Our European river cruises offer the chance to sail right through the heart of the continent in order to take in some of its most amazing sites. These include the impending castles found along the river Rhine, thrilling attractions and, of course, beautiful religious buildings.
The latter, in the form of churches and cathedrals, provide enough breathtaking architecture to make even the most atheist traveller gaze up in awe. These buildings were once the focal points of communities all over Europe and help to tell stories from the past all the way up to the present day.
There are many impressive cathedrals on the European mainland, but here are a few of our favourites that you can see on a river cruise.
As one of the most famous religious buildings in the world, not just Europe, Notre Dame is an undeniable highlight of a Seine river cruise. The name translates as ‘Our Lady of Paris’ and there are many reasons why it is such a draw to people visiting the City of Love. Not only is it considered to be the best example of French Gothic architecture in existence, it also supposedly houses some very important relics in its treasury.
Amongst these is the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and a Holy Nail; all used during the crucifixion of Jesus. Notre Dame has a total of 10 bells, the largest of which (Emmanuel) dates back to 1681. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll get to see the cathedral’s most famous bell ringer; Quasimodo.
The striking Kölner Dom is one of the first things that you see when you sail into Cologne and is a symbol of the city. Built in Gothic style, it is the tallest cathedral of this kind within Northern Europe, is Germany’s most visited tourist attraction, and has the largest façade of any church in the world.
Although there are many impressive treasures inside, including the Shrine of the Three Kings, which is said to house the remains of the Three Wise Men, a climb up all 322 feet of one spire will offer amazing views of the river Rhine. If you get the chance, it’s also worth catching a glimpse of the cathedral at night when it is lit up beautifully.
St Stephen’s Cathedral, or Stephansdom as it is otherwise known, is one of the most iconic emblems of the city of Vienna. Its multi-coloured tiles can be seen the moment you step into the Stephansplatz, something which you should most definitely do during your Danube river cruise.
The 446 feet tall south tower looms over the city and played a vital role during many conflicts. It features a small apartment from which the watchmen would overlook the city at night and sound the bells if a fire was spotted.
If you travel to Salamanca as part of a Douro river cruise, you’ll be met with not one but two cathedrals. Known as the Old and New Cathedrals, these two structures are two of the main attractions in this Spanish city. Although the name may suggest otherwise, building work on the New Cathedral actually started in 1513. It was built at a time when Gothic style was beginning to fuse with and turn into Baroque style, however, the building displays more of the former so that it blends nicely with the Old Cathedral.
Amongst the intricate carvings which depict historical stories, there is an image which causes much confusion to those who are unaware of its origin. A carving of an astronaut is clearly visible on the façade, leading some people to postulate the notion of ancient space travel. The true explanation is a lot easier to grasp, though. It was created by one of the architects involved in a 1992 restoration who, after consultation with the relevant authorities, added it as his signature and a nod to the 20th century.
During the spring months, our Belgian and Dutch waterways cruises offer the chance to see the beautiful tulips fields found in these two countries. During your trip, you may get the chance to visit the city of Antwerp, where you will discover the Cathedral of Our Lady. This Gothic example of a Roman Catholic cathedral was started almost 600 years ago and, although it has never actually been completed, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Though it has faced much adversity through the years including fire, the removal of some its major works of art, and the threat of demolition, it still stands firm today. Three works of religious art by Peter Paul Rubens are the principal attractions inside.
If you would like to visit any of these stunning cathedrals, we can find the perfect river cruise for you. Europe is full of magnificent architecture and these are just some of the most captivating examples.
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