Top Six Scenic European River Cruises

AAA’s guide to European scenic river cruising.

Whether you’re trying to find the next European river to explore or planning to cruise for the first time, you might want to consider all your options before making a decision. Take a look at AAA’s brief guide of the top six scenic European river cruises to learn more.

Rhine River Cruise – Fan Favorite

The Rhine River, flowing from the Netherlands to Switzerland, is one of the most popular European rivers to cruise because of the number of countries and culturally significant cities it touches. On the Rhine, you can visit many iconic German, French and Swiss cities while indulging on the land’s cuisine. Have a glass of Riesling in your cabin, take a beer tour through Cologne, or taste the famous Black Forest Cake while in, you guessed it, the Black Forest. 

If Prague, Czech Republic is on your river cruise wish list, AAA Travel river cruise specialists suggest combining itineraries with the Main and Moselle rivers for ‘Paris to Prague’ itineraries from many of the river cruise companies.

Quick European River Overview: 
    • Countries: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, Netherlands
    • Major cities: Cologne, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Strasbourg, Basel, 
    • Typical itinerary length: 7-8 days, running from Amsterdam to Basel. Rhine cruises can be upwards of 14 days when combined with other rivers.  
    • Iconic sights: Windmills of Kinderdijk, Germany’s Black Forest, Marksburg Castle, Christmas Markets (seasonal)

Danube River Cruise – Scenic Stunner

Flowing through the most countries of any European River, a Danube River cruise is both culturally in-depth and filled with gorgeous scenery. Four major capitals act as metropolitan hubs on your itinerary while visiting culturally significant towns and villages in between. From concerts in Vienna to the awe-inspiring Iron Gates in Romania and the Roman baths of Varna, you’ll have more than enough to see and do while floating along the Danube.

Much of the scenery between major cities and sites are lush, green countryside. Perfect for biking paths that active travelers can take advantage of between ports.

Quick European River Overview:
    • Countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, 
    • Major Cities: Budapest, Vienna, Passau, Bratislava, Bucharest, Belgrade
    • Typical Itinerary length: 7-8 days, usually starting or ending in Budapest, covering only part of the Danube. You can find longer itineraries covering the entire river. (10+ days)
    • Iconic sights and highlights: Buda Castle District, The Iron Gate, Schönbrunn Palace, Christmas Markets (seasonal)

Seine River Cruise – France Romance

A perfect way to include more to your Paris getaway, a river cruise on the Seine is an enchanting, romantic and overall incredible way to visit the City of Lights. Typical itineraries begin and end in Paris and spend two to three days within the city for the optimal amount of time to explore. Many of AAA’s river cruise partners include tours to see some of the highlights so you can enjoy direct transportation and skip the long lines.

Once traveling away from Paris, you will move north toward Le Havre. From there, travelers will embark on journeys to see the famous sands of Normandy, specifically the U.S., Canadian and British landing beaches. Much of the land also includes historical and UNESCO sites such as Château Gaillard, Rouen, and Claud Monet’s Garden.

Quick European River Overview:
    • Countries: France
    • Major Cities: Paris, Le Havre
    • Typical Itinerary length: Eight days or less on only the Seine. Several days if spent in Paris.
    • Iconic sights and highlights: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles (Land tour) Normandy, American Cemetery and Memorial, Château Gaillard

Moselle – European Explorer

Typically combined with a Rhine River cruise, the Moselle unlocks a new part of Europe for those who want to extend their itineraries. Only on the Moselle can you visit the “Rome of the North, or Trier, Germany’s oldest city and home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Of course, like many other European rivers, the Moselle region has its own signature wine – Riesling specifically. Travelers can enjoy partaking in a wine tasting along the famous river.

Quick European River Overview:
    • Countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg
    • Major cities: Koblenz,  Pont-à-Mousson, Schengen, Trier
    • Typical itinerary length: Eight days, typically combined with a Rhine River cruise
    • Iconic sights and highlights: Reichsburg Castle, Landshut Castle, 

Rhone and Saone River Cruise – History, Art & Culture

An idyllic way to visit France’s Burgundy and Provence regions, this river cruise experience has travelers spending less time on the cruise ship and more time exploring the land. Discover the Roman influence in Chalon-Sur Saône and indulge in the culinary prowess of Lyon. Of course, no trip would be complete without several wine tastings throughout the region. Active adventurers and relaxed travelers will both enjoy these regions of France and the Rhone and Saone rivers.

Travelers also enjoy cruise extensions in Geneva, Switzerland, and south to Barcelona, Spain. 

Quick European River Overview: 
    • Countries: Switzerland, France
    • Major cities: MâconLyon, Geneva, Vienne
    • Typical itinerary length: Seven to eight days, but it can be shorter.
    • Iconic sights and highlights: Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Pont du Gard, Tarascon Castle

Douro River Cruise – Spanish Jewel and Portuguese Pride

This unique river cruise experience takes on a different form than the Central European itineraries. (Although this cruise is also known for a stellar wine region.) An in-depth experience along the Douro River starts in Porto, Portugal and ends in Vega de Terrón, Spain. Enrich your trip even further and spend your pre and post nights in each countries’ capital, Lisbon and Madrid.

Along the way, you will experience the fruits of the Douro Valley – or port wine. Many of the river cruise companies that AAA partners with include traditional-style mealtimes with locals in towns like Pinhao or Entre-Os-Rios to get a true understanding of Douro River life and culture.

Spot incredible castles and architecture while traveling further into Spain.

Quick European River Overview:
    • Countries: Spain, Portugal 
    • Major cities: Porto, Zamora, Tordesillas, Aranda de Duero
    • Typical itinerary length: 8 days, between Porto and Vega de Terrón
    • Iconic sights and highlights: Holy Staircase, port wine tasting, Palacio Anadia


Want to learn more? Speak a AAA travel agent.

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