Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) is the best choice for cheap panorama and day-trip cruises on riverboats on the Rhine River (Rhein) from Cologne, Bonn, and Düsseldorf in Germany.
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD), the largest operator of day cruises and pleasure boats on the Rhine River (Rhein) in Germany, offers many roundtrip panorama cruises in both Cologne (Köln) and Düsseldorf. However, most Rhine River day-trip and excursion cruises on this section of the Rhine are from Bonn to Linz. Cruises between Cologne and Düsseldorf are fairly rare. Similarly, few boats cruise between Koblenz and Linz. Many more cruises are available in the very scenic and romantic Middle Rhine (Loreley) Valley between Koblenz and Rüdesheim / Bingen, which has very good train connections to Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, and Frankfurt.
When is the Rhine River Day-Trip Cruise Season?
Rhine River all-day or shorter pleasure boat cruises are generally available from April (or late March if Easter is early) to the end of October. The high season is from late April to early October when more Rhine cruises are operated.
Winter cruises on the Rhine are rare but sightseeing cruises in Cologne (Köln) and Düsseldorf are popular during the Christmas market Advent season with special party cruises popular to greet the New Year.
Online ticket reservations are increasingly possible but often surprisingly cumbersome. It is usually easy to buy tickets from ticket kiosks or when boarding boats. Only special event cruises, which are very popular in both Cologne and Düsseldorf, require advance reservations.
Cruise prices are currently around €15 for one-hour panorama cruises and €22 for two-hour cruises. Cologne to Linz is €55 (€61 return) and Bonn to Linz is €23 (€26 return) — returns are almost free. See also special deals on Rhine River cruises for savings tips.
Sightseeing Cruises on the Rhine River in Cologne / Köln
Cologne (Köln) has the most picturesque city skyline by far of any Rhine River city. Cologne is a popular departure point for round-trip sightseeing cruises, sometimes also referred to as panorama cruises. Roundtrip sightseeing cruises from Cologne are usually around an hour but longer cruises are also available to include coffee breaks, dancing, lunch, and dinner cruises.
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) has the most cruises (around six departures each day) but other cruise lines such as Kölntourist also offer roundtrip cruises from Cologne. The differences are minimal but in some cases, special discount fares may give one company a price advance.
Rhine River Day Cruises between Cologne (Köln) / Bonn and Linz / Koblenz
Most Rhine pleasure boat excursion cruises in this region are from Bonn to Linz and back. The landscape here includes the Siebengebirge that are somewhat similar to the steep Loreley Valley further upstream. The cruise also goes past many castles and ruins including the Drachenfels, Rolandsbogen, and the remains of the bridge at Remagen. Boats cruising upstream from Bonn to Linz take two hours while the downstream return is only 85 minutes.
During the high season, there is usually one early morning cruise available from Cologne (Köln) to Linz. However, the three hours required from Cologne to Bonn are certainly not spent on the most scenic parts of the Rhine River. Cruises upstream from Linz to Koblenz are currently very rare.
Very frequent trains between Köln Hauptbahnhof (Cologne Main Station) and Bonn take between 15 and 30 minutes. Two trains per hour connect Linz (Rhein) and Cologne (with stops amongst others in Bonn) in an hour. Show the train (or bus) ticket when buying boat tickets – KD usually gives a 20% discount on the cruise. See Deutsche Bahn train schedules online: Cologne to Bonn, Cologne to Linz, Bonn to Linz, and Cologne to Koblenz.
Rhine River Boat Cruising Times between Cologne, Bonn, Linz, and Koblenz
Cruise times according to the standard Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) timetable are as follows:
Town – Left / Right bank – Minutes Upstream (Minutes Downstream)
- Köln / Cologne – L – 55 (35)
- Köln-Porz – R – 45 (25)
- Wesseling – L – 80 (45)
- Bonn – L – 30 (30)
- Bad Godesberg – L – 20 (5)
- Königswinter – R – 20 (15)
- Bad Honnef – R – 20 (15)
- Unkel – R – 10 (10)
- Remagen – L – 30 (10)
- Linz – R – 30 (30)
- Bad Breisig – L – 150 (110)
Cruises between Linz and Koblenz are rare and mostly for repositioning boats or special excursion tours a few times per year. Full Mainz, or even Koblenz, to Cologne day cruises are no longer possible on the standard schedule and timetables. For long cruises, the more sensible choice is by train to Koblenz and then to cruise to Rüdesheim / Bingen (or in the reverse order).
Sightseeing Cruises on the Rhine River from Düsseldorf
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) has many hour-long sightseeing cruises on the Rhine River from Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf has a decidedly modern skyline and wide curves in the Rhine River make for interesting vistas too. These panorama cruises are easily booked online.
Köln-Düsseldorfer also has occasional day trips from Düsseldorf to Cologne, to medieval Zons, or to Duisburg, the largest inland harbor in Europe. These cruises usually include lunch and time for sightseeing at the destination.
Die Weisse Flotte Düsseldorf also offers panorama cruises in Düsseldorf as well as excursion cruises downriver to Kaiserswerth — a pretty small village with a castle ruin near Düsseldorf Airport.
Day Cruises on the Middle Rhine / Loreley Valley
The most popular section of the Rhine (Rhein) River for day trips cruises is the romantic Middle Rhine (Mittelrhein) between Rüdesheim / Bingen and Koblenz. The Middle Rhine is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list and includes the Loreley Rock, numerous castles, and romantic villages.
Day cruises generally do not go from Cologne to the Loreley Valley. However, very frequent trains from Cologne (Köln) to Bingen take 90 minutes to 2 hours (transfers may be required in Koblenz). Bingen is on the left bank of the Rhine opposite Rüdesheim and a great place to start a Rhine River day cruise of the Loreley Valley. Trains from Koblenz to Cologne take just less than an hour. Trains also stop in most towns along this stretch of the Rhine for travelers that want to do shorter cruises.
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) offers many special savings fares on its day cruises on the Middle Rhine (Loreley Valley) that are also valid on cruises from Bonn and Cologne.
More on the Rhine River in Germany
Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:
- Middle Rhine (Loreley Valley) — UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Area and the best part of the Rhine River for short and all-day boat cruises:
- cruise from Rüdesheim (cruise lines), Koblenz (cruise lines), winter & Christmas
- from Frankfurt — fast trains to the Rhine, or slow boat to the Rhine
- from Mainz and Wiesbaden
- Savings Tips, Best Cruise Lines
- Lower Rhine — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn to Linz
- Special events: Cruises to Rhine in Flames Fireworks, Christmas and New Year’s Cruises in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Rüdesheim
- Moselle River Cruises (Cochem, Bernkastel-Kues, Trier, Koblenz, Burg Eltz)
- Cruises on the Main River in Frankfurt (or better By Train from Frankfurt to the Best Rhine Cruises)
- Cruises from Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg (on the Neckar River)
- Cruises from Speyer
- Rhinefalls (Rhine Waterfalls, Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, Kreuzlingen) in Switzerland
Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises
- The best part of the Rhine for day-trip excursion cruises in the Middle Rhine between Rüdesheim / Bingen and Koblenz. See Savings Tips and the Best Cruise Lines cruising in the Loreley Valley.
- Check train times for Germany (and most of Europe) at German Railways.