From the regal history of Vienna to the cultural melting pot of Eastern Europe, or the bright lights of Amsterdam to the Rhine valley, it’s not difficult to see why so many people are choosing European river cruises for their 3013 holidays. Taking a short flight from the UK to a city on continental Europe has long been the option of many holiday makers. But more and more travelers are now taking the opportunity of seeing two, three or more cities along the way.
Down the Danube
The Danube may not be the first river that comes to mind when you think about European rivers, but passing through ten countries and several European capitals it has captivated travellers for centuries. From Strauss’ Blue Danube to Jules Verne’s novel The Danube Pilot, via Star Trek, this river has held cultural significance for centuries.
Starting in Vienna — the city of the Hofburgs, stunning palaces, captivating music and mouth-watering cake — you cruise downstream to the Slovak capital, Bratislava. Caught between its medieval centre, Soviet-era architecture and twenty-first century business, this is an enchanting city that manages to retain its cobbled streets alongside the largest surviving Soviet housing block outside of Russia.
From this gateway to Eastern Europe you can sail to enthralling cities. Budapest, renowned for its beautiful churches and markets has seen a boost in popularity after featuring in 2011’s film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Belgrade, emerging from a shady past in Yugoslavia, is now one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in Eastern Europe.
Traveling the Rhine
If the eastern side of the continent is not for you, then the Rhine may be more your thing. Stretching from the snow-capped Swiss Alps to the canals of Amsterdam, the Rhine is one of Europe’s greatest rivers and has been instrumental in some of the largest border disputes in Western European history.
Cities along the way change immeasurably, like its eastern counterparts: the medieval richness of Nuremburg would be disputed by few, with its twisting alleyways, but other areas, like its Royal Dockyard, show the cities importance in trade and industry over the last 600 years. RÃ¼desheim, a famous part of Germany’s wine lands, will have lovers of the grapes smitten, whilst those less prone to a tipple will love the history of Cologne, whose magnificent heart is a UNESCO world heritage site.
At the end of the Rhine stands one of Europe’s most eccentric, yet endearing, cities. With its romantic canals, market stalls of flowers, buildings crammed with art and colourful lifestyle, Amsterdam has been one of the continent’s most energising cities for centuries.
Wherever you are traveling to Europe for your holidays this year, why settle for one destination, when a river cruise will show you so much more? Whether you want to go on a voyage of discovery to the east, sample the history and culture of the west, or even venture further afield, cruising down the continent’s great waterways is a way to do more, and do it in style.