The Insider’s Guide to

European River Cruises

Peak Season
May–September
Best Rates
October–April
Best Value
November

Why Cruise Europe by River

Exploring Europe by river is a unique method of travel that continues to gain in popularity. As you hop from town to town on your floating hotel, you can dine on deck while gliding quietly past hillside vineyards and medieval castles. With river cruising, your transportation is very much a part of your experience, and you'll dock right in the heart of each city.

To fit under bridges, river ships are limited in size, with typically no more than 200 passengers. This also means there's little in the way of onboard amenities; instead, the focus is on extended time in each port, onboard lectures, and performances by local musicians. River cruising generally includes complimentary alcoholic beverages on board and shore excursions. But the biggest draw is that river ships can go where ocean ships cannot, such as Paris, Vienna, Lyon and Budapest.

Our European River Cruises Tips

First decide which river you want to sail on, then decide when. Depending on the time of year, you can enjoy seasonal specialties like holiday markets or blooming tulips, plus select from themed cruises.

Viking River Cruises

The inventor of modern river cruising, Viking works hard to retain its title as the World’s #1 River Cruise through its service and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Its Longships® are specially designed to navigate the rivers in comfort and style, boasting the largest suites on Europe’s rivers and the most al fresco dining. Search this Cruise Line

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Planning Your European River Cruise

When to Go

Prime Time

Most cruisers avoid the cold winters of Europe, preferring instead to visit between May and September when they can look forward to sunny skies, summer festivals and outdoor seating at cafés. Plus, you're guaranteed that all sites will be open, as many shut down or offer limited hours during the winter.

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The Off-Season

From October to April the crowds are significantly less compared to summer. Just know that not all itineraries are available during this time, especially in January and February. However, there's a hidden gem for those traveling in December: the Christmas Markets. From late November until the end of the year, you can experience this enchanting time of year in Europe.

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Factor This In

There are many popular festivals and events in Europe that you may want to be a part of. Want to see the tulips blossom in Holland? Choose a sailing in March or April. Longing to visit Germany during Oktoberfest? Many itineraries include an extension to Munich in September. Or, opt for a cruise to Vienna for their similar Wiener Wiesn-Fest. For wine connoisseurs, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways host wine-themed experiences on select sailings (Avalon also offers beer-themed cruises).

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