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What's the best time to river cruise in Europe?


One question we get asked all the time is "When is the best time to take a river cruise in Europe?"  While this is always a matter of personal preference, here's some things to consider when answering the question.


If cost is a major factor in your decision then the best time to cruise may be the cheapest time to cruise.  And guess what - that's generally NOT in the middle of summer.  The lowest priced river cruises are typically early or late in the season.  Early season means March and April; Late season means November and December.

Specific interests

If you have specific interests, that may dictate the best time to cruise. For example, if you want to see the Tulips in Amsterdam, the best time to cruise is in March and April since that's the only time the tulips are in bloom.  If you want to visit the Christmas markets on the Danube or Rhine, then December is the best time to cruise.

Warm weather

I've been on plenty of cruises where scarfs, gloves and long underwear are required wear and have had great fun.  But sometimes you want a vacation where it's warm.  If that's your main criteria, July and August are the best months to river cruise.  And while I've taken a bicycle tour in 45 F weather, I must admit it's much more fun when it's 80 F.


Sometimes it's really nice to go to Europe without big crowds.  Summer tends to draw a lot of tourists for obvious reasons.  So if this is really important for you, then we would suggest not going during July and August.  May, June, Sept and October are popular months for those reasons.  However, these also tend to be the most expensive times to go on a river cruise.

Wine themed cruise

If you have your heart set on wine themed cruises, then you need to go during wine season which is slightly different depending on the river. Here's some examples:

[list type="check"]

  • Bordeaux:  July - Nov
  • Danube: Oct - Nov
  • Douro: Aug and Nov
  • Mosel: July - Aug
  • Rhine: November
  • Rhone: July - Nov
  • Siene: Aug and Nov


So what's the best time to go to Europe on a river cruise?  It depends on what you really want:  do you want the lowest cost or the best weather?  are you interested in a wine themed cruise or a tulip highlighted cruise?    Do you want to go without the big crowds or do you want to visit Christmas markets?  A really good travel agent can help you think through these options and find the best fit for you.  Every season has it's strong points and depending what's important to you, any season can be the best time to take a river cruise in Europe.


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