Europe’s Best River Cruises

Cruising in Europe doesn’t mean you are limited to the ocean on large mega-ships. River cruises are a great way to see a variety of locations, without the hassle of repeatedly packing and unpacking or moving from place to place. And unlike ships that cruise the seas, river boats tend to be much smaller and offer a more intimate experience. Because of their size, they can dock directly in port, which saves time in loading and unloading passengers and maximizes your time in a city. Smaller size also often means more flexibility in choosing excursions, a more relaxed atmosphere, and more unique options for entertainment.


Here are the main rivers for cruising in Europe

The Danube

The Danube River runs from Germany’s Black Forest east through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, making it the perfect river for those interested in exploring Eastern Europe in comfort. It passes through picturesque countryside, pleasant small towns, and major cities and capitals, including Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, and Bratislava.

RegensburgCruising itineraries on the Danube can range from just a few days, during which you’ll concentrate on a smaller area like Austria and Hungary, to 16-day odysseys where you can traverse the whole route from Germany to the Black Sea. Excursions off the river can include visiting the small towns of Ceský Krumlov or Budweis in Czech Republic, taking a “Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg in Austria or wandering the medieval town of Regensburgin Germany.

The Seine and Rhône Rivers

givernyFrance’s Seine River flows in the north of the country, through Paris up to the English Channel. Most cruises start or end in Paris and make several stops in the Normandy region. Spend a few days exploring all that Paris has to offer and then set sail for small towns like Rouen and Le Harve. Excursions further inland might include an afternoon in Giverny, home of Claude Monet. Trips on the Seine usually last 7-8 days, though you can extend your trip pre- or post-cruise by staying in Paris a few extra days.

The Rhône runs through Southeast France and Switzerland. It passes through Oberwald and Geneva in Switzerland and several smaller towns in France, including Arles, Avignon and Lyon.

burgundyMost itineraries stop in these towns. You can tour the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lyon, marvel at Roman ruins and walk the streets of Arles, which inspired Vincent Van Gogh, and tour Avignon, the “City of Popes”. Excursions away from the river may include a journey into the heart of Burgundy to taste the locally made wine. 1-2 days may be added to these typically week-long journeys with an extension on the Saône River to the north. Or combine a look at southern France on the Rhône, with a cruise in northern France on the Seine for a journey of 12-16 days.

The Rhine

WurzburgThe Rhine starts in the Swiss Alps, flows north through Germany, and passes through the Netherlands. It runs through the major cities of Basel in Switzerland, Cologne and Düsseldorf in Germany and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Rhine cruises typically last for 8-12 days and feature stops at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cologne, the castle at Marksburg, and the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Along the way you’ll pass by fairy-tale castles, idyllic vineyards, and charming small towns.

Journeys along the Rhine can be extended to 15-18 days combining the trip with a sailing on the Moselle (which flows into Eastern France), Main (which connects the Danube and Rhine) or Danube Rivers.

Most Europe river cruises include a local guide for all excursions, all meals on board, some meals on excursions, and European wines on board. On-board entertainment often includes presentations like wine tastings with local experts, cooking classes and entertainment from local performers. Most river cruise ships only hold up to 300 people (as opposed to several thousand on most large ocean liners) and on most, every room will have an “outside” view. And many river cruises don’t cost much more than a sea cruise, making river cruising and affordable way to explore Europe in comfort and style.

Here are the Major companies providing River Cruises in Europe:

AMA Waterways
Avalon Waterways
Uniworld Cruises
Viking River Cruises
Scenic USA

For more information on River Cruises in Europe, contact our sister site:

Written by Katie Hammel for

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  1. Robert Rankin says

    WARNING – most credit cards charge a 3% fee on ALL overseas
    transactions in addition to exchange fee. Use your ATM and get cash. It will save you money.

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