Each river tells its own story. From carrying the ancient Romans and Vikings through Europe to aiding economic growth for major capital cities, the rivers of Europe hold centuries' worth of history and culture along their storied banks. With so much to experience, it is no wonder that river cruising has become a popular way to explore Europe. With so many wonderful river cruising options and incredible itineraries, choosing which river to set sail on can be a challenge.
To help you start planning your next river cruise, I have highlighted a few things that set each river apart.
Flowing through 10 countries before emptying into the Black Sea, the Danube River is one of the longest rivers in Europe. This historic river played an essential role in the early settlement and exploration of Europe, and its banks are lined with artifacts from great empires. Cruises are offered on the Upper or Lower Danube, which can be combined.
Experience one of the most romantic destinations in the world from the comfort of a luxurious river cruise. The Seine River flows right through the heart of Paris, giving passengers a unique perspective and unparalleled views of the city and the surrounding area while the northern part of the itinerary includes visits to seaside towns and the Normandy Beaches.
Flowing through six countries in central and western Europe, the Rhine River is home to countless UNESCO World Heritage sites. Once used as a border by the Ancient Romans, the banks of the Rhine River are dotted with storybook towns, rolling fields, and dramatic folklore. Most Rhine itineraries begin or end in Amsterdam.
Flowing through north-eastern France, Luxembourg, and western Germany, the Moselle River gives you a glimpse into the historic countryside. As you cruise down you will feel like you are taking a journey through history as you glide past castles, cathedrals, and so much more.
A cruise down the Saône River is one of the best ways to explore eastern France. A lesser-known destination for river cruising, the river will take you by beautiful European castles, quaint villages, and notable sites like Basilique Notre Dame and Old Lyon.
As the longest tributary of the Rhine River, the Main River flows from the Fichtel Mountains of northeastern Bavaria to the west through central Germany, giving passengers unparalleled views of the German countryside.
Beginning in the Swiss Alps and carving through Lake Geneva and France before reaching the Mediterranean sea, the Rhône River is just as known for its breathtaking scenery as it is for the vineyards that line its shores. Wine lovers can sample regional, award-winning wines from the local vineyards while taking in the incredible views of the Alps and Medieval towns along the way.
Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde
River cruises in the Bordeaux region of southeastern France experience all three rivers in this region which feature breathtaking backdrops, magnificent vinywards, and cultural treasures. This is a rather compact area with less cruising time and more time for excursions to markets, wine chateaux and smaller coastal towns, as well as the famous city of Bordeaux.
Waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands
Though not technically rivers, these networks of waterways and canals provide a scenic network through the area, lending this part of Europe its distinctive charm. Aside from a visit to Amsterdam, you'll visit Antwerp and Ghent, and often Bruges in Belgium. In spring these itineraries are popular for their eye-popping tulip gardens.
Moving across Spain and Portugal toward the Atlantic Ocean is the Douro River. Passengers can immerse themselves in the local culture and discover the incredible history and architecture at each port of call. The Douro River is also known for being home to Portugal's wine country, where Port wine is produced, so raise a glass as you set sail for your next great adventure.
If you are still trying to decide which European river is right for you, I'm happy to help.