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Travel advice

Europe's Most Scenic River Cruises

The town of Weissenkirchen in the Wachau Valley, Austria

Taking a river cruise is a unique and inspiring way to travel. Passing by natural wonders, World Heritage Sites and historic landmarks, river cruise passengers can enjoy an unparalleled view of many of Europe's most spectacular sights - and all while travelling in inimitable style.

River cruises are unique in the sense that they take all the stress out of travelling - you can simply relax in a floating hotel as you watch the world go by. Whether you‘ve never booked a river cruise before or are a seasoned pro, there's always something new to discover on Europe’s historic waterways.

Rhine River Cruise - Middle Rhine Valley

The town of Sankt Goarhausen with Katz Castle overlooking the Rhine River

The Middle Rhine Valley (or Mittelrhein) is a 120km stretch of the enchanting German Rhine. Famed for its idyllic landscapes, charming towns and sweet Riesling wine, the entire valley is often called "The Romantic Rhine" - and it is certainly easy to fall in love with!

Fables and fairytales are woven into the German national identity, and this particularly magical part of the Rhine has been capturing people's imaginations for centuries. JMW Turner and Lord Byron are among those who immortalised the area in their work, inspired by its wild landscapes and cultural treasures, with medieval castles and crumbling fortresses rising from forests and vineyards.

The wonders of the Rhine Valley have not gone unrecognised by UNESCO either, with the Upper Middle Rhine Valley (otherwise known as the Rhine Gorge) becoming a World Heritage Site in 2002. As one of the world's great rivers and a historic trading route, the Rhine has helped to shape the fortunes of Europe, and forged a landscape rich in heritage.

Booking a Rhine river cruise with us will take you aboard our beautiful river ship, Spirit of the Rhine. From there, you’ll enjoy panoramic views from its lounge and bar area, as well as sumptuous cabins and fantastic food - a true 21st century fairytale.

Douro River Cruise - Douro Valley

The terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley, Portugal

With a wine-growing heritage reaching back 2,000 years, The Douro Valley is a region steeped in history. One of the outstanding wine-growing regions of Portugal, the steep hills rising from the banks of the Douro have been shaped by centuries of viticulture, with vineyard terraces supplying the grapes for wine and port.

The result is an incredible landscape that is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. But it isn't only wine that the Douro Valley has to offer. Along the lower banks, oranges ripen in walled groves, while farmers cultivate figs, almonds and olives. Anyone visiting is advised to bring their appetite with them, as this wonderful produce contributes to a thriving food culture, including some of Portugal's most celebrated dishes.

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is perfect for exploring by riverboat. Our cruises are the perfect opportunity to drink in the glorious surroundings of the Douro river - and stop off at some of Iberia’s most fascinating towns and cultural sites.

Danube River Cruise - Iron Gates Gorge

The Iron Gates Gorge on the Danube River, at the border between Romania and Serbia

As the second-longest river in Europe, the Danube has many must-see attractions, but few are quite as dramatic as the Iron Gates Gorge. Sitting at the boundary between Serbia and Romania, the Iron Gates refers to the towering cliffs that jut out over the Danube as it flows between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains.

A Danube river cruise is an ideal way to experience the true majesty of the Iron Gates Gorge, with the cliffs enveloping you in their natural beauty. The area is also protected by National Parks on both the Serbian and Romanian sides, so there’s plenty of wildlife for nature lovers to spot - remember to keep your eyes peeled for the Great Egret and Black Stork!

The gorge is dotted with milestones to the Danube’s long history, including a marker left by the Roman emperor Trajan, celebrating his famous bridge and road. An avowed enemy of the Romans is honoured in another landmark, where the face of Romanian hero Decebalus is carved into the rock.

Danube River Cruise - Wachau Valley

Aggstein Castle watching over the Wachau Valley in autumnal light, Austria

It’s impossible to talk about the wonders of the Danube river and not mention the Wachau Valley. Alongside the Iron Gates Gorge, this valley is considered one of the most scenic parts of the Danube River, and is located west of Vienna in Austria. Known for lush countryside and rolling hills, it's a landscape that has inspired artists, and one that enchants visitors time and time again.

Legend has it that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned here before being saved by his loyal minstrel, who wandered the landscape singing until the King heard him, and sang back. It’s easy to get swept up with medieval myths and legends in this land of castles and abbeys, and there are countless destinations to discover.

With sumptuous baroque churches, romantic villages, ancient terraced vineyards and hilltop castles, the Wachau Valley is another must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tapestry of its past plays out across its stunning landscape, and on a Danube river cruise, you can sample the whole story.

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.