Cruising on the Continent–Europe’s Best River Cruise Routes
There’s something special about traveling by water. And, though Continental Europe is land-locked, there are quite a few cruises worth your while. The network of rivers and canals was used for centuries as the fastest way to get cargo from port to port. Now, some cargo is still floated on the river, but mostly the waterways of Europe are available for the delight of cruise travelers, who can enjoy a relaxing and scenic journey at a slightly slower pace than they might find themselves going if they relied only on trains and plane travel.
Here are some examples of the routes you can take for fantastic European river cruises:
Danube’s Famous Cities
You can explore some of Europe’s best and most historic cities by following the rivers that flow through them. One popular route follows the mighty Danube, taking cruise ship passengers from Nuremberg, the second largest city in Bavaria, all the way to Hungary’s shining capital, Budapest. Along the way, passengers can glimpse Bavarian villages that seem straight out of a fairy tale, stop in forts and palaces put up by long-ago (and not so long-ago!) noble families in Austria, and sample vintages from the wine regions that hug the banks of the river.
The Danube also flows through Vienna, and is one of the reasons that Vienna was a strategic place for the seat of the Austrian Empire. Most Danube river cruises will afford travelers a day or two in Vienna, the glamorous former home of emperors, artists and musicians. Music lovers will want to take in a concert at the Vienna State Opera House, an important venue both historically and architecturally.
Following the river southeast from Vienna, travelers encounter Slovakia’s capital of Bratislava, with its charming Old Town, and, finally, Budapest.
Visiting Budapest is one of the highlights of any trip to Europe, and approaching the city from the water is a particularly beautiful way to do so. Once in Budapest, explore both sides of the river, and don’t forget to spend a day in luxury in one of the city’s wonderful bathhouses!
Wine and Dine on the Rhine
Looking to earn your chops in wine knowledge? A short cruise along the Rhine River in Germany takes travelers to some of the best wine regions in Europe and through some world-class scenery of rolling hills dotted with forests and castles.
The Middle Rhine, near Koblenz, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well, so if you would like to combine your oenology with your history, this is also a perfect place to learn about the complicated power struggles of middle Europe through the centuries. This section of the river is popular for day cruises, but can be combined into a longer tour, since the Rhine also flows through Cologne, Basel and Dusseldorf.
Fun in France
Though the Danube and the Rhine are perhaps the most famous river cruises in Europe among English-speaking travelers, don’t forget that there are also a good selection of river cruises in France.
France’s system of waterways developed over centuries in order to facilitate travel with heavy loads (and troops!) across the country. Now, travelers can enjoy cruises on the Seine, near Paris, on the Rhone in the south of France, and on a selection of smaller rivers in Bordeaux.
French river cruises also tend to be shorter in distance than the Danube cruses, but travel is then extended with side trips and stops at the charming villages, top-tier wineries and many historical sites along the way. The Bodeaux cruises, in particular, allow travelers to take in the delights of the region at a slow, luxurious pace, without any overnight travel.
What is your favorite river cruise in Europe? Let us know on social media!