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European River Cruises

Explore many of Europe’s beautiful cities, historic towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and iconic landmarks in one of Emerald Waterways' river cruises in Europe

The best way to explore Europe

Imagine a holiday that enables you to explore many of Europe’s beautiful cities, historic towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and iconic landmarks in one seamless journey. Imagine going to sleep in Bratislava and waking up in Budapest. Imagine travelling from destination to destination and needing to unpack only once. Imagine strolling out of your room ready for a dip in the heated swimming pool and having a drink waiting for you when you get out. Imagine enjoying a light breakfast or lunch alfresco, as you admire the beautiful landscapes and breathe in the fresh air.

Take one of Emerald Waterways' river cruises in Europe and you don’t have to imagine; it’s simply what you can expect. From Rhine river cruises to voyages along the River Danube, so much of Europe can be explored through European river cruising; some of the most enticing cities and most charming towns in all the world sit along the banks of these mighty waterways.

The Danube River

Beginning in the Black Forest of Germany and gliding all the way to the Black Sea through Central and Eastern Europe, the Danube gives you a vibrant selection of cultures, cuisines, and histories. 

In Prague, you can visit famous sites like Mozart’s Theatre and the Astronomical Clock before indulging in some local Czech fare. Explore the Neo-Gothic Blatna Castle while wandering this Bohemian capital nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires.” Then sail onwards to the German town of Regensburg, where perhaps you’ll indulge in a beer tasting at a local brewery before relaxing to the folk music of a traditional Bavarian band. 

In the wine-growing region of Austria, be impressed by the Baroque architecture, gold leaf walls, and fresco ceilings of Melk Abbey overlooking the Danube. And in artistic and intellectual Vienna, experience a city of historic and modern significance, filled with impressive sites like the Hofburg Imperial Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Fall in love with the capital of Bratislava and its stylish cafes and plazas while you soak up the history of its Old Town, including Mirbach Palace and the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin. In Budapest, the liveliest city of Eastern Europe, take in a Hungarian folklore show and traditional meal amongst the lights of the city. Roam the streets and enjoy popular sites like the Chain Bridge, its iconic link between the cities of Buda and Pest. 

The Rhine River

Winding through the German and Dutch countryside, the Rhine takes you past vineyards, medieval castles, and history ranging from the Middle Ages to World War II. This river offers a chance to view and explore the most dramatic of Germany’s scenery, including impressive architecture like the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, the toll castle of Pfalzgrafenstein, and the Gothic cathedral of Kölner Dom.

In the beautiful town of Würzburg, you’ll see the famous terraced vineyards lining the steep hills and get a chance to sip local wines. Experience more impressive landscapes and culture in the Black Forest, where you can see recreations of historical farms and artisan workshops and have a taste of the Black Forest’s namesake dessert.

Across the river in Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region of France, find a mix of French and German life, architecture, and winemaking. Meander around the ancient town of Koblenz, known for its cozy alleyways and narrow lanes, before passing through the naturally spectacular Rhine Gorge. Wander amongst the cafes and plazas of romantic Heidelberg and walk up to the impressive castle that overlooks the city.

A journey along the Rhine also includes the famous windmills and canals of the Netherlands, affording you time to experience Amsterdam where  you can cycle around town like a local, visit a local food market, or venture out in a glass-topped canal boat.

The Rhone River

Snaking through the Provence and Burgundy regions of France, a cruise on the Rhone is perfect for wine lovers. From the Swiss Alps, the river flows through southeastern France, passing through the Beaujolais wine country before spilling into the Mediterranean Sea. Expect beautiful views of the French Alps and the famous lavender fields of Provence along the way.

In the culinary capital of Lyon, you can traipse cobblestone streets, dine at a quintessential French bistro, and explore the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière with its stunning hilltop views of the city. Then cruise to Chalon-sur-Saône, the birthplace of photography, before visiting the nearby village of Beaune. Surrounded by prestigious vineyards, it’s home to the Hospices de Beaune, a perfect example of 15th-century French architecture and now a museum containing legendary artwork.

Waking up in the riverside town of Mâcon will leave you the day to experience its half-timbered houses and Soufflot Chapel, along with its local vegetable market and famous white wines. Further along the Rhone, you’ll find Roman ruins and castles situated amidst mountains and a longstanding tradition of winemaking. You can bike through vineyards or learn a little bit more with a wine and cheese tasting.

Walk amidst history in Avignon as the city displays its Celtic past, evidence of the French Revolution, and the impressive former residence of the Pope. You can also visit colorful Arles, the capital of Provence and the city known for inspiring Vincent Van Gogh, which boasts 12th-century cloisters and a massive ancient Roman Amphitheater.

The Main River

The Main weaves past several of Germany’s most picturesque and historic towns, as well as some of its largest and most modern. In Cologne, you’ll find a mix of Romanesque churches and Gothic cathedrals like Kölner Dom alongside modern and pre-war architecture. The river also takes you past the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bamberg with its medieval winding streets, arched stone bridges, and 18th-century mansions. There you can wander the rose gardens of the New Palace, shop at the town’s many stylish boutiques, or visit one of the local breweries known for their smoked Rauchbier.

In Würzburg, stunning hillside vineyards line the bank of the Main river, along with the Bishop’s Residenz, known for its intricate Baroque style. Like many other German cities, Würzburg was rebuilt after much of it was destroyed in WWII, but it still retains its previous luster and charm. Further along, you can hike to up to one of the region’s most impressive attractions, Wertheim Castle, for outstanding views of the countryside and later walk around the Bavarian village of Miltenberg. Located along the Franconian Red Wine Hiking Trail, you’ll be able to taste some of the area’s best Pinot Noir surrounded by the town’s famed half-timbered buildings. 

The Douro River

Experience the rugged landscapes, well-preserved traditional lifestyle, and fortified wine of the Douro River Valley as you cruise through rustic northern Portugal. Packed with vibrant culture, the Douro begins in Spain and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the city of Porto. 

Known for its riverside cafes, Old World architecture, and vast cellars of wine, Porto will have you spending hours exploring its alleys filled with tasting boutiques and wine caves. Or you might choose to travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Guimarães, the seat of Portugal’s first king. The Douro River will then weaves through rocky cliffs and steep slopes amidst family-run farms to the village of Pocinho. There you can observe prehistoric stone carvings, take a canoe trip through the river valley, and even dine at a quinta or local wine estate. 

You can learn more about winemaking and the production of port in the sun-bleached town of Régua. Only wine produced in the Douro River Valley can be labeled “port” or “porto” and you’ll see why. Winemakers in this region are still using the traditional hundred-year-old methods.

Dip into Spanish culture with a visit to Salamanca, a university town where you can leisurely make your way through the city’s endless tapas bars. Enjoy local food, entertainment, and dancing in the place that’s considered to be the seat of the Spanish language.

Explore an Emerald Waterways cruise ship with Cruise Director Karla

Emerald Waterways Cruise Director, Karla


In this video, Karla, an Emerald Waterways Cruise Director, gives you a tour of an award winning Emerald cruise ship and reveals why she loves working for Emerald Waterways.


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