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The Best River Cruise Destinations in Europe for 2024

6 June 2023

Picturesque courses lead the way to romantic cities built over thousands of years and landscapes carved by winding waterways on European river cruises. Travelers come for the awe-inspiring routes, punctuated by fresh destinations each day and inspiring shore excursions, and return for the intimate atmosphere fostered by the elegant river cruise vessels. After all, since the sleek, luxurious ships accommodate no more than 175 guests, it is easy to form new friendships with fellow travelers and enjoy the joys of staff familiarity. Settle in for a journey you will surely remember and a route you will never forget when you travel to some of Europe's best river cruise destinations with Vacations By Rail in 2024. These tours will take you there:

View Over Passau Bavaria

Fairytale Bavaria Tour & Danube River Cruise

Storybook vistas filled with deep forests, gorgeous mountains, and fairytale castles pair with a seven-night cruise on the iconic blue Danube River on this enchanting rail and cruise vacation. The historic kingdom of Bavaria is the starting point for this journey, and travelers are immersed in its wonders from the get-go. Tour famous castles, including Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle, and climb to the summit of the highest peak in Germany on the Zugspitze Railroad. And this is just the beginning. Guests then transfer from Bavaria to Munich and board a train bound for Budapest, where the cruise portion of this voyage commences. The Danube sets the tone for the best river cruises, leading guests to Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, the Wachau Valley, Linz, Regensburg, and Passau. Four countries, twelve days, and endless adventures await.

Highlights include:

  • A ride aboard the Zugspitze Railroad
  • Excursions to Hohenschwangau Castle & Neuschwanstein Castle
  • Cruise through the Danube Bend
  • Guided tours in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and Regensburg
  • A visit to Melk Abbey in the Wachau Valley

View more: Fairytale Bavaria Tour & Danube River Cruise

City Of Prague With The Danube River

Imperial Cities & Danube Cruise

Spend 11 days enamored by Europe's grandest cities, each with a unique identity, on this 11-day memorable river cruise journey. Delve into the multi-faceted history of Berlin and Prague on land, touring their most remarkable sites and seeing how the centuries molded them into the metropolises they are today. Once in Budapest, travelers take to the water on an intimate and luxurious Amadeus cruise ship for a seven-night cruise on a waterway that is as iconic and vital as it is scenic, the Danube. These gentle waters lead to Imperial giants, including Bratislava, Vienna, Linz, and Regensburg, and scenic stretches like the incredible Danube Bend and Wachau Valley. The combination is sure to leave travelers in awe.

Highlights include:

  • Guided tours of Berlin and Prague
  • A visit to Prague's Hradcany Castle and St Vitus' Cathedral
  • Touring experiences in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and Regensburg
  • Scenic cruising through the Danube Bend and Wachau Valley
  • Time to explore 11th-century Melk Abbey

View more: Imperial Cities & Danube Cruise

Moselle Wine Region

Jungfrau Express & Moselle Cruise Vacation

Some of Europe's best cruise destinations lie ahead on this showcase of wine, history, and natural beauty. Explore the Moselle wine region and the endless number of romantic destinations found within it on the Moselle River. Then, take to the Rhine in Koblenz and cruise through its idyllic landscapes and charming old riverside towns. Once the ship docks in Strasbourg, the route takes to the land, venturing deep into the Swiss Alps to the city of Interlaken, where grand adventures and stunning views of glaciers, dramatic peaks, and picturesque lakes abound.

Highlights include:

  • A guided tour of Luxembourg City
  • Walking tours of Trier, Koblenz, Cochem, and Speyer
  • Wine tasting at a vineyard in Bernkastel, tucked in the Moselle Valley
  • Riding aboard the Winzerexpress train in Rüdesheim
  • Climbing to the "Top of Europe" aboard the Jungfrau Railway in the Alps

View more: Jungfrau Express & Moselle Cruise Vacation

Cruise Ship Arrives To Porto By The River Douro

Lisbon & Douro Cruise

The sunny Iberian Peninsula plays host to this memorable 11-day voyage. One of the best river cruises for wine lovers, this route explores Portugal and Spain aboard the River of Gold itself, the Douro. Begin on the Portuguese coast, exploring destinations like Lisbon and Sintra, whose lush hillside location and colorful architecture make it a joy to discover. From here, the journey ventures up the coast by train to Porto, where travelers take to the water aboard the Douro Serenity. The Douro Valley is a treasure trove of incredible wine and rich history. Ports of call along the way include Regua, from which we travel to Lamego for touring and dinner at a wine estate, and Barca d'Alva, where we stay docked for two days of Spanish excursions in Castelo Rodrigo and Salamanca before sailing back to Porto.

Highlights include:

  • A city tour of Lisbon on a vintage tram
  • A day spent in Sintra
  • Guided tours of Lamego, Castelo Rodrigo, and Salamanca
  • A Flamenco show in Salamanca
  • A visit to Mateus Palace and its gardens

View more: Lisbon & Douro Cruise

Geneva Lake Switzerland

Mont Blanc Express & Rhone Cruise

Experience Switzerland and France like never before on this 11-day rail and cruise vacation. Begin in Lausanne, Switzerland, alongside Lake Geneva. Regional explorations take you to an ancient chateau, onto the water, and on a scenic railroad that explores Switzerland's vineyards and France's Rhône and Chamonix Valleys. From Lausanne, the tour continues to Geneva and later Lyon. It is here that the MS Amadeus Provence awaits on the Rhône. Each day aboard the elegant ship brings a new opportunity to explore. Taste wine in the Burgundy region, tour iconic cities, and ride the scenic Train de l'Ardèche through the spectacular Gorges du Doux region. Cruising through the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Ardèche Gorge, also captures traveler's hearts as they explore France by river ship.

Highlights include:

  • A visit to Château de Chillon
  • A cruise across Lake Geneva
  • Scenic train rides on the Mont Blanc Express and Train de l'Ardeche
  • Guided tours in Lyon, Beaune, Avignon, and Arles
  • Incredible views of the Ardèche Gorge while cruising

View more: Mont Blanc Express & Rhone Cruise

AMADEUS Imperial Outside View

The Glacier Express & Rhine Cruise

The Swiss Alps' sheer majesty combines with the Rhine River's undeniable beauty on this 12-day rail and cruise vacation. First, explore Switzerland on land, traveling to the country's oldest city, Chur, and then Zermatt and Basel. Scenic train rides unveil alpine glories before you take to the water for a 7-night cruise. The route takes guests to cities like Strasbourg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, Cologne, and Amsterdam, in addition to breathtaking scenes of the Lower Rhine and the Rhine Gorge.

Highlights include:

  • Three scenic rail excursions: Glacier Express, Gornergrat Mountain Railroad, and Drachenfelsbahn Railroad
  • Guided tours of Heidelberg and Cologne
  • Choices of optional excursions along the way

View more: The Glacier Express & Rhine Cruise

Rhine River Germany

The Majestic Rhine Cruise

Travel through France, Germany, and Amsterdam, sampling the cultures and admiring the sights on the beautiful Rhine River. This tour begins in London, taking travelers to Paris and then to the Swiss city of Basel, where travelers are invited to board their luxurious Amadeus cruise ship. The route unfolds over seven nights, with each day bringing a new adventure and chance to enjoy the best of this European river. Ports of call include towns brimming with culture and inspiring vistas of the Lower Rhine and the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge.

Highlights include:

  • A ride aboard Germany's Drachensfelbahn
  • Chances to explore ports of call, including Strasbourg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, Cologne, and Amsterdam on guided tours and independently

View more: The Majestic Rhine Cruise

Christmas Market In Cologne

Rhineland Christmas Markets River Cruise Tour

The castle-dotted, cliffed shores of the Rhine River make it one of the most beautiful waterways in Europe. Setting to it during the holiday season, though, takes it from magnificent to magical. This Christmastime cruise features four nights aboard the MS Amadeus Silver II, whisking travelers through the Rhine Gorge and to destinations between Cologne and Rüdesheim in pursuit of Christmas markets and winter scenery. The ship makes its way from Cologne to the furthest location on the route, then works its way back up the Rhine through Koblenz and Bonn before returning to Cologne. Each port of call opens a world of cheer and introduces travelers to the best of Europe during the holidays.

Highlights include:

  • A walking tour of Koblenz
  • A city tour in Bonn
  • Time to explore the Christmas markets in Rüdesheim, Koblenz, Bonn, and Cologne

View more: Rhineland Christmas Markets River Cruise Tour

Barge Cruises

For an even more intimate river cruising experience, consider taking to European rivers on barge cruise vacations. Barges feature up to 12 cabins each, greatly reducing the number of fellow travelers. Group vacations or travelers vacationing alongside a large group may reserve all the cabins on a barge, given availability, and make their own private cruising experience. Even if traveling without a group, the small passenger count ensures excellent camaraderie and endless chances to enjoy each other's company while traveling to majestic destinations. Further, each barge is luxurious and all-inclusive, much like river cruise ships, yet due to their smaller frames, they can navigate narrower waterways, including the Seine and the Rhône. Come explore by barge with Vacations By Rail on these exciting journeys:

Historic Bridge For Boats Over The River Loire

Loire Valley Waterways Cruise

As you take to the country's longest river, the Loire, an incredible French discovery lies ahead. Six nights aboard the barge take travelers to places like Briare, Léré, Sancerre, Pouilly-sur-Loire, Chapelle Montlinard, Marseilles-lès-Aubigny, and Nevers. An intoxicating mixture of remote villages, small towns, and medieval locales invites exploration. There is no experience quite like tasting wine in the romantic Loire Valley.

Highlights include:

  • Visits to Château de Trousse-Barrière and the Museum Conservatory in Briare
  • Wine tastings in traditional French towns
  • A tour of La Charité-sur-Loire and its priory
  • A visit to Fontmorigny Abbey
  • A lantern tour of Nevers

View more: Loire Valley Waterways Cruise

Anne Marie barge cruise

Secrets of Provence

Few regions exude as much romance as Provencal France. Travelers are wrapped in the culture and history of Southern France on this river cruise vacation, which begins in Sete, France after they have transferred from London via Eurostar. The incredible cruising experience is a story in this region's diversity, presenting fishing towns, countryside farmlands, walled medieval villages, wetlands, and picturesque locales rich in history and beauty. Guests are treated to touring experiences that showcase each destination's unique appeals and the best features of this part of the world over six memorable nights on the luxurious MS Anne-Marie.

Highlights include:

  • A shellfish tasting in Étang De Thau
  • Guided tours of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Aigues-Mortes, and Arles
  • An authentic farm visit featuring bull sorting and produce tasting
  • Time to explore the Camargue wetlands and its wildlife

View more: Secrets of Provence

The best river cruise destinations throughout Europe beckon; how will you answer their call? To book one of these thoughtfully composed rail and river cruise tours or for more options, contact a Rail Specialist today.