Top Sightseeing River Cruises in Europe

paris dinner cruise
© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : Amélie Dupont

Paris Dinner Cruise

It’s hard to believe that there is anything more romantic than seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night while violin music plays quietly in the background and locals and travelers alike stroll past hand-in-hand. But now imagine all of that PLUS an elegant dinner aboard a quiet boat on the Seine — next level romance! The Paris Cruise n’Dine allows travelers the chance to combine two iconic Paris experiences — an evening of romantic dining and a view of one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

Several different levels of dining are available depending on your budget and dining preferences (Silver level, Elegance level, Privilege level, and Premier level) — for those who really want to treat themselves, the Premier package includes a private table, priority boarding, three course meal, and souvenir menu and map.

Travelers can choose between a more casual lunch time cruise or the formal dinner cruise. Cuisine is locally grown and changes seasonally, and the cruise glides gracefully up and down the right and left banks of the Seine, starting and ending at the Eiffel Tower.

How to book the Paris Cruise n’ Dine

The Paris Cruise n’Dine is available with other Paris sightseeing activities on Rail Europe’s website. You’ll be able to choose the level of service and a lunch or dinnertime cruise. Once you book, you’ll receive a voucher in the mail — follow the instructions on the voucher to make your cruise dinner reservation for a specific date, and then redeem the voucher locally in Paris for the cruise ticket per the instructions on the document.

cologne rhine cruise
Cologne at night, along the Rhine River

Rhine River Day Cruise

The Rhine River stretches from Amsterdam down to Switzerland, winding through Germany and the edge of France along the way, and it touches such popular cities as Strasbourg, Cologne, Koblenz, and Basel.

The Rhine River Cruise is the perfect choice for anyone who loves castles, forests, and that quintessential medieval feeling you only get from certain landscapes in central Europe. Cruises are available in different time frames, but the most popular choice is a day-long cruise so that travelers can enjoy the scenery at a relaxing pace and then end the day in a new city. Many of these cruises include free time for travelers to disembark and explore some of the cities or towns passed along the way.

How to book a Rhine River Day Cruise

The Rhine River cruises are operated by a few different companies, some of which offer a discount to certain Eurail Pass holders. If you’re traveling with a rail pass that includes Germany or any of the countries along the Rhine, look at the Bonuses page of the pass to see if your pass qualifies for a discount. If it does, it will give instructions on how to book directly with the tour operating company.

london eye
London Eye as seen from a Thames River Cruise! (Photo by Jackie DesForges)

City Sightseeing Cruises

Sometimes when a river (or in Amsterdam and Venice’s cases, a canal) runs through the middle of a city, it’s easier to see that city’s most picturesque sights from on-board a boat. In Amsterdam, travelers can choose between three different canal routes (or mix and match to see two or all three), and boats travel past quintessentially quaint Dutch apartments, flower carts, dozens and dozens of parked bikes, and of course some of Amsterdam’s most famous landmarks (like the Rijkmuseum, Anne Frank House, and the famous floating flower market).

In London and Seville, rivers aren’t as dominant a feature in the landscape as they are in Amsterdam, but the cruises still provide a unique option for seeing the sights. In London, the Thames River cruises take travelers past the London Eye, under the Tower Bridge (and many other bridges), past the Shard, and more! In Seville, the people watching opportunities are great — locals and travelers alike love to sunbathe along the Guadalquivar River.

How to Book City Sightseeing Cruises:

Amsterdam: Book the Canal Bus and Van Gogh Pass, which gets you 24 hours of access to the three different canal routes (red line, green line, blue line) and entry into the famous museum (home to the biggest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world!) You will receive a voucher in the mail that you will then exchange for your day pass at the museum or one of the canal stops. (Other options: the Canal Bus and Heineken Experience Day Pass, the Holland Pass, or the Canal Bus Day Pass)

London: Cruises on the Thames are available with various London sightseeing or transportation passes. If you would like an escorted tour, the Total London Experience is the choice for you. If you prefer to venture out on your own, try the London Pass (includes entry to attractions and a London Travel Card for public transportation), or if you want to keep it simple, try the London City Sightseeing Tour (it comes with a voucher for access to the hop-on, hop-off Thames river cruises).

Seville: The Seville Card includes a trip along the river in addition to public transportation and sightseeing benefits throughout the city with either a 24 hour, 48 hour, or 72 hour validation period.

switzerland boat cruises
Switzerland Boat Rides

Switzerland is the perfect country for scenic sightseeing from any standpoint — from a hike, a train, a rotating gondola, and, of course, from a boat.

Switzerland doesn’t really have rivers, exactly — but it has lakes, and it has boat rides on those lakes. These boat rides can be functional — getting you from one town to the next — or they can be purely for scenic and photographic enjoyment. Sail across Lake Lucerne, Lake Lugano, or Lake Geneva (Central Europe’s largest lake!) to name a few.

The boats across Lake Geneva will connect you to France or little Swiss lakeside villages, and there is an on-board restaurant for evening cruisers. There is also a Rhine Cruise (similar to the ones mentioned above) that begins in Basel and offers views of quaint old town facades.

The Switzerland cruises and boat rides offer something for every traveler — there are themed cruises (pirate or romance-themed), breakfast or dinner cruises, boats that take travelers between the bigger cities, boats that take travelers between the smaller villages, and so on.

How to Book Switzerland Boat Rides and Cruises

The Swiss Pass and Swiss Flexi Pass include travel on all boats, buses, and trains within Switzerland. If you want to arrange a special or private cruise, additional fees may apply. If you are not traveling with a Swiss Pass, you will need to inquire locally in Switzerland about rates for boat rides and cruises.

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