Spotlight on L’Impressionniste: A Journey to the Vineyards on the Burgundy Canal

Hotel barge L'Impressionniste close to Châteauneuf-en-Auxois

Built in 1960 in Belgium, L’Impressionniste is a barge with two special features. She was built in the Spitz-style, meaning she was originally intended to be pulled along the canals by horse, and she has a Luxe Motor-style bow, meaning she has a characteristic upsweep to the front and living quarters at the back. Her overall shape and proportions are a marriage of styles between Belgian and Dutch barges.

Following a lengthy career transporting grain and timber between Paris and Brussels, L’Impressionniste was converted into a hotel barge in 1996. Her new layout was based on hotel barge La Belle Epoque, which European Waterways had renovated a year earlier.

Originally powered by an eight-cylinder Deutz engine, she had a top speed of 16 kilometres per hour. However, in the year 2000, L’Impressionniste was given a higher-powered Scania 250 horsepower engine to navigate the strong currents of the River Rhône between Avignon and Agde.

After a decade of cruising the Rhône, L’Impressionniste was reassigned to her current route. Since 2010, she has cruised with European Waterways passengers on the picturesque Canal de Bourgogne.

Hotel Barge L’Impressionniste Today

Named after the famed art movement that lived and worked in Paris during the nineteenth century, L’Impressionniste is a deluxe twelve-passenger barge that cruises the still waters of the Burgundy Canal. Sink into a reclining chair on the upper deck watching the world go by, as one of our six members of staff pours you another glass of crisp white wine.

L’Impressionniste’s modern luxe interior is light and contemporary with a bright wooden finish. Half-panelled walls give a nod to classic nautical décor, whilst long, leather sofas offer a comfortable seat for every passenger. Soft furnishings enjoy neutral tones which are accented with flashes of red. Brass rails and lamps hint to the late nineteenth century artists that the barge’s name was inspired by, and an inviting large oval-shaped table dressed to a silver-service standard becomes the hub for great conversation at mealtimes.

L'Impressionniste Champagne on barge deck

Each cabin is comfortably fitted with your choice of a double or twin beds. With four state rooms and two junior suites available, you can decide on the best space for you and your travelling companion(s). The cabins are aptly named after Impressionist painters, including Monet, Degas and Renoir – does it get much more artistic than that? Each en suite cabin is bright and inviting, with a  shower room of its own which comes fully stocked with toiletries, comparable to those found in a five star hotel.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a barge cruise on L’Impressionniste is the spa pool, which stands proud at the bow of the boat on the upper sun deck. Recline into its warm waters with a glass of something cold and delightful in your hand, the sun on your cheeks and a gentle breeze through your hair. If the sun becomes too hot then there’s always the lower sun deck with its canopy to retreat to, and you can cool off with an idyllic novel from the barge’s mini library.

Cabin aboard hotel barge, L'Impressionniste

L’Impressionniste on the Map – The Canal de Bourgogne

L’Impressionniste cruises in the Ouche Valley, approximately 5 hours south of Paris. Located deep in the heart of the Côte d’Or, this region of France is full of scenic views and refreshing, verdant vistas. Following the River Seine, the Canal de Bourgogne’s southern Burgundy location has a favourable climate that makes it perfect for outdoor activities. The valley also boasts spectacular historic sites like the 12th century Château de Mâlain, Château de Barbirey, and the Abbaye de La Bussière.

Chateau de la Bussiere front entrance

The Canal de Bourgogne was built between the late-eighteenth to early-nineteenth centuries. Stretching between its northern-most junction from the River Yonne at Migennes, the Burgundy Canal meanders its way across the region to its southerly junction with the River Saône at Saint-Jean-de-Losne. In total, it travels 242 kilometres (150 miles) from its start to its end.

The canal provides the most heavily locked route between the River Seine and the Mediterranean, helping to equalise a height difference of 378 metres – the highest summit point of any canal in France! In all, the Canal de Bourgogne features 189 locks, 76 of which fall away from the summit level to the Saône. The remaining 113 locks lead towards the River Yonne. L’Impressionniste passes a total of 41 locks between Escommes and Fleurey-sur-Ouche.

Itinerary Highlights

Cruising the Burgundy region aboard L’Impressionniste is a guaranteed way to get a dose of culture, a large portion of the gastronomy, and an even bigger helping of the wine. As you cruise through the Ouche Valley, you’ll enjoy excursions to some of the best vineyards, French villages, and historic locations in the Côte d’Or.

If you love food and wine, then a cruise on L’Impressionniste will not disappoint. Every meal onboard is cooked by your very own chef and three course meals are paired with unique wines from the Burgundy region. There’s even a cheese course with each dinner!

Dining on hotel barge L'Impressionniste

On your cruise through the magical Côte d’Or, you’ll pass many beautiful, sleepy villages. An itinerary aboard L’Impressionniste sees us visit the Burgundian capital city of Dijon, which was built largely in medieval times. This thriving destination has retained much of its culture and character. Explore the historic squares of the town, visit Le Moutarderie Fallot to learn all about Dijon’s famous mustard, or tour Dijon’s many markets for a flavour of the local delicacies and crafts.

Go off-the-beaten-track and be one of only a few privileged guests to experience a private falconry display and take a tour of Château de Commarin. Still lived in by Count Bertrand de Vogüé, this extraordinary residence has been occupied by the de Vogue family since the thirteenth century. Here, we go behind the scenes to see the castle’s interior, stables and exquisite gardens, which come complete with a moat!

On our cruise we visit Clos de Vougeot, which is the home of the prestigious Chevaliers du Tastevin. With a tour and tasting on your way back to the barge, you’ll experience the best wines and find out about how they’re grown to really enhance your Ouche Valley visit. With a gastronomic lunch at Domaine Chanson and a private tasting too, you’ll be an expert in Burgundian wines by the time your trip is over.

History buffs will enjoy a visit to another medieval castle, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. Set amongst gloriously green, rolling landscapes, with green vegetation fit for the white Charolais cattle that graze there, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is a magnificent vantage point on top of the hills. Surveying the region from its location, it was once a residence for the Dukes of Burgundy. Guests on L’Impressionniste visit the castle, medieval village surrounding it, and the craft shops.

L'Impressionniste cruising Châteauneuf-en-Auxois

If you’re visiting Burgundy for the epic scenery, then this cruise will give you all the vineyards, canals and countryside your heart desires. As L’Impressionniste glides along the Burgundy Canal, find plenty of opportunities to walk or cycle down the towpaths, bringing you that little bit closer to the wildlife of the region. Spot butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies as you walk alongside the waterway on a warm, summer’s day.

For a different point of view then take a trip in a hot air balloon to see the patchwork of vineyards from above. Lifted high above the Côte d’Or, you’ll experience a bird’s eye view of Burgundy – making memories you’ll never forget.

In the Press

Jill Barth toured the classic Burgundy itinerary of L’Impressionniste in 2022. In her blog, she recalls what it was like to stay for six-nights on a European Waterways barge.

She writes that to her, barge cruising is “the Holy Grail of slow, peaceful travel for very small groups”. Without the crowds and fast pace of other bookable tours, she says that guests have an opportunity to explore their destination in freedom.

Speaking specifically about the Burgundy Canal, Jill writes that it’s a “cultural masterpiece”. She says: “Draped on either side by rich vegetation, bucolic farmland and walkable tow paths, it preserves generations of history in its stone bridges and mechanical locks”. Jill explains that the canal is now primarily used as a pleasure cruising waterway, transporting holidayers up and down on luxury “mini-hotels”.

Towpath along the Burgundy Canal

Each of the nearly 200 locks on the Burgundy Canal have its own keeper’s house, and each one would have originally been occupied by a lock keeper. Now maintained by the French government and occasionally leased as holiday homes, Jill romantically writes that “Without tourism, this slice of French culture would be a relic, forgotten to more modern forms of transport and travel.”

Creeping along this historic waterway at walking pace is perfect for “travellers that are thirsty for immersion with ease”. She adds that “this is the ideal way to approach the rural countryside of one of the world’s finest wine regions in the company of wildlife, native plants, grazing cows and the occasional grandfather-and-grandson fishing team”.

Lockhouse Canal Nivernais 2

Jill explains how barging with an operator gives guests a chance to take in the local cuisine and wine in a space that’s well-appointed and holds only a small number of people. Living luxuriously for six nights, guests on L’Impressionniste enjoy a combination of shared spaces and comfortable cabins.

Burgundy’s iconic destinations make ideal visits on a barge cruise and European Waterways travels to locations just out of reach of the canal, including places like “historic châteaux, medieval sites, family wineries, the Route des Grands Crus, local markets and towns such as Dijon and Beaune.”

Hospices de Beaune

Jill says, however, that it’s the small details of a barge cruise that make the experience so enjoyable:

A wayward sheep dog that’s escaped his farmer might jump in for a swim, or a family on horseback might watch from a bridge as the barge slips gracefully underneath. Rare wildflowers, birds and animals share the countryside. The colours and textures of the season come alive, and a spring drizzle or evening sunset is more dynamic when reflected by a ribbon of streaming water.

Then, there’s the incredible cooked meals, prepared by your barge chef. Meals on European Waterways barges feature cheese, bread, vegetables and meals from local markets and small businesses.

Jill concludes that these small signs of French culture would be missed from a car or train. This and the fact that the ever-present vineyards paint the landscape of Burgundy a rainbow of shades at different times of year make a cruise aboard L’Impressionniste an unmissable experience.

L'Impressionniste is Perfect for:


If you’re planning an idyllic family break in Burgundy, then look no further than a cruise aboard L’Impressionniste. Simply charter our 12-person barge for family and friends and customize your itinerary! We’ll give you an opportunity to swap up to four excursions on the Classic Cruise itinerary for more family-friendly activities. Choose from watersports on the River Ouche, outdoor or indoor swimming, go karting and tennis. For adventurous families there’s an opportunity to go horse riding, quad biking, paintballing, and even hot air ballooning, too!

Wine Appreciation

Where else would you choose for a wine cruise if not the prestigious Burgundy region? Set deep within the Côte d‘Or, our wine cruises on L’Impressionniste visit some of the best vineyards in Burgundy. If Pinot Noir is your favourite red wine then you’ll be pleased to hear that a wine appreciation cruise takes us to Domaine Jafflin on the Route des Grand Crus. There’s also a visit to Clos de Vougeot, the homes of the Chevaliers du Tastevin, and a trip to the Côte de Beaune, to visit both Domaine Chanson and the famous Hôtel-Dieu Hospice. With several other vineyard visits to enjoy on this cruise, it’s one not to miss if you love wine!

Château du Clos de Vougeot

Culinary Appreciation

Perhaps Burgundy is most renowned for its wines, but the gastronomy of the region is also exceptional. On a Culinary Cruise, L’Impressionniste visits the cheese-making facilities at Abbaye de Citeaux, Domaine Chanson for a gastronomic lunch, and the Edward Fallot Moutarderie, where guests learn about the region’s famous mustards. Burgundy also has other famed culinary products like Crème de Cassis, veal, and goat sausages, which are sold at La Ferme du Rabutin. On this cruise, you’ll also have an opportunity to purchase items from Dijon’s markets and have a cooking lesson once you’re back onboard. Is there anything more rewarding than preparing your own gastronomic feast with products from your travels?

Ready to Cruise aboard L'Impressionniste?

If you’d like to find out more about a barge cruise on L’Impressionniste then contact one of our team today and discuss availability. Alternatively, order a brochure to consider all of our cruise options!

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