For those who love seeing the world from a very different vantage while also enjoying the finer things in life, the sublime experience of luxury barge cruising is one that’s very hard to beat. We all need to keep our spirits up at the moment while we can’t travel, and this is the perfect kind of holiday experience to give you something to look forward to.
The Top 10 Barge Trips in France for 2021
Life on board one of these floating hotels offers a unique mode of travel, and one in which there’s no need for compromise on any level. Stunning scenery, gourmet cuisine, attentive service and the utmost in comfort and amenities – it’s all there laid out for your absolute pleasure.
Here at European Waterways we’re proud of our wonderful range of destinations across nine different countries, but France is one of the most popular with our clients. With so many from which to choose it’s always hard to pick a favourite, so we’ve picked ten of them for next year!
Whether you’re new to cruising or an old hand looking for your next adventure, we invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy our Top 10 barge trips in France for 2021 (in no particular order). We think you’re going to like them…
Vessel: La Belle Epoque
This classic 6-night barge trip in France departs from and returns to Paris, and encompasses a stunning route that takes in the very best scenery and attractions of Northern Burgundy. Your home-from-home on the water is La Belle Epoque, which started life transporting logs from Burgundy to Paris. Today she tells a very different story, with deluxe amenities and décor providing a total luxury experience.
The relaxed, refined nature of your journey belies the packed itinerary, but the beauty is that you can take on as many or as few shore excursions as you like. There’s a towpath that follows the route, so you can also cycle or walk through the many charming villages and towns. You’ll visit the UNESCO-listed Abbaye de Fontenay, enjoy a private Champagne tasting at the famous Domaine Laroche, marvel at the beauty of Château d’Ancy-le-Franc with its Renaissance art collection, and stroll through the enchanting village of Saint Vinnemer. For the rest of your time you may simply wish to sunbathe on the on-board sun deck (complemented with a spa pool) – and who would blame you?
Nivernais Canal & River Yonne
Vessel: L’Art de Vivre
This 6-night cruise aboard the L’Art de Vivre takes you on a journey back in time along the Nivernais Canal and the River Yonne, in Burgundy. This grand old lady is the oldest vessel in the European Waterways fleet and the on-board craftsmanship, traditions and elegance of times gone by make this an experience to remember.
As you glide along the ancient Canal du Nivernais (one of the country’s oldest established waterways) there’ll be plenty to look at – either from out on the deck or on the towpath where you can walk or cycle alongside. You’ll have opportunities to visit medieval Auxerre and go inside the renowned cathedral, enjoy a Champagne tasting in the village of Chablis, at Domaine Laroche, and head out to explore the fascinating quarry at Aubigny. Other highlights are the gorgeous village of Vezelay and the chance to see the magnificent twelfth-century Château de Bazoches. All the history and beauty of Burgundy in seven glorious days. Bliss!
Vessels: L’Impressionniste and Finesse
While each of the vessels takes in a different part of the waterways of Southern Burgundy, both itineraries deserve a place in the Top Ten barge trips in France.
If you choose the itinerary undertaken by L’Impressionniste, you’ll enjoy the hospitality of this beautiful 12-person barge, with each delightfully authentic cabin named after an Impressionist painter. Its amenities are elegant and traditional and as you travel along the beautiful Ouche Valley, you’ll pass through an outstanding landscape with a host of medieval villages at its heart. As well as visiting Dijon, you’ll be able to explore Clos de Vougeot, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois and immerse in experiences like a falconry display at Château de Commarin and a private wine tasting at Domaine Chanson.
On the Finesse 6-night itinerary you’ll explore a different part of Southern Burgundy, but one that’s no less spectacular – and you’ll do it in luxury and style on board this superior modern vessel. With just four cabin suites, you’ll be treated like royalty as you cruise along the tranquil waterways, stopping at lovely places like the ancient Roman city of Autun, Château de Chamirey in Mercurey, Beaune and Dijon.
Loire and Western Burgundy
Vessels: Renaissance and La Nouvelle Etoile
The stunning region around France’s oldest canal, the Canal de Briare, is known for its châteaux, idyllic villages and, of course, its local Sancerre wines.
On-board the magnificent Renaissance you’ll be treated to the ultimate luxury barge trip in France as you travel the Upper Loire and Western Burgundy. The interiors of this wonderful vessel echo the décor and ambience of a French manor house and you’ll enjoy the service to match. If you choose the itinerary on the ultra-deluxe La Nouvelle Etoile, the lavishly appointed cabins and sophisticated deck, dining and relaxing areas will leave you in no doubt you’re in the best possible hands.
One of the major highlights of this barge cruise in France is the opportunity to visit and tour the opulent interiors of the UNESCO-listed Château de Fontainebleau. Depending on the itinerary you choose, you’ll also be able to visit the Château de La Bussière, the town of Gien (famous for its pottery), Gustave Eiffel’s aqueduct across the River Loire, Briare, Château de Ratilly, Sens (the oldest town in the country), and the area along the upper reaches of the Yonne River to the idyllic town of Auxerre.
Canal du Midi
Vessels: Anjodi, Enchante & Athos
The 330-year-old Canal du Midi is one of France’s best-known waterways, considered one of the greatest construction feats of the seventeenth century. Today it is famous throughout the world and has achieved UNESCO World Heritage Listing. Each of the three vessels travelling this route has its own wonderful personality and style – it’s up to you to choose the itinerary and barge that suits.
The beautiful Anjodi is a classic Dutch design and has a special place in our hearts as the very first vessel to join our fleet, some 35 years ago. Enchanté is a more contemporary double-decker barge, offering both style and modern luxury to guests. Athos is a truly delightful blend of traditional elegance and luxury amenities.
The Canal du Midi is packed with highlights and, depending on which itinerary you select, you’ll have the opportunity to disembark and explore a host of charming villages that line its banks along the almost 150 miles. These include the medieval town of Carcassonne, the natural haven of the Petit Camargue, the ancient canal tunnel at Malpas, the hilltop village of Minerve and the abbey at Lagrasse. As always, multiple wine tastings and tours at renowned wineries are par for the course.
If you fancy seven days aboard a cosy, welcoming and traditional Dutch barge gliding past breath-taking views of the Loire Valley, this classic tour could be for you. This lovely vessel is the perfect vantage from which to sit back with a glass of wine on the deck and take in the scenery of the quaint waterside villages and grand châteaux that define the Loire Valley.
The itinerary includes visits to a host of gorgeous châteaux with names that roll off the tongue (or not!), including Château de Chenonceau, d’Amboise, du Clos Lucé and de Villandry. But you’ll never tire of them, no matter how many you see. You’ll visit charming villages, enjoy private wine tastings and dine on sublime food. There’s even the option to go hot air ballooning if you want to see the countryside from a different perspective. Perfection? We think so.
Most people don’t really need much convincing past the word ‘Champagne’ but when you add in the hospitality and amenities of the Panache, there should be no holding you back. With it’s traditional bespoke mahogany and brass interiors, relaxed but sophisticated cabins and spacious sun deck, you’d be excused for simply wanting to sit and watch the scenery pass. But there’s so much more to see on shore as well on this excellent itinerary.
A visit to the magnificent 800-year-old UNESCO-listed Reims Cathedral sets the bar high for the rest of the tour, but with a host of highlights to be experienced on the seven days, it rises to the challenge. You’ll tour the iconic Moët & Chandon champagne house, as well as visit the Henriot Champagne domaine for tastings and the underground cellars of La Maison Pannier. History buffs will love the inclusion of a trip to Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood, important sites in the battles of WW1. History followed by Champagne in Champagne – is there any better combination?
Alsace & Lorraine
The fantastic Panache is also your home from home on the next of our Top Ten barge trips in France: a classic cruise in Alsace and Lorraine. The trip starts and ends in the lovely city of Strasbourg, famous for its impressive Gothic cathedral, which you’ll get an opportunity to explore on a guided tour. As on all our barge trips in France, you’ll be able to cycle and walk along the towpaths that run beside the waterways as well – with the ones in Alsace and Lorraine being particularly easy and relaxing.
Highlights of this outstanding trip include a shore excursion of a drive into the countryside along the Route des Grands Vins, a renowned Alsatian wine-growing area – with tastings of course! You can cycle to the famous Meteor Brewery and do a walking tour of pretty Saverne. One of the most unique things on this cruise is the experience of ascending the Arzviller boat elevator and going through the tunnels. Unforgettable!
The word Bordeaux conjures up images of vineyards, châteaux and plenty of wine tastings – and that’s just what you get (and so much more) on our classic cruise in Bordeaux aboard the lovely Rosa. An elegant old Dutch clipper style vessel, Rosa has been brought into the modern day with the lightest of touches to preserve its working heritage. Charming, cosy and eminently comfortable, this wonderful barge cruises sedately along the waterways of Bordeaux as you lap up the service for which it’s renowned.
The route sees you cross one of the longest aqueducts in the country, the Plan Canal d’Agen, over the River Garonne, which is an experience in itself. You’ll visit the town and castle of Nerac, where you’ll enjoy a tasting of the infamous Armagnac, tour medieval Saint Émilion (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and marvel at the 900-year-old architecture of the Château de Duras. And you’ll do it all in style aboard the Rosa.
When she’s not gliding through Bordeaux, Rosa is plying her hospitality in Gascony, on this, the last of our Top Ten barge trips in France for 2021. Starting and ending in Toulouse, our classic Gascony cruise is one that will stay in your memory for a lifetime and for all the right reasons.
This region is renowned as a foodie’s paradise and you’ll have so many opportunities to test that out, both on and off the Rosa. Highlights of your itinerary include a visit to an artisanal dairy farm, time to explore the pretty town of Moissac and its grand UNESCO-listed abbey, and a private tasting in the Côtes du Frontonnais wine region at the gorgeous Château Bellevue la Fôret. You’ll even get to take tea and a private tour at the eighteenth century Château de la Motte with the real life countess who owns it!
So, there you have it: our Top Ten barge trips in France for 2021. While we’re all in the same boat (so to speak) at the moment, being unable to travel, at European Waterways we’re looking ahead to brighter days when we can start taking our clients on their trip of a lifetime once again.
It’s not too early to start planning for 2021 – so start dreaming and then make a barge trip in France a reality.