The very nature of a European river cruise is to showcase the beauty and magic of the waterways. One that highlights not only the tried-and-true places of Amsterdam, Paris or Vienna, but the lesser known gems too.
On a river cruise, it’s the picturesque villages and towns along Europe’s most famous rivers that really make for a memorable holiday. Away from the bustling traffic and throngs of tourists, these captivating villages are filled with ambience, character and old-world charm.
We call them the cobblestone paths less travelled, and a luxury Scenic river cruise delivers you right to their doorstep.
Nestled along the shores of the Danube in Austria’s Wachau Valley, the town of Durnstein is about as picturesque as it gets. Lush vineyards inhabit sweeping valleys with the charming town’s cobblestone streets just a short walk from the river.
The Kuenringerburg castle ruins are located atop a hill overlooking Durnstein which can be explored during your free time. The castle was best known for its famed political prisoner, Richard the Lionheart, who was incarcerated in one of the towers from 1192 to 1193. His only crime – insulting Leopold V.
For the more active traveller, one of the best ways to see Durnstein and the local area is to hop on one of Scenic’s easy-to-use e-bikes, an electric power assist bicycle that carries you along the paved riverfront pathways with ease. On the ride from Melk to Durnstein, admire the riverside views, small villages and vineyards.
Stroll along any of Porto’s storied cobblestone streets and laneways and you are sure to hear that familiar clink of port glasses echoing from the bars and cafes.
Porto’s most famous export is, of course, port, but there is so much more to discover in Portugal’s second largest city. During your free time, enjoy a city river tour on a traditional rabelo (a wooden boat that carries port barrels along the Douro) to learn of its history and how this ancient transportation is still used today.
Back in town, take the cable car to the centre of the World Heritage listed medieval streets of Porto, or cross the river to the Ribeira district, which is conveniently close to the many historic wine lodges. Walk the streets and sample the many fine ports on offer.
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Kizhi Island in Russia’s Lake Onega may be small in size at a modest 5-square-kilometres, but the veins of history run deep here, with roots extending as far back as the 15th century.
Explore the open-air museum of 87 wooden constructions proudly displayed on this UNESCO World Heritage site. The most famous being Kizhi Pogost, a fenced area containing two large wooden churches (the 22 onion-domed Transfiguration Church and the 9-dome Intercession Church) with a 37-metre high bell tower. Today, the tower is one of Northern Europe’s tallest wooden structures.
As the Moselle river snakes its way through Germany’s flourishing valleys, the picturesque medieval village of Cochem can be found nestled against the scenic river bank.
This fairy tale location is dominated by the magnificent Reichsburg Castle. Visible from nearly all perspectives when strolling along the riverfront, glimpses of the castle can even be seen from the town’s narrow laneways, where a guided tour reveals the fascinating history of Cochem and its Endert Gate Tower.
The guided city tour culminates with a visit to the 1,000-year-old Reichsburg Castle, a fortification which saw the storming by King Louis XIV’s French troops, in 1688, to be rebuilt in the current Neo-Gothic style a century later.
After the tour during your own free time to explore the streets, re-visit the colourful market place on the cobblestone paved square. This is the perfect spot to people watch as you enjoy a coffee and German pastry – or perhaps a German beer or wine.
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