River Cruise Destinations in Switzerland

A river cruise in Switzerland on the Rhine River will begin or end in Basel. An itinerary will often feature other destinations in Switzerland, though. Since the main airport used for Rhine River cruises is in Zurich, your trip will likely begin or end there. A few other destinations you might visit are Lucerne and Lake Geneva.

The Rhine River begins in the southeastern Alps flowing through Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands before it empties into the North Sea. There are other rivers worth mentioning, since some of the cities you visit might be located on or near the river.

The Reuss River is located in Lucerne, and the Limmat River is located in Zurich. Both of these rivers connect indirectly to the Rhine via the Aare River. The confluence of these three rivers – Reuss, Limmat and Aare – is formed in Brugg, Switzerland, which is located 17 miles from Zurich and about 28 miles from Basel.

Aare River in Brugg Switzerland

The Aare River in Brugg, Switzerland

By Хрюша (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Aare River begins in Berne and joins the Rhine River in Koblenz, Switzerland – about 30 miles from Basel. You can take a day cruise on the Aare River, but it’s not likely an area you’ll visit on a Rhine River cruise itinerary.

Basel, Switzerland

The city of Basel is located on the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany. Interestingly, it is located in Switzerland but has suburbs in both France and Germany.

Rhine River cruises either begin or end in Basel, even though you'll visit at least one other city as part of your river cruise package. You might spend a few hours touring Basel. After that you'll travel east toward Lucerne or Zurich.

Basel is a fairly small city in terms of geographical size – measuring just over 9 square miles. However, it’s the third largest city in Switzerland in terms of population. 

The Old Town of Basel is listed in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance. A walking tour of the town will give you a glimpse of the buildings and structures that make it such a culturally significant area of Switzerland.

Most river cruise lines have itineraries along the Rhine River that travel to and from Basel. Viking River Cruises features a 7-night Rhine Getaway on their Viking Helvetica ship.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Your river cruise package might include Lake Geneva as a destination, but most packages do not.

Lake Geneva is located in southwestern Switzerland. At its widest point, it's about 8 miles across the lake with a length of 45 miles. There are several towns along the lake that you might visit or just pass through. Some of the more well-known towns are Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux and Geneva. 

Located at the westernmost point of the lake, Geneva is one of the cities you'll visit. You probably won’t stay overnight, though. As you tour the city, you’re likely to notice its French influence. Not only in terms of language spoken but also reflected in its culture.

The town of Montreux is located along the north shore of Lake Geneva and is nearly 60 miles from Geneva. You might stay overnight in this city if your itinerary includes Lake Geneva. It’s located in the Vaud Riviera in the center of a wine regions east of Lausanne. You’ll have a chance to spend some time in both cities.

Wine tours of the Swiss Riviera are featured, which includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces. The UNESCO site spans about 18 miles of land from Château de Chillon to Laussane.

In this part of Lake Geneva, you can also take a ride on the Golden Pass train to Interlaken where you’ll be able to see some great views of this Alpine region, or take a ferry boat ride on Lake Geneva.

Other Tour Options:

Geneva and Annecy Tour With Optional Lake Geneva Cruise

Lucerne, Switzerland

Located in north-central Switzerland, Lucerne is 32 miles southwest of Zurich and 60 miles southeast of Basel. It’s a beautiful city and a popular destination for tourists. Like many towns in Switzerland, it sits well above see level with an elevation of 1,430 and is surrounded by beautiful Alpine scenery. River cruises to or from Basel, Switzerland will often include the city of Lucerne in the package.

Another prominent feature of the city is the Reuss River, which separates Lucerne’s Old Town and New Town.  The Reuss River flows with Lake Lucerne for several miles before reaching the city where it then begins to flow away from it.

Other Tour Options:

Lake Lucerne Dinner Cruise

Lake Lucerne Sightseeing Cruise

Lucerne, Switzerland on the Reuss River with Kapellbrücke and Wasserturm

Lucerne, Switzerland on the Reuss River

By Edwin Lee [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are several bridges that connect both sides of the city – New Town and Old Town. Stretched across the Reuss River is one of Lucerne’s most famous landmarks - the Wasserturm and the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. The 670 foot wooden bridge was built in the 14th century, and the Wasserturm or Water Tower was built several years earlier during the 13th century.

Many tourists take a trip to nearby Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps. Both sites are located within 20 miles of Lucerne and can be reached by cable car ride. To descend from Mount Pilatus, you can take the Pilatus – the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. If you visit Rigi, you’ll have a couple of other options besides a cable car ride – the Rigi Railway and also by gondola.

Zurich, Switzerland

The city of Zurich is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Zurich and is one of Switzerland’s top tourist destinations. It’s close to Lucerne, so it shares similar Alpine scenery with the Swiss Alps nearby. It’s elevation ranges from about 1,300 feet to 2,900 feet with its lowest point at the Limmat River.

Zurich’s Old Town is located on both sides of the Limmat River. On the west bank of the Limmat, you can see the Lindenhof, which sits on a hill and is the geographic and historic center of the city. Day cruises on the Limmat River are available.

Lucerne Switzerland on the Limmat River

Lucerne, Switzerland on the Limmat River

By Chris Brown (originally posted to Flickr as Limmat River) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In downtown Zurich, you can stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse. It’s the main street in the city known as one of the most expensive shopping areas in the world. Even if you don’t do much shopping along the main avenue, there are still many sights to see. The Paradeplatz, located close to Lake Zurich, is one of Switzerland’s most famous town squares.

You can take a stroll along Lake Promenade on Lake Zurich’s western shoreline. It’s lined with parks and gardens and filled with activity, especially during the warmer months. You’ll see people boating, bicycling, and sunbathing.

Zurich is home to ten large museums but also to several other smaller museums and some art galleries. It also has one of the best zoos in Europe – the Zurich Zoo, which was built int 1929.  A few other prominent landmarks in Zurich are three churches the Grossmünster Abbey, St. Peterskirche and Fraumünster. St. Peter’s church is famous for having the largest church clock face in the world.

River cruises along the Rhine River are very popular. You'll find many options. Although most itineraries do not include additional travel in Switzerland beyond Basel, there are some packages that do include some of these cities. And most companies offer extended travel options in Switzerland before or after your cruise.

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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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