Travelling on Europe’s great waterways is a voyage of discovery, presenting a combination of fascinating destinations full of history and intrigue.
Dutch and Belgian Waterways
A complete network of canals spreads across the Netherlands and Belgium, lending this part of Europe its distinctive charm. The inland waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands flow through historic cities and charming countryside, punctuated by windmills and ablaze with the colour of tulips in the spring.
In northern Belgium, the River Scheldt passes through the magical cities of Ghent and Antwerp as it heads for the North Sea. Contrasting canals and navigable rivers thread their way across both the lowlands of Flanders and the massif of the Ardennes.
The Netherlands has the densest network of inland waterways in Europe, with around 6,000 kilometres of rivers and canals crisscrossing its gentle lowlands and reaching into neighbouring Belgium. Many are fed by the Rhine river, as it crosses the border from Germany into the Netherlands, and work their way across the Netherlands, before reaching the North Sea.
This is Europe's most extensive network of canals and waterways and because the landscape is so latticed by water, there is no better way of exploring it than by ship.
The second longest river in Europe, the Danube, flows in a southeasterly direction from its source in Germany’s Black Forest, through central and eastern Europe to the Black Sea. The Danube has witnessed much of continental Europe’s history, as a Neolithic trade route, the northern boundary of the Roman Empire, and as a route to the Holy Land for the crusades to the Habsburg dynasty. A preferred route of travel by rulers since ancient times, the Danube has long been called ‘the river of kings’.
The Danube flows through or along the border of 10 countries including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania, and through the capital cities of Vienna, Belgrade, Budapest and Bratislava. With a drainage area of about 315,000 square miles, the river has around 300 tributaries,of which about 30 are navigable. The Danube’s delta is the second largest in the world and is Europe’s largest wetlands reserve which is home to approximately 5,000 species of plants, birds and animals. Over the centuries, the River Danube has inspired artists, writers and composers, perhaps most famously The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss
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