Some of the challenges in choosing river cruises in Europe are the rivers themselves. Unless you’ve frequently traveled to Europe, you may not be familiar with geography of the rivers. Even for those who are familiar with the lay of the land, the list of rivers can be daunting. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows hundreds of rivers coursing through the European continent, including quite a few that I’ve never heard of, the Oise, for example, which I only learned about this year. I’ll be on that river with 21 others in May of 2024, as we barge along the Oise.
With so many rivers in Europe and each with its own character, how do you decide which to cruise? You could begin here: My Top Three Tips For Choosing Your River Cruise or you could start solely with the rivers. I’m presenting my list of waterways on this page, but I’d love to hear see your list, which you can submit in the comments section below.
My 7 Favorite Europe River Cruises
1. Moselle. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that I often rave about the beauty of the Moselle. You may have even seen my post, The Moselle: Europe’s Most Beautiful River – At Least During The Fall. The Moselle ranks tops for me because of the beauty of this wine-producing region, its charming villages, its majestic castles and the fact that you’ll find plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking. The Moselle is nearly always combined with Rhine river cruises. If you’d like to cruise the Rhine and Moselle, consider joining my “Dream Cruise” in October of 2024.
2. Rhone. Coursing through the south of France, the Rhone highlights the beauty of Provence (think fields of lavender and fine French wines). River cruises in this region are bookended by wonderful historic cities, Lyon and Avignon or Arles, a place so intriguing that Vincent Van Gogh, in need of sunshine and fresh air, came here to paint for two years in the late 1800s. See In Search Of Van Gogh: Ashore In Arles. While in the region, you won’t want to miss, Pont du Gard, A Must-See On Rhone River Cruises. For those wanting to learn more, I’ve written extensively about Rhone River Excursions and produced a video titled, A Cruise On France’s Rhone River With AmaWaterways.
3. Seine. How can you not love the idea boarding a river cruise in Paris? On most, you’ll cross the gangway within walking sight of the Eiffel Tower. Some river cruises, particularly those operated by CroisiEurope, even showcase a night sailing through Paris. CroisiEurope’s ships are designed to pass under bridges that other ships are unable to navigate under. The Seine ranks high not only because of its departure from (and return to) Paris, but also because of calls at Giverny, where you can visit the French Impressionist Claude Monet’s former home and gardens; Rouen, with its magnificent cathedral and medieval half-timbered houses; and Honfleur, where the harbor is encircled with 16th- to 18th-century townhouses. The Normandy Landing Beaches are also included as excursions on most Seine river cruises. You’ll find a video and more information about Seine river cruises here.
4. Danube. The Danube is my number one recommendation for people new to river cruising, primarily because it has so many of Europe’s marquee cities – Nuremberg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava (as well as a slew of charming villages). On many Danube river cruises, you’ll also visit the fairy-tale-like Austrian village of Durnstein, from which you can set out on Wachau Valley cycling adventures to Melk, dominated by its fabulous abbey. See our Danube River Guide.
5. Rhine. Though parts of the Rhine can be industrial, this storied river features lots of beautiful sights along the way, especially the region between Koblenz and Rudesheim known as the Rhine Gorge. Along this stretch, you’ll see hilltop castles as well as the famed Lorelei and a stunning landscape. Rhine river cruises can be combined with the Moselle or you can cruise directly between Amsterdam and Basel. The Rhine features a number of varied itineraries (Riviera, for example, departs Cologne instead of Amsterdam). To learn more, see our Rhine River Articles.
6. Douro. Portugal’s Douro courses through the UNESCO recognized Douro Valley, renown for its wine and Portuguese hospitality. The Douro is a hidden gem filled with stunning scenery, warm and friendly people, and charming towns bordered by vineyards, and of course, barrels of fine Portuguese wine. You can couple your Douro cruise with pre- and post-travel to Lisbon and Madrid. Check out our posts on Douro River Cruises.
7. Bordeaux. Of course, you know of the famous French wines from this region, but Bordeaux also is a gorgeous city to explore. And thanks to a new high-speed train route, Bordeaux can be reached from Paris (or vice versa) in just two hours, providing sufficient time to share a bottle of Premier Cru Classé with friends. Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. In the late 1700s, Thomas Jefferson explored the region filling his diaries with details about the vineyards and wines that he tried. I particularly enjoy the medieval city of Saint-Emilion along with its exquisite wines.
My list could be longer. I am thinking of the Elbe, Main, Po and more, but I promised to limit myself to seven – at least for this writing. If you’re interested in exploring further, check out this page: Europe River Cruise Articles. Where will you go next
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com and www.rivercruiseadvisor.com.