9 most romantic river cruises

From historic architecture to riverside parks, the waterways of the world are home to some of the most romantic destinations to enjoy as a couple. Sail along the Rhine for storybook scenery where or stop in Shanghai for a modern-day romance.

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, here are nine of our favourite destinations along some of the world’s most beautiful rivers, perfect for couple’s holidays.

1. Budapest

Danube river passing through Budapest at dusk

The Danube visits numerous cities on its journey to the Black Sea, but one that stands out as a romantic favourite is Budapest. Its illuminated waters mark it as one of the most beautiful riverbanks to visit.

This capital city is home to history and sights that are sure to inspire l’amour. Climb the Fisherman’s Bastion for incredible views of the cityscape before uncovering historic secrets within the cobblestone streets that weave around the Buda Castle District. If you are feeling indulgent, why not visit Budapest’s iconic thermal Széchenyi Bath, home to nearly 20 indoor and outdoor pools?

2. Rothenburg

Alleyway in Rotheburg

Experience this medieval town in all its beauty as you sail along the Rhine. Rothenburg ob de Tauber is a worldwide symbol of German romance, with an unmistakable skyline and unspoiled countryside that has inspired artists for centuries – a stunning location to visit with your loved one.

A trip here with your other half will add a magical flair to your couples’ cruise along the Rhine, from seeing the town brought to life with evening fireworks and torch-lit processions during the Imperial City Festival, to gazing at the intricate architecture of the timbered buildings and turrets.

3. Siem Reap

Sun setting in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Whether you watch the sunset behind the temples at Angkor, take a leisurely cycle through the archaeological park, or ride horseback through the Cambodian countryside, a river cruise along the Mekong is the very definition of romance.

Enjoy basking in the spiritual atmosphere of Siem Reap, hand-in-hand, as you trek through the Cambodian jungle before reaching the awe-inspiring temples that make this place a top romantic destination for river cruisers. Away from the temples, explore the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary or see authentic life at Kampong Phluk, where locals live in a fishing village on stilts around Tonle Sap Lake.

4. Paris

Sun setting behind the Eiffel Tower - a famous landmark of France and the Seine River

A renowned destination for romance, sailing through Paris on a Seine river cruise is perfect for two. Enjoy being wined and dined in a city of outstanding culinary heritage, where even the nation’s dishes are protected on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list.

During the warmer months, walk between the sculpted trees and criss-crossing pathways of Jardin de Tuileries, as you spot the popular Eiffel Tower over the rooftops. Paris also is ideal for admiring art, from established works by Picasso or Monet on display at the Louvre, to the vast impressionist collection at Musée d’Orsay and the contemporary pieces at the Centre Pompidou – perfect for inspiration.

5. Venice

Colourful houses lining the canals of Venice

Stand on the Ponte di Rialto bridge and share a scoop of gelato as you admire the Grand Canal of Venice and watch gondolas pass beneath your feet. Or, take a gondola ride to one of Italy’s most romantic places, the Bridge of Sighs – where many sneak a kiss to declare their love for one another.

Though not directly found on the riverbanks, Venice is often included as an excursion for passengers on river cruises along the Po. Why not venture into the city during the evening and walk along the southern shore of the main Venetian island – with the sun setting and riverside light illuminating an ideal romantic atmosphere.

6. Bruges

Romantic buildings in Bruges, beside the river banks

For a stroll through a fairy-tale town, Bruges offers a world of picturesque cobbled streets and dreamy canals just waiting for be discovered. This medieval city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historic and charming streets leading to characteristic buildings and landmarks.

River cruises along the Dutch Waterways allow you to explore this postcard-perfect port in all of its glory, starting with a stroll over the Minnewater Bridge. Some say that if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, it will become an eternal love.

Don’t miss Bonifacius Bridge, too, where you can enjoy one of the most stunning parts of Bruges nestled between two city highlights: Gruuthuse palace and the Arents Courtyard.

7. Vietnam

Sun setting over Halong Bay - a popular destination for Mekong river cruises

Wander through Vietnam’s heart and soul in the cultural capital city of Hanoi. Mekong river cruises port here for the unique sights and gourmet wonders, but there is so much more to this city. Enjoy a romantic cycle through the countryside and the ancient village of Duong Lam, or go hiking at the Ba Vi National Park where you can wander between the temples and pagodas.

Experience the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay either from the sky or sea – with options to set sail past the incredible islands and limestone pillars or swoop around the bay in a Cassna Grand Caravan sea plane. You can even end your day with a couple’s spa treatment in the city of Hanoi – the perfect way to wind down after a day of exploration.

8. Porto

Colourful houses of Porto, lined up on the riverbanks of the Douro

The pastel-coloured homes of Porto are perfect for romantic evenings spent in the harbour and enchanting days spent sightseeing.

Begin your morning with a steaming mug of coffee along the Rua das Flores, Portugal’s Flower Street, which is beautifully decorated with flowers, drawings and phrases in their own individual style. Next, explore Porto’s steep streets on one of the city’s historic trams before ending the day in the depths of the famous Port wine cellars where you can sample this local tipple in its homeland.

9. Shanghai

Purple and pink sunset over the skyscrapers of Shanghai - a destination on most Yangtze river cruises

Bright lights, neon signs and skyscrapers; Shanghai doesn’t seem like your typical couple’s river cruise destination. However, visit during a Yangtze river cruise and you will see the city in a whole new light.

Take an alternative view of Shanghai and enjoy an evening cruise along the city’s waterways, illuminated by riverside lanterns. There is even a lane dedicated to lovers in the Hongkou district of Shanghai. Tianai Lu, or ‘Sweet Love Road’, is located besides the Lu Xun Park where you can stroll by walls adorned with poems, hand-written notes and declarations of love.

Whether you want to admire fairy-tale architecture or embark on an exciting adventure together, a river cruise is a perfect choice for a romantic getaway. Explore Europe’s intriguing cities and idyllic countryside or experience the wild and wonderful landscapes of Asia and its winding rivers.

Call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 for award-winning advice and assistance with your booking along one of these beautiful rivers.

Have you cruised along any of these rivers with your partner? Which was your favourite? Let us know in the comment box below.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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