Europe is home to a vast network of idyllic and scenic waterways where life seems to slow down just a little. As the small riverboats weave throughout these liquid highways, travellers are treated to breathtaking surroundings. Fairytale castles, charming vineyards and unspoiled countryside are all part of the relaxing journey aboard your very own floating hotel.
Le Boat, Europe’s largest operator of self-drive boating vacations, has uncovered the continent’s top seven must-see waterways. It’s time for you to take the wheel and choose your own adventure. Whether you prefer hiking through ancient ruins, taking in museums, or kicking back in picturesque pubs you can do it all, you’re the captain now.
This 300-year-old waterway is not only a UNESCO world heritage site but also one of the most popular destinations in the South of France. Architecture fans will rejoice in Toulouse, deemed “The Pink City,” for its numerous pink-hued terracotta structures. Treat your taste buds to La Fete du Cassoulet, a celebration of Southern France’s signature dish of white beans and pork. And, what would a trip though France be without sipping some of the Languedoc region’s famous wine? Tour vineyards, visit wine caves and taste free samples all along the canal.
Scotland, famed for its superior whisky and mythical sea monster, offers the perfect escape for those looking for a serene vacation. There is no better way to take in the Scottish highlands than cruising down the Caledonian Canal. Play royalty for a day with a visit to Urquhart Castle then strap on your hiking shoes for a breathtaking trip up Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. Wind down while sampling award-winning Scotch whisky at the Ben Nevis Distillery, you may even spot Nessi, if you’re lucky.
With its quirky cobbled streets and wooden bridges, it doesn’t get more Dutch than the village of Hindeloopen. Sail up to the dynamic city of Sneek for rococo style architecture and a bike ride along the river banks. Head on to Amsterdam, the most famous city in the Netherlands (for good reason.) Picnic in one of its picturesque parks, take in the Van Gogh museum or jump ship and make some new furry friends on The Catboat, the only floating feline rescue in the world.
One of the most famous and historically renowned rivers in Europe, the Thames offers something for all land lovers and those with more serious sea-legs. The town of Henley is celebrated for its annual Royal regatta attracting some of the worlds best rowers. Keep cruising east to Marlowe and get lost in the famous millennium maze at Higginson Park. The Royal Town of Windsor is full of history and charm and is home to Britain’s largest inhabited castle and royal residence of over 900 years – Windsor Castle.
Get a peek into the lives of Italy’s rich and famous when you cruise down these diverse waterways. Make your first stop the medieval town of Casier to explore the winding streets and sample the famous radicchio salad celebrated every year at the Festa del radicchio rosso di Treviso. Next, hop aboard a gondola and cruise the world-renowned Venice canals. Continue sailing down to the island of Burano for the visual splendour of the colourful mosaic style row houses and buttery Buraneo biscuits. Finish your voyage in the city of Stra, not only the former home of Napolean but also the best place along the banks to take in palatial villas of Italy’s elite.
History and adventure merge magically on the Emerald Isle. Start your journey back in time in the town of Clonmacnoise, established by monks in the sixth century, spend the day amongst the ruins of castles and cathedrals. Continue to the welcoming town of Athlone to enjoy birdwatching and swimming on the river promenade or perfect your swing at the sprawling golf course. The picturesque village of Roosky is an angler’s paradise with numerous spots to find that perfect catch. Looking for an easier way to acquire supper? Sail to the town of Tarmonberry and kick back in one of its traditional Irish pubs with a pint of Guinness and some Shepherd’s Pie.
Looking for a getaway that combines urban pleasures with the beauty of nature? Say “Guten Tag” to Germany. See some of the country’s natural wonders by lounging by the lake in Lychen or stretch your legs with a hike through the lush natural park. Berlin, the capital of Germany, is happening hub of art, culture and epicurean eats. Don’t miss the square at Gendarmenmarkt or for something a bit quirkier stop by the Currywurst Museum for a celebration of this famous German delight. End your river cruise in the vibrant city of Potsdam to check out Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace, often referred to as the “Versailles of Germany.”