Nothing could be better than kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the sites on a river cruise along the Danube from Belgrade, Hungary, to Nuremburg, Bavaria, or along the Seine from Paris to Honfleur, France. And with river cruises, the pace is slower, which allows you to enjoy your journey as you weave through intimate waterways shaped by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, past castles, lush forests, palaces, temples, historic towns and breathtaking vistas. A visit to every port is immersive and quaint, made possible with local guides who take you through smaller, charming cities and towns that passengers on cruise ships rarely get to experience.
With more river cruises popping up every year, you can choose a place and a duration that fits your schedule and budget. So, we decided to give you a rundown of some of the most popular waterways that offer river cruises with incredible not-to-be-missed sights to see along the way. Climb aboard – your next course-setting adventure awaits!
Glide through the continent’s most compelling destinations, with imposing medieval castles, lush riverbank vineyards, ancient towns and storybook villages. From Germany to France to Luxembourg and Greece, the ever-changing scenery of Europe’s mighty rivers will captivate you.
The Rhone River
Originating in the breathtaking Swiss Alps, the Rhone River flows through some of Switzerland’s and France’s most scenic locations, such as Lake Geneva, Lyon and Provence. And if you’re an art or architecture aficionado, you’ll enjoy several highlights along this 504-mile voyage, like visiting Auvers-sur-Oise, where Dutch Post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh lived and worked, or stroll through the Museé des Beaux Arts, the next-best fine arts museum in France after the Louvre, in Lyon.
Don’t Miss: For the risqué traveler, you can shed your clothes on the nude beach located about a mile from Piémanson Beach in Arles, France.
The Rhine River
Beginning with the legendary canals of Amsterdam and winding through Germany’s fairytale villages and historic castles, the Rhine River is one of the most picturesque. Indulge in a springtime cruise to see thousands of bright tulips decorating the banks or enjoy excursions to Austrian Christmas markets during the winter.
Don’t Miss: Stop in Rudesheim! It’s not only the gateway to the Rhine Valley, but it’s wine traditions have put it on the map as one of the premier producers of some of the best Riesling and Pinot Noir wines.
The Danube River
Europe’s second largest river provides more than just easy cruising – it allows for stops at some of Europe’s most famous ports, like Budapest, Munich, Prague and Vienna. Cruise ships wander through scenic old villages, busy cities and medieval fortresses, allowing for incredible scenery and even more immersive stops.
Don’t Miss: Belgrade has a lively artistic and cultural scene with trendy neighborhoods and districts that feature independent art galleries, artisan ice cream shops, bars that server craft beer and hip clubs like Drugstore Play, which has a strict dress code, and a reservation is required to climb aboard this bangin’ party barge.
Stop at Mandrogi, where you can pick up Russian skills like how to paint the famous Matroyska nesting dolls.
Often called the Venice of the North, Russia’s Volga and Svir rivers offer a sparkling look into some of the world’s most striking architecture, lavish gardens and unique cultures. A cruise along these famed rivers will give you insight into the mysteriously enchanting traditions of this gilded empire.
Volga and Svir Rivers
A voyage through Russia’s mighty waterways will uncover two of its most incredible cities: St. Petersburg and Moscow. You’ll be welcomed with views of the city’s famous landmarks, such as the Kremlin, the Hermitage Museum and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Plus, you’ll have the unique opportunity to learn about the area’s communist past, rich history and unique political culture as you sail.
Don’t Miss: While on the Svir River, stop at Mandrogi, where you can learn Russian traditions like how to paint the famous Matroyska nesting dolls.
A journey along Asia’s rivers offers beautiful sights, colorful cultures and ancient traditions. There’s truly nothing like it! With exotic landscapes, breathtaking temples, rare wildlife and incredible food, a trip along China and Southeast Asia’s rivers offer once-in-a-lifetime views and adventures.
China’s Legendary Yangtze River
Arguably the most important river in the history of the world, China’s Yangtze encompasses 3,900 miles of Southeast Asia. With incredible sites—like the glaciers of Tibet, the radiant city of Shanghai, the Great Wall of China and hundreds of quaint villages and beautiful forests, mountains and islands—every moment is picture perfect.
Don’t Miss: Dating back about 2,000 years, the mysterious Fengdu Ghost City, located on the river bank atop the Ming Mountain, is designed to resemble the Chinese process of entering the afterlife. It’s divided into three stages: Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge, Ghost Torturing Pass and the Tianzi Palace. Beware—spooky encounters have been known to happen.
The Mekong River
Slightly smaller than the Yangtze, but just as historically important, the Mekong River runs through some of Southeast Asia’s most famous countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Watch daily life unfold as you cruise by with immersive excursions to local markets, fishing villages and silk factories. A river cruise will provide you with a stronger understanding about this powerful river, along with the cultures and people near its shores.
Don’t Miss: Go shopping by boat! In Vietnam, you can’t miss the floating markets, a vibrant part of local life in the Mekong Delta. Tropical fruit (like mangos, pineapples and papayas), meat, okra, seafood, coffee, coconut soap, Vietnamese dishes like Pho, and even TVs and other electronic products are sold here. You really have to see it to believe it!
And that’s just the beginning of the popular destinations a river cruise can take you. More cruises lines are chartering river cruises in South America, Africa and other exotic destinations. Get ready to immerse yourself culture as you embark on another exciting adventure along one of the world’s well-renown waterways.