River cruises are consistently gaining popularity among travelers, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Offering a more intimate and personalized experience than the typical large cruise ships, most river cruises cap at 120 passengers. These cruises are also known for their exceptional epicurean cuisine and wine, most of which is gathered at local ports, think pan-fried prawns & saffron Beurre Blanc with potato soufflé, or crisp dark Valrhona chocolate tart with mango salad, expertly paired with local wine. Not just for foodies, historians will delight in the quaint ports and fairy tale towns overflowing with castles, museums, and churches. Depending on your interests, there is a multitude of European river cruises choices. Here are our top five picks to get you started.
Danube: Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary
Soak up the sounds of the Viennese waltz and explore Salzburg, where the classic Sound of Music was filmed, as you wind along the river through the breathtaking Wachau Valley. Enjoy the rich history in some of Europe’s largest monasteries and castles and attend a grand imperial evening at a traditional palace. While on board, sample tastes from the apricot wines of Austria’s Wachau Valley to traditional Bavarian beer at an Oktoberfest celebration.
Seine, Saone, Rhone: France North to South
What could be more romantic than starting your trip sipping wine with your love in the City of Lights? How about attending an exclusive gala, classical concert within the medieval walls of Avignon? There are various options when departing from Paris to the South of France. Some ships journey through Avignon onwards to Lyon, where you can visit the world famous Les Hales food market. Others highlight France’s Burgundy and Beaujolais regions, perfect for strolling down cobblestone streets and sipping the areas finest wines.
Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel
The abundance of colorful bulbs, picturesque houses lining the charming canals, and locals bicycling to a nearby café is just a prelude of the Rhine river cruise. Start the voyage in Holland’s capital city, Amsterdam. From there, explore the Black Forest, delight in the building of cuckoo clocks and sample local cuisine as you cruise along the Rhine. En route, visit midlevel castles, quaint shops, charming cafes before arriving in scenic Basel, Switzerland, the meeting point of the French, German and Swiss borders.
Main Moselle & Rhine: Norway to Basel
Discover the Nordic spirit on a dramatic journey along three rivers each with their own unique flair. You will sail along dramatic fjords, passing through culture-rich towns, historic villages and old fishing ports. One noteworthy voyage highlight is a stop at the South Holland village of Kinderdijk, where 18th-century windmills still stand. Travelers can sample the epicurean delights of sweet brown goat cheese, homemade jam, and international coffee along the way.