There are few things as iconically Dutch as the windmills at Kinderdijk, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands’ South Holland province. But these stately monuments aren’t just for looks. Built in 1740, the 19 monumental windmills are part of an ingenious flood management system, which also includes numerous pumping stations, dikes and reservoirs. This living museum showcases the historical ingenuity of the Dutch people, who have been cleverly managing the water that surrounds them for nearly a thousand years. For the full effect, visit in the spring when the Dutch landscapes explode with colorful tulips.
Nestled along the River Danube in the picturesque Wachau Valley, the sleepy town of Melk is a baroque jewel often overshadowed by the larger city of Vienna to the west. But what the town lacks in population, it makes up for in spectacular architecture, centered around 360° views of the towering Melk Abbey. This 11th-century Benedictine monastery boasts Austria’s finest Italian baroque architecture, where intricate ceiling frescoes and red marble walls frame the elegant halls of Marmorsaal and gold statuary adorns the domed Abbey Church. Continue your architectural tour with a visit to the nearby Schallaburg Castle, a Renaissance gem surrounded in perfectly manicured gardens.
The Bavarian city of Regensburg is a favorite among architecture buffs, most famously for its preserved medieval core. The UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to Roman times, with more than 1,500 heritage buildings showcasing a mix of Roman, Romanesque, and Gothic styles. Start your walking tour along the 12th-century Stone Bridge, connecting the colorful neighborhood of Stadtamhof to the historic Altstadt — or Old Town. Admire the many 13th- and 14th-century patrician houses before touring the Gothic St. Peter’s Cathedral and the chilling Altes Rathaus, with its Imperial Chamber and baroque Town Hall Tower. Finish with a bite at the Alte Würstküche — or Old Sausage Kitchen —Germany’s oldest restaurant.
Want to visit all three? Book the Grand European Tour with Viking Cruises for a 15-day journey spanning the best of Europe. This iconic itinerary traces the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers between the stunning landscapes of Hungary and the windmill-dotted waterways of Holland, with engaging experiences around every bend.