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10 Best European River Cruises

River cruises are increasingly popular for visiting multiple countries within a region like Southeast Asia, Egypt, South America, and Europe, where there are over 150 rivers, 5 of which allow for some spectacular river cruises. 

To make the most out of your European river cruise, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best of them that offer unique and diverse to suit all kinds of river cruisers. Find the river cruise that’s right for you, then get in touch with our river cruise agents to reserve your spot!

Grand Danube Wine Cruise by AmaWaterways 

AmaWaterways’ 14-night cruise along the Danube begins in the Romanian city of Giurgiu and wraps up in the Passau district of Germany, passing through Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia along the way. 

Passengers can marvel at crumbling medieval castles, bike through the countryside, and soak in centuries of history in some of Europe’s most iconic capital cities. Samples wines in the Croatian riverside town of Ilok, a region that’s been used to grow grapes since the time of the Romans. 

You’ll also get the opportunity to sample wines and local delicacies in Hungary and Bulgaria, brandy in Belgrade, and go on a unique cultural food tour in Bratislava. 

You can request a quote and sailing dates for AmaWaterways Grand Danube Wine Cruise here

Special Interest River Cruises by Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways offers several special interest cruises that span between 8 and 15 days long. These focused cruises highlight the best of what interests you. Choose from several food & wine specialty cruises through France, Amsterdam, Belgium, and Germany. Photographers and nature lovers will be delighted by the colorful blooming tulips in Holland, and history and Jewish-heritage special interest cruises take you through time to some of the more prominent areas of the World Wars. 

Storyteller cruises feature narration by world-famous authors including Diana Gabaldon, Graham McTavish, and Jet Hatmaker. 

You can browse Avalon Waterways’ entire catalog of special interest cruises here

Castles Along the Rhine by Uniworld 

The Castles Along the Rhine River cruise tour offered by Uniworld lasts 8 days and allows passengers to see the various castles of Western Europe. Learn to recognize different architectural styles, from Gothic to Romanesque, and watch the landscape change before your eyes as you make your way down the Rhine, one of the longest and most important river channels in Europe. 

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Among the dozens of castles you’ll see on this cruise is the Marksburg Castle, a German masterpiece in the wine region on Rudesheim that has somehow never fallen, despite being the site of a massive air-ride attack during World War II. 

Begin in Basel Switzerland and make your way through France and Germany on your way to the Netherlands, where you can either hop on a train or extend your trip with 2 nights in Amsterdam. There is also the option to add 2 days in Lucerne pre-cruise, where you can take a walking tour through the town center and enjoy a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. 

Browse available dates for Uniworld’s Castles Along the Rhine Tour here

Christmastime from Vienna to Frankfurt by Avalon Waterways

Experience the magic of Old Europe on a river cruise during the holidays. There are many to choose from offered by dozens of operators, but the 12-day Christmastime Cruise from Vienna to Frankfurt offered by Avalon Waterways is long enough to visit the most iconic markets and sites in Austria and Germany. You’ll start along the Danube River before following the Main inland into Germany. 

You’ll taste traditional fare like mulled wine, gingerbread, comforting potato and cheese dishes, and, of course, plenty of homemade sausages. Along the way, you’ll stop and see Benedictine Abbey, a truly awe-inspiring site when lit up during the holidays; Historic Wurstkuche, one of the oldest restaurants in Germany for homemade sausage made according to a centuries-old recipe; and the world-famous Nuremberg Christmas Market. 

You can find out more about the Christmastime Cruise from Vienna to Frankfurt and browse Avalaon’s entire collection of Christmas cruises here

Portugal’s River of Gold by Viking River Cruises

For an extended trip through a unique European destination that’s oozing with tropical vibes, there’s Viking River Cruise’s 10-day cruise through Portugal’s River of Gold. Sail across Portugal and the Spanish coast, taking in the amazing architectural wonders like Jeronimo’s Monastery and Belem Tower. 

You’ll get the chance to sample crisp wines from the Douro Valley and spend peaceful afternoons in the countryside of Barca d’Alva before crossing into Spain to visit the town of Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Afterward, hit up Pinhao for more wine tastings before wrapping up in Pinto, another UNESCO site. Extend your trip by adding nights in Lisbon, Madrid, Santiago, or Barcelona. 

Find out more about Viking Cruises River of Gold cruise here

Milan, Venice, & the Jewels of Veneto by Uniworld 

Discover the canals of Milan and Venice and see Italy from an entirely new perspective on this 10-day river cruise through Veneto. Be inspired by the romantic city of Verona, the setting of one of history’s most romantic stories, Romeo and Juliet. In Mazzorbo and Burano, surrounded by nature, shop for unique handmade products by local artisans.

Finally, in Chioggia, you can choose between a market visit, a bike ride to the area’s beautiful beaches, or a boat ride around the island followed by a tasting of wine, cheese, olive oil, and honey. Explore more of the Mediterranean by adding nights in Santorini and/or Athens. 

Dates, full itineraries and details for the Milan, Venice, & the Jewels of Veneto by Uniworld can be found here

Iconic Rivers of Europe by Avalon Waterways

The longest cruise on our list is the 23-day Iconic Rivers of Europe cruise offered by Avalon Waterways. You’ll sail the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers into 8 European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. 

Along the way, you’ll spend time in some of Europe’s most exciting, thriving capital cities, visit quaint villages and bask in the peaceful countryside. Perfect for a summer getaway, this longer river cruise captures all the best parts of Europe. 

Find out more about Avalon’s multi-river cruises here

Gems of Southeast Europe by AmaWaterways 

Often overlooked, Eastern Europe offers beauty, friendly locals, and delicious local delicacies. It’s also considerably cheaper than many Western countries since alot of them still use their own currency instead of the Euro. 

On AmaWaterways’ Gems of Southeast Europe river cruise, you’ll board in Budapest and sail along the Danube for 7 days into Romania, passing through Bulgaria, Croatia, and Serbia along the way. There is also the option to add 2 nights pre or post-cruise in Vienna, Bucharest, Istanbul or Brasov.

You’ll visit iconic Eastern landmarks like the Iron Gates, the Petrovaradin Fortress, and the Golubae Fortress; and sample wines from little-known wine-producing regions in Romania.  

Autumn dates for AmaWaterways’ Gems of Southeast Europe cruises can be found here

France’s Finest by Viking River Cruises

Spend 15 days on the Siene soaking up France’s Finest aboard a Viking River Cruise. After exploring Paris, climb aboard and sail North to Vernon where you’ll find yourself surrounded by castles of the Middle Ages. Visit the monument to Joan of Arc in Rouen, where she was executed, and walk in the footsteps of soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. 

Return to Paris and board a train to Lyon, from where you’ll sail the Rhone to Touron, Arles, and Avignon, where you’ll wrap up your river cruise with 2 days wandering the streets and seeing museums and churches like the Palace of the Popes, the official seat of the Catholic Church between 1309 – 1377. 

2024 dates for Viking cruises through France’s Finest can be found here.

Chateaux, Rivers & Wine by Viking River Cruises

Wine lovers will delight in this 8-day journey through Bordeaux, one of the world’s finest wine regions, and Nouvelle Aquitaine, a high-end region in France that was formerly one of Europe’s most affluent kingdoms. 

After tasting delicious full-bodied reds in Bordeaux, sail to Libourne, a foodie paradise that’s home to one of the region’s largest food markets. Afterward, you’ll get to sample more reds in Barg and Blaye, Medoc, and Margaux, before returning to Bordeaux, sailing past iconic castles along the way. 

The 2023 season is wrapping up, but Viking’s dates for the 2024 cruises season can be seen here

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