge, you may walk or ride across this beloved landmark into Arnhem center which is teeming with art, fashion and all things Lekker (Sweet, fun, cool).
Arnhem - Pannerden - Rees (Germany)
Of bridges, battlegrounds and castles…like the 13th century Doornenburg Castle. It’s an impressive brick behemoth where German commanders set up headquarters during the Battle of Arnhem. Naturally, it became a prime target for British bombers and you can imagine what happened next. After a tour, we pedal away and say tot ziens (see ya) to Holland, crossing the border into Germany. Around the bend is Emmerich, home of Germany’s longest suspension bridge. This engineering feat spans some 1,600 ft across the Rhine and you can bike across for super aerial photos. Some 500 ships pass underneath it every day. Before the Rhine was channeled in the 1800s, sturgeon, shad and salmon used to swim the river — not anymore. Now barges are the big fish. Emmerich is also home to a WWII Biber submarine and one-man U-Boat in the Rhine Museum. We finally whoa-up in Rees, famous for its medieval wall, towers and river promenade with art sculptures, restaurants and cafés…the perfect place to raise your Riesling glass or beer stein and watch the Rhine flow by. Maybe you’ll find a special Rhinestone on the shoreline. We all need a lucky charm.
Rees - Wesel - Düsseldorf
The great Ruhr region was once Germany’s blast furnace during the Industrial Revolution, until recently. Pedaling peacefully along the Rhine, you’ll see historic factory stacks, now mostly quiet and converted into other uses and venues—a reminder of when coal was king. This area is also where Neanderthal Man was found in 1856. And, it’s home to the mega supermarket chain Aldi. We cruise through world’s biggest inland harbor in Duisburg then it’s anchors away to the modern, sparkling city of Düsseldorf—Germany’s fashion and advertising capital. Think supermodel Claudia Schiffer. And it’s here you drink Altbier which doesn’t mean the beer is old; it’s a top-down fermentation style that’s hoppy and bitter-crisp. The waiters won’t ask if you want a second beer, it will just appear in front of you. We love that! Explore the Altstadt along the river or check out Media Harbor—the rehabbed riverside warehouse district that will blow your mind. The city sparkles with international flair, übermodern architecture and swanky folk. A casual feeling reigns in the evening when the “suits” loosen their ties at the 17th century Füchschen Brewery for roast pork shank (Haxen) Say it…“Haxen!” (one of our favorite barbarian words) You’ll need a couple cold ones to wash down the Haxen. Bring it on Düsseldorf!
Düsseldorf - Cologne
Today’s ride stretches from one rival city to the other. Be it beer suds or soccer clubs, ne’re the two agree. In Düsseldorf we drink Altbier, but you’ll forget that word exists when you arrive in Cologne. Here in Köln, Kölsch is king. It’s the largest city on our Rhine cruise and #4 after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Everything worth seeing is within walking distance from the barge. The city isn’t just big—it’s ancient. The Romans set up their northern military headquarters here in 50 AD. And you thought Sauerbraten was a German dish? Once again, we can thank clever Romans for setting the trend of wine-soaked meats. During transport to troops stationed along the Rhine, the meats were marinating and not going bad…the result: tender, delicious and its a Rhineland specialty. This blending of Roman and Germanic cultures comes to life in the Roman-Germanic Museum. After the telecommunications tower with its rotating restaurant, Cologne Cathedral is next. This giant Gothic beauty reaches God’s ears. It’s longer than a football field and holds 20,000 people! It takes an army of specialists to maintain the 750-yr old landmark…80 stonemasons, glaziers and roofers. You’ll never forget the toll of her famous bells either. There are many free concerts. Ear plugs provided on Sundays—no joke. The best place to take it all in is at Café Reichard for a German trifecta: coffee, cake and cathedral views. BikePlanet’s favorite district for rambling is the medieval Hay Market. Here you can fill your steins with good Kölsch beer. Top it off with an order of Himmel un Ääd (heaven and earth). Apples and mashed potatoes is Cologne’s comfort food on steroids. What a colossal city.
Cologne - Bonn
Today a great ride into West Germany’s former Capitol city. When the wall came down in 1990 most of the government moved back to Berlin. It’s the birthplace of musical genius Ludwig van Beethoven. Even after he’d lost his hearing in his ‘20s, Beethoven continued to write classics like Moonlight Sonata. It’s a tune that puts you in the Bonn mood. This is also where gummy bears are born every day. You can visit the world-famous Haribo factory with all the gummy sweets and gadgets—imagine Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sure Bonn has its “museum mile,” but Bonn’s parks and gardens are the cat’s meow when it’s sunny. The first-rate Botanical Gardens at Poppelsdorf Palace are among the oldest. Have you ever seen a water lily whose giant pads hold the weight of a 95 pound child!? And the world’s rarest flowering plant, titan arum—the stinky Sumatran Corpse Flower that takes 7 years to blossom for one day…fairytale flowers! Stroll Bonn’s endless river promenade and the nearby Rheinaue Leisure Park. So many sights right near our dock. For the best views of legendary Siebengebirge hills, join locals under the great chestnut trees at the ‘Alter Zoll’ beer garden. It’s a former Rhine toll station and military fort along the river and another BikePlanet favorite.
Bonn - Koblenz
This morning we cruise past the Siebengebirge (seven hills) and officially enter the legendary middle Rhine valley with its dramatic cliffs and curves, romantic castles, sloping vineyards and sleepy half-timbered villages. We sail past the ancient volcano, Dragon’s Rock where the hero Siegfried killed the dragon and bathed in its blood to become invincible. The Dragon’s Castle lies in ruins, a reminder of French revenge. Today’s biking starts in Remagen with a stop at Ludendorff Bridge. It was only one of two bridges still intact over the Rhine during Operation Lumberjack in the final days of WWII. In a stroke of good luck, U.S. Army got 25,000 troops, six Army divisions, tanks, artillery and trucks across the river. We pass little villages with old churches and medieval harbor crane. Arriving in Koblenz, we moor in the shadows of mighty Ehrenbreitenstein fortress. Here the noble Riesling grape is the Queen of Cups. Trocken means dry. Order one and prepare to become a convert for life. Prefer a beer in the Koblenz’ Biergarten? Just steps away from the barge.
Today is a day without sailing or biking! Time to enjoy this lovely, lively and touristic place. A cablecar can take you up to the Fortress for a great view of this area. Shops are inviting you to spend some euro and the terraces are just a footstep away.
Koblenz - Burg Eltz - Cochem
On a morning sail we cross the first lock and enter the Moselle! Drop off gives us a headstart to the foot of the hills where the Burg Eltz is hidden.
Untouched by wars or fires, you will find this beautiful castle worth the effort of walking to it. The guided tour takes you back through the ages. This is the best castle ever.
After our visit, we continue cycling to Cochem, the most visited village on the Moselle River. A bustling and characteristic Mosel town with steep wine-clad mountains, wooded hills, an impressive castle and a picturesque square with beautiful timber-framed houses and cafes. Time for a Moselle wine!
In the early morning, while you are having breakfast, the IRIS sails to the village known as the Sleeping Beauty on the Mosel. It’s a precious medieval village next to our mooring pier. You can’t imagine a prettier place. Beilstein has been the backdrop for many German films. You will have the chance to see the venerated and rare relic the Black Madonna in the chapel of the Carmelite Monastery overlooking the valley. Superb photo ops here. After the visit, our bike journey follows the river upstream passing the steepest vineyards in the world to arrive in Zell, a beautiful hamlet where the river slices through slate mountains in dramatic oxbows and S turns. Zeller Schwarze Katz (black cat) is a legendary Mosel Wine. Continuing onto Traben-Trarbach, this town features world-class Art Nouveau architecture that proves its great importance in international wine trade during the 19th century. From here we cruise to Bernkastel-Kues, the darling of the famed middle Mosel. This is Valhalla for Riesling aficionados. A good size village with great shopping, wine bars and ice cream. One of the prettiest town squares with timber-frame buildings dating back to the 1400s! The castle ruins on the hill are base-lit at night. An evening stroll along the river is a must…words can’t describe the feeling of Old Europe.
Bernkastel - Trier
From Bernkastel, the valley opens up and vineyards expand as far as the eye can see. Today we cruise past the heavy-hitters in the wine world: Brauneberg, Piesport, Trittenheim. Piesport is beloved by the Brits for the “little golden droplets.” Trittenheim lies in a sharp hairpin turn on the river surrounded by mountains coated with grapes. The chapel in the vineyard is one of the most photographed on the river. Later we bike on to Trier, a lively university town, powerful Arch-diocese, and Imperial Residence of Constantine the Great. All roads lead to Rome as they say, but in this case our road leads to Trier, the 2nd Rome in the 3rd century. The history is fascinating. More than you’d expect on the sleepy Mosel. Great museums. Superb shopping. A gem of a city.
Trier - Saarburg
After vibrant Trier, our path leads us to a place that’s a throw-back in time. The name Saarburg means “fortress on the river Saar” to give you a hint of what to expect there. The ruins date back to the 10th century, a summer palace for the Archbishops of Trier—powerful men and power brokers in the Holy Roman Empire. We love Saarburg. There’s a natural, steep drop between the “upper and lower” towns, but they’re connect by a high waterfall. Town fathers back in the 1300s diverted a local river to run through the center so they’d have access to water to fight fires quickly and have continual energy to run their mills. All of this is well-preserved in the 17th-18th century homes that cling to the hillside. It’s medieval German engineering at its best.
Saarburg - Remich (LUXEMBOURG)
From Saarburg we pedal toward Luxembourg, the tiny nation about the size of Rhode Island. Don’t let size fool you, Luxembourg is an important finance center and EU administrative city. On the way to the Grand Duchy, we visit a wine cellar to taste the whites from the upper Mosel. The wines here are different than the middle Mosel styles. When the terroir (geology) changes, so too do the wines. We also take you to a hidden gem. It’s a great story of historic preservation…imagine you’re a farmer in 1852 and you’re tilling your field. Suddenly, these colorful square pieces start appearing in the plough sod. What that farmer soon discovered was pieces that belonged in a tiled mosaic floor—dating back 1,600 years! The tile floor which lies in its original place, was once the centerpiece in a palatial Roman villa. The scene (in 3 million individual tile pieces) reveals scenes from gladiator games in the amphitheater. It’s breathtaking and original.
Remich (L) - Metz (FRANCE)
Today we leave Germany and Luxembourg behind and look to France. For centuries, this territory has been German then French; German then French. You get the idea. We pass the fortress high up on the rocky outcrop, one of the palaces inhabited by the powerful Dukes of Lorraine. The route is lovely French countryside, riparian landscapes and tiny villages. We ride past wheat fields and pastures of white cows (charolais) praised for their strength as draft animals and excellent meat. Thionville was the center of the steel industry until the 1980s. That might sound modern and industrial, but the city is ancient. The historic center shows us the medieval ramparts, lovely gardens, old streets and St.Maximin basilica which houses one of the finest organs in the world. Thionville is also part of the infamous Maginot line, an enormous defense network of forts and bunkers built between World Wars against the Germans. It failed miserably—one of the worst military strategies ever conceived. After spending millions on it, the Germans simply marched around in their Blitzkrieg warfare style. We cruise by barge to Metz, another ancient city strategically situated on a Roman trading route. St.Etienne Cathedral is the 3rd largest gothic church in France with flying buttresses and Marc Chagall stained glass windows. Metz is full of stunning architecture, flowers and great cafes. You will fall in love!
Today we have to say Au Revoir!
Your guided tour ends after breakfast. You can leave your luggage on board untill lunchtime and go and enjoy some more of Metz, visit the Cathedral! And then: save travels!
Passenger barge IRIS
One of the best: our comfort plus barge IRIS, sailing since 2005. Fully air-conditioned, lovely front sundeck, lounge and dining-area and selfservice Bar. Delicious 3 course dinners and packed lunches. Lots of options at Breakfast
ready to dock!
If you do not feel like cycling you are welcome to stay on board and have a private cruise! Picture of IRIS
Perfect to enjoy a cold beer or glass of Pinot Gris from our self-serve Bar. Picture of IRIS
Your air-conditioned cabin has two comfortable beds and lots of storage (for such a small cabin!). Ensuite your private bathroom.
Picture of IRIS
Included: on barge IRIS
- 14 nights on board
- Bed linen and towels
- 12 x dinner on board
- Packed lunches for bike trips
- Coffee and tea on board
- Tour guide (from 18 guests 2 guides)
- Cabins cleaned daily
- Climate-controlled cabins
- Helmets, panniers and waterbottle
- Visit of Burg Eltz
- Visit of Cave Cooperative in Luxembourg
- ON IRIS: Bike rental € 180 – per bike (2020)
- ON IRIS: E-bike € 360,- (2020)
- Entrance fees for museums, monuments, etc.
- Travel and cancellation insurance
- Miscellaneous beverages and expenses on excursions.
- Gratuities for Staff and Guides
E-bikes on request & availability € 360,- per bike (2020) on IRIS