Best River Cruises In Europe – River Cruise Advisor (2023)

Looking to do a river cruise in Europe but confused by all the offerings? We understand. Our story, How To Choose A River Cruise, offers some help, but you still have to do the work yourself. Here, we make it easy for you. whether it’s your first time on a river cruise or you’re a veteran river cruiser.

We’ll start with popular cruises in the spring and proceed to popular river cruises in the summer, fall and winter. Yes, there are some wonderful river cruises in the cold parts of the year.

Here are the top 10 European river cruises for 2022 and 2023.

1. Tulip Time Cruises

One of the best river cruises in Europe is a themed voyage through Belgium and the Netherlands to witness the blooming of the iconic tulips. Also known as “Dutch Waterways” cruises, Tulip Time river cruises traverse a variety of smaller rivers; the Dutch Waterways are simply the inland seas and canals along the route.

This is an ideal cruise for mid to late Spring, with trips generally beginning and ending in Amsterdam. Departing from the Dutch capital, you’ll generally float through Antwerp, Arnhem, Ghent and Rotterdam. Don’t miss the wonderful windmills at Kinderdijk or the pottery and porcelain produced in Delft. You’ll see plenty of tulips on this voyage. And after a visit to the world’s largest floral park (Keukenhof Gardens), you’ll see first-hand why this is one of the best river cruises you can do in the spring – or anytime.

2. Douro Cruises

The Douro is one ofour favorite cruising regions. The river 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.

If Lisbon and Porto are not your travel wishlist, they should be. And if you’re a wine lover, you’ll be extra enthusiastic about booking this trip. The Douro River Valley is one of the world’s oldest wine regions. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Center.

Of course, you may already know these things about the Douro, but here’s something you may not know. All cruising has to be done during the day on the Douro; after dark cruising is prohibited by law. That’s a plus in our book giving you plenty of daylight hours to take in the sites as you sail along the river.

(Video) 6 Best European River Cruise Lines. Which One Is Right For You?

A couple of the highlights? When cruising the Douro, you’ll transit the world’s deepest lock (Carrapatelo) and take an all-day tour to Salamanca, Spain.

Many of the cruises along the Douro start or end with an overnight stay in Porto, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy wandering the streets and exploring the colorful and lively city.

3. Moselle Cruises

We’ve called it Europe’s Most Beautiful River – At Least During The Fall. That’s when the wine harvest takes place on the gorgeous Moselle.

The Moselle gives you the impression that you are sailing through a gorge, flanked by vineyards running up steep slopes. Your ship will dock in fairytale villages, such as Bernkastel and Cochem. Resplendent autumnal landscapes make the cruising pleasurable along the Moselle.

Typically roundtrip Amsterdam, Moselle River cruises transit the Rhine before “making a left” in Koblenz, Germany. On a river cruise along the Moselle during October of 2021, the wine harvest was in full swing, with workers plucking grapes from vineyards that seemed to run straight up the steep hillsides. The weather was stunning along the Moselle, with sunny days and blue skies. The Rhine, by contrast, was rainy and overcast as we cruised it (both ways) between Amsterdam and Koblenz.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities, whether on ship or ashore, to sample the Moselle’s magnificent white wines. The region is known for its supple grapes, and its environment is ideal for harvesting them.

On some Moselle voyages, you’ll visit Luxembourg on tours from Trier, Germany’s oldest settlement.

Even ship captains say the Moselle is a top choice. Cruising the Moselle two years ago, I visited the wheelhouse early one morning as Crystal Bach’s Captain Douwe was navigating the misty river. “It’s my favorite river,” said the captain, who added that he had been sailing for 48 years. He told me that when there is low water on the Rhine, he’ll sometimes deviate to the Moselle. He informs guests, of course, telling them that although the planned route needs to change, they would not be disappointed. “The Moselle is almost always a pleasant surprise for the guests,” he said to me.

We agree.

(Video) River Cruise Advisor: A Journey Along The Loire River

4. Main Cruises

In 1992 theMain-Danube Canalopened, connecting the Main (pronounced mine) and Danube rivers and allowing travel between the North Sea and Black Sea. That’s why you’ll typically, but not always, cruise the Main on river cruises between Budapest and Amsterdam.

The Main spans more than 300 miles and is the longest river located entirely inGermany. The river begins in the Upper Franconia region of Germany; however, the Main is only considered navigable betweenBambergandMainz. For an enjoyable and informative read about Bamberg, check out Aaron Saunders Viking Vidar Grand European Tour Day 7: Bamberg.

My memories of the Main are of cruising a narrow river through bucolic countryside, visiting beautiful Bamberg, in the north of Bavaria and a UNESCO World Heritage Center and exploring Wurzburg and its beautiful Alte Mainbrücke (the old Main bridge) with views of the fantastic Fortress Marienberg.

To cruise the Main, you might have to do a long cruise, between Budapest and Amsterdam, but in our book, it’s well worth it, and one of best river cruises in Europe.

5. Elbe Cruises

It’s notoriously shallow, like the Loire, but at least one operator has figure out how to navigate the river. Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope runs two paddle-wheelers on the Elbe River on trips primarily between Prague and Berlin. “Cross the cradle of Germanic culture and embark on a cruise to discover theheart of Europe,” the company’s website says.

CroisiEurope’s nine-day Elbe cruises call on Meissen, known for the fine porcelain; Dresden, called the “Florence of the Elbe,” because of its architectural monuments along the river; and Wittenberg, where you’ll visit Martin Luther’s house, a former Augustinian monastery that is now the Reformation Museum and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are other calls along the way, but the crown jewel just may be Prague, with its iconic Old Town, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. Certainly, the Elbe, as fickle as it can be (CroisiEurope’s website says the Elbe is an uncontrolled river that may require ship transfer), ranks among the best river cruises in Europe.

6. Danube Cruises

(Video) Water Levels, Your River Cruise & What You Can Do

The Danube River is always ournumber one recommendation for peoplenew to river cruising. That’s because this storied river features so many ofEurope’smarquee cities– Nuremberg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava (as well as a slew of charming villages).

Europe’s second-largest river, flowing through 10 countries, the river is often referred to as the “Blue Danube,” immortalized in one of Austrian composer Johann Strauss’ most famous waltzes.

Typical itinerariessail between Budapest, Hungary, and Passau or Vilshofen, Germany. Some trips begin in Prague, with transfers to the Danube. Highlights of a Danube river cruise include visiting the Vienna Opera House or Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg (and doing the “Sound of Music” tour).

A highlight for nearly everyone is spending extra time in Beautiful Budapest. With so much to offer it’s no wonder that the Danube ranks among the best river cruises in Europe.

7. Rhine Cruises

Why the Rhine for our best river cruises in Europe? Because second to the Danube, it is the river that people ask us about most. And no wonder. The Rhine, while industrial along some stretches, can be jaw-droopingly beautiful, particularly the Rhine gorge.

The gorge runs between Koblenz and Bingen, a distance on the river of about 40 miles. For more than a century, the gorge has been a popular river outing. During the mid-1800s, sightseeing cruises became increasingly important for revenues as cargo increasingly shifted to the newly developing railway systems throughout Germany.

The Lorelei is the most famous feature along the gorge. It’s worth taking a moment to talk about the Lorelei, which you’ll still pass during the daylight hours on many Rhine cruises.The Lorelei became a famous day outing following a poem penned by Heinrich Heine in 1824. Heine was inspired by a story about a beautiful woman betrayed by her lover, who accused her of bewitching men to their deaths. For her alleged crimes, she was sentenced to serve the remainder of her life in a nunnery.

On the way to the nunnery, she asked the three knights accompanying her if she could climb the Lorelei for one last look at her beloved Rhine. Gazing into the river, she thought she saw the lover who betrayed her and fell to her death. Her haunting story still echoes in the rock and the river below. In “Die Lorelei,” Heine depicted “the fairest of maidens … sitting up there … combing her golden hair,” luring seamen to their deaths with her spellbinding song.

Beyond the gorge, the Rhine River runs for more than 700 miles through the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. It is known as being one of the best river cruises in Europe because of its stunning scenery and enchanting castles.

(Video) Best River Cruise Lines 2023 (Which one is right for you?)

On atypical seven-night river cruisebetween Amsterdam and Basel, you’ll visit Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach and possibly other ports of call. There’s lots of history here and plenty to see and do, which is the Rhine makes our list of best river cruises in Europe.

8. Seine Cruises

France is a wonderful river cruise destination, and if Paris is on your list, then you have to cruise the Seine. Many Seine river cruises operate between Paris and Rouen (or Honfleur, which only a few ships can do).

The Seine runs north through Paris and trickles into Normandy and the English Channel. This means there is an abundance of interesting places for you to visit. You can seeNormandy’s D-Day beachesor visit Clause Monet’s famously lived city of Giverny.

All river cruises on the Seine offer all-day excursions to Normandy’s Landing Beaches like Omaha Beach. You’ll also get the chance to visit the Point du Hocmonument. Not to forget, the AmericanCemetery is on the list of places to see.

9. Rhone Cruises

The Rhone is one of our favorite rivers. We’ve heard the same from other travelers and even from river cruise company owners and employees. Why? One reason is that the landscape, cities and excursions are so good – as are the wines. What’s not to like? The excursions are also top notch. SeeRhone River Excursions On AmaWaterwaysand Getting Active + Discovering France With Avalon Waterways.

For a smooth sail through Provence and Burgundy, a Rhone river cruise also ranks as one of the best river cruises in Europe for oenophiles and food lovers. All Rhone river cruises highlight the region’s super-rich wine heritage and include various tastings and vineyard visits.

10. Christmas Markets Cruises

We’re taking you from early spring and Tulip Time river cruises to winter. Many people like to cruise Europe during the warmer months. While it’s true that Europe can be chilly in the fall and spring, and downright cold in the winter, Christmas Market cruises are something that you won’t want to miss.

(Video) River Cruise Lines Comparison Viking, Emerald & Scenic River Cruises CHOOSING THE BEST ONE

Christmas Markets have a long-standing history in European cities, and these markets are not limited to just one river. Nearly every river cruise line offers Christmas Market cruises. These cruises are offered on the Rhine and Danube rivers. Some of the best markets are in Germany,Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, and France.

Best European River Cruises of the Year

There you have it, a full list of best river cruises in Europe for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Still stuck? Get Get Our River Cruise Recommendations. It’s free, and it’s fun.

Bonus: Canal Cruising In France

There areriver cruises, then there arebarge cruises. The two are worlds apart, or at least waterways apart. River cruises take place on Europe’s major waterways on vessels that typically carry from 100 to 200 guests. By contrast, barge cruises operate on small canals (you could skip a stone across many of them) and typically carry no more than two dozen guests. To say that the experiences are similar would be a quite a stretch. Sure, they both operate on water, but they are markedly different modes of transport. How so? In this post we’ll take a look at10 Reasons To Choose Luxury Hotel Barge Cruising.


Best River Cruises In Europe – River Cruise Advisor? ›

The Danube is Europe's most popular cruising river. It flows through Germany, Austria, Hungary and other counties on its 2,000-mile route, and you'll find itineraries that include Vienna, Munich, Prague, Budapest and other don't-miss cities.

Which is the most popular river cruise in Europe? ›

The Danube is Europe's most popular cruising river. It flows through Germany, Austria, Hungary and other counties on its 2,000-mile route, and you'll find itineraries that include Vienna, Munich, Prague, Budapest and other don't-miss cities.

What is the best time of year to do a European river cruise? ›

The European River cruising season runs from March through December, though the best time to take a river cruise in Europe is during the late spring (April-May) or early fall (September-October).

Which side of river cruise ship is best? ›

The truth, though, is this: There's no “better” side of the ship. It doesn't matter where you're going, or what river you're sailing on, or even what ship you're sailing aboard. Both sides of the ship are created equal.

What is the average age for European river cruises? ›

A mix of travelers from the United States and international destinations, river cruise guests typically average age 55+ years and enjoy more active, culturally connected experiences during their travels.

Which deck is best on river cruise? ›

The upper deck cabins have balconies or windows with better views. Not all cruise ships have balconies, but the great ones do! The bottom deck, which is usually labeled Deck 1, is the least desirable. The upper deck is usually the most desirable.

Is Danube River cruise worth it? ›

It has a good view from many points of the city, a panoramic view from the castle on the hill, or a walk along the river It's a must to do, or through one of the many bridges that connect the Buda side with that of Pest. In any case, from any location is admired this river with a touch of poetry to the city.

What is the best month for a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest? ›

July, September and May are the most popular months to river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest and there are 405 departures available from nine of the world's leading river cruise lines.

What is the cheapest month for a European cruise? ›

While your sailing options may be very limited, as many ships have crossed the Atlantic to sail in warmer winter waters, the cheapest months to cruise in Europe are November, early December, January and February. For a wider choice of ships, choose April or September.

What is best month for Rhine River cruise? ›

Late April to early June and September to early October are widely considered the best times to cruise the Rhine River due to ideal weather and crowds, though cruise prices are correspondingly higher during these periods.

Is it worth getting a balcony on a river cruise? ›

Bottom line: On a river cruise, a balcony may offer good value when it means an upgrade to a larger suite, but not when a French balcony gives you more interior space, or when you will be spending little time in your cabin.

What room location is best for a cruise ship? ›

The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less roll and sway you will feel. Even if you choose a balcony room, choose a low level and a room closest to the ship's center. The higher decks and cabins at the front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship will rock and roll the most.

What is the average age of a Viking River Cruise customer? ›

Passenger Profile

Although there is a mix of ages on the Viking River ships, most passengers are 60 plus, and many are retired, especially those favoring the longer voyages.

Are riverboat cruises for old people? ›

Increasing in popularity with new ships added each year, river cruising is ideal for seniors.

Are Viking cruises for seniors? ›

Viking. Viking's 930-passenger ocean ships top our list of the best cruises for seniors because they are designed specifically for an adult crowd.

Is a French balcony worth it on a river cruise? ›

Having a French balcony saves space, meaning that you can enjoy a larger cabin. On the waterways of Europe, it's often not warm enough to sit out on your balcony. A French balcony offers the advantages of great views and fresh air without wasting space on cruises where it's simply too cold to sit out.

What is the difference between veranda and French balcony on Viking? ›

French Balcony cabins have floor-to-ceiling glass doors, while Verandah cabins have larger outdoor spaces with chairs and tables where guests can relax in the fresh air and enjoy their own private view of the river.

What is the dress code for Viking river cruises? ›

What is this? There are no formal nights on Viking so there's no need for long dresses for women or dinner jackets for men (even neckties are discretionary). Instead, the dress code is “elegant casual,” meaning anything from a sundress in the Caribbean—to slacks and a blouse for women cruising in colder climates.

Is the Danube too low for cruise ships? ›

One of Europe's worst droughts in decades has left the water level of parts of the Rhine and the Danube Rivers too low for ships to pass, paralyzing commerce and causing disruptions for companies that transport goods and commodities like oil and coal.

What is the prettiest part of the Danube River? ›

The Danube bend is the most beautiful phase of the River Danube. It can be found between Esztergom and the Hungarian capital city, Budapest. If you spend your holiday in Budapest, we recommend visiting this region.

What is the best time to do a Danube River cruise? ›

The Danube River is a charming destination to visit at almost any time of the year, though most travel experts agree the that best times to take a Danube cruise are Spring (April and May) and Fall (September and October).

What are the months not to cruise on? ›

Hurricane Season

Storms in August and October have a moderate risk of developing into hurricanes while September has the highest risk of all. For these reasons, September is the worst month of the year to take a cruise.

Which side of the river is best in Budapest? ›

Ultimately, deciding whether to stay in Buda or Pest is a matter of preference–if you're on a quiet romantic getaway, for example, you may want to stay in Buda. For most people, though, the best place to stay in Budapest will be on the Pest side of the river.

Which side of the river is best to stay in Budapest? ›

Reputation. Buda – Definitely the classier and more residential side of the city, Buda is known for being a bit quieter and the place to go for a leisurely sightseeing experience. Pest – Known for being where all of the action happens – the place to be touristy, hang out and have fun.

What day of the week do cruise prices drop? ›

There's No Best Day to Book

Cruise lines generally release their lowest fares when itinerary schedules are first published, and then run sales every so often to encourage bookings. As cabins fill up, the prices go up.

Do cruise prices go down closer to departure date? ›

If a cruise is filling up quickly, the company has no reason to release a sale to entice customers. But if a cruise's departure date is fast approaching and the ship is only partially booked, prices will drop and free add-ons will increase, resulting in some happy customers.

What day do cruise prices go down? ›

Cruise prices are usually the cheapest furthest from the sailing date when first launched or 60-90 days before the cruise sets sail. The prices of some cruises will decrease last minute but this doesn't always happen. Booking a cruise within the last 60/90 days may not always be the best way to get a bargain.

What is the prettiest part of the Rhine River? ›

The most beautiful section of the Rhine Valley is the Upper-Middle Rhine Valley, between Koblenz and Bingen. This section of the Rhine valley is often called the Rhine Gorge or the Romantic Rhine Valley, and is known as one of Europe's most picturesque landscapes, and it's not hard to see why!

Is the Rhine River cruise worth it? ›

A must do! Fantastic! We took our first river cruise with Viking down the Rhine for 8 days and it was everything it was advertised to be and more! The level of detail and care that Viking achieves is amazing.

What is the best time of year for a river cruise in France? ›

The most ideal time to travel to the region is during the harvest months of September and October, as the summer heat is waning. The mostly sunny days and pleasant temperatures make it a very comfortable time for a cruise of southern France.

What is the name of the European river that is the busiest in the world? ›

Physically and culturally, the Rhine River has played a major role in shaping European history. It is also the busiest waterway in Europe. From its source high in the Swiss Alps, the Rhine is about 765 miles (1,230 kilometers) long.

What are 3 of the most famous and most important rivers in Europe? ›

The 8 Famous Rivers in Europe
  • The Seine. Length: 485 miles / 780 km. ...
  • Dutch Waterways. Length: 528 miles / 850 km. ...
  • Rhône River. Length: 505 miles / 813 km. ...
  • The Loire River. Length: 634 miles / 1,020 km. ...
  • The Elbe. Length: 724 miles / 1,165 km. ...
  • The Rhine. Length: 766 miles / 1,233 km. ...
  • The Douro. Length: 556 miles / 895 km. ...
  • The Danube.
Oct 6, 2022

Is the Danube one of the most popular rivers for cruising in Europe? ›

Nearly every river cruise line sails on the Danube, Europe's second-largest waterway which begins in Germany and travels 1,770 miles before emptying into the Black Sea. It's one of the most popular river cruise itineraries and a great one if you're new to river cruising.

Which river is the most used commercial waterway in Europe? ›

The Rhine River is Europe's most important commercial waterway, channeling the flow of trade among Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Which river is longer Rhine or Danube? ›

The Danube, on the other hand, is over twice the length of the Rhine and stretches some 2,870km from the North Sea to the Black Sea. It's the second longest river in Europe, weaving its way through ten countries — Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

What is the problem with the Rhine River? ›

The Rhine's low water level adds to Germany's ongoing economic woes : NPR. The Rhine's low water level adds to Germany's ongoing economic woes A hot, dry summer has meant the water level on the Rhine River, Western Europe's most important waterway, is at a record low, making it too shallow for many ships to pass.

What are the top 3 longest river of Europe? ›

Summary Of The 12 Longest Rivers In Europe
RankRiverLength in Miles
1Volga River2,194
2Danube River1,777
3Ural River1,509
4Dnieper River1,367
8 more rows
May 2, 2023

What is the most beautiful river in Germany? ›

Rhine. The third longest river in Europe, the Rhine is also one of the most iconic, enshrined in the culture and history of the six countries it passes through. Composers, artists and writers have been captivated by the romance of this river for centuries.

What are two famous rivers in Europe? ›

Rhine and Danube: Two Rivers, Two EuropesMapping the World

From the North Sea to the Black Sea, the Rhine and the Danube form a link across Europe. Mapping the World navigates the history of the two longest rivers of the European Union.

What are the 5 major European rivers? ›

In Europe, there are five major rivers: the Danube, the Thames, the Volga, the Loire, the Rhine and the Elbe.


(American Classic Tours, Inc.)
2. River Cruising Wasn't What I Expected. Here’s Why
(Tips For Travellers)
3. 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do On A European River Cruise. And Why
(Tips For Travellers)
4. Top Three River Cruise Lines Comparison Viking, AmaWaterways & Uniworld
(Ask a Real Travel Expert - RTE Travel Talk)
5. What's it like on Ama Waterways River Cruise... Ama Viola? | Iglu Cruise
(Iglu Cruise)
6. Experts' guide to 12 European river cruises
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Last Updated: 05/09/2023

Views: 6192

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Birthday: 1999-05-27

Address: Apt. 171 8116 Bailey Via, Roberthaven, GA 58289

Phone: +2585395768220

Job: Lead Liaison

Hobby: Lockpicking, LARPing, Lego building, Lapidary, Macrame, Book restoration, Bodybuilding

Introduction: My name is Sen. Ignacio Ratke, I am a adventurous, zealous, outstanding, agreeable, precious, excited, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.