From charming France to vibrant Portugal, these two Western Europe countries certainly have their fair share of rivers between them. To help you plan your holiday, here are some tips on how to choose which river to cruise on in Western Europe. 

Douro River 

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Affectionately known as the ‘River of Gold’, the Douro River is Portugal’s prized jewel. While it also touches Spain, the Douro primarily courses through Portugal. This includes the famed Douro Valley, the prolific wine region where Port wine is produced. There are also many charming villages dotted along the river where you can soak in timeless traditions, culinary creations and historical sights. Don’t miss Peso da Régua with its religious architecture, or Amarante and its 17th-century traditional homes. 

Seine River 

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As France’s most famous river, the waters of the Seine flow from Dijon to the English Channel. While it cuts through iconic Paris, the Seine also takes you to towns and villages like Les Andelys, Giverny and Rouen. They may be smaller than Paris but are equally as charming. The Seine has woven itself into France’s history for centuries now, inspiring many artists such as Monet, Renoir and Seurat. It also threads its way to the northern Normandy region, steeped in World War II history with the Normandy Landing Beaches

Saône River 

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Found in eastern France, the Saône River is for you if you’re keen to delve into the picturesque Burgundy region and its countryside. The Saône meets the Rhône in Lyon while also passing by highlights like Mâcon and Beaune. Mâcon is surrounded by vineyards and châteaux, with pastel-painted buildings and a series of ancient cathedrals. Beaune is a lovely town, famous for its Hôtel-Dieu (a former hospital now turned museum) and being one of the best places to sample Burgundy’s cuisine like boeuf bourguignon.  

Rhône River 

Local bouchon meal in Lyon
Saucisson chaud, a typical Lyonnaise meal

From Burgundy to the Côte d’Azur, the Rhône River is unmissable. It winds its way past ancient Roman cities and culinary cities, with the scenery having inspired painters like van Gogh and Cézanne. Start your journey in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, where you’ll cosy up in traditional bouchons or pop into local bakeries for a praline brioche. Sailing south, the Rhône is home to several incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Don’t miss the Papal Palace in Avignon or the Roman theatre in Arles, both steeped in Roman history.  

Dordogne and Garonne Rivers 

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Heading to the south-west of France, the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers are your gateway to the Bordeaux region. The Garonne River flows from the central Spanish Pyrenees to meet the Dordogne River at Bordeaux itself. If you’re planning to cruise in Bordeaux, be prepared for the perfect combination of gastronomy, wine, history and architecture. You’ll fall in love with this region as you visit small medieval villages like Saint-Émilion, as well as bigger, colourful cities like Bordeaux.  

A river cruise through Western Europe ensures you get the best of both worlds while travelling – quaint villages, cosmopolitan cities, divine cuisine and an unforgettable insight into local customs. Take a look at the full range of Avalon Waterways river cruises today.  

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