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Aquavit Terrace at sunset (Photo: Viking)

The 3 Best Viking River Cruises on the Rhône

Aquavit Terrace at sunset (Photo: Viking)
Jeannine Williamson

Last updated
Jan 2, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Sponsored by Viking

The picturesque Rhône flows from the Swiss Alps through southern France and into the Mediterranean, west of the historic port city of Marseille.

Culture-rich itineraries on the Rhône, and its chief tributary the Saone, have a wide appeal. Viking's Rhône river cruises are an ideal option if you have sailed on the Rhine and Danube and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in food and drink.

These cruises sail through Burgundy and Provence, the gastronomic heartland of France that's home to some of the world's most revered wine-growing regions. Viking ships also spend time in the epicurean capital Lyon.

You'll follow a waterway that was once an important trading route for the Greeks and Romans, who left a legacy that can still be seen today, and be transported through sunflower and lavender-filled landscapes that have inspired generations of artists including Vincent Van Gogh.

Here are three Viking Rhône river cruises that focus on this fascinating region.

Check out our Rhône Ready: Ultimate Prep Guide for more tips and advice for sailing on this fascinating river.

On This Page

1. Viking Rhône River Cruise: Wine and Cuisine

Farmers Market in Avignon France (Photo: Viking)

Savor some of the greatest wines, hunt for truffles and discover how olive oil and cheese is made on Viking's mouth-watering introduction to the Rhône. This eight day Lyon & Provence Viking River Cruise includes three days in Lyon, which is famed for its contribution to the culinary scene and has more restaurants per head than any other city in France.

Starting in Avignon, your ship moors near the four remaining arches of the impressive 12th century Pont d'Avignon bridge that once spanned the river and even has a song named after it, which you will hear played on your Viking longship. A former self-contained papal enclave that only became part of France in the late 18th century; a landmark is the vast UNESCO-listed Palace of Popes which was home to seven successive popes.

Lyon, France

In Lyon sample the culinary treasures of Beaujolais on a private visit to a wine chateau before meeting a local truffle farmer and his dogs and taking part in a hunt for the prized delicacy. Another excursion for wine-lovers is a visit to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Here you'll be welcomed by wine producers whose families have cultivated the vineyards for generations and enjoy an exclusive tour around the atmospheric cellars.

The days in Lyon, at the start or beginning of the cruise, offer six shore excursions including a gastronomic tour with tastings of specialties such as rich butter brioche made with pralines, chocolate, cheese and grattons, a local delicacy made from pork rind. When it's time to walk off any calories there are plenty of cultural sights, too. As you ship will moor in the center of the city you can also explore independently. The historic neigborhood Le Vieux Lyon is just over a mile away so pack comfy shoes, particularly if you plan to tackle steep Fourvière Hill. Here you will discover the labyrinth of traboules, or passageways, once used by silk manufacturers and other merchants to transport goods.

2. Viking Rhône River Cruise: Cultural Cities and Art

Paris, France

Enjoy the very best that France has to offer on this extended 15-day viking sailing which combines two incredible itineraries in one; Paris & the Heart of Normandy, cruising on the Seine, plus the Lyon & Provence sailing.

The voyage of discovery follows the brushstrokes of visionary Impressionist painters including Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Degas. The first section of this Viking river cruise features two overnight stays in Paris. There's plenty of time to explore the City of Light on excursions such as a private visit of the highlights of the Louvre, which houses some of the world's greatest paintings, and a stroll around the charming bohemian art district of Montmartre.

Arles, France (Photo: Viking)

After a transfer by train, the second half of the journey continues on the Rhône. The many memorable places of interest include Arles. Vincent van Gogh painted many of his most famous works when he lived here, including "The Langlois Bridge at Arles", which is still recognisable today. Architectural splendors include Vienne, founded in Roman times, where the 13,000-seat amphitheatre once used for gladiator fights is one of many reminders of this dramatic period of history.

In between visiting medieval towns and delightful wine villages, there are stretches of relaxing scenic sailing. As your Viking riverboat passes vine-clad riverbanks set against the backdrop of the mountainous Rhône Valley it is interesting to learn this peaceful and tranquil river was once a wild waterway which has was tamed by a series of locks from its confluence with the Saone to the Mediterranean sea. As with all Viking river cruises, this itinerary can be sailed in reverse to start or end in Paris.

Learn More About First Time River Cruising

3. Viking Rhône River Cruise: Sweeping Scenic Landscapes

Tournon, France (Photo: Viking)

Combine the heritage and beauty of the Rhône with cruising through three other countries -- the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland -- on Viking's new 15-day Lyon, Provence & the Rhineland sailing that also takes in the panoramic Rhine.

This cruise visits landscapes shaped by centuries of history, wine-growing and art. After leaving Amsterdam you'll visit Kinderdijk, with the country's biggest concentration of historic windmills, and then sail through the vine-clad UNESCO Middle Rhine Valley to sample vintages from Germany's largest wine-producing region. You'll also venture into the Moselle, a quiet tributary of the Rhine, which is renowned for its pretty villages dotted with half-timbered houses and wineries.

Beaune, France (Photo: Viking)

Then journey along the Rhône and take your pick of many different ways to discover this corner of France with Viking's wide choice of shore excursions. Stroll around the medieval hilltop village of Perouges, used as a backdrop for many movies including "The Three Musketeers", or paddle along the Rhône on a guided canoe trip. In Tournon you can even take a nostalgic steam train ride through the spectacular gorges, forests and pastures of the Doux Valley conservation area. Alternatively, hike through vineyards to learn about local viticulture and taste the region's full-bodied Syrah wines.

Wine-lovers won't want to miss the trip to Beaune, capital of the Burgundy region. During the picturesque drive your Viking guide will share fascinating facts and figures about the world-famous wine-growing area such as Route des Grands Crus which is home to eight of the world's ten most expensive wines. In Beaune there's a visit to the former hospice with its ornate tiled roof and apothecary shelves of dusty glass bottles filled with curiosities such as "dragon's blood".

Publish date December 21, 2023
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