Seine River Cruises
Springing up from vineyard-coated Burgundy, the Seine is France’s best-known river. Flowing for 482 miles, it snakes through the world’s most celebrated capital – Paris – lending it an unparalleled sense of magic and romance. Yet Seine river cruises offer much more than a window on France’s spellbinding capital. Reaching northwards into Normandy, this picturesque river winds through orchards, meadows and wooded hills, revealing beauty and history at every turn before reaching the English Channel at Le Havre.
There’s something about the gentle Seine that has stirred artists down the centuries. Its landscapes inspired Monet and Cezanne, while the shifting colours of the fishing village of Honfleur on the Seine’s Channel estuary drove Courbet and Boudin to take up their brushes.
The Seine’s banks also present a fascinating journey through time. Ancient Celtic ‘Parisii’ tribes set up hamlets along the river in 250 BC, establishing trading routes that extended to the Mediterranean. The Romans followed, building a prosperous settlement called ‘Lutèce’, which ultimately developed into Paris. As well as serving as a vital trading artery, the river also played a role in key moments of French history. During the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc was martyred in Seine-side Rouen, while in World War II, the river proved a critical military crossing point. In 1991, its Parisian banks – the famous Rive Gauche and Rive Droite – were accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Why Seine river cruises?
Avalon Seine cruises take in the monument-packed heart of Paris and weave through picturesque Normandy, passing fragrant orchards, deep forests, hilltop castles and rustic towns in an ever-changing montage of scenery and sights.
In Paris, our cruises showcase the city’s world-famous landmarks and its twinkling evening lights. From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre and Notre-Dame Cathedral, from elegant boulevards and pavement cafes to the city’s glamorous nightlife, the beauty and verve of the French capital almost exhausts superlatives.
From Paris, the Seine etches a path to the town of Conflans. Two gems await close by – the charming village of Auvers-sur-Oise, once home to Vincent Van Gogh, and the 17th century Château de Malmaison, the estate of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte. The next port of call is Vernon, near the magnificent Château de Bizy and Giverny, the charming house and gardens where Claude Monet painted his luminous ‘Water Lilies’.
The Seine then snakes past Les Andelys, where the imposing Château Gaillard, built by Richard the Lionheart in 1196, stands high on a rocky spur, creating one of the most dramatic sights on the river.
Next comes the medieval blockbuster of Rouen. Famed as the site of Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake in 1431, this atmospheric city boasts an old quarter dominated by crooked houses, cobbled lanes and a fine Gothic cathedral. And within easy reach of here are two other sightseeing musts – the poignant D-Day beaches of Normandy’s coast and pretty port of Honfleur, whose soft, gauzy light and bustling harbour attracted Monet, Courbet and other artists.
Seine, Saône and Rhône cruises
Some Avalon Seine cruises venture into southern France: visiting Beaune to sample its local Burgundy wines and admire its tiled-roofed, 15th century Hôtel Dieu hospital, before sailing the peaceful Saône and Rhône rivers. Passing sun-drenched vineyards, lavender meadows and sleepy villages, they include stops in elegant Lyon, charming Viviers, with its Romanesque cathedral, and honey-stoned Avignon, home to the splendid Palace of the Popes. Our Seine-Saône-Rhône cruises also feature the wild Camargue nature reserve and Arles, the quintessential Provencal town that so moved Van Gogh and Renoir. Other tempting sights beckon from nearby, including delightful Aix-en-Provence, Nîmes with its Roman arena, and the endlessly glamorous Cote d’Azur.