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Best Time to Take a European River Cruise - Rhine, Danube & Main Rivers

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At a Glance: Best Time for River Cruise in Europe

September is perhaps the best month of the year to take a European river cruise with a perfect blend of weather and lighter crowds than the summer high-season.
  • Busy season: June-October
  • Shoulder season: March-May, September-December
  • Avoid: January-March
The Main River of southern Germany connects the Danube River to the east with the Rhine River to the northwest. As the Rhine’s largest tributary and the primary artery between two of Europe’s longest rivers, cruises that include the Main River are usually a bit longer - between 7 days and three weeks, crossing central Europe.

Make sure that you know what to expect in whichever season you choose to plan your cruise of the Main River:

The cruising season starts in March and runs through December, though the most popular time to visit is either during the warm summer months or during the festive Christmas Markets of December. 

Located right in the center of the European continent, the best time to cruise the Main River is also the best time to cruise the Danube and Rhine Rivers.

Ehrenfels Castle on Rhine River near Rudesheim
Ehrenfels Castle on Rhine River near Rudesheim (Krissy Ferriter)

Summer river cruising on the Rhine, Main, and Danube June to August

Hot sunny days perfect for relaxing on the river or participating in the array of activities and tours that you will be enjoying your river cruise. The temperatures reach their peak in August, with some days and nights that are hot - if you like warm but not hot weather, plan to travel in June or September. 

Springtime along the Main River - from March to May - is a cooler, rainier season, but if you don’t mind the damp weather it can be a good time to secure some deals. Just beware that heavy snowmelt or rain might cause your itinerary to be modified if the riverboat can’t clear low bridges along the route. 

Take a quiet moment in Passau
Take a quiet moment in Passau (Juergen Sack)

Fall shoulder season for European River cruises is in autumn (October-November), when temperatures begin to fall. This can be a beautiful time to see the leaves change color along the river valley while enjoying pleasant (though occasionally chilly) temperatures. 

If you don’t mind colder temperatures and hope to experience one of the most festive times of the year in Germany, consider taking a Christmas Market cruise in November or December. While you won’t be able to do some of the summertime activities, you won’t be disappointed as you explore the vibrant plazas and diverse Christmas Markets in each town along the way, bringing to life centuries-old traditions. 

Want to Go?

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An autumn view across the Vltava river to old town Prague



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