Culturally and historically one of the great rivers of Europe and among the most important arteries of industrial transport in the world. It flows 865 miles (1,390 kilometres) from the Alps of Switzerland north and west through France, Germany and the Netherlands to the North Sea. The Rhine is navigable for River Cruise Boats starting from Basle in Switzerland all the way to the sea. In the upper section it passes Strasbourg and Worms flowing between the ancient massifs of the Vosges Mountains and Black Forest uplands and the Haardt Mountains and Oden Forest upland. At Mainz the River Main (with its connections to the Danube) joins the Rhine.
The middle Rhine is the most spectacular and romantic reach of the river with steep rock cliffs, numerous castles and breathtaking vistas. In this 90 mile stretch the Rhine has cut a deep and winding gorge between the steep slopes of the Hunsrück Mountains to the west and the Taunus Mountains to the east. Vineyards mantle the slopes as far as Koblenz, where the Moselle River joins the Rhine at the site the Romans called Confluentes. Below Bonn the valley opens out into a broad plain, and the river flows past the old city of Cologne and the modern commercial city of Dusseldorf.
When the Rhine crosses the border into The Netherlands it breaks up into a number of wide branches that are now diverted into the network of sluices and lateral channels that allow river water to reach the sea. Since 1872 the New Waterway Canal, has been the main navigation link between the Rhine and the sea through Rotterdam.