10 Reasons to Choose a Barge Holiday in France

The concept of a barge holiday in France is one that never loses its appeal. A completely different experience to a larger river or ocean cruise, these charming barges travel along smaller waterways and offer an altogether more intimate encounter. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in slow, worthwhile travel and provides so much more than you could imagine. In fact, a barge holiday in France, Italy, Germany, or indeed in any other European destination, is worlds apart from the more commercial cruise. Carrying no more than 20 guests, the vessels used are, in essence, floating boutique hotels. They meander through the heart of a country, taking in so many places that would never normally be seen, and certainly not on an ocean going ship that only tends to dock in the more tourist filled cities. But size is not the only advantage that this waterway experience in France has over its larger counterparts. Here we delve into ten reasons why we think you should choose a barge cruise.

La Belle Epoque on the Burgundy Canal

1. Hop-on, Hop-off Freedom

One of the most wonderful benefits of this kind of cruising is the freedom it offers within the well-thought out itineraries. Unlike large ocean going vessels, where you’re literally ‘all at sea’ until the next designated port, our luxury barge cruises travel along tranquil waterways just a few metres from the towpaths – meaning you’re free to get off and on whenever you feel like stretching your legs.

walking in a barge holiday in france

2. Intimacy

Within just a few minutes of boarding your vessel, you’ll get to know all there is to know about what is onboard. Boats tend to have two or three decks; one will be the main one where the outdoor seating, sun deck and jacuzzi are, and one will be the deck that accommodates all the cabins. A third may house a further lounge.

Your crew are aboard for the whole of your trip and you’ll get to know them really well, as they provide you with attentive, yet unobtrusive service. If you’re travelling with people you have never met, you will feel like old friends in no time at all. Evening dining is the time when everyone comes together to share stories and enjoy the excellent food and wine that’s prepared and served by the crew.

3. Cosiness

As you can imagine, the lounges and bars on the boats are modest in size, but with that comes cosiness and an ambience that resembles that of a living room. The all-inclusive bars are always open and whether you’re having a chat, reading a book, writing your diary or checking your social media, you will feel as though you are joining friends in their living room. The bonds that form with fellow passengers are unique and, as you both experience your new world, you’ll share an undeniable connection.

4. Food

While you can no doubt get an excellent quality of cuisine on larger cruises, dining on board a barge cruise offers you an experience like no other when it comes to gastronomy. Your personal onboard chef creates feast after feast featuring regional dishes and using local and seasonal ingredients, most of which are purchased along the way at the village markets.

Luxury hotel barge, Enchante cuisine

5. Savour Regional Foods and Wines

A barge holiday in France would not be complete without wine and cheese tasting and, lucky for you, your chef includes a cheese course with every evening meal. Presented along with an explanation of the cheese’s history, production and the best way to eat it, the cheese introductions become a real highlight.  

And the wine…….well really we needn’t say anything else. France and wine go hand in hand and you can look forward to sampling some incredible vintages onboard and on shore.

Expert wine specialists serve a selection of hand-picked wines onboard

6. Unique Excursions

During your trip there will be plenty of opportunities to stretch the legs and head ashore to explore. Most trips offer guided excursions that you can opt in or out of, but the biggest advantage of these types of excursions is that they can take you to the most out of the way places. Hidden villages, tiny local markets, inimitable vineyards and many more places rarely visited by tourists are just waiting to be discovered. 

Lagrasse is on of France’s Most Beautiful Villages

7. Visit Places You Can’t On Rivers

Our luxury barges can navigate waterways other vessels can’t, which allows you the chance to discover some truly incredible places and enjoy unique opportunities. Travel along the historic canals of France and you’ll have the chance to navigate the iconic French aqueducts. These magnificent feats of engineering have been in use for centuries and make for a genuinely unforgettable experience.

French River Cruises aboard Renaissance on the Canal de Briare

8. Be at One with the Outdoors: Bike & Hike

Typically travelling at just 3mph, your boat is easy to keep pace with if you fancy walking alongside on the towpath. Or, if you prefer, you could borrow one of the onboard bikes, which most barges have. This is a great way to get a bit of exercise and a lovely way to travel. Burgundy, in particular, lends itself beautifully for barging and biking.

Canal De Briare Biking

9. All-Inclusive Pricing

Choose any one of our itineraries and you can look forward to an all-inclusive experience. This makes it a very cost effective way of travelling, with no need to think about carrying cash or unexpected bar bills at the end of the week. Pay once and you are done! Of course, you may want to leave a tip, which you will have to cover, but, apart from personal purchases, there is nothing more you need to reach into your pocket for.


10. Book the Whole Vessel

The perfect option when it comes to a family trip or a celebratory occasion for a group of friends, a luxury barge holiday in France has all the ingredients for a memorable time. You can hire the whole vessel and create yourself a fully catered home from home for the week. It is a superb choice for a multi-generational holiday too; while the older grandparents relax on board the younger passengers can head off on day trips or cycle alongside. In the evening everyone can come together to enjoy cocktails before a delicious evening of gastronomic dining.

Of course, we can’t deny we’re biased, but we think the intimate experience of a barge holiday in France or any other European destination offers so much more than any other water based holiday. Hopefully we have given you reason enough to agree, and if you’re now thinking that this might be the perfect option for your next trip, why not get in touch?

Hotel barge holiday: Friends for life aboard luxury hotel barge, Athos

Share this article