River cruises are an opportunity to embrace slow travel. Sit back, relax and learn about a country’s culture. While your riverboat winds along a wistful, waterway. Also, river cruises offer a more intimate experience than a cruise ship. This is because there are usually 200 or fewer passengers onboard.
Pick from one of many river cruise lines. Each will have its own itinerary and dock into different destinations along a river or canal. Many include onshore excursions, such as walking tours and visits to different attractions but these are optional. You also have the freedom to plan your own activities. Onboard, watch the changing scenery as you drift along with the water.
If you want a new way to experience a country, one of these scenic European river cruises could be for you…
The Scenic Seine river cruise
To admire France from the water extend a city break by booking a Seine River cruise. The Seine river flows 485 miles from Dijon to the English Channel but Seine River cruises can start in Paris and finish in Normandy. On route, look out for the Eiffel Tower at dinner, before walking around Giverny. Home to Claude Monet and his glorious garden – the inspiration behind some of his artwork. To admire more art, you’ll find many art museums in Rouen. Then finish your trip with a stroll across Normandy’s D-day beaches and rural countryside.
For a river cruise in summer sail along the Rhône River.
The Rhône River cruise
On a Rhône River cruise in summer, admire the lavender and golden sunflower fields. Start or finish this river cruise at ‘City of Popes’. Before going back in time to the Roman Empire, by visiting Arles and its Amphitheatre (inspired by the Coliseum in Rome). Within riverside villages, you’ll taste France’s distinctive flavours. Then drift all the way to lovely Lyon – France’s culinary capital. On or off the boat, sample fine wines from the beautiful Beaujolais wine region.
For a longer river cruise holiday to taste more fine wines, visit Portugal.
A river cruise in Portugal
In Portugal, you’ll discover dramatic scenery during a Douro River cruise. Historically it is a 2,000-year-old wine route and in fact, was originally named the ‘River of Gold’ by the Romans. Along the route, you’ll see mountains, green landscapes, and vineyards. No wonder the Alto Douro Wine Region – within the Douro Valley – is now on the UNESCO-listed World Heritage list. Enjoy wine tastings throughout and visit the Solar de Mateus manor house in Regua. This manor house may look familiar to you because it is the house that appears on a bottle of Mateus Rosé wine.
Explore the Netherlands’ wistful waterways
If you’re looking for river cruises by coach, you can reach the Netherlands capital via ferry to Calais. On your arrival, spend a day taking in the sites of Amsterdam on foot or by bicycle. Before floating port-to-port from Amsterdam and back again over five days. Sail smoothly to Gouda to walk around the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens in the morning.
Then in the afternoon, try a variety of cheeses at Gouda’s Cheese and Crafts Museum – Goudse Waag. The final destination will be Rotterdam, where you can discover the historic Delfshaven. A picturesque yacht marina which the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from for America.
You can also find more river cruises that start and finish in Amsterdam, such as Rhine River cruises.
Scenic river cruises including Germany
A Rhine River cruise
The River Rhine is known as Europe’s greatest international waterway. A Rhine River cruise can take you through six contrasting countries. So, if you’re looking for an adventure, this river cruise could be for you!
To see some of Germany over eight days, cruise from cultural Cologne and finish in charming Colmar. On your scenic journey, you’ll pass through the gorgeous Rhine Gorge. Then stop in the historic town of Heidelberg for a walking tour. Here, Heidelberg Palace and its castle ruins will catch your attention because it sits high above the Neckar Valley, and is made of red sandstone.
Next, you’ll reach Strasbourg. Strasbourg is a unique city. Although its language, cuisine, and appearance are a mix of German and French. Its half-timbered houses have remained unchanged since the 14th century. Your trip will then finish in Colmar, a fairy tale town, full of colourful houses.
To visit more European countries during a river cruise, consider a trip down the Danube River…
A Danube River cruise
The river that flows through most countries in the world is the Danube River. To cover the 10 captivating capitals that sit along the river book more than one Danube River cruise. To begin, why not start in the center of Bavarian culture, Munich, and finish in Budapest, Hungary?
On route, appreciate traditional pursuits, such as woodcarving, festivals, theatre, and classical music. Then wander around enchanting towns like Regensburg, Germany. Regensburg is a 2,000-year-old city with World Heritage status. Also, you’ll pass Austria’s treasured Göttweig Abbey, which is a spiritual center run by a community of 45 monks.
Cruise and rail holidays along the Danube
To enhance your holiday on the water, add a stay on a luxury train trip – book a cruise and rail holiday. For example, start in Budapest by boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express – a luxury train. During a round trip, admire the Hungarian Plains. Plus, the magical castles of Transylvania! Before cruising along the Danube River by boat.
Along the Danube, you can explore five countries from Budapest to cultural Passau in Germany. On route, there’ll be the opportunity to taste some of Budapest’s best snacks – like a local. Then spend time wandering around film locations found in The Sound of Music within Salzburg. Before discovering Vienna’s Art History Museum. Remember that cruise and rail holidays are not just limited to the summer months. Book either or both during the winter months…
Christmas river cruises on the Rhine and Danube
To explore part of the Rhine or Danube River, book a Christmas break to include a Christmas river cruise. Along each river, start the festive season in early December. You will sleep on a twinkling riverboat, surrounded by the aroma of warm gingerbread.
During your river cruise, visit Christmas markets on the Rhine. Choose from Alsace, Strasbourg’s 400-year-old Christmas market, and magical Mainz. Mainz is home to one of Germany’s most important religious buildings – Mainz Cathedral – founded in 975 AD. On the Danube River, you’ll sail through Austria’s wonderful Wachau Valley. Then onwards to visit the Christmas markets of Vienna and Linz – the third biggest city in Austria.
Free Spirit Travel insurance for river cruises
Where will you go for a scenic European river cruise? Will you travel solo, travel with friends or family for an adventure on the water? Wherever you go, whoever is with you, or if you book a last minute waterway adventure – remember to take Free Spirit travel insurance, which includes Coronavirus Cover.