City to city with APT River Cruises

Silver Travellers who regularly read my articles will know that I recently shared tips for some of my favourite cities, looking forward to the time when we are all free to travel again and need a city break fix. But I’ve also explored fabulous cities as part of a river cruise, including some real gems that feature on itineraries from Silver Travel Advisor’s new partner APT River Cruises.

Arriving by river delivers passengers right to the heart of the action. Step onto the quayside and you will usually find yourself with a short walk of the key attractions. So all you have to do is choose between a guided tour with a local expert or the freedom of exploring independently.

Here are a few of Europe’s riverside cities that have inspired me in recent years, all offered by APT’s 5-star luxury itineraries:


Painted Wall Bibliotheque de la Cite Lyon I’ve long had a soft spot for Lyon, a city that is all too often overlooked by car drivers whizzing down the motorway to the Riviera. You could spend a week in this UNESCO-listed metropolis and still not see it all. The Romans recognised the strategic potential of a town where the Rhône meets the Saône and their twin theatres still stand on Fourvière hill above the confluence. Visit the Renaissance Old Town with its hidden courtyards and passageways; stop off at the 19th century Basilica beside the Roman excavations; and follow the trail of extraordinary trompe l’oeil paintings.

Heading south, the Rhône passes historic Avignon with its extensive Papal Palace, home to the 14th century Popes and the biggest Gothic palace in the world. Close by, stands the famous half-bridge of St Bénezet, destroyed by floods and later immortalised in the song we all learned at school. Roman Arena, Arles You can buy a ticket to walk on it, but the best view is from the water or riverbank.

South of Avignon, I’d recommend a day in beautiful Arles with its impressive Roman arena which once held more than 20,000 spectators – almost half the population of the Roman town of Arelate. Walk through the ruins of the Roman theatre; explore the ruins of the Baths of Constantine; or maybe take a tour of the underground galleries beneath the ancient Forum. Don’t miss St Trophime Church, a 12th century gem with a double-decker cloister, and be sure to follow in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh, who arrived here in 1888 and painted 300 works in just 15 months. 


Porto Portugal’s famous vineyards hug steep terraces above the meanders of the Douro as it passes through deep locks and past modest towns. But cruises start in Porto – mistakenly called Oporto by early foreign traders – a beguiling, bustling city where colourful facades splash the steep slopes of its many hills. The big Port brands have their warehouses on the opposite bank at Gaia – a must-see for first-time visitors – and I loved the traditional boats that bob prettily on the water outside.

This is a fabulous city to explore on foot with its tiled facades, tempting small streets, and intriguing buildings, and if you don’t fancy all the hills, you can take a funicular to the cathedral square or hop on a tour bus. Don’t miss the lavish interior of the Bolsa Palace, formerly the Stock Exchange, or the tiled atrium of San Bento station.


Cruising around La Petite France, Strasbourg I’ve travelled to almost every corner of France but Strasbourg had somehow eluded me until last year, when I was bowled over by its beautiful buildings, fascinating history, and unmistakeable blend of French and German cultures. Swap your river cruise boat for an excursion boat with commentary to see the picture-postcard-pretty old town from water level. 

Strasbourg is a city renowned for its half-timbered houses decked with floral window boxes, but also a city of sleek modern buildings, amongst them the Council of Europe and European Parliament. And don’t be surprised to see the grand mansions and spacious parks of the Neustadt, built as a showpiece district during the German annexation of 1871 to 1918. Crowning the city centre is the magnificent Gothic cathedral, its façade like lacework in stone. Victor Hugo described the church as ‘a giant and delicate marvel’ and you can’t help but agree with him.

Chocolate Museum, Cologne Whilst Strasbourg sits on the French bank of the Rhine opposite Germany; Cologne – or Köln – is well and truly German, but shares a magnificent cathedral heritage. There’s a Roman archaeology museum too, a modern art museum, and the House of 4711, but best of all in my book, is the riverside Chocolate Museum. Expect demonstrations, tastings and a shop bursting with products by Lindt, Milka and Germany’s leading brand, Hussel. Yum!


Who can resist Vienna, the epitome of European elegance with its magnificent Baroque buildings, Art Nouveau architecture, and tree-lined Ringstrasse, known as the world’s most beautiful boulevard? There’s a Gothic cathedral here too and seven other impressive churches, packed with history and art. Maybe take in a performance by the famous white horses of the Spanish Riding School, or visit the Schönbrunn Palace, lavish summer residence of the Hapsburgs. You won’t manage to do them all from your cruise boat, but you will be able to earmark some for a longer city break!

Evening cruise past Budapest's Parliament building Then there’s Budapest, a city that entrances me every time. I first visited during the Christmas market, when the streets and squares of flat Pest were filled with stalls selling quality merchandise. The neo-Gothic parliament building, modelled on our own, was bathed in golden floodlights from late afternoon onwards, and locals and visitors took to temporary ice rinks as the whole town dressed in its festive best.

But the Hungarian capital delights in any season. Take the funicular up the steep cliff to hilly Buda to wander the historic old town, take in the river and city views from Fisherman’s Bastion, and enjoy the painted interior of glorious Matthias Church. And if time permits, take a ride on the Children’s Railway, staffed by friendly young volunteers but, fortunately, always driven by an adult! 

Silver Travel Advisor recommends APT River Cruises.

193 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Gillian Thornton

Travel writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Geoff Moore joined events across the island to celebrate Liberation Day, one of the most important dates in Guernsey’s calendar…
The Royal Shakespeare Company offers far more than just live theatre as Gillian Thornton found out on a visit to…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.