River cruises perfect for a cultural short break from the moment you step onboard

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 8:58 AM

One of the best ways to pack visiting a number of great locations into a single holiday is to book a river cruise. Choose a major European waterway and you can enjoy trips to some fascinating destinations and relax in luxury while you travel between them.

The continent's rivers were once also its main transport network and some of the settlements that sprang up along their banks are now important cities. That means relaxing week-long cruises down these waterways are the most suitable way to see a number of historic destinations in a stress-free environment.

Rather than spend time waiting at airports or driving down a busy motorway, you can enjoy your travelling time relaxing in the lounge, bar or restaurants onboard your cruise boat. As major rivers all wind their way through some beautiful countryside, you will also be treated to some stunning views as you make your way to the next city.

One of the best choices for river cruise holidays is the Danube, which travels through ten countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It is possible to book a trip that takes in almost all of its 1,780-mile route, which is possibly the ultimate in luxury breaks in Europe.

If you would prefer a slightly shorter getaway, you could select an itinerary that takes you to Austria and Hungary. The Danube runs through a number of major cities in both countries, including the capitals.

A stop in Vienna will give you the opportunity to see some magnificent architecture, such as the churches of St Charles and St Rupert, and the colourful Hundertwasserhaus apartment block. If you have time, a trip to the Spanish Riding School to see the magnificent Lipizzan horses is guaranteed to be a memorable experience.

Budapest is also packed with historic attractions, many of them located on the banks of the Danube. Despite the Hungarian capital's troubled history, buildings such as the neo-Gothic parliament, St Stephen's Basilica and Buda Castle remain intact and are fascinating places to visit.

The Rhone, which runs from the Swiss Alps to France's Mediterranean coast, is another excellent choice for a river cruise. It travels through the beautiful gastronomic regions of Provence and Burgundy, meaning you are certain to be treated to some top-class cuisine everywhere you stop.

A tour of Lyon is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. The city can trace its history back to Roman times and you will be able to visit the remains of the Theatre of Fourviere and Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls during your time here.

You are also likely to stop at Avignon, Vienne and Arle during your Rhone cruise, while most offer the opportunity to visit a vineyard and enjoy some of France's best-known produce.

Before making a final choice about your river cruise, make sure you take a look at what a trip down the Rhine has to offer. It rises in the Swiss Alps and runs to the North Sea coast of the Netherlands and travels through some stunning German countryside on the way.

Seeing the fairytale castles that sit on the cliffs and look down on the water is sure to be a memorable experience, as is a visit to Cologne. Germany's fourth-largest city is famed for its medieval sights and stunning selection of Romanesque churches.

Many Rhine cruises also call at Amsterdam, where you will be able to enjoy sights such as the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk, together with world-class galleries, like the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt House Museum.

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