On the three-border intersection of Switzerland, Germany and France and unfolding in two sections from the banks of the Rhine, Basel has an international flair, a cultural vibrancy and is picturesque besides. A medieval town center invites exploration by foot, while an abundance of museums and galleries suggest an indoor stroll amid works of art and relics of history. The Museum of Fine Arts is home to the world’s oldest art collection accessible to the public. The city itself hosts Switzerland’s oldest university, dating to 1460. Antiquity may be Basel’s strong suit, as it is in much of Europe, but this corner of Switzerland also reveals a more modern countenance: Architects Herzog & de Meuron, best known for the design of the Tate Modern in London and the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, and Frank Gehry of Bilbao Guggenheim Museum fame have contributed their considerable talents to buildings here.
Situated among the rolling vineyards between the Rhine River and the Black Forest, the river port town of Breisach shares a wine and food-loving culture with its French neighbors across the river in Alsace. The town's landmark St. Stephen Cathedral, pastel-hued buildings, and cobbled streets create an old-world charm that belies the fact that the town was almost totally destroyed in WWII and meticulously rebuilt in the old style.
Strasbourg, the capital city of Alsace, offers flavors of both France and Germany because of its borderline location. Walk through its iconic UNESCO World Heritage "La Petite France" district, which appears to have been lifted straight from the pages of a fairytale. Wander through these charming streets and past the Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame with its famous astronomical clock. Discover how the Vosges Mountains provide the Alsace with ideal winemaking conditions, and as such, Alsatian wines are not only delightful on the palate, but they're also highly praised for their fragrant aromas, ranging from bright and fruity to crisp and spicy.
Ludwigshafen is your gateway to Heidelberg and its perfectly preserved medieval city nestled in the Neckar River Valley along Germany's Castle Road. Discover the iconic red sandstone Heidelberg Castle and Great Vat, an 18th-century 49,000-gallon wine cask! Take an adventurous hike up the Philosopher's Path, aptly named during the Romantic Period, and be rewarded with panoramic views of the city.
If Rudesheim’s scenic location on the Rhine Gorge doesn’t sweep you off your feet, then the town’s medieval Old Town with its half-timbered buildings and narrow lanes, especially the Drosselgasse overflowing with charming shops and taverns, surely will. Still more that promises to enchant and delight is the region’s renowned Rieslings, produced here for centuries from vineyards dating to Roman times. A glass of white wine or the other local specialty, Asbach brandy, sipped amid historic surroundings can make the heart flutter, not necessarily from the effects of the spirits but from the simple beauty of one of Germany’s, if not the world’s, most romantic locales.
A scan of Cologne’s skyline offers a short-hand of a long essay of architecture, varying from the space-needle-type Rhine Tower to the avant-garde buildings along the river to the spectacular spires of the cathedral. One look at the magnificent church and you can’t help but draw a breath of amazement—the structure is enormous and intricately glorious, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Germany’s most visited landmark. Peel your eyes away from the famed Kölner Dom, as it is locally called, to discover other architectural notables, including remains of the Roman wall, a modern museum complex, the contemporary philharmonic hall, cozy beerhalls and the span of the Hohenzollern Bridge, reconstructed after the war.
Amsterdam derives its name from a 13th-century protective dam. It is a beautifully preserved city with quaint architectural styles, priceless art treasures and welcoming people. Many of its wondrous highlights are located within the five concentric canals that gird the city's older neighborhoods and business districts. Whether cruising its waterways or visiting its exquisite galleries and museums, you will discover a wealth of fascinating sightseeing opportunities. A short drive away, characteristic towns preserve their traditional Dutch ways with intricate national costumes, sturdy wooden shoes and purposeful windmills.