- Discover everything a Seine river cruise has to offer, with sights from the Eiffel Tower to Monet’s house in Giverny.
- When to go and what to see – the changing seasons on the river Seine make for a magic April to October cruising season.
- Our essential tips and advice for a Seine river cruise, plus other European rivers worth considering.
Historic cities, idyllic villages, beautiful gardens and views aplenty – a Seine river cruise has it all. River cruises on the Seine are a wonderful choice for travellers who wish to experience the vibrancy of Paris, but also venture beyond the capital to explore the countryside and cultural gems of northern France.
At 777km, the Seine is France’s second-longest river after the Loire. It rises from the aptly-named town of Source-Seine near Dijon in the Côte-d’Or region of Burgundy and flows northwest through Paris and Rouen, across Normandy, and into the English Channel at Le Havre.
Most Seine river cruises begin in Paris, taking a week to travel towards the coast, mooring at various points of interest en route, before returning south to the capital.
Seine river cruise – top destinations
On a Seine river cruise Paris will be a key part of the itinerary, either at the start or end of the trip. A sightseeing tour will take you to all the must-see spots, from the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe to the Champs-Élysées and Musée d’Orsay.
If you’re keen to stretch your legs, the Tuileries Gardens – situated between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde – make for a lovely stroll. Wander the meandering paths past manicured lawns, ponds and grand statues.
As the river enters the Seine Valley just outside of Rouen, so begins one of the most picturesque stretches of the cruise. Giant chalk cliffs are backed by dense forests, peppered with apple orchards and pretty villages such as La Roche-Guyon.
Many cruises will dock at Les Andelys for a visit to Château-Gaillard. This hilltop ruined castle was built by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th-Century and boasts sweeping views of the Seine Valley. Be sure to bring your camera.
A depart-from-Paris Seine river cruise will continue through the Seine Valley northwestwards to Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy and one of France’s best-preserved cities. Explore its pedestrianised cobbled streets, lined with half-timbered houses, some of which house antique shops, clothing boutiques and gift shops.
Dominating the city skyline is Rouen’s most iconic monument: the Notre-Dame cathedral. A Gothic work of art, its facade is wonderfully intricate with dozens of statues, gables and turrets. Its cast iron spire rises to a height of 151 metres – the highest in France.
A 10-minute walk north brings you to the Place du Vieux-Marché, known as the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431. Today it is a popular meeting spot, with restaurants and cafés whose tables spill out onto the street – ideal for a pitstop.
As your Seine river cruise nears the coast, you will have the opportunity to visit the city of Bayeux. Remarkably unscathed from the Second World War (unlike nearby Caen, which was left in ruins), the city has a charming historic centre.
The city is most famous for its 11th Century Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the events leading up to the 1066 Norman Conquest of England. It is housed in a museum in the city centre. Measuring 70 metres long and 50 centimetres wide, the seamless embroidery is displayed in full so that you can admire each of its 75 phenomenally detailed scenes in turn.
A highlight for art and garden enthusiasts on any Seine river cruise is when the ship moors at Vernon for a visit to the town of Giverny. Here stands the house of impressionist painter Claude Monet, where he lived – and painted – from 1883 to 1926.
Inside is a work of art in itself. Monet chose all the colours in the house, from the blues of the charming sitting room to the bright yellows of the dining room; pause here to admire the walls adorned with Japanese engravings, all carefully chosen by Monet.
The garden is no less impressive. The highlight is the Japanese-inspired water garden, with its wooden bridge and lily pond where Monet painted his Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) series.
Seine river cruise – best time to travel
Most Seine river cruises operate between April and October.
Spring and autumn are great times to visit Paris; temperatures can reach up to 20 degrees Celsius and you can enjoy the sights without the swarms of the summer crowds. Visit in April and there’s a chance you’ll catch the famous cherry blossoms in full bloom; those at the Notre Dame are among the most splendid. Visit in October and you’ll see the autumn colours, as the city’s parks and gardens turn different shades of yellow, orange and red.
While a summer Seine river cruise means you may have higher temperatures in the capital, this is less of an issue as you sail north – even in mid-July, Normandy usually only sees an average of about 22 degrees Celsius. Also breezes along the river provide relief from the heat. In summer, balmy evenings mean you can enjoy alfresco dining up on deck.
Most of the towns and cities in Normandy remain busy year-round, so even in the shoulder months attractions and restaurants will be open. The D-Day beaches will be quieter outside of July and August.
Seine river cruise tips
Be patient when on board the ship
The Seine is a busy river, and passage past other boats and through the locks (there are 34 locks in total on the Seine) can be take time.
Be prepared for elaborate docking procedures
While the beauty of small river ships is that they can dock right in town – often within walking distance of the main attractions – depending on the port, if your ship ties up next to another ship, you may occasionally have to walk through that ship to access the shore.
Pack the right clothing
Parts of the Seine river are exposed and the weather can be changeable, so even if you are travelling in the height of summer pack a windproof jacket and folding umbrella. Flat, comfortable shoes are essential.
While much of the sailing will take place during the night, some will commence during the daylight hours. As you glide past rolling countryside and waterside villages you will be thankful for a good pair of binoculars so you can enjoy the views in detail. You will see a variety of birdlife too, such as peregrine falcons and great cormorant, particularly as you pass through the Boucles de la Seine Normande Regional Natural Park near Tancarville.
Other river cruises in Europe
If you are keen to explore other areas of the continent by cruise ship, there are a variety of river cruises in Europe that are worth considering.
Rhône river cruise
The ultimate southern France cruise for food and wine enthusiasts. Key stops include Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, for cellar visits and wine tastings. Plus Lyon, with its array of gourmet food shops and famous Les Halles de Lyon indoor food market (the cheese counters are a sight to behold) is a must.
Rhine river cruise
Travelling through Germany, France and Switzerland, this cruise combines historic cities – from Speyer to Strasbourg – with breathtaking scenery. One of the most dramatic stretches is the Rhine Gorge with its steep, towering cliffs and craggy rock formations.
Douro river cruise
Setting off from the coastal city of Porto – home of Port wine – the cruise meanders through the Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, this is a trip for history-lovers, taking in the 12th Century walled village of Castelo Rodrigo, historic Salamanca and baroque Mateus Palace.
Seine river cruise
Inspired by the romance of the enchanting Seine? Find out more about our Seine river cruises taking in the charming landscapes of picturesque northern France and the beauty of Paris.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.