The Danube has long held the crown as the “most popular river in Europe”, and there is no wonder why! From magical castles straight from a classic fairy-tale to modern cityscapes, this river really does have it all. Sailing the Danube is perfect if this is your first river cruise; its calm waterways and beautiful scenery are ideal for “testing the water” – and as because it winds through some of Europe’s most prominent cities and landscapes, there are plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and exploration.
Stretching 2,860km (1,777miles) across the continent, the Danube River has carved its way through the dramatic landscape of 10 countries, including 4 capital cities. Starting in Germany you can sail south-easterly through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine – a true reflection of the vast and varied cultures and history of what was one of the most important trade routes in the Roman Empire. Cruises will usually start in Nuremberg/Vilshofen and end in Budapest/Bucharest/Belgrade (or vice versa) and vary in length from 7-14 nights. There are even options to do a full 20+ day river cruise tour of Europe from Amsterdam to Bucharest!
Find inspiration in the romantic, soul-stirring beauty of the fabled Rhine. Germany on one side, France on the other. Discover Alsace, whose dual French and German heritage has given it fabulous food and a winemaking tradition that goes back to the Roman era. Marvel at castles that were once mighty fortresses and get an insider’s look at one of the only castles on the Rhine that has never been destroyed, Marksburg Castle. Visit historic cities, including ancient Cologne and picturesque Strasbourg; stroll through the fairy-tale towns of Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Rüdesheim; and taste delightful white wines in the villages where the grapes are grown. Beethoven and Byron loved the romantic landscapes of the Rhine River, and the beauty that inspired them is still yours to experience.
An undoubted highlight of a river cruise along the Rhine is journeying through the majestic Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Steep, striking cliff faces are interrupted by winding roads, wine-producing vineyards and charming castles.
SAÔNE & RHÔNE
Romantic landscapes, quaint villages, grand cities and spectacular historical landmarks are yours to discover on this magical river cruise through France’s pastoral south. Roman influences rise from mighty landmarks in Arles, world-class restaurants literally fill the streets of Lyon and celebrated vineyards spread themselves across the fertile lands of Beaune and beyond. Take to the Saône and Rhône rivers and experience the France of past and present.
Indulge your mind, heart and palate on this delightful tour of France’s southern reaches, winding towards the Mediterranean. The cruise starts in Lyon, the city widely recognised as Europe’s culinary capital, where you can enjoy a bite of the local fare before the cruise heads through the stunning Beaujolais wine region.
Journeying south along the Saône and Rhône takes you on a trip through France’s charming and ever-interesting past. Roman ruins, the sites of the French Revolution and the former papal residency all contribute to the region’s enigmatic history.
Cutting a dramatic course through mountain ranges and winemaking regions, the Rhône is dotted with 16th-century castles and Roman ruins – offering an insight into the incredible past of this part of the world. The fortified city of Avignon is awash with historical intrigue, boasting the remnants of Celtic beginnings, Roman invasions and a 68-year period when the city was the centre of the Catholic church.
The Palais des Papes is a highlight of the Sensations of Southern France river cruise, the medieval gothic palace which served as the seat of the papacy from 1309 to 1377. Sat atop ancient Avignon, the Palais des Papes looks protectively over the beautiful old city, which still boasts fortified ramparts, ancient city walls and a medieval old town centre.
With its dramatic gorges and lush vineyards, the Douro sets the scene for an amazing cruise. Start in Porto and continue to the ancient and picturesque city of Lamego. Enter Spain to visit Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before discovering Portugal’s beautiful inland countryside and the palace & gardens of Mateus.
There are also plenty of opportunities to visit vineyards and taste the local wines from the region – perfect for any budding sommeliers out there.
Springing up from vineyard-coated Burgundy, the Seine is France’s best-known river. Flowing for 482 miles, it snakes through the world’s most celebrated capital – Paris – lending it an unparalleled sense of magic and romance. Yet Seine River cruises offer much more than a window on France’s spellbinding capital. Reaching northwards into Normandy, this picturesque river winds through orchards, meadows and wooded hills, revealing beauty and history at every turn before reaching the English Channel at Le Havre.
There’s something about the gentle Seine that has stirred artists down the centuries. Its landscapes inspired Monet and Cezanne, while the shifting colours of the fishing village of Honfleur on the Seine’s Channel estuary drove Courbet and Boudin to take up their brushes.
The Seine’s banks also present a fascinating journey through time. Ancient Celtic ‘Parisii’ tribes set up hamlets along the river in 250 BC, establishing trading routes that extended to the Mediterranean. The Romans followed, building a prosperous settlement called ‘Lutèce’, which ultimately developed into Paris. As well as serving as a vital trading artery, the river also played a role in key moments of French history. During the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc was martyred in Seine-side Rouen, while in World War II, the river proved a critical military crossing point. In 1991, its Parisian banks – the famous Rive Gauche and Rive Droite – were accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Peaceful, serene, magical – Moselle river cruises deserve all these accolades and more. It’s easy to understand why: this 340-mile waterway rises in the dramatic Vosges Mountains of northeastern France before etching wide and graceful curves into Luxembourg, twisting through some of Germany’s prettiest wine country and finally joining the great Rhine river at Koblenz.
The tranquil and intimate aura of the Moselle is inextricably linked to its rich winegrowing heritage. Winding between steeply contoured slopes, the river valley provides the perfect conditions for viticulture, offering up high, south-facing hills and slate soils that ensure young vines capture the most nutrients from the sun. The resulting fruits – crisp, floral Riesling, Elbling and Müller-Thurgau varieties amongst them - are admired the world over, while the vine-clad vistas of the river provide a truly restful backdrop to a cruise.
The Moselle also has a long and proud history. The Romans first planted vines here in the 2nd century BC while using the river as a major communications link between occupied Gaul and the unconquered Germanic tribes to the east. By the Middle Ages, many ‘wine villages’ had sprung up along the river, most of them strongly favouring the Riesling grape by the 18th century. 300 years later, and having served as a pivotal battleground in World War II, the Moselle is now best known for its luscious wines and magical landscapes.
BORDEAUX & GARONNE
The Garonne River runs for 357 miles through southwestern France and northern Spain. From its headwaters in the Pyrenees, it follows the Aran Valley northward into France, flowing through Toulouse on its way to Bordeaux, where it meets the Gironde estuary—which flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Biscay. In spite of the presence of some 50 locks, the Garonne is one of the few rivers in Europe that exhibit a tidal bore, a phenomenon by which a wave of water can flow back upriver. (The nearby Dordogne also has a tidal bore.) Towns along the Garonne include Toulouse, Bordeaux and Blaye.
No part of France has been as empowered by its culinary heritage as much as the idyllic wine-producing southwest. The vineyards that line the rolling hills of the Garonne River have long been the source of the country’s finest wines, while along the banks of the Dordogne River, soft green meadows and fertile soils produce glorious seasonal fruits and indulgent black truffles.
Set sail on a number of various different river cruises over the festive period for your chance to experience traditional Christmas Markets – from Bavaria to Hungarian, each one is as different as the next.
These are also perfect for picking up unusual Christmas gifts and stocking fillers! From ornate hand carved wooden sculptures to tasty traditional gingerbread and metal craft. These sailings are the epitome of Christmas.