Exploring Europe: 8 Most Beautiful Riverfront Cities in Europe
Most cities are built by rivers and that is what gives them some kind of personality. When the nice weather is here, the riverfront of a city always tends to be a very special place where you can just sit and relax. Especially in the summer, if you can take a dip or just sit in the shades by the water and enjoy the day. In this blog post we bring you the 8 most beautiful riverfront cities in Europe, so keep reading and find your perfect destination.
Before we start, be sure to check out our Cultural Places platform and discover the amazing tours that will help you explore your destinations at your own pace.
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Let’s start exploring some magical riverfronts in Europe.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Český Krumlov is a fairy-tale city set on the Vltava River, filled with medieval churches and castles, which is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. Wandering through the streets of its city center will make you forget that you are in the 21st century. The historic center of Český Krumlov is so perfect that it even got declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The castle complex standing above the Vltava river is the second largest one in the country, right after the Prague Castle, and it is just as amazing and impressive.
Fairy-tale City of Český Krumlov
You will get lost in the perfect cobblestoned streets and tall imposing buildings that this charming little town has to offer. You will see Renaissance and baroque architecture everywhere you turn, and it will leave you breathless. Pay special attention to the medieval main city square, called Svornosti Square, and the gorgeous façades of the buildings that surround it. The most prominent one is for sure the white façade of the Town Hall, with a painted coat of arms on it. Also, you will not miss the Plague column that takes the central position on the square and is topped with the statue of the Virgin Mary and eight saints.
The Vltava River that snakes between these streets make the city even more special and ads more to its fairy-tale feel. Walk along its banks and find yourself a nice restaurant or café where you can just enjoy the unique atmosphere of the city.
Beautiful Basel set on the Rhine river is one of the most amazing cities in Switzerland. This artsy city houses 40 museums with amazing collections and some of the largest theatres in Switzerland — its citizens just love art. Architecture in Basel is breath-taking, the city has its own şpecial vibe due to the proximity of the French and German borders.
The Basel Town Hall
But what really took our breaths away is the Basel riverfront, beautiful river Rhine and all the ways you can enjoy it. The river is lined with beautiful old buildings and pedestrian streets with restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy rays of sunshine and the sounds of this mighty river. One part of the pedestrian area is lined with trees that make amazing shades in hot summer days.
Five bridges are crossing the Rhine river in Basel but one of them is a quite significant landmark. The Middle Bridge of Basel (Mittlere Brücke) is the oldest bridge over the Rhine, connecting the medieval parts of Grossbasel (greater Basel) and Kleinbasel (smaller Basel). Actually, it was rebuilt on the site of the bridge built in the 13th century, but it looks very medieval. There is even a copy of the original wooden bridge chapel, the Käppelijoch, where convicted criminals were executed.
The Middle Bridge of Basel
The city of Basel is blessed with over 300 days of sunshine, so you can imagine that it is pretty hot in the summertime and that the Rhine river is quite a popular place to hang out. Tons of people love to just chill on the riverbanks or even go for a swim. If you decide to take a dip, be careful, it can be a bit cold and its current is pretty strong. Anyhow, you’ll find a perfect way to enjoy the Rhein river in Basel.
Rhine River in Basel
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg, laying on the banks of the Neva River, is one of the most beautiful cities in Russia, and even in the whole of Europe. This city is both historic and contemporary, and you will love both sides for sure.
The city’s landmarks and canals are just stunning — there’s just so many things to see. You have to visit the Hermitage museum, it’s palaces and gardens — you will feel a little bit like a royal. The Hermitage museum has one of the best art collections in the world, with more than three million items. The museum occupies six buildings along the Neva River, the leading structure being the astonishing baroque, blue-and-white Winter Palace.
Also, be sure to check out the Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad), where the major historical events occurred, and the important political ceremonies are still held. It is quite similar to the Red Square in Moscow — read about it in our previous blog post: “A Quick Guide to Moscow: Top 10 Things to Do in Moscow“
Wander the streets of this awesome city, and especially it’s canals because the riverfront is just stunning! This way you’ll see most of its historic landmarks from another angle — it’s a completely different experience. If you’re winter wonderlands, St. Petersburg is the right place for you. St. Petersburg and the frozen Neva river look like a real-life fairy tale in winter, and this makes the city one of the most beautiful winter destinations.
St. Petersburg and the Neva River
Another city set on the Rhine river, Cologne is known to be the most cheerful city in Germany — there are various carnivals held every year that prove so. Cologne has a beautiful old town that is dominated by churches and museums. The most imposing one is the Cologne Cathedral — the third-largest church in the world, with its twin towers that dominate the city skyline. There are a few more breath-taking churches, but the one that we loved the most the old Romanesque church Great St. Martin.
Great St. Martin Church
© Draško Šipragić
The Rhine river and the bridges crossing over it are also a great part of Cologne’s skyline. One of the most amazing bridges is the Hohenzollern Bridge — a great railway and pedestrian bridge with iron arches, which is also a great part of the city skyline. If you visit Cologne with your significant other, get a padlock, put your names on it, clamp the padlock to seal your love forever.
Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge
If you’d like to enjoy the river, go to one of the green parks on the riverbanks, or hit the beach. Just don’t get in the water, it’s not very clean. There are also a few beach bars where you can enjoy the sunshine. Or you can do a river cruise and enjoy the whole Cologne riverfront.
Along the Rhine, you’ll see some interesting buildings of the Old Town, many museums, and some of those churches that we mentioned earlier. When you get out of the Old Town, you’ll also see some pretty interesting contemporary buildings. One of them is the Köln Triangle with the best views of the city, for sure.
Colmar is a charming little city, nestled on the Ill and La Lauch river, in the Alsace region of France. With its small, half-timbered houses and flowerpots everywhere, it looks like a fairy-tale village. Colmar is known for its great food that is the mixture of French and German cuisine, and for great wines — it’s the capital of Alsatian wine.
Colmar’s Old Towns is fabulous and one of the cutest old towns we’ve ever visited. It’s also the most photogenic Old Town we’ve been to, just look at those amazing houses… Also, there are some landmarks and important buildings that you must see. One of those is the Colmar Cathedral — St. Martin’s Church (or Collegiale Saint-Martin) with its impressive spire that can be seen from all around the town. Also, be sure to check out the Pfister House — an old merchant house with an amazing wooden gallery, the House of Heads with 111 sculptures of heads, and the Customs House (or Koifhus) that was once the center of business and politics.
Besides wandering through its Old Town’s winding, cobblestoned streets, and exploring those colorful houses, the Lauch river, its arched bridges, and everything around it is the main attraction. It’s a small river, but very charming, and the riverfront is the most charming part of Colmar. There is a part of this riverfront called Little Venice, with those charming houses and cafes are lining the riverbanks, and lush greenery between them — very picturesque. There is a part of Little Venice called The Fisherman’s Quay (Quai de la Poissonnerie) and it is one of the most beautiful streets in Colmar. You can explore this part of the city by foot or you can take a short cruise down the river.
Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Bassano del Grappa is a city in northern Italy’s Veneto region that lies in the foothills of the Prealps, on the Brenta river. This city is little known but very important in local history, known for its wonderful Palladian architecture and unique foods and wines.
Besides wines, Bassano del Grappa is known for one special beverage called grappa (as you can read in the city’s name) — special pomace brandy made from leftovers from winemaking after pressing the grapes. There is even the museum dedicated to this beverage, where you can learn a little about the process of making it — Poli Museo della Grappa. Of course, there are free samples for visitors.
The city’s most known for the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) or the Ponte degli Alpini, the beautiful covered medieval wooden bridge over the Brenta river, later reconstructed by the famous architect Andrea Palladio. It has been destroyed many times, most recently during the WWII, but is still standing in the center of the Old Town. Even the bridge seems fragile because of its wooden construction, it is cleverly engineered to withstand the rush of water – it’s a pontoon or floating bridge that is supported with barges or boats. These kinds of bridges are usually only for temporary usage, but this one is still standing in the gorgeous little city of Bassano del Grappa.
The Old Town is fascinating, and while you’re strolling down its streets check out its piazzas, such as Piazza Liberta and all the cool buildings that you’ll find there. Also, one of the places that you must visit is Tempio Ossario (Sacrario Militare), that was once a church, and later was turned into the WWI memorial.
© Suzana Pletikosa
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is the most visited destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina and no wonder it is. The Old Town with plenty of traditional restaurants, market stalls, mosques, and other historic buildings is one of the most picturesque UNESCO-listed old towns in the world. The streets of the Old Town and its bazaar are magical, with an oriental vibe that gives you the feeling that you’re somewhere in the Middle East. There are a few traditional houses that you can visit and see how people here used to live in the Ottoman times — the Muslibegović House and the Biščević house.
To see more of the city, check out the free guide on our platform: “Glimpse into Mostar“
The Neretva river and the Old Bridge over it are the most important symbols of Mostar, for sure. The Old Bridge is the most iconic spot in Mostar, for sure, and a great example of Islamic architecture on the Balkans. It was first built in the 16th century and it stood still almost half of a century, after that, it was destroyed in the war in Bosnia. UN, The World Bank, UNESCO, and several European countries did their best to help rebuild the iconic bridge, by hand, using the traditional methods and its former glory was restored.
The bridge attracts many visitors throughout the year and hosts many spectacles each year. There is the annual diving competition held on the last weekend of July. Jumping off this bridge is quite challenging and still many visitors attempt to do it, after the training provided by locals.
Neretva is a magical, emerald river, one of the most beautiful rivers in Bosnia, and of the coldest rivers in the world. That’s also one of the reasons why jumping off the Old Bridge is so challenging. But in the hot summer days taking a dip is a must, since it gets really hot in Mostar. Besides swimming and diving, Neretva is known as a perfect river for rafting. Its upper course flows through an amazing canyon and has a really strong and fast current, so you’ll experience a great adrenaline boost and have a lot of fun. In the calmer parts enjoy the nature that is surrounding the river – it is breath-taking.
All of these riverfronts are quite different, and we’re sure that you’ll find the one that is the perfect destination for you. You’ll agree that the river is what makes a city special and that every riverfront is unique and one spot in the city that you must visit and explore.
Cultural Places Tip: Why not explore Europe’s waterfronts from the comfort of a cruise ship for once? TUI River Cruises offers packages that are exactly tailored to your needs and will guarantee a relaxed stay.