Europe is a large region, with several major rivers that connect its many countries. There are five primary European rivers: the Danube, the Volga, the Loire, the Rhine and the Elbe. Traveling these lengthy waterways on a river cruise is an ideal way to experience several countries in one trip.
Through Eastern Europe: Danube
The Danube, at 1,780 miles long, is the second-longest river in Europe. The river stretches through 10 countries, including Germany, where it begins in the Black Forest, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Bulgaria, and famously flows through cities like Vienna and Budapest before emptying in the Black Sea. Travelers can experience many of the river's sights by embarking on a cruise along its waterways. Danube River Cruises, which are offered by Viking Cruises, typically stop in Cologne, Budapest, Nuremberg, Belgrade and Krems. Following the river is a way to experience several Eastern European cities in one trip. Famous monuments, such as the Hungarian Parliament, have been erected on its coast.
Through France: Loire
The Loire River is one of several rivers that flow through France. This river runs east to west, splitting the country midway. It's part of the famed Loire Valley, an area famous for its local wines and historic towns. The region is easily accessible from Paris and well-known for its many castles, which include Chenonceau and Chambord. Many great wines come from the Valley, including Sancerre, a popular French white wine. Take a tour through the area or rent a car to experience it at your own pace. Be sure to make a stop in Amboise, a picturesque town built on the foundations of an old fortress.
Through Germany: Elbe
Once, the Elbe River helped form the border between East and West Germany; however, today, it flows through both Germany and the Czech Republic. It links popular destinations like Dresden and Prague and gives visitors views of German and Czech cities. Most cruises down the Elbe also bring travelers to lesser-known spots, such as Wittenberg and Meissen, and are an ideal way to experience German culture in a new way. Look for cruises that start in Berlin, located a short distance from the river, and end in Prague.
Through Western Europe: Rhine
The Rhine River begins flanked by the Alps in Switzerland and streams 766 miles to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where it ends in the North Sea. The river, known as "Old Father Rhine," runs past cliff-side castles, vineyards and, of course, picturesque towns that dapple the shores through six countries. Cities like Strasbourg and Cologne sit along the coast, making it an ideal journey for visitors to Europe. Companies like Viking River Cruises and Riviera Travel offer cruises along the waterway, most of which begin in Amsterdam. Look for the one that stops in your desired destinations.
Through Russia: Volga
The Volga is one of the largest rivers of Europe by length, stretching 2,294 miles across Russia. It flows from the remote Valdai Hills to the Caspian Sea, and half of Russia’s river cargo is transported along the river.. The waters of the Volga are used to irrigate the steppe regions of southern Russia. Because it is an important river to the country, the Volga has Russian mythological status, and many iconic sites are found along its banks. Travelers can cruise along the river during the warmer months of the year, usually from March until mid-December. Select one of Viking Cruises' Volga River cruises, which travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg, to see the best of the river.
Europe has numerous other rivers, not all as large and impressive as these. Visit the Seine, which runs through Paris, or the Rhone, which flows through a popular wine region in France. You can stroll the banks of the Garonne River in southwest France or in Spain. The Po is Italy's longest river, traversing the northern part of the country to the Adriatic Sea, and the Oder River stretches across Czech Republic and Poland, ending in the Baltic Sea. Russia is home to two other large rivers besides the Volga: the Don and the Dnieper. The Don River flows temporarily through Ukraine before emptying in the Sea of Azov, and is connected to the Volga river by a canal which measures 60 miles of rivers and reservoirs. The Dnieper crosses Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and the river basin covers just under 200,000 square miles. Cruises don't typically run on the smaller rivers, but you can check them out while visiting the cities that surround them. The Rhone, in particular, is worth a visit when in southern France.