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Do you know the difference between the Rhone and the Rhine? What about the Rhine and the Seine?!

European river cruises are a wonderfully tranquil way to explore some of the most historic towns and cities in Europe. Float down some of the most famous rivers in the world while enjoying the passing sights of both major cities and delightful, small towns and villages. 

Discover medieval castles, cathedrals and palaces during sightseeing stops, and wander through fantastic cities during daily shore excursions; the fabulous thing about taking a river cruise being no flights or stressful transit involved. Retire to your room after a full day exploring ashore, and wake up in a magnificent new city the next day!

However like all travel, the biggest challenge is deciding where to go. So to help, here are a list of the top river cruise destinations in Europe.

Top Destinations for a European River Cruise

Seine River

Great for romantic couples, culturists and art lovers, Seine river cruises take you straight through the heart of France. With a heavy focus on sightseeing in and around Paris, Seine river cruises generally also include parts of the English Channel with stops in Giverny, Rouen and Normandy.

Seine River. Photo CC by Artur Staszewski.

Seine River. Photo CC by Artur Staszewski.

Rhine River

Running through Germany, Netherlands, France and Switzerland, the Rhine River is one of Europe’s most famous. Experience a variety of cultures and sights as you start in the Swiss Alps and slowly float through Austria, Germany, France and Belgium. 

See the famous Cathedral in Colon, Germany, and sample the finest Riesling wines in Rudesheim. 

View of Cologne Cathedral over the Rhine. Photo CC by Motiqua.

View of Cologne Cathedral over the Rhine. Photo CC by Motiqua.

Danube River

For first time cruise lovers, the Danube is a fantastic option for a river cruise. Flowing through multiple countries including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and many more, the Danube offers travelers easy access to Eastern Europe. 

Highlights of a Danube river cruise include main ports in Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava. Float through the Austrian Lake District, explore palaces and cathedrals of Vienna, view the extraordinary buildings in Budapest, wander through medieval towns and discover Baroque monasteries. 

The Danube is a fairly epic European river cruise, the river itself stretching for 1,777 miles across Europe from Black Forest to the Black Sea. 

View over Budapest from the Danube. Photo CC by Nicolas Vollmer.

View over Budapest from the Danube. Photo CC by Nicolas Vollmer.

Main River

Ever wanted to experience Germany? Choose a Main river cruise. Wine and beer connoisseurs along with WWII history buffs will be in heaven with this highlights of Germany river cruise.

The Main connects with the Rhine and the Danube, and travelers can continue through to Austria for an even longer vacation.

Rhone River

For wine lovers, honeymooners and history buffs, this 813km river begins in Switzerland and ends in France.  Spend your days exploring Roman ruins in Alrles and discovering the gothic buildings of Avingnon. Wander through ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage listed Lyon, and visit some of France’s premiere vineyards in Burgundy.

A river cruise of the Rhone is an ultimate tour of France and surrounds, with passengers enjoying unrivalled views of the picturesque French countryside, before reaching the Mediterranean Sea.

Meg Jerrard is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Featured Photo Credit: CC Joe deSousa

    24 Comments

  1. Haha my parents went to a travel agency last week and spent the weekend looking through European River cruises. The Danube seemed to be top of their list ( I wouldn’t mind going either!)

    • It;s an easy way to spend a whole weekend, especially when there are so many options! I hope they take you along :D!

  2. Whenever we go to Europe I’d love to do a river cruise. More reasons to save up my pennies!

    • Definitely the best kind of cruise money can buy! Happy saving!

  3. Great wrap up of Europe’s major rivers cruise destinations. The Douro River in Portugal is another that’s becoming very popular. Whilst not on a River cruise, I travelled along the Danube this summer and it was stunning. Bratislava, Vienna and Passau are must-visits.

    • Thanks Carolyn – so glad you enjoyed the post! Douro River has been noted!! Really would love to get to both portugal and Spain soon, so would love to look into options for a river cruise while there. Thanks for the tip!

      Completely agree re Bratislava being a must visit – haven’t yet been through Passau so will have to add that one to my list.

      Thanks!

  4. I’ve been on a few river cruise, they are the best way to see the city!

    • Totally agree with you – and gotta love the fact that you sleep through the night and wake up to a new city to explore every morning!

  5. I’ve a friend who works for Viking River Cruises ;) she often sails these routes! That’s how I knew the difference between each river, haha! Always helps having a friend in the know. I’d like to sail between Bratislava and Vienna on the Danube for sure :)

    • Must be so cool to work for a river cruise company – I imagine she would get to see a lot of Europe this way!

  6. I’ve heard such wonderful things about these river cruises, it would be fantastic to go on one someday!

    • I hope you find an opportunity to head on one sometime soon!

  7. Cruises normally don’t interest me, but I would love to do a European River Cruise! It would be a great way to get a taste of different cities and see which ones you want to rerun to!

    • Definitely – can really give you a taste of each different region so you know which you could spend more time in. There’s never a bad excuse for a return trip :D!

  8. When I was 16 my grandparents took me on a European River Cruise from Vienna, Austria up to Amsterdam, Netherlands. That was the start of my dream to trip and move to Europe…and we now live in Amsterdam. Full circle! I HIGHLY recommend a European River Cruise and can’t wait to go on another, but this time with my husband :)

    • So fantastic that you were raised on a lifestyle of travel! I imagine a European River Cruise would have been amazing as a 16 year old starting to explore the world!

      So glad you realized your dream of living in Europe – hope you manage to make a second river cruise happen soon!

    • It truly is! Germany is such a fantastic destination, and the vast majority of river cruises tour through.

    • Thanks Brandon! The Seine river is one of my ultimate favorites :)

  9. We have taken many cruises over the years, and we always bring candy with us to give to the staff. It is amazing this little act of kindness brings a smile to their faces. Be friend with them and they will serve you well.

    • Nice idea! Being nice to the staff will get you everywhere!

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