A classic river cruise that takes you straight to the heart of one gorgeous city after the next is an unquestionably epic way to travel.
While traditionally river cruising would involve stopping at a port and going on a guided tour of the city, there’s now a whole new menu of activities available as well! These are our favourite new river cruising experiences.
Harnessing travel’s ability to inspire, there are many creative endeavours being offered as part of European river cruising packages. Some such stops include participating in a painting workshop in Arles, where the scenery inspired many of Van Gogh’s pieces; or perhaps you’ve always wanted to create your own signature scent, which can be done at the Musee des Aromes et du Parfum in Avignon.
Hikes in Europe not only come with amazing views but also, often history lessons. Outside of Linz, you can choose between World War II smuggler’s routes and the Danube Trail. Another Danube hike grants you sweeping vistas of the river and Wachau Valley en route to the medieval castle ruins of Durnstein, where Richard the Lionheart was held captive. Or, if you’re cruising along the Rhine, you can explore the roots of the Rhone Valley wine industry on a hike through the vineyards outside Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage.
While there’s no shortage of mouth-watering dining onboard river cruise ships, you’ll also have the opportunity to savour authentic, local products onshore too. A cruise along the Danube includes chances to visit the Rococo-style Engelszell Abbey, the only Trappist monastery in Austria, where you can tour the Sensory Garden labyrinth, herb gardens and vineyards, then sample some of the beer and cheese which is crafted by the monks. A stop in Port-Saint-Louis in France includes a visit to an oyster farm to enjoy the day’s catch, while in Amsterdam, a guided culinary walk will wind you through the city’s colourful alleys and quaint bridges to savour sweet and savoury artisan specialities.
While your river cruise itinerary is already sweeping you along some of the worlds most scenic waterways, with a kayaking or canoeing excursion, you’ll get the chance to explore some off-the-beaten-path “liquid trails”. Departing from the market town of Spitz in lower Austria, a canoe trip will take you off the Danube and around part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wachau. Or if you’re in Viviers, France on a Rhone cruise, don’t miss the chance to canoe down the spectacular Gorges de l’Ardeche, where a series of gorges have converged to form what’s known as the “European Grand Canyon”.
In almost any given European port, locals are sure to be cycling around town – if you have access to bikes on your ship, it’s definitely worth renting one and exploring new towns from a different perspective! In Germany’s North Rhine Westphalia region, you can pedal along the river and around the historic Roman city of Xanten. Or on a French river journey, take an expert-led cycle through the lush Camargue National Park and along the trails of the Rhone Delta. Or to pedal way back in time, ride along the Limes Cycle Route in Austria, which winds along part of the Roman Empire’s ancient northern border.