The Best River Cruises in Europe

The Best River Cruises in Europe

Forget huge ocean liners where all you see is the sea for days on end. A river trip on one of Europe’s many great waterways offers an entirely different experience – a smaller, more intimate ship with land in sight at all times, access to interesting towns and quaint villages along the way, bike rides along canals and elegant dinners. Here are eight European cruises to tempt you…


The Lowdown: This unforgettable cruise down the iconic Danube takes you through four countries from Munich to Budapest and through the heart of old Europe. First stop is the medieval Unesco World Heritage-listed German town of Regensburg where you’ll discover cobblestone streets and historic houses; on to Passau, rebuilt following fires in the 17th century it sits where three of Europe’s main rivers converge; into Austria and the towns of Melk and Dürnstein; then Vienna, where you’ll take in the façades of the Vienna State Opera and City Hall, and the multi-coloured tiled roof of St Stephen’s Cathedral; the next stop is Bratislava and a tour of the city’s enchanting past, including the neo-Renaissance glory of the Slovak National Theatre and the Episcopal Summer Palace; finally you’ll arrive in Budapest, a city steeped in history and culture where ancient architecture exists alongside contemporary buildings.
The Details: 8 days from £1,245pp. For dates and further information, visit Emerald Cruises


The Lowdown: A cruise aboard the luxe MS Belle de Cádiz along the Guadalquivir and Guadiana rivers takes you to the most renowned sites in southern Spain, starting and finishing in the Andalusian capital of Seville via the historic towns of Cádiz, Granada and Córdoba. You’ll also sail by Isla Minima and El Puerto de Santa Maria, and you’ll get to visit the town of Jerez and a stud farm that raises magnificent Andalusian horses. This trip combines plenty of local culture with history, picturesque stopovers, gastronomic food and – of course – some flamenco.
The Details: 8 days from £1,282pp. For dates and further information, visit CroisiEurope Cruises.


The Lowdown: Stretching 125 miles from Porto in Portugal to the Spanish border, the Douro Valley is famed for its mountainous landscapes, centuries of rich history and abundance of wineries. The river has only been fully navigable since the construction of a dam and lock system in the 1980s, so a cruise along the Douro has relatively few visitors and remains something of a hidden gem. Your trip aboard the A-Rosa Alva starts in Porto, home to an exceptional culinary scene with everything from food markets and trendy cafés to elegant dining rooms and traditional tavernas. Your journey down the river includes stops at a number of towns and villages: the tiny, picturesque town of Pinhão is set in the heart of wine country and its railway station, with ancient tiles on its walls, is a must-see; the village of Bitetos, a former Roman settlement, is home to a 13th-century Benedictine monastery; and the hamlet of Barca d’Alva is famed for its beautiful star-lit night-time skies. You’ll also be able to take full advantage of the extraordinary vintages on offer – the region has its own microclimate that make it perfect for growing grapes, as well as olives and almonds, and sweet port wine is said to have been produced here for more than two thousand years. 
The Details: 8 days from £1,899pp, including flights from the UK. For dates and further information, visit Newmarket Holidays.


The Lowdown: Departing from Paris, you will be driven through northern Burgundy to Fleurey-sur-Ouche on the Canal de Bourgogne where you will board the 12-passenger L'Impressionniste canal and river cruiser. Built as a Dutch cargo vessel, she has been transformed into a floating boutique hotel with elegant suites, a spa pool, sundecks and bar. On this six-night trip you’ll discover the rural beauty and charming villages of Burgundy, explore markets, mustard shops and dukes’ palaces in Dijon, grand chateaux, eat in Michelin-starred restaurants and visit the amazing Hotel Dieu, a timbered 15th-century almshouse in Beaune. And, of course, you’ll also discover why this renowned region has some of France’s finest wines.
The Details: 6 nights from £3,240. For further information, visit Abercrombie & Kent.


The Lowdown: This eight-day round trip also starts in Paris, where you’ll board the Amadeus Diamond and set off in the opposite direction along the Seine through Normandy and onto the Atlantic coast (and back). You’ll pass through landscapes that inspired the likes of Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gauguin before reaching Le Havre and the coastline which saw the D-Day landings during World War II. You’ll also be able to explore idyllic Normandy villages, the museum town of Rouen and the picturesque harbour town of Honfleur. 
The Details: 8 days from £1,095. For further information and dates, visit Amadeus River Cruises.


The Lowdown: From Basel in Switzerland to the colourful canals of Amsterdam, this ten-night cruise takes you through four countries along these two dramatic rivers. Depending on dates, you’ll board either the AmaPrima or AmaCerto – each sleeps 162 passengers in spacious staterooms featuring balconies, with several dining venues and a heated pool. You’ll discover fairytale towns and iconic cities as you wander through postcard-perfect towns such Riquewihr, Freiburg, Bernkastel and Cochem. You’ll hike through vineyards and bike along the rivers, soar high above the Rhine with a gondola ride in Rüdesheim and above the Moselle with a hike to Reichsburg Castle. You’ll also get the chance to uncover the secrets of Trier’s Porta Nigra, Germany’s oldest city and often referred to as the second Rome. Grand Baroque palaces, beautiful gardens and several Unesco World Heritage sites provide something for everyone whether you are into art, architecture, history or just a lover of fine wines, beers and food. 
The Details: 10 nights from £3,271. For further information and dates visit Ama Waterways.


The Lowdown: If you’re a lover of the world’s finest wines, you’ll find that the Bordeaux area is everything you imagined it to be, and more, on this trip. Starting and ending in the city of Bordeaux itself, you’ll travel down the Garonne, the Dordogne and into the Gironde estuary, visiting Grand Cru Classé wine estates, sampling brandy in the Cognac region and eating oysters from the waters of Arcachon Bay. On one night there’s a private classical concert at Château d’Agassac in the Médoc. Accommodation aboard the river cruiser is uber luxe, with private balconies for each suite, as well as butler service; there is also a cookery school, several restaurants (from casual to fine dining), a salt therapy lounge and fitness area.  
The Details: 11 days from £2,880pp, including flights. For dates and further information, visit Scenic


The Lowdown:  Closer to home, the hotel barge Magna Carta will take you on a slow, meandering journey along the prettiest stretches of the Thames starting from Hampton Court and a visit of the Palace, onto Runnymede, past Windsor and ending in Henley. You’ll pass by quaint riverside towns and villages, getting plenty of stops to explore and visit palaces, galleries, manor houses and stately homes. You’ll also be able to cycle or walk along the Thames Towpath. The luxe barge accommodates eight guests and was originally built in the 1930s; today she is a spacious ‘floating country hotel’ with a combination of traditional and contemporary features.
The Details: 6 nights from £3,350pp or from £24,700 on a whole barge charter basis. For dates and further information, visit European Waterways.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book. Visit for more information. 

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