Flowing through the typically Germanic landscapes of Bavaria, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, the Main forms a tributary of the Rhine, and is the longest river lying entirely within Germany. The river springs close to the town of Kulmbach, before running through the valleys of the German Highlands and the Lower Main Lowlands, where it discharges into the Rhine just south of Wiesbaden.
Though compact in size, the Main manages to showcase some of Germany’s most inspiring beauty spots within its modest length. From the West Hesse Highlands and the Fichtel Mountains, to the culture-rich towns and cities of Frankfurt, Würzburg and Bamberg — the banks of the Main capture the rural and urban splendour of central Germany.
Highlights of the Main
Negotiate the Main’s short passageway on a Scenic river cruise, and you’ll be gifted spectacular scenery and countless cultural highlights. Here, we explore a handful of the incredible sights and experiences you can look forward to during a Main river cruise.
With a near-universal lack of ugly high rises, the Bavarian town of Bamberg is among the most exquisite in Germany, perhaps Europe. Labelled ‘Franconian Rome’, Bamberg’s World Heritage-elected Altstadt (Old Town) is flanked by medieval treasures, making it a hotbed for history and culture, delighting wide-eyed tourists.
Easily one of Germany’s prettiest settlements, Bamberg boasts historic gems aplenty, many of which originate from the 11th and 12th centuries. Don’t miss Altes Rathaus, Bamberg’s 14th-century Old Town Hall, or the Bamberger Dom, packed with artistic treasures.
Beyond the historic wonders, Bamberg harbours a thriving pavement café culture, kept alive by the students and academics of the neighbouring university. During your visit, be sure to sample a glass of Schlenkerla Rauchbier — a distinctive smoked beer brewed exclusively in the town.
‘If I could choose my place of birth, I would consider Würzburg’ — so said author Hermann Hesse, and it’s not hard to see why. Straddling the Main in Bavaria’s Lower Franconia, Würzburg is renowned for its art, culture and architectural splendour, with many of the city’s buildings demonstrating more than a nod to the opulence of baroque.
Despite being crushed during WWII, when 90% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, a huge regeneration project has since restored Würzburg to its pre-war glory. Today, the city is home to some of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Europe, including the magnificent Residenz — a World Heritage Site of spectacular structural beauty.
Like most towns and cities on the banks of the Main, Würzburg offers a great array of dining possibilities, as well as a thriving bar and nightlife scene. If you’re to dine anywhere in the city, we’d recommend Bürgerspital Weinstuben, a medieval watering hole offering a selection of delicate Franconian wines and regional dishes.
Miltenberg is the cream of Bavaria’s medieval wonders, showcasing the region’s depth of history through its charming cobblestoned streets and timber-framed houses, hotels and shops. The town has existed on the banks of the Main since the Bronze Age, and has barely changed since the 14th century, from which most of its buildings originate.
From the moment you land on the banks of Miltenberg, you’ll recognise the town’s magnificent heritage. While historic sites like the Würzburg Gate, Stadtkirche Church and Zum Reisen Hotel attract the most camera clicks, the town rarely puts a foot wrong in its nostalgic beauty — with each street and byway providing its own arresting historic wonders.
Start your walking tour of Miltenberg in the town’s spectacular market place, before venturing deeper into the ancient Old Town, where you’ll find the impressive Altes Rathaus (old city hall). While you’re in the area, pay a visit to the Staffelbrunnen, an ancient underground well, dating back to the time of the Romans. Finish your visit with a trip to Zum Reisen — thought to be the biggest and oldest pub in all of Bavaria.
Spanning the confluence of the Main and Rhine rivers, Mainz has grown from a strategic Roman fortress to become one of the preeminent highlights of the Rhineland. The city owes its existence to these two distinct waterways, and this is reflected in the historic and cultural wonders which line the banks of the Rhine and Main respectively.
While Mainz boasts some of the Rhineland’s most impressive antiquities, including the Church of St. Stephan, the renaissance fountain of Marktbrunnen, and the 1,000-year-old Mainzer Dom (Mainz Cathedral); the main draw of the city lies in its wine heritage.
Wherever you choose to explore in Mainz, you’ll encounter historic pubs, bars and Altstadt taverns serving local wines from the city’s neighbouring vineyards. With many streets in Mainz being pedestrianised, there’s no greater joy than hopping from timber tavern to timber tavern in search of your favourite variety of Riesling. We’d recommend Weinhaus Bluhm, Beichtstuhl, Spiegel and Loesch, all of which also serve a range of regional fare.
Main River Travel Advice
For those cruising the Main on a luxury Scenic river cruise, here are a few helpful tips to ensure an unforgettable journey atop this timeless waterway.
- Most Main cruises are typically combined with a journey on the Rhine or the Danube, so choose your itinerary carefully.
- While the Main river begins its journey in Germany’s Upper Franconia region, the river is only navigable between Bamberg and Mainz — so our Main itineraries incorporate this portion of the river.
- As part of our Freechoice excursion programme, we offer an exclusive guided tour of Würzburg’s Roman Road — an important trade route during the Middle Ages.
- Mainz was the birthplace of celebrated inventor, Johannes Gutenberg, who was responsible for the moveable type printing press. The inventor’s story can be explored in the city’s Gutenberg Museum.
- To discover the complete history of Miltenberg in one fell swoop, make for the Miltenberg Museum, which exhibits the town’s history from Roman times to the present day.
For a complete range of luxury Main river cruises, click here or call our dedicated customer service team today on 0808 301 6325.