River cruises for history lovers
Our river cruises take you to some beautiful destinations across Europe and beyond, as well as showcasing some of the world’s most fairytale-like scenery. After all, that is the one of the main plus points of river cruising – being able to wake up in a new destination every day. And because our river cruise ships are much smaller in size in comparison to ocean cruise liners, it means you’re right in the heart of the action, should you wish to learn more about the culture and history at each stop.
Our expert tour managers and local guides really bring each destination to life, while our brilliant Quiet Vox headsets also give you the chance to explore and discover iconic sites and attractions by yourself. Why do we think history is one of the key components of getting to know the amazing stops along some of the world’s most magical waterways? It’s a way to gain a deeper understanding of your surroundings, to gain a sense of community and, of course, learn fascinating tales about culture and religion, and the stories that reveal what has shaped the very foundations of entire nations, cities and towns.
While all our river cruises offer a fantastic treasure trove of history, we’ve picked four below that we think will delight any history lovers seeking to journey back in time.
The medieval heritage of Lucerne and Cologne
Lucerne’s romantic landscapes makes this pretty lakeside town a wonderful starting point on our Legends of Germany tour. Wander the medieval streets of the Old Town and admire the painted facades on well-preserved 15th century buildings, as well as walk along the ancient city walls where you will also find the town’s oldest clock. Lucerne's most famous landmark is the Chapel Bridge. Built in 1365 as part of the town’s fortifications, it is the oldest covered wooden bridge still standing in Europe. You will still be able to see 150 triangular paintings inside the bridge which date from the 17th century that depict scenes from Lucerne's and Switzerland's interesting history.
While Lucerne is the first stop, we then head towards Cologne where we can enjoy the best German city breaks along the gorgeous riverbanks of the Rhine. See majestic castles, astounding cathedrals and timber-framed towns including beautiful Strasbourg and Koblenz. And a Cologne river cruise wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, where you can discover more about his life and music.
Discover Russia’s cultural centre – St. Petersburg
For a truly different river cruising experience, sail along Europe’s longest river, the Volga, and see a diverse combination of rural landscapes, vast wilderness and gleaming palaces in Russia. It is our St Petersburg tours as part of our Russia’s Royal Riverways cruise that will shine a spotlight on the country’s most revered national treasures. Today, St. Petersburg spans 44 islands and is connected by over 300 bridges. The city has seen centuries of conflict and dramatic events, from its humble beginnings founded in 1703 by Peter the Great who wanted to create a ‘Window to the West’ to the long reign of Catherine the Great, who is lauded as the person who modernised Russia and championed the arts.
A cultural centre, St Petersburg is home to some of the world’s most magnificent pieces of artwork – you’ll find Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Da Vinci in the impressive Hermitage Museum. Explore, too, the impressive Palace Square to the stunning Peterhof Gardens, where you’ll find over 175 fountains that were built to impress European royalty.
The artistic legacy and imperial palaces of Vienna
While our Majesty of the Danube river cruise takes in some of Eastern Europe’s glittering gems including Budapest and Bratislava, it is Vienna that is rich with culture, breathtaking arts and world-renowned music. There are also several magnificent palaces and an artistic legacy that still remains to this day. Home to many free thinkers, artists and musicians, from Gustav Klimt and Mozart to Sigmund Freud, Vienna saw a creative and cultural explosion descend from the 18th century.
On our Vienna holidays, wander cobblestoned streets and fine squares that date back to the Roman Empire. You’ll discover baroque churches and concert halls and see Schönbrunn Palace which was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, as well as the impressive Hofburg, the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. You’ll even get the chance to learn about the history of the Waltz which was the dance of the Hasburg courts, as well as try a few steps for yourselves.
The Roman Catholic history of Avignon
There are many delights waiting for history lovers on our Portraits of the Rhône river cruise. From discovering Mâcon’s oldest building, a 15th-century house with a carved-wood façade to Chalon-sur-Saône, where the Old Town is considered the birthplace of photography. Summertime in the South of France is alive with colour, sweeping wine country and lavender-scented hills and you’ll experience this and more on our Provence holidays. We’ll sail along the Saône and Rhône rivers and visit the honey-stoned ancient towns along the way. And it’s in Avignon that we discover a truly wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site – a city that is recognised for its historical importance as well as its beauty. Early settlements date back five centuries, but Avignon’s historic importance dates back to the 14th century, where it was selected as the papal residence by Clement V. French influence had grown over the papal court and the city was chosen because it was more centrally located within Christendom than Rome. And you’ll see for yourself the grandeur of The Palais des Papes, one of the largest and most significant gothic buildings in Europe.
If you would like to find out more about our culture and history escorted tours, then do get in touch to chat to one of our expert travel advisors or get a copy of our new river cruise brochure.
Article published on: 13th November, 2020
Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.