From natural wonders to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, striking beauty delights at every turn
When cruising the beloved Rhine, Danube and Moselle, every bend in the river reveals a new postcard-worthy view, from rolling green hills and terraced vineyards to turreted castles surrounded by verdant forests and charming villages that seem lifted from a story book. Often the scenic beauty is so sublime as to be nearly indescribable, and in that moment a picture is worth a thousand words.
This August, Crystal Ravel and Crystal Debussy, two of the world’s most luxurious river ships are set to return to Europe’s storied rivers with 32 destination-rich itineraries and vistas so stunning they will have even novice photographers snapping away like shutterbugs.
We compiled this list of not-to-miss, Instagram-worthy photo opportunities with insider tips from our very own Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises – and the most knowledgeable river cruise enthusiast we know. This mix of iconic places, hidden gems and UNESCO World Heritage Sites is just the beginning of the beauty, culture and history to be found along Europe’s famed rivers.
Canals of Strasbourg, France
Canals of Strasbourg, France – Built along an ancient bend in the Rhine, Strasbourg is a charming blend of French and German culture built around the historic center and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grande Île. A centerpiece is the ornately resplendent Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, just a short walk from the photogenic quarter of La Petite France and its picturesque maze of canals, narrow lanes and footbridges where half-timbered houses line canals draped with flowers.
Makartsteg Bridge in Salzburg, Austria
Makartsteg Bridge in Salzburg, Austria – Also known as the “Love Lock Bridge” the Makartsteg Bridge over the Salzach River is covered with thousands of colorful locks that make a striking and eye-catching photo composition. The locks hang from the bridge’s fencing attached by lovers who inscribe their initials, attach the lock to the bridge and throw the key into the river to pledge their eternal love. The bridge is a little gem among Salzburg’s spectacular historic sights. Bring your camera and perhaps a lock of your own.
The Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary
Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary – This ornate neo-gothic beauty took 1,000 people 17 years to complete and is the third largest government building in the world. Impossibly grand it somehow seems to float on the Danube, its striking symmetry, soaring spires and ornate sculptural details recalling a magnificent fairytale castle or an extravagant wedding cake. It is a must see and must photograph spot both during the day to appreciate its decorative details and at night when the lighting makes it glow as if it were gilded.
Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna, Austria
Gardens of Belvedere Palace in Vienna, Austria – Once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna is known for its manicured gardens and ornate architecture and the Belvedere Palace and Gardens are among the most beautiful in the world. Designed in the French fashion by a protégé of the gardens of Versailles the gardens at the Belvedere Palace feature decorative tiered fountains and cascades, baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates, with the splendor of the palace as an elegant photo backdrop.
Eltz Castle in Wierschem, Germany
Eltz Castle in Wierschem, Germany – This turreted medieval castle perched in the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier is a stunner from any angle. Built atop a 230-foot-high oval rock, the 12th-century castle offers commanding views and has been in the same family more than 30 generations. The approach across a long, cobbled bridge reveals the castle appearing to soar upward against the forested hillside, while the castle grounds offer a variety of vantage points from which to capture its fairy-tale beauty.
UNESCO-Listed Canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands – One of the most picturesque locales in Europe, Amsterdam offers fantastic photo opportunities at every turn, but the city’s iconic canals make for particularly romantic scenes. In 2010, UNESCO designated Amsterdam’s historic canal ring a World Heritage Site. While the main canals are beautifully photo-worthy and impressive, the narrower, more canals in the Jordaan area have an intimate appeal and special charm, with the Bloemgracht or “flower canal” known as one of the most picturesque.
Wachau Valley along the Danube in Austria
Vineyards of the Wachau Valley – Between Melk and Krems lies a section of the Danube Valley so steeped in beauty and history that it has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status and renown as the Wachau Cultural Landscape. Monasteries, castles, and stone ruins grace the hilltops above picturesque towns and villages, all set against a pastoral patchwork of terraced vineyards that date to the 9th century.
The “Stiftskirche” of Melk Abbey in Melk, Austria
Stiftskirche of Melk Abbey, Austria – The imposing grandeur of Melk Abbey on a hilltop above the Danube seems to hint at the glorious baroque architecture and gilded rococo flourishes within. The Stiftskirche, the Abbey’s breathtaking church, is like a spectacularly ornate gold-leafed jewelry box with soaring ceilings adorned with heavenly pink and gold frescoes. A not-to-miss treasure is the spiral staircase leading from the library to the church which some have named the “stairway to heaven.”
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
Terrace of Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary – One of the most visited and most beautiful sights in Budapest is Fisherman’s Bastion, part of the UNESCO-listed Castle Hill complex and named for the fishermen who defended the city walls in times of conflict. Built on a past military lookout, the spectacular neo-Romanesque terraces and promenades feature stone archways and turreted towers (seven towers for the original seven Magyar tribes) that offer sweeping panoramic views of the Danube, the Parliament Building and the city beyond.
A picture-perfect view of Europe’s most beloved rivers
Crystal’s Luxurious River Ships – Crystal’s stylish river ships are always ready for their close-up. The first and only all-suite, all-balcony river ships in Europe with every category of accommodations situated above the waterline for non-stop river views, the ships offer expansive social spaces crowned with skylights and glass ceilings provide an ambience of boutique elegance while the top, open-air Vista Decks offer 360-degree panoramas of Europe’s most spectacular sights.
These spectacular Instagram-worthy sights are just the beginning of the natural beauty and historic wonders that await travelers beyond each new bend in the river.
Book Now Savings on Crystal River Cruises’ spectacular 2021 River voyages have been extended through September 1, 2021. There has never been a better time to explore Europe’s treasured rivers.