If you'd like to take a river cruise in France, you're in luck! There are four popular rivers to cruise in France. They are located in a few different regions throughout the country with each providing its own unique representation of France.
Vineyards in Burgundy, France
River Cruises in France on the Saône
In the Burgundy region, the Saône River flows southward toward Lyon where it meets the Rhone River. A cruise along the Saone will probably include visits to cities such as Chalon-sur-Saône, Beaune and Lyon.
Burgundy is famous for its vineyards and wine-production. Near the city of Beaune, you’ll have a chance to visit some of the vineyards and wineries and to sample some of the different wines unique to this region.
Did you know that Burgundy wine can be either red or white? Interestingly, most of what is produced in this region is actually a dry, white wine.
River Cruise Companies on the Saône: AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld, Vantage and Viking River Cruises
River Cruises in France on the Rhône & Saône
The city of Lyon is located just south of Burgundy in the Rhône-Alps region of France. The 2,000 year-old city of Lyon is where you’ll see many historic structures built as early as 19 B.C., architecture from the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as buildings from the modern era (17th century through the present time). The Historic Site of Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Rhône and Saône Rivers form a confluence in Lyon. Although, most river cruise lines travel both of the rivers, there are two that offer packages on just the Rhône River - AmaWaterways and CroisiEurope.
There are other destinations you’ll probably visit in the Rhône -Alps region on the Rhône River. A famous site in Tournon is “ the Musee de Tain ‘Hermitage”, which means the “oldest house in the region. This area is known as the Côtes du Rhône or Rhône wine region of France.
Rhône River in Avignon, France
River Cruises in France on the Rhône
Provence is located in southern France and is where the Rhône flows through Avignon and Arles. There are two UNESCO Sites along this part of the Rhône River. The Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge and the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments.
A few interesting sites in Avignon are the Clock Tower Square, Pont d’Avignon and Place de l’Horloge. You can also visit the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and sample its famous wines.
The city of Arles is well-known for one of its former residents – the post-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh. The city was truly an inspiration to his artistic spirit. He was able to produce more than 300 paintings and drawings over a 15-month period! Sadly, the now-famous artist, was a struggling and disliked artist during his own time and never lived to know the fame and admiration he would achieve centuries later.
River Cruise Companies on the Rhône: AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld, Vantage and Viking River Cruises
Paris on the Seine River
River Cruises in France on the Seine
A cruise on the Seine River will begin and end in Paris. Flowing in a northwesterly direction, the Seine winds back and forth and passes through several cities after leaving Paris.
You’ll be able to spend some time in Paris as part of your itinerary. And you can also spend a few more days there if you’d like to spend more time in this fascinating and vibrant city.
The cities of Conflans and Paris are both located in the Île-de-France region of France. Paris, Banks of the Seine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A few famous sites in Paris include the Eiffel Tower, Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Louvre. Plus many, many more!
The riverside town of Conflans is located about 20 miles northwest of Paris. Your trip might include a tour of the Palace of Versailles or a visit to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh lived the last two months of his life.
River Cruise Companies on the Seine: AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld, Vantage and Viking River Cruises
Mont Saint Michel
River Cruises in France on the Seine
In the Normandy region, you’ll have a chance to visit the UNESCO Site of Mont Saint Michel and the famous Normandy Beaches. If you love WWII history, you’ll find this part of the trip very interesting. There are several landmarks from that era including Omaha Beach - where the Allies Invaded the German-occupied France on June 6, 1944.
There are also several other cities you might visit in Normandy, incuding Giverny, Vernon, Les Andelys, Rouen, and Le Havre.
The famous painter, Claude Monet, lived in the town of Giverny for more than 40 years until 1926. You’ll visit the beautiful Monet Garden and his home where he produced some of his most well-known paintings.
A few other stops on your river cruise journey might include Vernon, where you can visit the Maison du Temps Jadis – the oldest house in the city.
Les Andelys on the Seine River
Les Andelys features the Chateau Gaillard – a 12th century castle built by Richard the Lionheart.
And in Rouen you’ll be able to see the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral and the Gros Horloge, which is a 14th-century astronomical clock.
Le Havre is another city in Normandy located on the northern banks of the Seine River. It has the 2nd largest port in France after Marseille and is also the location of another UNESCO World Heritage Site - Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret.
Honfleur is also located in Normandy. Honfleur Harbour, with its own unique charm and picturesque setting, is one of the city's most frequently painted scenes.
River Cruises in France on the Dordogne & Garonne
River cruises in this part of France begin and end on the Garonne River in Bordeaux. The Dordogne and Garonne rivers flow almost parallel to each other. They are joined together in Bordeaux forming the Gironde Estuary as a result.
Known as the "City of Art and History", Bordeaux has 362 historic monuments! The second highest number in France. Paris holds the number one spot.
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Gironde Estuary and the Dordogne River are located to the north of Bordeaux. As you travel north from Bordeaxu, you’ll visit a couple of cities along the Gironde Estuary. The city of Pauillac is the capital of the Medoc Region. Here you’ll see rolling hills of vineyards.
While you’re in Pauillac, you’ll visit the Chateaux d’Arsac and winery where you’ll be able to sample wine. You might also have the option to take a bike ride through the Medoc Vineyards.
The city of Blaye is also located on the Gironde Estuary southeast of Pauillac. It’s a rather small town only about 2 ½ square miles in size. One of the main attractions is another UNESCO World Heritage Site the Fortifications of Vauban. It’s actually only a part of the UNESCO Site which includes12 groups of fortified buildings located throughout France.
As you journey eastward, you will begin traveling along the Dordogne River where you’ll visit the town of Bergerac, which produces some of the finest wines in Bordeaux.
The city of Saint-Émilion features several historic vineyards and architectural structures. The Romans were the first to plant grapes in the city dating back to the 2nd century. These historic vineyards are now protected by UNESCO . The Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion includes the vineyards and other historical structures.
You’ll also be able to sample some of the best red wines in the world at Premier Grand Cru estate where Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are produced.
Closer to Bordeaux, the city of Cadillac is yet another area where you can sample wine. The vineyards of Sauternes produce Chateau d’Arche, which is a sweet, white wine. Chateau d’Yquem is another sweet, white wine that is produced in Cadillac. During certain years, a dry, white Chateau d’Yquem is also available.
River Cruise Companies on the Dordogne and Garonne: AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope, Grand Circle, Uniworld, and Viking River Cruises
Garonne River Lunch Cruise in Bordeaux
Each river cruise region is very different; although, you’ll notice common themes. In Bordeaux, Burgundy and Provence, vineyards and wine-tasting is very much a part of the experience. Not so much along the Seine River.
There are UNESCO Sites featured in each of the regions. Most of them are designated as historical structures dating back to Roman occupation.
And Giverny and Arles share an artistic theme based on famous artists Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh.
You won’t find cities that compare to the magnificence and unique ambiance of Paris. Only Paris has that theme.
But you will find some unique cities in each of the regions if “big and brilliant” isn’t what you’re seeking.
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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.
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