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On a Rhine River cruise, you’ll travel through a landscape of vineyards, castles and medieval towns. The stretch known as the Upper Middle Rhine is thought to be the most scenic, home to more than 40 fortifications such as Castle Katz, perched high on a bluff above the river in St. Goarshausen. It’s near the Rock of Lorelei, where the mythical siren was said to have lured sailors to their deaths with her irresistible singing.

Many Rhine sailings start in Amsterdam, at the northern end of the Rhine, or the Swiss city of Basel, at its southern terminus. In between, ships stop primarily at riverfront destinations in Germany.

Cologne is famed for its Gothic cathedral whose twin spires soar above the rooftops. The Rhine meets the Mosel River in Koblenz, where walking tours take you down narrow lanes and to picturesque squares, fountains and Romanesque churches. While your ship is docked in Rudesheim, you can stroll the pedestrian-only Drosselgasse, lined with restaurants, shops and wine taverns.

Many Rhine itineraries include an excursion to Heidelberg, a well-preserved medieval city that’s home to Germany’s oldest university. The ruins of a red sandstone castle tower over the old town center.

Breisach, which was almost completely destroyed in World War II and then restored to its original historic character, is a starting point for excursions to the fabled Black Forest. Black Forest clockmakers have been renowned for their craftsmanship since the 17th century, and Rhine River travelers usually can join an outing that takes them to a cuckoo clock workshop.

Ships often cross over the German border to call at Strasbourg in the Alsace region of northeastern France. The neighborhood known as La Petite France is a picturesque place for a walk, with half-timbered homes dating to the 16th and 17th centuries.