During winter, pleasure boat cruises and sightseeing excursions on the Rhine River are limited but still possible. The best options are during the Christmas market period in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt or all winter from Rüdesheim via the Loreley to St Goar.
Pleasure boat day-trip cruises on the Rhine River in Germany are very popular year-round. During winter, the Rhine Valley can be hauntingly beautiful but with few visitors, riverboat cruises are also much reduced. However, with sufficient demand, KD Rhine riverboat excursions are available daily in the Loreley Valley. During the Christmas market period (mid-November to a few days before Christmas) Rhine riverboat trips are often possible from Düsseldorf, Cologne, Rüdesheim / Bingen, Mainz, and Frankfurt (on the Main River). Special New Year’s Eve party boats liven up the Rhein from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Koblenz, and Mainz, and on the Main River from Frankfurt.
KD’s winter program is in operation from 23 October 2023 to 29 March 2024.
Winter Day-Trip Sightseeing Cruises on the Rhine River
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) operates boat trips even on winter days on the Middle Rhine if demand is sufficient. These boats usually sail from Rüdesheim / Bingen with stops in St Goar, St Goarhausen (Loreley Rock), and Kaub.
From Cologne (Köln), one-hour sightseeing cruises depart some weekend afternoons.
Reservations for KD boats (tel 0221/2088-318) are essential during the winter schedule, as boats only sail if there is sufficient demand. If sufficient bookings are already confirmed, online reservations are also possible for such cruises.
KD’s Rhine River pleasure boat cruise winter schedule operates from late October to a few days before Christmas and from early January to early April.
From 18 December 2023 to 1 January 2024, no KD sightseeing boats operate at all on the Rhine or Main, except for special Advent and New Year’s Eve party cruises from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Mainz, and Koblenz.
Christmas Market Sightseeing Cruises on the Rhine River
During the Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt) period, sightseeing pleasure cruises are available mostly over weekends on the Rhine from Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorf, and Rüdesheim / Bingen and on the Main River from Frankfurt.
The Christmas market pleasure cruises last from an hour to three hours and often include live music, especially in Cologne. Food and drink are available but usually optional and not compulsory, except for all-inclusive cruises which usually include dinner.
Short cruises on the Rhine are most likely from Bingen or Rüdesheim on the Bingen-Rüdesheimer line that runs the car ferry service but also cruises to Assmannshausen and Burg Rheinstein mostly during the Advent period. Burg Rheinstein transforms into a “Christmas Castle” with cruises possible from Rüdesheim on most advent weekends.
New Year’s Eve Party Cruises on the Rhine River in 2023/24
KD operates special Silvester party cruises from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Koblenz, Mainz, Koblenz, and Frankfurt to welcome the New Year on a boat on the Rhine or Main rivers. These all-inclusive party boats depart mostly around 8 pm on December 31 and return around 1 am on New Year’s Day.
Prices for the all-inclusive party boats range from around €120 to €200. The cheaper boats only include beer and soft drinks with DJ music while the more expensive boats include live music, gala buffet dinners, and unlimited drinks. All boats serve Sekt at midnight.
The largest number of boats with the widest variety depart from Cologne but boats also welcome the New Year from Düsseldorf, Koblenz, Mainz, and Frankfurt am Main. Reservations are essential and best made well in advance — the Bingen-Rüdesheimer line Silvester cruises for 31 December 2023 were already booked out by mid-October 2023.
For more details on wintertime, Christmas Market, and New Year’s party cruises see departures from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, and the Middle Rhine (Rüdesheim to Boppard via St Goarhausen and the Loreley).
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:
- 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