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Travel advice

Why you should take a European River Cruise this September

A view through autumnal vineyards towards the Rhine river in Germany

The promise of long days, blue skies and warm nights make the months of June, July and August perennially popular for holidaymakers. But as the year turns towards autumn and ripens into a mellow warmth, experienced travellers know that the closing days of summer can be some of the season's most beautiful.

The golden month of September is a wonderful time to take a European river cruise, with landscapes blooming as the seasons start to change. Here are our recommendations for the best river cruises to take in Europe this September, including sights that have inspired poets, locations that have shaped history, and waterways that were deified as gods.

Rhine River Cruise

Autumn foliage in Rüdesheim at dusk on the Rhine River, Germany

The Rhine is a magical river, with fairy-tale castles and flourishing vineyards that look especially enchanting in that unique September glow. One of Europe's longest rivers, the Rhine starts in the Swiss Alps, flowing past Liechtenstein, Austria and France, before turning northwards through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands.

A rite of passage for the romantically-inclined English gentlemen in the 18th and 19th century, the Rhine flows past mysterious forests, ancient fortifications, chocolate-box towns, and Bavarian taverns. What's more, in September, the leaves begin to turn and grapes are harvested for winemaking, adding an autumnal charm to the already spectacular scenery.

In German, the last warm days of summer are called ‘altweibersommer’, or old weaving summer, when the spiders come out to play. With the amazing locations along our Rhine river cruises, you’re guaranteed to be ensnared.

Douro River Cruise

Autumnal vineyards line the Douro River in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Winding its way across Spain and Portugal en route to the coastal city of Oporto, a cruise on the Douro promises to be the trip of a lifetime. September is considered one of the best months to visit Portugal and Spain, as warm weather combines with diminishing crowds -perfect for anyone looking to unwind.

The Douro threads its way through the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, a region known as the Douro Valley. In September, the grape harvest in this World Heritage Site is in full swing, with the terraced vineyards all buzzing with activity, and the smell of freshly-picked grapes in the air.

Your journey will also include stops in the Portugese city of Lamego, distinguished by its influential Baroque architecture, the Spanish city of Salamanca, famously nicknamed the ‘Golden City’ for its yellow sandstone structures, and the breathtaking winery, chapel and manor of Casa de Mateus Palace in Northern Portugal.

Danube River Cruise

The Chain Bridge and Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary at dusk

The Danube is a river so large that it even outshines the mighty Rhine. Starting in Germany's Black Forest and crossing much of central and southeastern Europe, the Danube passes through 10 countries on its way to the Black Sea. Napoleon is said to have dubbed the Danube the Queen of Europe's rivers, and this waterway offers travellers a whole empire’s worth of landscapes, cultures and history.

At 1770 miles, the climate along the Danube river naturally varies in the month of September. Travellers can generally expect pleasant weather with a touch of autumnal crispness, as the beautiful sights, sounds and colours of the season come into view.

With our selection of Danube river cruises, you can see the river in all its vibrant contrasts -from the rich wildlife of the Danube delta to the elegant streets of Vienna. Whether you want to explore rolling landscapes steeped in medieval history, some of Europe's most important and historic cities, or soaring cliffs and spectacular scenery, the Danube has a view for all seasons.

French River Cruise

Autumnal foliage lining the river in Strasbourg, France

France is known for its fine wines, fascinating cities and lavish food culture, so it is no surprise that the country is popular with ardent francophiles and first-time visitors alike. With the busy tourist season winding down and the sun still shining, many people consider September to be an ideal month to take a river cruise in France.

France is a country of contrasts and variety, and our diverse range of French river cruises can help you see so much more than a typical city break. Sailing along the slow-flowing Seine, picturesque Saône and tranquil Oise, you’ll pass everything from glittering metropolises to scenery which has inspired some of the world’s most renowned artists.

Late summer is also harvest time, making for even more magnificent scenery and a wealth of gorgeous produce. Whether it’s seeing Paris glittering under the moonlight on still-warm evenings, tasting fine wines at a historic vineyard or wandering through quaint riverside towns, September is the ideal time to get au fait with France.

Book your river cruise this September, by exploring our selection.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.