Things to see and do on a French river cruise

Aimee Spicer ( 24 July 2017 )

Not sure how to make the most of your French river cruise? Read our tips of the best things to see and do on when sailing through France.

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There are few things as magical as languidly sailing down one of the waterways of the world in a river boat. Europe is brimming with wonderful rivers that you can cruise down. 

In France the adjoining Yonne and Seine rivers ensure that you can journey to some of the most famous sites and cities in the country and the world.

Watch Paris unfold before you, see the Eiffel Tower emerge from the skyline as you sip cocktails from the deck of your river boat, and discover some hidden historic towns and villages on a Seine River Cruise.

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Paris! Beautiful Paris!

Paris skyline with EIffel Tower in background
Paris skyline with EIffel Tower in background

Paris, one of the greatest European cities, is where you will start and end your river cruise on the waters. 

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When you sail out of the city as the sun sets in the evening, sightseeing will be easy and luxurious as you will be able to see iconic sights like Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and of course, the Eiffel Tower, lit up in a golden, evening show from the comfort of the river boat. 

Get a good night of rest knowing that you have seen some of the most famed sights in the country.

Paris has long been considered the cultural capital of Europe (ever since the fall of the Renaissance), and we have looked on her as both a rival and a sister to the UK capital of London. 

Exploring this fantastic world city is not to be missed, so make sure when you disembark from the cruise for the day, you walk around Paris: the City of Light.

Get swept up in the charms of Paris, France, and let the currents of the Seine and Yonne carry you through some of the prettiest countryside this nation has to offer on your Paris cruise. 

The Yonne and the Seine rivers

The Eiffel Tower on the River Seine in Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower on the River Seine in Paris, France

The Seine flows downward from the Alps, through Paris and into the English Channel. However, at Montereau, there is a confluence between the Seine and the Yonne River, a staple of the Burgundy region of France. 

You will discover the rich, agricultural landscape of Burgundy as you sail along the Yonne on this French cruise. 

Languid countryside contrasts with cosmopolitan cities and working waterways, giving a real insight into French life here.

Quaint French towns

Moret-sur-Loing, France
Moret-sur-Loing, France

All along the river quaint, sun-dappled villages, houses with whitewashed walls, circular towers, willows and cherry blossoms await. 

Visit the smaller towns of France, away from the capital Paris, and see their chateaus, parks, boulangeries and boutiques on your cruise trip. 

Don’t forget to disembark to explore the town that inspired Alfred Sisley’s impressionist masterpieces, Moret sur Loing.

Why take a European river cruise?

The spectacular Seine Valley in France

Chateau de Fontainebleau, Seine Valley, France
Chateau de Fontainebleau, Seine Valley, France

One of the highlights of this cruise is the chance to explore the Seine Valley. See Chateau de Fontainebleau, the extravagant palace that housed kings, queens, emperors and the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Built in the 12th century as a hunting lodge, the palace was falling apart after 300 years and it took the will of King Francis I to rebuild and restore the property in the 1500s. 

The restoration was done in the French Renaissance style of the day, and that style still characterises Fontainebleu today.

Wander through its halls and galleries to see how the aristocracy of France once lived. Peruse the Royal apartments, the gallery and the private chapel. 

If you’re itching for a little fresh air, do as the locals from Paris do, and head to the forest of Fontainebleau. It has walking trails that you can amble on for up to 9kms if you fancy stretching your legs on your France holiday.

French cuisine

French cheese and wine
French cheese and wine

The land of wine and cheese changes quite dramatically as you travel down the coast, but French cuisine is always some of the best in the world. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be a journey of culinary discovery, and during your river boat tour, you will have chances to stop off and try the freshly baked bread, pastries, locally made cheese, fresh produce and France’s most famous export: Champagne.

French architecture

Beautiful view of the historic town of Auxerre with Yonne river, Yonne department, Burgundy, France
Beautiful view of the historic town of Auxerre with Yonne river, Yonne department, Burgundy, France

The French have always had a deft hand in constructing the architecture of their towns and cities, and sailing down the Yonne or the Seine River is a great way to see the evolution of one of the world’s greatest art forms.

From the beautiful and grand buildings of Paris—its Gothic churches, neo-classical town houses and cobbled streets—to the gentler country houses of Burgundy—the quaint bridges and picturesque country manors.

The architecture in France is a lesson in the personality, culture and artistic expression of each successive region of France you cruise through.

If you’d like to learn more about our cruises and tours, or just about this specific trip and how you can book it, contact Saga and we can get you started on your river boat holiday tour.

Discover good food, fabulous wine and amazing history and architecture on a river cruise along the French waterways Find out more here.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.