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Main river

Vineyard-clad hills, lush forests and medieval palaces line the Main river, and hopping on a Main river cruise gives you a front-row seat to watch the picturesque scenery as you float by. The Main also links the Rhine with the Danube with the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, and the river cruises here manoeuvre you through 16 separate locks.

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Main river facts

The river Main is a significant trade route that meanders through Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse towards the west. It flows past several iconic cities and towns including Würzburg, a magnificent baroque town located on the famed Romantic Road, Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital nicknamed "Main-hattan" due to its skyscraper-filled skyline, and Bamberg, home to Rauchbier, a local smoked beer, which you can enjoy while admiring its old town, which is so well-preserved it boasts UNESCO status. 

Rhine-Main-Danube canal

The Rhine-Main-Danube canal is an artery between the Danube and Rhine deltas that flows between Bamberg and Kelheim via Nuremberg. Passengers get to experience the rising and lowering of the river cruise ship as it traverses a total of 16 locks along the 171 kilometre (106 mile)-canal. Lock-enthusiasts will enjoy that fact that it takes about a day to get through all the locks (up to 30 minutes per lock). Some locks are very narrow and can barely squeeze in one ship at a time, while larger locks can contain two to three ships at once.


Facts & Figures

524.9 km (326.2 mi)
Red Main & White Main
Main Tributaries (left)
Regnitz, Tauber, Mümling
Main Tributaries (right)
Rodach (Main), Itz, Franconian, Saale, Aschaff, Kahl, Kinzig, Nidda

Main river cities

  • Wurzburg

    Franconia's university town of Würzburg is best known for its two palaces. The enormous 13th century Marienburg Fortress offers panoramic views of the city while the baroque UNESCO-designated Würzburg Residence contains the largest fresco on Earth, which depicts paintings of four continents: Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. And be sure to kick back a few glasses of the local tipple the charming old town.
  • Frankfurt am Main

    Germany's financial centre also home to the Museumsufer (Museumsbank) an area along the river packed with 12 museums across a variety of genres, from fine art and architecture to film and ethnography. Don't miss Römerberg, a medieval square filled with colourful gabled houses and be sure to try the local cider, Apfelwein, in one of the historic medieval wine taverns. Frankfurt is also a major transport hub and a popular starting point for many Rhine cruises. 
  • Nuremberg

    The second-largest city in Bavaria is a spirited city that often known for it's famous Christmas market, but the city offers excellent attractions year-round. Highlights include the Roman-era Kaiserburg castle and the half-timbered architecture that lines the ancient lane, Weißgerbergasse, in the old town, as well as the sombre Nuremberg Trials Memorial traces the history and effects of the trials through video footage and imagery and audio recordings.

  • Bamberg

    UNESCO-designated Bamberg contains one of Germany's prettiest old towns and around 10 breweries best known for the local smoked beer help create an energetic atmosphere. Don't miss the Old Town Hall which perches on its own island straddling the Regnitz river and the early Gothic, late Romanesque Bamberg Cathedral known for its four dramatic green towers. 
  • Mainz

    The university town of Mainz sits at the intersection of the river Main and Rhine. It's most famous sights for its 12th-century Romanesque cathedral and St Stephen's church which contain several stained-glass windows by Chagall. It also features a lovely old town filled with half-timbered buildings and the Gutenberg Museum which traces the history of the printed book. 
  • Miltenberg

    Miltenberg sits at the curve of the Main River and is known for its elongated, skinny old town that stretches 2.5 kilometres (q.5 miles) long but is only 150 metres (490 feet) at its widest point. It's a charming town to wander around to admire its many half-timbered houses, medieval towers and bridges, and the city museum, situated in a stunning Renaissance structure, provides an overview of Miltenberg's past. 

Importance of Main river

The Main River, as well as the Rhine and Danube, is a fundamental international trade link and is a key artery for cargo transportation across Europe. With its 16 locks, it's also an excellent example of what modern engineering can enable.  Due to its length and this extensive network of locks, the Main, Rhine and Danube network of rivers offer the chance to travel via river cruise ship from the North Sea all the way to the Black Sea.

Popular cruises on Main river