With Christmas fast approaching, you may be looking for the ideal gift for that hard-to-buy for individual who enjoys travelling. Well, booking a European river cruise may be the ideal getaway gift that provides a unique experience even for the most discerning traveller. River cruises are special because unlike ocean cruises, rivers often take you right into the heart of a nation or region in Europe, rather than only visiting coastal towns and sites. Here are some examples of the destinations and packages on offer to help you book a European river cruise.
The river Danube offers guests the opportunity to go from the heartland of Europe – The Black Forest in Germany – all the way to the Black Sea, meandering and winding its way through 10 countries along the way, many of which were part of the old Communist Eastern Bloc and steeped in history that goes all the way back to Medieval times when the river was an absolutely vital trade route.
Today you can opt from a selection of numerous routes, but with Christmas fast approaching, starting in Nuremberg in Germany might be an excellent choice due to it’s legendary Christmas markets, along with cosy medieval breweries and pubs.
As the river takes you further south, Vienna is steeped in a rich cultural history that is unmissable. Once the centre of the Austro-Hungary Empire, a highlight is Schoenbrunn Palace which has over one thousand rooms that are all open for tourists to see. Along with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, it is possibly the finest example of Gothic architecture in Europe, and in the evening you can enjoy the State Opera House in this wonderful city that produced geniuses of classical music such as Mozart and Beethoven.
Finally, you could take in the capital city of Hungary, Budapest, which is actually 2 cities that are split in half by the Danube: “Buda” on one side, and “Pest” on the other, linked by numerous medieval bridges, this is literally a city that grew organically and shaped entirely around the Danube. With some interesting Communist-era and WWII history to see – such as buildings still marked by bullets and artillery shells – along with it’s divine Art Nouveau architecture and numerous thermal baths, Budapest is one of those cities that has something for anyone to enjoy.
Europe’s longest river makes for an appealing river cruise, with many opting to start at the mouth in the Black Sea and work their way up to its source in Switzerland. Amsterdam is often the first port of call, where you can explore explore the city like the locals do by renting a bicycle, with it’s excellent cycle path network. Amsterdam is of course famous for its marijuana cafe culture and liberal attitudes, but it is equally captivating for its culture and history.
You can visit Anne Frank’s House – which is a sobering and powerful experience – as well as explore it’s other museums dedicated to the famous artists Van Gogh and Rembrandt, or simply enjoy exploring the city’s impressive canal system.
Cologne in Germany is the next favoured destination further south, a city which has earned the moniker of Germany’s cultural capital. It’s double spiralled cathedral and renewed medieval era quarter, as well as it’s numerous other churches, pubs, museums and galleries makes this a favourite stop on the Rhine. Aside from this rich culture and architecture, you can enjoy and sample the city’s Chocolate Museum or enjoy one of many microbrewery beers.
Pushing further south still, you pass through several other German cities such as Wurzburg, with it’s Marksburg Castle built all the way back in 1117 as well as its Rhine Valley wineries.
Finally, the city of Basel in Switzerland caps off a cruise nicely with it’s 12th century Gothic Cathedral and astonishingly well preserved medieval old architecture.
A taste of the exotic…
Although the Rhine and Danube represent the longest routes into the centre of Europe, there are more exotic river cruises to be had. The river Douro winds its way through Portugal, starting with it’s mouth in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Porto, one of the finest cities in Europe with it’s 16th century merchant houses and medieval cobbled streets and buildings with terracotta roofing and numerous Port wine cellars, while the river Rhone starts in the Swiss Alps and flows south into the Mediterranean, taking in cities such as Lyon, which is the food capital of France on its way through France’s wine region of Tournon and Macon.
So if you are struggling to think of a gift for a travel-loving friend or family member this Christmas , you should maybe consider a river cruise on one of the many rivers and waterways that weave their way through Europe.