While the fastest way to get around the region is by car or train, the Rhine and Mosel Rivers have been navigated by ship for thousands of years, and this option remains the most scenic, not to mention the safest for visitors looking to drink wine while soaking up a little history. The Rhine is the more popular of the two rivers, but many find its little sister, the Mosel, even more beautiful with its narrow, twisting landscapes.
Many Rhine trips are available from Köln and Düsseldorf, but the river doesn’t truly turn scenic until south of Bonn. The most popular starting point is Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel converge. The area between Koblenz and Bingen, the Rhine Gorge, offers the shortest cruises with the highest concentration of castles.
Trips along the Rhine and Mosel range in length from a few hours to days or weeks. Day-trippers don’t generally need advance reservations, and the tourist offices in any major Rhine or Mosel town can provide information about short round-trip cruises (Rundfahrten) or hop-on/hop-off waterbuses (Linienfahrten), which generally run on the Rhine daily from Easter to late October and on the Mosel from June through September. Some multiday cruises also make extra trips in November and December to stop at Christmas markets.
CroisiEurope. Europe's largest river cruise line, this French company offers numerous affordable multiday cabin cruises on both the Rhine and Mosel. 800/768–7232; www.croisieuroperivercruises.com.
Uniworld. A variety of multiday luxury cabin cruises are offered on both the Rhine and Mosel. 800/257–2407; www.uniworld.com.
Viking River Cruises. Multiday luxury cabin cruises sail between Amsterdam and Basel and between Basel and Paris. 800/706–1483; www.vikingrivercruises.com.
Bingen-Rüdesheimer. Short Loreley and castle cruises along the Middle Rhine are available, plus ferry service between Bingen and Rüdesheim. 06721/14140; www.bingen-ruedesheimer.de.
Köln-Düsseldorfer Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt. One of the region's most popular short-journey lines, this company offers day trips and water taxi service on the Rhine and Main between Köln and Mainz, and on the Mosel between Koblenz and Cochem. There's a 20% discount for German Rail Pass holders. 0221/208–8318 ; www.k-d.com.
Mosel-Schiffstouristic Hans Michels. Short cruises on the middle Mosel mostly begin at Bernkastel and last about two hours. 06531/8222; www.mosel-personenschifffahrt.de.
Personenschiffahrt Kolb. Cruising mostly shorter stretches of the Mosel between Koblenz and Trier, Kolb also offers day trips and combination tickets that include city tours on land. 02673/1515; www.moselfahrplan.de.
Personenschiffahrt Merkelbach. Castle cruises on the Rhine run from Koblenz to Schloss Stolzenfels (60 mins) or to the Marksburg (100 mins). 0261/76810; www.merkelbach-personenschiffe.de.
Primus-Linie. Frankfurt-originating short cruises call at the Loreley and Rüdesheim/St. Goarshausen. 069/133–8370; www.primus-linie.de.
Rheinschifffahrt Hölzenbein. This is a Koblenz-based line, with regular short Rhine cruises to Rüdesheim. 0261/37744; www.hoelzenbein.de.
Rösslerlinie. Rhine castle and Loreley day cruises depart from Rüdesheim. 06722/2353; www.roesslerlinie.de.