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9 finest river cruises in Europe

River cruising in Europe is a kind of delightfully gradual and straightforward modes of journey. You are in a small floating lodge, exploring calm inland waters, gliding previous castles and vineyards and surroundings that adjustments by the hour.

Each day escorted strolling excursions and different excursions supplied by the river line take you to key UNESCO World Heritage Websites and different metropolis and village sights you’ve got come to see. Or you’ll be able to select to discover by yourself, which is simple since your ship usually will dock proper on the town.

Lazy afternoons on the ship afford the time to sit down in a lounge chair and watch the world go by — children swimming from the riverbanks, farmers tending their crops, river birds flapping their wings — as you glide to your subsequent vacation spot.

Which European river must you discover? The alternatives are broader than you may count on.

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The principle rivers in Europe are the Danube and the Rhine and their tributaries. They’re, by far, the preferred, doable both on one-week segments or longer itineraries that mix areas and generally mix rivers. Even when your cruise is simply every week, do not underestimate the attract of stress-free for seven days on a river in France or on the dreamy Douro in Portugal.

Listed here are the most effective river cruises in Europe.

Higher Danube

Linz metropolis heart and Danube River in Austria. SAIKO3P/ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Relating to Europe river cruises, an ideal seven-night starter crusing is the Higher Danube, which takes you thru centuries of historical past as you discover Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

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Ships go to such cultural hubs as Vienna, with its opera and artwork museums and elaborate royal palaces, and Budapest, Hungary, with its magnificent structure and fashionable vibe. In case your ship passes the Hungarian Parliament constructing at evening, you are in for a deal with; magnificently lit, it is one of the photographed sights on the river.

Alongside the route, between Melk and Krems in Austria, you cruise by way of the Wachau Valley, a key wine-growing area producing rieslings and gruner veltliners, with sipping alternatives obtainable. It is also an important place to bike, which is why it is good to sail with strains, reminiscent of AmaWaterways, that carry bikes on board for passengers to make use of.

You may additionally have the choice of a aspect journey to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Mozart — and likewise the place a number of scenes for the film “Sound of Music” have been filmed. A shock for a lot of is Previous City Bratislava, Slovakia, which could not have been in your must-do record however which charms with its beer tradition and castles.

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Decrease Danube

A Danube river cruise on the Serbian and Romanian border. SILVERJOHN/ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

For a deep dive into Japanese Europe’s previous and current, the fascinating Decrease Danube route between Budapest and Bucharest, Romania, explores historical past from the medieval occasions and Victorian period of Dracula to the rise of communism and the Bosnian Warfare.

The seven-night river cruise takes you thru Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Probably the most stunning stretch of the river is a 62-mile passage by way of a gorge between the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains. It is also one of many deepest stretches of river on the earth.

Different sights accessed on shore excursions by way of bus embody Bulgaria’s Belogradchik Rocks, that are naturally carved towering crimson rock pinnacles that seem to take types reminiscent of “Madonna with youngster,” and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s beautiful medieval capital.


The area across the Citadel “Drachenburg”and “Drachenfels” is known for Germany’s Rhine river cruises. IDEEONE/GETTY IMAGES

Relating to prime cruising rivers in Europe, the Rhine wins for pure magnificence and fairytale landscapes. A cruise on the river between Amsterdam in The Netherlands, and Basel, Switzerland — a typical one-week route — takes you previous expanses of slope-side vineyards, forests and mountains, historic cities and medieval half-timbered villages.

That is even earlier than you get to the Higher Center Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Web site. This 40-mile stretch of river, between Rudesheim and Koblenz, Germany, has castles galore — you may think Rapunzel letting down her hair — and Lorelei Rock, the legendary cliff mentioned to distract sailors with the mesmerizing track of a maiden.

The French metropolis of Strasbourg, with its well-known Gothic cathedral and strong Alsatian culinary scene, is usually a favourite cease on Rhine itineraries, with different highlights together with Heidelberg, Germany, and its imposing fort.

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A view of the Seine River in Paris. EVA KATALIN/GETTY IMAGES

Positive, you’ll be able to catch sight of the Eiffel Tower when boarding a river ship in Paris, however you are able to do that whereas staying in a lodge, too. The true sights of a Seine River cruise are crusing on the river outdoors town towards the English Channel and a go to to the seashores in Normandy for a perspective on World Warfare II.

Your go to there and to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, in addition to different memorials and monuments to the fallen, is a poignant expertise (one which requires a two-hour bus journey out of your ship, nevertheless). Avalon Waterways brings a World Warfare II knowledgeable on board so as to add perception on choose sailings.

Different treasures exist alongside the Seine, not the least of which is Giverny, the house and gardens of impressionist artist Claude Monet. If you’re a fan of his artwork, a lot of the property may appear acquainted.

In historic Rouen, the place Joan of Arc was martyred within the Center Ages, cease by the Rouen Cathedral (one other topic of Monet) earlier than dropping your self on cobblestone streets with fantastic cafes.


A Bordeaux river bridge with St Michel cathedral within the distance. LITTLECLIE/GETTY IMAGES

Bordeaux river cruises are completely different from different water routes since you discover two quick waterways — the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers — and the Gironde Estuary in Southwest France.

You will spend extra time ashore than floating down the river on this itinerary, along with your ship docked for 2 nights within the metropolis of Bordeaux, a mini-Paris with grand 18th-century buildings. Who cares when you find yourself within the epicenter of French tradition, in one of the celebrated wine areas on the earth?

Bordeaux serves up the chance to sip Medoc, Margaux, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Sauternes wines as you develop your wine schooling. You will go to vineyards and beautiful chateaus. Your cruise line may even host a dinner at a wine property one night. In case you plan your cruise for September or October, you can admire the grape harvest.

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Rhone and Saone

A view of Lyon alongside Saone river. GREGORY DUBUS/GETTY IMAGES

One other should for wine-lovers is exploring the inside of France, sipping Cotes du Rhone in such well-known winemaking areas as Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Provence and Beaune in Burgundy.

Rhone and Saone River cruises sometimes sail between Lyon and Arles or Avignon, they usually’re top-loaded with such non-wine sights because the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and the Roman Arles Amphitheater, in addition to the large Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) in Avignon. You will additionally be capable to take within the lavender fields, haystacks and different scenes that impressed painters like Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh.



For a lazy, dreamy, fantastic river cruise expertise, nothing fairly beats exploring the wine areas of Portugal on the Douro, one of many main rivers by way of the Iberian Peninsula. The house base for these river cruises is Porto, Portugal, with its historic metropolis heart, spectacular bridges and port homes.

On one-week cruises, you will comply with the river 130 miles previous inexperienced hillside vineyards within the Douro River Valley, a UNESCO-recognized vacation spot, earlier than turning round on the Spanish border. The river cruises sometimes embody a go to to the college city of Salamanca in northern Spain. Viticulture may be very a lot the lesson en route, as you study port manufacturing on the “River of Gold.”


Historic buildings line the Elbe River in Saxony, Germany. HARALD NACHTMANN/GETTY IMAGES

Attributable to fluctuating water ranges and slim passages, the Elbe is a difficult river that runs 680 miles between the Czech Republic and Germany. Traditionally, it fashioned a part of the border between East Germany and West Germany.

River cruising here’s a uncommon expertise. Viking River Cruises is likely one of the few strains that visits (one other is the French line CroisiEurope), providing 10-day itineraries that mix lodge stays within the cities of Berlin and Prague with a stretch of river between Prague and Wittenburg, Germany.

The cruises are on ships constructed particularly for the Elbe route. They cease in locations reminiscent of resurgent Dresden, closely bombed throughout World Warfare II however expertly rebuilt; the Saxon Switzerland area of Germany with its placing sandstone rock formations; and the spa city of Dangerous Schandau.



The Po River in northern Italy is tidal, making it one other difficult waterway. Nevertheless, it affords the chance to mix a go to to Venice with a river cruise. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises does the Po in excessive type with its 126-passenger S.S. La Venizia, utterly decked out with a way of place, from Fortuny materials and Murano glass to its gilded accents.

The one-week route would not take you far however does embody the walled metropolis of Padua, the charming fishing village of Chioggia, and the culinary mecca of Bologna.

For these searching for an extended expertise, Uniworld cleverly combines a Po cruise with luxurious rail journeys to locations like Istanbul, Switzerland and past.

Planning a cruise? Begin with these tales:



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