10 Terrific European river cruises departing in 2020

best european river cruises

Searching for the best European river cruise? Here are 10 excellent itineraries to consider.

Europe’s famous waterways are best enjoyed on a scenic river cruise featuring a variety of lovely ports of call throughout.

Each of the featured 10 terrific river cruises offer an array of iconic ports of calls across some of Europe’s best-loved holiday destinations, with featured visits in a number of great capital cities.

Join us as we start with a preview of a Romantic Danube cruise following a classic 8-day itinerary.

1. Romantic Danube 2020

This scenic 8-day river cruise follows a classic itinerary that includes ports of call across some of Europe’s most renowned river cruising destinations including the Hungarian capital, Vienna, Krems, and into Germany across a trio of scenic stops including Passau.

During this memorable and rather grand voyage, the cruise ship follows the famous blue Danube river stopping at some of Europe’s most famous cities, often the gateway to lovely scenic experiences.

First exploring Budapest, the cruise then heads for one of the great classical musical capitals of the World – Vienna – before journeying further into beautiful Austria with a stop at Krems – the start of the Danube’s journey into the beauty of Wachau.

A popular inclusion, Krems is best known for the grand Benedictine monastery Göttweig Abbey.

Travelling across the border into Germany, the cruise then stops at Passau. Here, the great rivers Inn, Ilz and Danube meet.

Home to famous landmarks steeped in history like St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Passau is resplendent with beautiful narrow streets where visitors are often welcomed by the sight of colourful, period buildings, each with their own charm and character.

One of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities, the town of Regensburg has some celebrated features including a 12th century stone bridge, a selection of courtyards and the wonderfully gothic St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Nuremberg

Stopping in Roth, guests are then transported on to the final iconic river cruise destination – Nuremberg.

Closely associated with the closing chapters of WWII, Nuremberg is a deeply historic city.

During your visit, you will pass by former Nazi parade grounds and the venue used for the infamous Nuremberg trials – the Palace of Justice.

Heading further back into Nuremberg’s long past, Nuremberg Castle, complete with a huge tower, is a beautiful medieval structure.

After staying over in Nuremberg, the cruise sadly comes to an end where guests disembark and are taken to the airport for a flight home.

Itinerary:

• Budapest, Hungary
• Vienna, Austria
• Krems, Austria
• Passau, Germany
• Regensburg, Germany
• Nuremburg, Germany

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2. A Tale of Three Rivers 2020

Enjoy the rivers Rhine, Moselle and the Main during this fantastic cruise offering departure dates throughout 2020.

Sailing some of the continent’s most iconic rivers, holidaymakers will get to enjoy beautiful and historic landscapes home to a number of medieval castles and call at a number of essential river cruising destinations.

Sights include the 900-year-old Marksburg Castle and stops along the famous romantic road.

Starting in Trier, the city has a wealth of highlights including a huge Roman gate – Porta Nigra – and a huge Cathedral.

Notably, the city is the birthplace of Karl Marx, an important figure in world history whose ideas led to the creation of socialism and communism.

The writer’s house and birthplace is today a museum dedicated to his life and work.

Leaving Trier, the cruise moves on to Bernkastel before arriving in Cochem.

Resting on the banks of the Moselle, Cochem and its brooding castle is a lovely town to explore. Wandering around the cobbled streets of the town, there is much to see and admire.

Marksburg Castle is undoubtedly Koblenz’s main attraction. One of the few castles never to be destroyed, Marksburg sits high above the river offering views out across the surrounding landscape.

The following port of call – Heidelberg, Würzburg, Bamberg – see the cruise delve further into the romantic beauty of Germany.

Experiencing these iconic cruising destinations really will live long in the memory.

Heidelberg, a noted university town, and Würzburg, both have their own distinct charm and character, offering a range of historic sights and experiences.

The finale of this enjoyable cruise, Bamberg is a truly romantic Bavarian town, home to buildings that have stood since the 11th century.

A walking tour of Bamberg’s well-preserved and UNESCO-listed Old Town presents the perfect chance to enjoy this picturesque town up close.

Itinerary:

  • Trier & Bernkastel, Germany
  • Cochem, Germany
  • Koblenz, Germany
  • Heidelberg, Germany
  • Würzburg, Germany
  • Bamberg, Germany

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3. Grand European Tour 2020

Starting in the Dutch capital Amsterdam, this 15-day epic river cruise journeys from the Netherlands, into Germany and Austria before Budapest acts as a grand finale.

Famed around the world for its vast collection of canals lined with pretty and historic buildings, Amsterdam is a wonderful city to explore, packed with great museums and gardens.

Travelling on to Kinderdijk that rests well below sea level, holidaymakers then get the chance to experience the listed windmills and delve into close to three hundred years of history.

When visiting, keep an eye out for the ingenious technological methods employed to drain the land and subsequently maintain water levels.

Travelling on to Germany, the old city of Cologne is a stunning blend of old and new. Badly damaged during WWII, the city was carefully reconstructed.

An impressive six further spots in Germany include Koblenz, Miltenberg, and pretty Bamberg.

A real Bavarian gem, Bamberg is awash with lovely timbered buildings that can often be found hugging the banks of rivers that pass through the town.

Melk Abbey

Leaving Germany, two magical Austrian stops in Melk (of Melk Abbey fame) and Vienna mark the start of the final chapters of this grand river cruise.

Arriving in Budapest gives holidaymakers the chance to experience one of the continents greatest cities.

Huge iconic landmarks like the impressive Hungarian Parliament and Buda Castle are some of the most visited attractions in the capital.

A fantastic end to a Grand European Tour!

Itinerary:

  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Koblenz, Germany
  • Miltenburg, Germany
  • Würzburg, Germany
  • Bamberg, Germany
  • Nuremberg, Germany
  • Regensburg, Germany
  • Passau, Germany
  • Melk, Austria
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Budapest, Hungary

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4. Passage to Eastern Europe 2020

An enriching cruising experience, this 11-day itinerary starts at the Romanian capital Bucharest where you can enjoy and learn about the city’s long history with visits to some stunning historical attractions.

These include the city’s massive Palace of Parliament and the 6th-century Kalemegdan Fortress.

The cruise then ventures onto neighbouring Bulgaria to give holidaymakers the opportunity to experience a number of the country’s greatest destinations ranging from Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi, Vidin and Belogradchik.

Veliko Tarnovo is the country’s former capital whereas the port town of Vidin is a deeply historic part of the country that to this day has a number of fascinating key Roman features.

Moving on to the Lower Danube, the extraordinary Iron Gate is a true natural wonder and key scenic highlight.

A fascinating port of call, the beautiful Serbian capital Belgrade, known for the brooding Kalemegdan Fortress, is a city renowned for its architecture.

Also known as Belgrade Fortress, the first portions of Kalemegdan Fortress were built over a staggering two thousand years ago.

Just some of the attractions available in the city include Kalemegdan Park (resting close to the Fortress), and the huge Church of Saint Sava.

An afternoon well spent, a brief port of call in Croatia at the city of Osijek on the banks of the Danube, has some awesome features dating back to the Neolithic period.

Crossing into Hungary, this memorable voyage stops in two renowned cities – Kalocsa and the Hungarian capital Budapest.

Two days are spent in Budapest with a wonderful included tour taking you to some of the greatest city landmarks including the Chain Bridge, Fisherman’s Bastion and Heroes Square.

Make the most of your free time in the city with a visit to one of the most famous buildings on the planet – the Hungarian Parliament – highly recommended.

Itinerary:

  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Veliko Tarnovo & Arbanasi, Bulgaria
  • Vidin & Belogradchik, Bulgaria
  • Iron Gate, Serbia/Romania
  • Belgrade, Serbia
  • Osijek, Croatia
  • Kalocsa, Hungary
  • Budapest, Hungary

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5. Rhine Getaway 2020

best european river cruises

Perhaps the world’s best-loved river, a Rhine cruise is an essential river cruising experience.

Across 8 days, this itinerary (available throughout 2020), starts at the Dutch capital Amsterdam, before continuing through Holland, crossing into Germany, briefly visiting France, before a closing call at the Swiss city of Basel concludes an epic voyage that features stops at some of the world’s most historically important cities.

Marking the beginning of your time away, free time in Amsterdam is the perfect start.

Wandering around the city on foot is a delightful experience with the city’s massive network of canals perfect for a stroll.

Those keen to enjoy cultural attractions whilst away should consider both the Rijksmuseum (National Museum) and the Van Gogh Museum (dedicated to the life and works of the renowned artist).

Staying in Holland on the second day, the cruise sets sail for UNESCO-listed Kinderdijk – home to a series of windmills and fascinating feats of engineering that help keep water levels down across the surrounding landscape.

The cruise then crosses the border into Germany with a roll-call of stops at some of the very best river-cruising destinations Cologne, Koblenz, and Speyer.

Over 2000 years old, Cologne on the banks of the Rhine is best-known for its massive Cathedral.

Somehow surviving intensive bombing during the WWII despite much of the city turning to ruin, the Cathedral is true focal point on Cologne’s skyline.

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress is often one of the first sights visitors to Koblenz, an ancient city in the heart of Germany.

Both Ehrenbreitstein and Marksburg are key river cruising landmarks along the Rhine with the town having a huge importance during the Medieval period.

After enjoying the passing scenery as you cruise along the Rhine, a call at the town of Speyer presents the chance to experience one of the country’s oldest cities.

A useful option for holidaymakers, journeying to Heidelberg on a full day tour takes passengers into the heart of the extremely picturesque ‘Romantic Road’.

One of the best-preserved towns in Germany, Heidelberg is an esteemed university town packed with period charm.

Strasbourg

Capital of the former Alsace Region, Strasbourg is a simply beautiful city resting on France’s border with Germany.

Heavily influenced by both countries, the city blends the best of both countries cultures. Throughout the city and particularly in the Petite France quarter, Strasbourg’s lovely half-timbered house are postcard-perfect.

A gateway to Alsatian wine country, a tour leaving the city for a winery tour and tasting is perfect for holidaymakers keen to learn about one of France’s famous exports.

Travelling back into Germany, the gateway to the Black Forest – Breisach – awaits.

Hugely scenic, the region’s rolling hills, mountains, and vast forests really live up to their glorious reputation.

Whilst visiting Breisach, holidaymakers can enjoy a cuckoo clock-making demonstration and also learn the intricacies of creating a Black Forest cake.

As the cruise nears its conclusion, you may want to include as many memorable moments as possible and an optional excursion to Colmar could be just the cherry on the top of this exceptional river cruise.

Travelling through the night from Breisach, Basel is the final port of call where holidaymakers disembark for their journey home.

Itinerary:

  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Koblenz, Germany
  • Speyer, Germany
  • Strasbourg, France
  • Breisach, Germany
  • Basel, Switzerland

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6. Danube Waltz 2020

best european river cruises

A grand waltz down the Danube, this enchanting river cruise includes ports of call at Budapest, Bratislava, Krems, Linz and finally Passau.

Budapest is simply of Europe’s must-visit European cities. The Hungarian capital is full of charm and wonder with key historical landmarks ranging from Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion to the stunning Chain Bridge that links the city separated by the Danube.

Definitely, something to put under consideration, Budapest’s thermal pools and spas have attracted visitors seeking relaxation for centuries.

Moving on, the cruise then calls at Bratislava. The Slovakian capital rests close to both Austria and Hungary.

Complete with its own bright white castle and Gothic cathedral, the capital has a long and complex history.

Crossing into Austria, the musical capital Vienna is famed for its grand Schönbrunn Palace and has strong classical musical ties.

Some of the world’s most famous musicians have once lived in the city including Mozart, Beethoven and Johannes Brahms.

Marking the start of the scenic Wachau Valley, Krems is a beautiful town that crosses onto both sides of the Danube.

An excursion to Göttweig Abbey makes for a fascinating highlight where holidaymakers can learn about the Abbey’s history up to the present day.

Travelling on to Linz in Upper Austria, holidaymakers can venture to the Czech town of Český Krumlov.

Split in two by the Vltava River, the city’s old centre is UNESCO-listed.

Found in the centre, some of the buildings here could be lifted straight off the pages off some of the most famous fairy tales enjoyed all over the planet.

In the following morning, the cruise arrives in the German town of Passau.

Resting at the point where the rivers Inn, Ilz and Danube meet, Passau is a true Bavarian gem.

High above the city, the fortress Veste Oberhaus looks across other Passau landmarks including St. Stephan’s Cathedral and Passau’s Old Town quarter.

After enjoying the delights of the town and staying overnight here, holidaymakers then disembark for their journey home.

Itinerary:

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Krems, Austria
  • Linz, Austria
  • Passau, Germany

Learn more

7. Portugal’s River of Gold 2020

best european river cruises

This 10-day fascinating river cruise gives holidaymakers the chance to experience Lisbon, Porto, Régua, Barca D’Alva, and Pinhão – all intriguing Portuguese destinations.

An excellent part of this itinerary, the cruise also heads over into Spain to enjoy Salamanca, one of Spain’s most historical cities.

Starting in Lisbon, across two days, holidaymakers can enjoy the city during included tours and by making the most of their free time.

Lisbon’s landmarks include the medieval Tower of Belem, the old Moorish castle Castelo de S.Jorge and the vast public square Praca do Comercio.

Heading to coastal Porto, the city marks the starting point of the river cruise. Porto has a wealth of attractions worth venturing out to experience.

During an included city tour, keep an eye out for essential attractions including Bolsa Palace and Clerigos Church and Tower.

Sailing along the scenic Douro river, the cruise disembarks at both Régu and Barca D’Alva.

Each call offers their own memorable moments including Mateus Palace and the 12th century Castelo Rodrigo – both major Portuguese points of interest.

A wonderful detour into Spain, Salamanca and its UNESCO-listed wonder rests amongst the beauty of the Iberian countryside.

Enjoy the city on a guided tour pointing out some of the most famous sights.

Heading back into Portugal, journeying to Pinhão sees the cruise pass through astonishing scenery.

Here you will find rows upon rows of vineyard growing across the landscape – a landscape that can be enjoyed during a lovely scenic drive to the village of Favaios.

Arriving back at Régua, holidaymakers disembark for a journey to the town of Lamego before taking to the waters of the Douro once again with the final afternoon call at Porto marking the final chapter of the voyage.

Staying overnight in Porto, a final delicious breakfast concludes this Portuguese adventure.

Itinerary:

  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Porto, Portugal
  • Régua, Portugal
  • Barca D’Alva, Portugal
  • Salamanca, Spain
  • Pinhão, Portugal
  • Régua, Portugal

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8. Paris & the Heart of Normandy 2020

Enjoying the French capital and the treasures of Normandy, this delightful European river cruise explores the country’s artistic and historic sides.

Journeying into Giverny, the cruise also visits the famed region of Normandy.

Starting in Paris, one of the most romantic places on the planet, an included tour pays a visit to numerous highlights including the renowned Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militare.

Across 8 days, the cruise visits Vernon, Rouen and Les Andelys. A poignant journey, the itinerary also incorporates a visit to the beaches at Normandy.

Seventy-five years ago, the beaches here were at the heart of the heroic D-day allied military operation.

Alternatively, holidaymakers can opt to go on a tour of the town of Bayeux.

Arriving back in Paris, an included tour follows in the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte with a visit to Château de Malmaison.

A great optional tour of the Palace of Versailles presents the chance to admire all the grandeur of the luxurious French Palace, famed for its stunning Hall of Mirrors.

Itinerary:

  • Paris (Le Pecq), France
  • Vernon, France
  • Rouen, France,
  • Normandy, France
  • Les Andelys, France
  • Paris (Le Pecq), France

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9. Waterways of the Tzars 2020

best european river cruises

This extraordinary 10-day river cruise explores the real Russia.

Spread throughout the cruise, ports of call include Moscow, Uglich, Yaroslavl, Kuzino, Kizhi, Mandrogy and St. Petersburg.

Taking in some of the country’s most iconic destinations, this excellent cruise Waterways of the Tsars provides some insight into Russia’s culture and long-held traditions.

Starting in Moscow, days are spent exploring the best of the city. During tours, holidaymakers will get to experience the famous Bolshoi Theater, iconic Red Square and the colourful St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Shrouded in mystery until the fall of the Iron Curtain, holidaymakers get to enter the Kremlin, a building at the heart of the Soviet Union.

An optional tour, Tretyakov Gallery is a cultural icon and home to some of the country’s greatest works of art.

During Day 5, the cruise heads on to Uglich.

Best known for the Church Tserkov’ Tsarevicha Dimitriya Na Krovi, Uglich’s landmarks literally chart Russia’s history.

The church is actually believed to be built on the site where Ivan the Terrible’s son was killed and is today one of the most important buildings amongst the Golden Ring cities in Russia.

Yaroslavl, another Golden Ring city to the north of Moscow, is an ancient Russian town, home to a designated UNESCO-listed site.

The village of Kuzino is another port of call where holidaymakers head out to the angular Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery.

An included tour allocates time to wander around the monastery’s grounds on foot, stopping at a museum.

Travelling back to the village, the ship cruises off along the Volga–Baltic Waterway.

During the voyage, admire the scenery along the popular ‘Blue Route’ before arriving in Madrogy, a museum village.

Arriving in the former Imperial capital, St. Petersburg, 3 days exploring this grand city make for a memorable closing chapter during the cruise.

Whilst in the city, enjoy the Winter Palace, Catherine Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress and St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

Plenty of free time ensures that you can enjoy the rest the city has to offer including the endlessly photographed church Savior on the Spilled Blood before heading for the airport home.

Itinerary:

  • Moscow, Russia
  • Uglich, Russia
  • Yaroslavl
  • Kuzino, Russia
  • Kizhi, Russia
  • Mandrogy, Russia
  • St. Petersburg, Russia

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10. Lyon & Provence 2020

best european river cruises

A joyous cruise through landscape closely associated with delicious food and wine, this 8-day river cruise takes holidaymakers into Roman Provence with a jaw-dropping itinerary including ports of call in both Lyon and Avignon.

Starting in Avignon, the cruise then heads on to Arles, Viviers, and Tournon before reaching Lyon.

Taking to the Rhone River, the cruise provides ample opportunity to enjoy the famous French gastronomy as you tour some of the most beautiful parts of France.

Enjoy Roman Avignon, Arles, Viviers, Tournon, and the exciting city of Lyon.

Capital of France’s Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, Lyon is amongst the most beautiful cities in Europe.

The city’s old quarter Vieux Lyon is a lovely place to enjoy on foot where holidaymakers will find some of France’s finest cuisine.

Itinerary:

  • Avignon, France
  • Arles, France
  • Viviers, France
  • Tournon, France
  • Lyon, France

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