Don’t Miss the Top UNESCO Sites in France: Part II

The waterways of France wind their way past some of the world’s most awe-inspiring cultural sites, and there’s no better way to visit these than on a barge cruise.

Choose a Barge Holiday in France - Barge Tours France

In part one of our series on the most notable UNESCO sites in France that you can see on one of our barge cruises, we introduced you to a handful of these important World Heritage designated attractions. In this, the second part, we’ll cover five more and reveal just how significant the waterways of France are to the culture and history of the country.

See the UNESCO Sites on a French River Cruise

A barge holiday opens you up to an entirely different (and very pleasurable) travel experience. And while the fine dining, luxurious accommodation and impeccable service are certainly something to look forward to, it’s the accessibility our wonderful French barge cruises afford that’s the real game-changer.

France is particularly appealing for a river cruise, with its complex network of waterways passing through some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe – not to mention its historical and cultural significance. With ample opportunities to disembark and explore a host of iconic sites, life aboard any of our wonderful vessels delivers so much more than your regular, run-of-the-mill hotel on land.

With smaller, more intimate numbers of guests, attentive staff and facilities that are second to none, the romance and adventure of times gone by is perfectly preserved in a contemporary setting. Our French river cruises are generally shorter than their counterparts in Germany (along the Rhine and Danube), with less distance between disembarkations and an impressive array of shore excursions available.

Here is part two of our favourite UNESCO World Heritage sites that can be visited from a cruise along the waterways of France.

Cisterian Abbey of Fontenay (Abbaye de Fontenay)

Our wonderfully relaxing cruises through the Burgundy region provide the opportunity to visit the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay – an austere but elegant abbey that dates back to 1119. Founded by St Bernard, it’s an impressively preserved example of the Romanesque architecture favoured by the early Cistercian monks.

Constructed in the shape of a cross, along with the cloister and chapter house, the abbey features an intriguing blind nave. Its interior vaulting is much admired by aficionados of architecture, and the starkness and simplicity of the design belie its important stature in the context of history. While there have been many changes and adaptations over the centuries, its cultural integrity has been incredibly well preserved.

While the abbey is privately owned it’s open to the public and is recognised as an Historic Monument. 

Discover Burgundy aboard La Belle Epoque 

Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion

For wine lovers enjoying one of our French river cruises, the Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion offers the opportunity to gain a real insight into the value of a truly unique region in terms of its viticulture. Now renowned throughout the world, the Romans were the first to develop the area of Aquitaine in order to grow vines. The practice thrived during the Middle Ages and its importance as a dedicated wine-growing region was cemented with the granting of its ‘jurisdiction’ status in the twelfth century.

This picturesque area is dotted with charming villages, hamlets and chateaux, rising up between rows upon rows of vines. Visiting the Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion is one of the absolute joys of travelling by barge through an absolutely stunning landscape.

Visit the Bordeaux Region aboard Rosa

The Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion is nestled within a unique region close to Bordeaux

The Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy

With a name that’s music to a wine lover’s ears, the Climats Terroirs of Burgundy comprise designated parcels of vineyards, which thrive in the clay and limestone based soils on the slopes of the region. There are an astounding 1,247 of these ‘terroirs’ (each individual in their soil characteristics and, therefore, the wines they produce) and they continue to demonstrate the vital cultural traditions that have endured since the Middle Ages.

 A visit to this area to tour the terroirs and sample their wines is not only a living history lesson, but also a dream come true for many of our guests who embark on one of our wine-themed cruises. (These special interest cruises include the services of a qualified sommelier, so get ready with your questions!)

The Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy are a UNESCO World Heritage site consisting of 1,247 terroirs (each individual in characteristics)

The Loire Valley

The spectacular landscape of the Loire Valley is well known to many, but when explored on a barge cruise it takes on an even more special enjoyment and significance. Steeped in social and political history, you’ll be able to see a staggering array of castles, medieval fortresses, Benedictine abbeys and churches across a range of architectural styles, including Renaissance and Romanesque. Some of the better-known Loire Valley chateaux  are Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord, Chenonceau and Amboise – all of which you can visit.

European Waterways offers a fabulous range of cruises in this magical region. From the unique vantage of a barge along the river, the landscape of the Loire between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonees unfolds to provide a truly memorable experience.

Cruise the Upper Loire and Western Burgundy aboard Renaissance 

The Chateau de Chenonceau

Strasbourg, Grande-Île and Neustadt

This last UNESCO site is one you’ll be able to enjoy on our popular Alsace and Lorraine classic cruise. Encompassing the historic centre of Strasbourg, Grande-Île and Neustadt (the new town), gained its status due to the importance it provides as a unique cultural expression of its French and Germanic heritage. Some of the notable characteristics of the site include its magnificent Gothic cathedral, the man-made canals that connect it to the Rhine, and the juxtaposition of the delicate Renaissance architecture with the highly distinctive Haussman-style buildings of the Neustadt.

Explore Strasbourg aboard Panache

Strasbourg, located in the Alsace and Lorraine region of France is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


For lovers of history, art and culture, there’s really no better way to explore France’s heritage than on a barge cruise along its network of waterways. This relaxed mode of travel allows you to truly immerse in the experience of slow, worthwhile and memorable exploration of the landscape and all it holds.

Exploring Strasbourg with European Waterways

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