Discovering some of Europe’s most loved landscapes from the water, on river cruises which are easily accessible by train.
Not only do river cruises provide ample opportunity to relax, they also allow you to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and scenery. Discover some of Europe’s most exquisite arteries, enjoying slow travel in style, be it on the Rhine or Rhône, Danube or Douro - you can start and end your trips by train and, with no driving involved, enjoy a glass of one of the local wines en route too.
Paris and Normandy river cruise
One of the most magnificent river cruises in France takes in not only the capital city but also the cultural highlights of Normandy. Starting and ending in Paris, before or after your cruise you can not only enjoy the capital's classic sights, but also some day trips by train to nearby beauty spots, such as the great cathedral city of Chartres, the Champagne capital of Reims or the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg.
Bordeaux river cruise
It only takes 2 hrs on a high-speed train from Paris to Bordeaux, where cruise fans can sit back and savour this famous wine region on a river holiday. When back on land in Bordeaux, travellers can also get to Arcachon on the Atlantic coast by train in 53 mins, where they can access the likes of La Vélodyssée, France’s longest waymarked cycle route. There are plenty of bikes for hire in Bordeaux. Read more about discovering the beauty of Bordeaux by train here.
Saône and Rhône cruise
Most of these magnificent river cruises start and end in Lyon, which is at the confluence of both the Saône and Rhône rivers. Lyon is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, a gastronomic capital and also gateway to the Rhône-Alpes region. It is also just 2 hrs from Paris on a high-speed train, and the same journey time from Geneva. Lyon is 4 hrs 41 mins from London on the direct summer services on Eurostar. So you have plenty to enjoy before or after your river cruise.
Rhine River cruises
The most popular city for starting Rhine River cruises is Cologne which is quick and easy to reach on the European train network. There are a number of stations along the way too, such as Koblenz and Bonn where day cruises can be taken. Avid hikers can explore the Rheinsteig long-distance walking trail, or cyclists the Rhine Cycle Path before hitting the water, with many connecting stations along the way. Read more about exploring the Rhine Valley by train here.
Danube river cruises
The most common journey for this iconic river cruise is between Passau, Germany and Budapest, Hungary both with well-connected train stations. Other city stops along the way include Linz and Vienna train stations, where travellers can also arrive by train and take a day cruise on the Danube. Passau is just under 2 hrs from Nuremberg or just over 2 hrs from Munich by train.
Douro River cruise
Travel in the footsteps of Portugal’s greatest explorers by following the Douro river down to Vega de Terron in Spain. Starting and ending in Porto, this scenic river cruise takes you past terraced hillsides, sweeping vineyards and the many port wine caves that line the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley, especially in the city of Vila Nova de Gaia. In Porto itself, wander around the historic Ribeira neighbourhood, scale the Clérigos Tower or hire a bike and cycle along the river boardwalk to the coast. Read more about travelling through Portugal by train here.
Images top to bottom: Cruising on the Danube (cropped and resized) Flickr Commons ©Bud Ellison, Bordeaux river bridge iStock ©MartinM303, Sunset on Saone River in Lyon iStock ©Frederic Prochasson, Beautiful medieval Cochem town and River in Germany iStock ©Freeartist, The Douro, Portugal iStock ©PRG-Estudio
5 day trips from Paris by train
There's no lack of inspiring locations just a short train ride away from Paris, so if you fancy a break from the city why not plan a day trip (or two).
European city breaks by rail from London
It's easier than ever to take the train across Europe - and capital cities are by no means the only destinations available to those planning a city break by rail.