Germany River Cruise Destinations  PART 4

River cruises in northeastern Germany are featured on the Elbe River. It flows in a northwesterly direction from Czech Republic into Germany. For some reason, cruises along this river are not as popular as cruises on other rivers in Germany and in Europe. Only a few of the major river cruise lines feature Elbe River cruises.

Some of the great cities included in your cruise package might be Berlin, Dresden and Saxon Switzerland – to name a few. There are quite a few stops along the Elbe River.

Although, Berlin is about 90 miles east of the Elbe River, it’s likely that your trip will begin or end in this famous city. The city of Potsdam is not too far from Berlin, and a brief tour of the city might be featured in your river cruise itinerary.

There are some day cruises and day tours available in Berlin.


Magdeburg, Germany is where your Elbe River cruise will either begin or end. If your cruise begins Magdeburg, you’ll have some time to explore the city before or after dinner. If Magdeburg is where your river cruise ends, you’ll disembark the following morning and head east toward Berlin.

Hasselbachplatz in Magdeburg, Germany

Hasselbachplatz in Magdeburg, Germany

By Stern (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

While you might not have much time to sightsee in the city, there are a few things to note about it. During WWII much of the city was destroyed and many of its building were abandoned for several years following the war. Restoration and rebuilding didn’t begin until the 1990s.

Also, in terms of geographical size, Magdeburg is a fairly large city. It’s close to 80 square miles in size. 


The city of Dessau is located at the confluence of the Mulde and Elbe Rivers. It’s also a larger city covering an area of about 71 square miles. Like many other cities in Germany, Dessau sustained severe damage during WWII and reconstruction was delayed for many years.

Town Hall in Dessau Germany

Town Hall in Dessau, Germany

By M_H.DE (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are several museums, castles, gardens and churches throughout Dessau. Bauhaus Architecture developed early in the 20th century at Bauhaus School, which had campuses in three German cities. Dessau is one of them. Some of the buildings constructed with this architectural design are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site - Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau.

While there are many sites to see, you’ll probably spend your times in the city touring the Wörlitz Castle. The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is also UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The German town of Wittenberg is east of Dessau along the Elbe River. Nearly 100 square miles in size, the city has a relatively low population of only about 50,000.

Wittenberg is probably most famous for the mark that Martin Luther left on the city. The protestant reformation began in Wittenberg in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church – one of Wittenberg’s many historical sites. The church was damaged by fire during the Seven Years’ War in 1760 and rebuilt in the late 1800s.

Old Town in Wittenberg, Germany

By Jwaller (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A shore excursion for your river cruise will likely include a visit to some of the historical sites associated with Martin Luther. There are six sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site - Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg.


Torgau, Germany is about 31 miles southeast of Wittenberg. Not one of the major cities in Germany, but there are still some interesting things to see.

One of the sites you’ll see as you walk through the city is the Hartenfels Palace. Completed in the 16th century, the palace is considered the best preserved early Renaissance palace in Germany.

Torgau Germany

Torgau, Germany

By User:Kolossos (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Supposedly, Torgau is home to the oldest toy shop in Germany. The Loebner family founded the toy company in 1685, and it has been run by the family ever since it first opened.


Located on both sides of the Elbe River, the city of Meissen, Germany is about 25 miles northwest of Dresden. It’s a very small city – measuring just under 12 square miles in size with a population of nearly 30,000.

Meissen is famous for its high-quality porcelain. Your visit to this German city will probably include a tour of the Meissenware Factory in Triebish river valley. Meissen has been producing porcelain products since the early 18th century.

Meissen Albrechtsburg Castle and Cathedral Hill in Meissen, Germany

By Leander Wattig [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

During your walk through Old Town, you’ll see the Gothic-style Albrechtsburg Castle, which was the former royal residence of the Wettin family. Today it stands as a museum.

A few other historical structures in Old Town are the Meissen Cathedral and Meissen Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady.


The city of Dresden is one of the first or last stops in Germany along the Elbe River. It’s about 25 miles from the Czech Republic border and about 90 miles north of Prague.

Located on both sides of the Elbe, Dresden is a large city in terms of geographical size. It’s the fourth largest urban district in Germany  covering 127 square miles of land. Population in Dresden - including its metro area - is about 1.1 million.

Dresden Castle in Germany

Dresden Castle

By User:Kolossos (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Although, there are many historical sites and museums to see, Dresden is also a city that is covered with forests and a lot of greenery. Nearly 65% of its land! A couple of these areas are the Dresden Heath in the northern part of the city and the Dresden Elbe Valley – a former UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During your visit through Old Town, you’ll be able to visit the Dresden Castle complex and the famous Semperoper or Semper Opera House. The Zwinger Palace with its Rococo-style architecture is now used as a museum that houses the Dresden Porcelain Collection as well as paintings and other historical objects.

Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland is southeast of Dresden near the Elbe Valley. It’s part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountain Range, which forms a natural border between Germany and Czech Republic. About 75% of the Elbe Sandstone Mountain is located in Germany. The České Švýcarsko National Park is on the Czech Republic side of the mountain range and Saxon Switzerland National Park is on the German side.

These amazing rock formations draw rock climbers from around the world and are also a favorite among locals who enjoy rock climbing.

Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland, Germany

By Thomas Wolf, (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (], via Wikimedia Commons

Your first or last stop in Germany on your Elbe River cruise will be at Bad Schandau - a popular spa town. Located east of the Elbe, Bad Schandau is right on the edge of Saxon Switzerland National Park about four miles from the Czech Republic border. It’s a fairly small town only covering about 18 square miles with a population near 4,000.

While docked in Bad Schandau, you’ll be able to visit the Bastei, which has been a tourist attraction since the 1800s. The Bastei rock formation towers 636 feet above the Elbe River with some of its jagged peaks reaching a height of 1,000 feet above sea level.

After departing from Bad Schandau, your river cruise will either travel south into Czech Republic or keep traveling north through Germany along the Elbe River.

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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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