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Imagine floating down Europe's grandest rivers, ambling between gorgeous little villages and discovering picturesque scenery along the way. It'd be hard not to fall in love.
A river cruise through Europe presents a chance to glide peacefully along calm waters exploring quaint and charming inland destinations, places that could be missed by a coastal traveller. With a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, you can get to know some of the region's most loved destinations in a truly authentic way.
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It's not often you get such a genuine look at the rural and small-town life of so many countries in one journey, not to mention doing so in comfort as you travel with your floating hotel wherever you go. Peace, serenity and utter tranquillity are just some of the hallmarks of a river cruise through Europe, making it an idyllic escape from reality.
A sleeker look at Europe’s waterways
River cruising is a compelling alternative to ocean cruising. While both have their advantages, an experience along Europe's rivers allows you even better access to cities and towns along the way. With rivers running right through town and city centres, you're often docked right amongst the action, offering up unparalleled access to the attractions, sights and sounds of your destination.
When it comes to the kind of vibe you can expect on board, river cruising ships are warm, inviting and intimate, usually catering for anywhere between 100 and 200 passengers. That means you can rest assured you'll get personalised and attentive service, with knowledgeable staff always willing to impart their local knowledge and experience, and go the extra mile to put a smile on your face.
You'll enjoy the ship's sumptuous design too, with the vessels built long, sleek and low-slung so you can glide under bridges and navigate the gorgeous canals. And because you're safely nestled inland, you don't have to worry about choppy seas or rough conditions – pure bliss! Since gliding through rivers isn’t about crossing the seven seas, you’ll visit at least one new port every day. Imagine how much of Europe you can see in a couple of weeks!
While you'll definitely get opportunities to visit and explore large, glittering cities; river cruises place a special emphasis on small towns and villages where you can really get to know a place's genuine culture and hidden treasures. On your illuminating riverside journey unlock the secrets of destinations and unveil wonders you never knew existed. What's more, shore excursions, such as guided walking tours of a port destination, are often included in your overall cruise fare.
With a more informal atmosphere than most ocean cruises, river cruising allows a more casual dress code and is perfect for those who appreciate a focus on learning about cultures, quaint towns and general discovery with fellow passengers.
Also be sure to keep an eye out for additional features that some river cruises offer. The use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks are great extras for exploring the ports, or for couples you may treat yourselves to a private butler service. Or if that doesn’t cut it, there are exclusive shore excursions including the likes of a Michelin-starred lunch or castle banquet – YUM!
Gliding through quaint towns, villages and glittering cities
Iconic rivers such as the Rhine, Seine and the Danube ensure a buffet of magnificent European river cruise options, granting access to a sumptuous range of countries such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and more. Or select a river from enchanting countries like France, Portugal and Spain, and dreamily drift from one romantic town to the next.
To the East, the intoxicating atmosphere and attractions of Hungary's Budapest make it a much-anticipated cruise stop along the Danube. Must-visit architectural wonders include the Budapest Opera, Parliament Building, Buda Castle Hill and Andrássy Avenue. Don't forget to stop and sample a buffet of flavours as you explore. Hungary's dining is exquisite, with spicy traditional dishes and rich flavours at every turn and the creamy aromas of coffees and cakes from local cafés wafting deliciously through the air.
Hungary’s Danubian neighbour, Austria, hosts a bounty of incredible destinations. Walk the vibrant riverside streets of Linz, and then head to the enchanting and beautiful city of Salzburg. Famously the location for the classic musical, The Sound of Music, Salzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart. In summer, kick back and relax in the blooming gardens, or enjoy ice skating on the dramatic lake come wintertime.
Vienna is another spectacular Austrian locale. The majestic imperial capital offers a change of pace from the quaint, smaller towns and villages. You'll be immediately struck by this city's grand scale, full of opulent historical attractions like the incomparable Schonbrunn Palace and Hofburg Imperial Palace. Wander the grounds, take in the stunning gardens and soak in the regal atmosphere around you – it's not hard to imagine how royalty lived here once upon a time.
France plates up a delightful wealth of rivers, including the Seine, Rhône, Saône, Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne. While gliding through France, stop and say 'bonjour’ to one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris. Stroll the banks of the Seine River and be exposed to the French gothic architecture of the Notre Dame, or sip a coffee or aperitif in a café in the Latin Quarter while being entertained by street musicians. From Paris to the Normandy Coast, the Seine takes an unforgettable journey past some of the most visually stunning and storied places in Northern France. You’ll see landscapes immortalised by many great artists. From the fragrance of Monet’s garden in Giverny to walking in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, you will be charmed and fascinated by the richness of history and art.
Located in the middle stretch of the Loire River is where you’ll discover Loire Valley, a region committed to the legacy of its heritage and united by the royal river. Enjoy the authentic beauty in an area full of diversity, offering a rich palette of colours in the landscapes seen along the water.
Be treated to a sumptuous display of culinary delights and unique heritage in Southwest France, cruising the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne rivers. Journey from Pauillac, the gateway to the Médoc wine route, to elegant Bordeaux, where you can visit wine cellars in the Saint-Émilion region.
A picturesque journey through Burgundy and Provence in the south of France on the Rhône and Saône rivers will stimulate all your senses. The Saône guides you through the vineyard lined banks of France’s famed Burgundy wine region, before meeting the Rhône River at Lyon. Lyon is France’s lively capital of gastronomy. Stroll through its world-famous food market like a local, taking in the 59 elaborate food stalls, bars and restaurants, or you can visit the city’s old Quartier St. Jean as you follow in the steps of the great silk weavers.
Nestled among famous vineyards, the twin cities of Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage are divine destinations for wine connoisseurs. Visit the Hermitage vineyards to get a taste of one of the older wine growing areas in the world, and then put your walking shoes on and see the cities from above with a walking tour through the lovely garden of Le Jardin d’Eden for spectacular views.
Soak up the alluring UNESCO World Heritage site of Avignon, brimming with history, culture, art and life, all to be discovered on a walking tour of this fortified city. The light and vivid colours of Provence inspired Van Gogh to produce 300 paintings and drawings in just 15 months, and you’ll be just as entranced on this exquisite journey.
There are a number of ways to delve into the stunning rivers that shape Europe. Whatever experience you choose, you’ll explore Europe’s treasures along it in a unique and unforgettable way.
Daydreaming about Europe’s mesmerizing rivers? To find out more about these enchanting waterways, visit houseoftravel.co.nz, give us a call on 0800 838 747 or come instore.
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