Aerial view of Rhine river, Europe cruise

When to go on a European river cruise

If you’re planning a European river cruise, it’s important to remember that different times of the year offer a variety of things to see. From lush green hillsides and blossoming floral displays to warm sunshine and festival delights, Europe is bursting with culture, architecture and delicious cuisine. What you want to see and do, and the type of weather you prefer will help determine when best to enjoy your European river cruise.
Here’s a breakdown by season to help you decide when to book your next river cruise holiday to Europe.


Spring marks the start of the European river cruising season and is a wonderful time of the year to visit. Enjoy a European river cruise from late March to May if you prefer cooler temperatures and less crowds. Breathe in the fresh, crisp air, gaze at the lush green landscapes of hillside vineyards and admire the colourful flowers in bloom. Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit in spring, especially for garden enthusiasts with the magnificent tulip displays, particularly in the Keukenhof Gardens.

With fewer tourists around, you can benefit from faster entry times and more time to spend admiring ancient architecture and fairytale castles that are at the heart of this region.
Admire the beautiful tulips in Amsterdam during spring


For warmer weather and longer days, plan your visit to Europe in summer. From June to August the streets come alive, with locals and tourists alike making the most of the beautiful sunshine. Stroll the cobblestone streets, browse the boutique shops and enjoy a drink in an outdoor café as you people watch. Summer also marks the start of many festivals. Enjoy outdoor performances, live music and more. Head to Austria for the Salzburg Festival between July and August or spend Bastille Day in Paris (14 July) and witness a display of fireworks set against the iconic Eiffel Tower. With hot sunny weather, what better place to soak in the sunshine than on the Sun Deck of your Emerald Star-Ship. Watch the ever-changing picturesque scenery as you cruise or play a game of mini golf, petanque or giant tic tac toe with your fellow guests. You can also go cycling or try hiking through the vineyards as part of our EmeraldACTIVE program.
Visit beautiful Salzburg, Austria during summer


Autumn is another beautiful time of the year to river cruise Europe. The weather is still warm and pleasant, but starting to cool down so be sure to bring layers for the cooler evenings. From September to October, admire the colourful foliage as it changes to vibrant reds and golden oranges. As this is a less busy time of the year to travel, you can also benefit from lower prices on accommodation if you’re planning a pre or post night cruise stay in Europe. Autumn is also another great time of the year for festivals. Visit Munich for its famous beer festival: Oktoberfest. Arrive in Budapest during October for the Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival or enjoy the Rhine in Flames festival where the river valley is lit up with the spectacular firework displays in September.
Visit Europe in autumn - Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany


To experience a white Christmas, time your European river cruise for winter, one of the most magical times of the year to visit. Stroll through the festive and traditional Christmas markets of Cologne, Würzburg and Bamberg, warm up with a mug of Glühwein and sample fresh gingerbread or roasted chestnuts. Go ice skating in Amsterdam and browse the Christmas shops for a pretty festive Christmas ornament as a reminder of your holiday. If you’re planning a European river cruise at the end of November and early December, this is the perfect excuse to shop for Christmas presents for all your loved ones at home with a countless array of shopping opportunities. Be sure to bring plenty of warm layers, hat, gloves and a scarf as well as comfortable, warm and waterproof shoes as temperatures can drop below freezing.
Visit the Cologne's Christmas markets in Germany

Start planning your European river cruise today with our favourite itineraries listed below.

Top European River Cruises

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