Within the cruise industry, some of today’s success stories would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. A symbol of the dynamism of the cruise world as well as the freshness of some of the newest offers, river cruises have been experiencing a proper boom over the last few years.

River cruises in Europe are undergoing a magical period of growth, with a 10 per cent annual increase over the past five years, as reported by the Cruise Line International Association. As a result, most cruise companies have been expanding their river fleet in order to offer trip options that are both more varied and elaborate than ever before.

But don’t expect European river cruises to be exactly the same as Med Cruises just because they venture around the same continent. In fact, river cruises have more of a small-scale vibe to them, allowing you to discover some cultural and natural gems that are hiding away from the big crowds of international travellers.

From Germany’s Mannheim and Bamberg, to Pécs in Hungary and Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, it’s easy to get off the beaten track and discover some of the most fascinating towns and cities in Europe.

Yet this doesn’t mean that big capitals with a millennial history and a reputation that precedes them will be excluded: Viking Cruises, with its Cities of Light itinerary, takes you from the medieval architecture of Prague, across Germany’s Moselle River and finally towards the mesmerising views of Paris from the River Seine, making for an unforgettable journey through the centuries of European history.

For another way to discover the river heritage of Central Europe, you may also want to check out companies such as The River Cruise Line, which focus intensively on the Rhine area. Its short breaks such as the Rhine Explorer are ideal for all pockets and allow you to discover the cities of Bonn, Cologne and Koblenz.

And Central Europe is not the only area of interest for river cruise fanatics: central France is a departure point for the Viking Neptune, which takes you down the Rhone from Chalon-Sur-Saone, highlighting wonders of the South of France such as Lyon, Arles and Avignon. But the marvel doesn’t stop there: who would expect three days in Barcelona to finish off this river cruise in style?

With more options available, such as Portugal’s Douro area and the Danube across Eastern Europe, the recent boom in river cruises is easily explained. After all, Europe is a continent of many hearts, with stunning cities scattered across it – rivers are nothing but its arteries, making for an unrivalled connection between cultures, ages and people.

Images by Romtomtom and Thomas Claveirole

* Terms & Conditions apply

We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.