This week, I’m looking at rivers and the opportunities for holidays on or near them! Many big cities are built on rivers as this made it easy to trade. This is especially true for the main rivers in Europe – the Rhine and Danube in particular are wide and even today, very busy with freight barges as well as leisure cruises.
Europe is the main area in the world where you can take a river cruise. The rivers are wide and there are lots of interesting towns and cities along the banks. The Rhine starts its life in Switzerland with the first major city being Basle. Then on its way to the North Sea at Amsterdam, the river will take you through several countries – along the border with France initially and a beautiful stop in Strasbourg. Then into Germany, with Koblenz and Rudesheim being very picturesque stops. Take the cable car at Rudesheim to the top of the cliffs for some wonderful views, the route takes you over the vineyards. Cologne is a major starting point for many river cruises and there is obviously lots to see in the city. As you cruise from Basle to Cologne as I did several years ago, there are villages to explore, vineyards with wine to taste, lots of history and all done in a very relaxed atmosphere.
The Danube doesn’t have as many villages along its banks as the Rhine, but it does have the cities of Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Regensburg and Nuremberg. A whole slice of central European history in one journey. I started my cruise in Budapest and definitely recommend a night-time cruise here, all the buildings along the banks are lit up at night and look spectacular. In Vienna, find the oldest Ferris wheel and take a ride – it’s beautiful.
The Moselle feeds into the Rhine near Koblenz, most river cruises start in Cologne however. This is a really peaceful river, not as wide as the Rhine or Danube. The river just winds peacefully through the vineyards. The last town before you turn back is Trier, with a rich history going back to the Holy Roman Empire.
Other rivers in Europe to explore are the Rhone – again with vineyards everywhere. You can see a theme!! Also definitely worth visiting is the city of Lyon (where most cruises start – we joined our ship having taken the direct Eurostar service from London). A city full of history, both ancient and modern, with a large number of Michelin starred restaurants as well. Avignon is a lovely stop, again with lots of history to explore. Explore the lovely quirky alleyways to find little cafes for a welcome stop while sightseeing. Also in France, you can take a cruise along the Seine from the centre of the city to Rouen. En route stop and admire Monet’s gardens at Giverny. The Douro in Portugal is the final stop on our adventure and one of the few rivers in Europe I haven’t managed to cruise yet. Starting in Porto, the river takes you across Portugal to the Spanish border.
Further afield, a Nile cruise will introduce you to more history – temples and pyramids. In Asia, you can cruise the Mekong River. Despite its size, the USA really has one main river that you can cruise along, but it certainly makes up for this! The Mississippi starts its journey for river boats in St Paul, Minnesota and rolls gently southwards to New Orleans – I’ll come back to this river later in the week.
Any questions about a river cruise – just ask. It really is the perfect way to enjoy lots of cities and villages without much effort. Cruise ships have become more elegant and with more facilities as the years pass.