Uncover the jewels of Europe

We’ve always known travelling by river offers a special way to experience a country. Coasting through idyllic countryside, past sleepy fishing towns and into vibrant cities, a river cruise affords a special view of each place and grants access to those hard-to-reach gems along the riverbank. So we’ve gathered up a few of our favourite little-known or overlooked spots that are unique to Europe’s three most iconic rivers – the Rhine, the Rhône and the Danube.

The Rhine

Cutting deeply into mountains and winding its way through rolling valleys, forests and terraced vineyards, the River Rhine is known for its alpine scenery, fairytale castles and verdant winelands. 

Rhine river cruises offer an added attraction each December, when Christmas markets spring up in all the riverside towns. Whether you’re doing a turn on the twinkling ice rink of Heidelberg or browsing the stalls in Strasbourg’s town square with a warming glühwein, our Rhine Christmas cruises are sure to put you in the festive spirit.

Cologne – from the water

The best views of Cologne’s landmarks come from the Rhine: the historic town centre, the Gothic cathedral (said to contain the remains of the Three Wise Men), the chocolate museum and the Rheinauhafen district with its modern crane-shaped houses.

The Rhine Gorge

Between Koblenz and Rüdesheim, the Rhine carves its way through slate mountains, winding between hillside castles and steep terraced vineyards. Craggy cliffs and idyllic villages complete the fairytale landscape, best seen from the river.

Heidelberg Castle

Victor Hugo waxed lyrical about it, JMW Turner painted it: Heidelberg Castle is the quintessential German romantic ruin. A sprawling sandstone mirage rising from the foot of the Königstuhl, it offers stunning views from every precipice.

Explore more of the Rhine's treasures

The Rhône

Joining the river along its southernmost stretch, Rhône river cruises offer a unique window into the rich heritage and serenity of Burgundy and Provence. Along the way, they twist and turn through the seductive landscapes that inspired Van Gogh and Cezanne, serve up the chance to sample the region’s fine wines and call at historic towns filled with impressive ancient and medieval architecture.

The Rhône Valley

Gently coursing south from France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, the Rhône passes the well-conserved Roman ruins of Vienne and the ancient vines of the Côtes du Rhône, before the landscape opens out to sun-drenched orchards and lavender fields of Provence. Tranquillity abounds at every turn.

Viviers

The Rhône is dotted with a number of medieval settlements, and the small walled city of Viviers is one of the most beautifully preserved, with its faded red roofs and narrow cobbled lanes. Highlights include an ornate cathedral, an ancient stone bridge and an 18th-century town hall. 

Camargue National Park

This beautiful nature reserve stretches inland from the Mediterranean coastline and incorporates an expansive wetland populated by noisy pink flamingos. This is where its eponymous Camargue horses roam freely, away from the black bulls that are bred here by gardians (cowboys). 

Find serenity on the Rhône

The Danube

Magnificent capital cities, medieval wine-making villages and idyllic landscapes: it’s no wonder that Danube river cruises are among our most popular holidays. Rising in Germany’s mountainous Black Forest, this famous river winds through nine more countries – Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Moldavia and the Ukraine – before meeting the Black Sea.

Dürnstein Castle

The ruin of Dürnstein is located on one of most beautiful stretches of the Danube in Austria. It was made famous by its 12th-century prisoner Richard the Lionheart, held here in 1192-1193 after betraying King Leopold V. At least he had a view to enjoy.

Budapest from the water

View of Budapest’s most iconic buildings can all be enjoyed from the comfort of the water. Aside from its crowning glory of the Castle hilltop complex, look out for the neo-Renaissance Hungarian Academy building, Art Nouveau Gresham Palace, Gothic-style Hungarian Parliament building and contemporary Palace of Arts and The Whale shopping centre. 

Iron Gates Gorge

The best way to see this gorge that separates Serbia and Romania is by sailing through it. You’ll pass through rocky fairytale passages, past a 43m-high sculpture of an ancient Romanian king, and get a view of scattered remnants of ancient Turkish settlements throughout the landscape.

Discover the Danube's best-kept secrets