Barging through Europe

Barge cruises and barge rentals to cruise the rivers, canals, and inland waterways of Europe

You needn't go to the French countryside to live on the water. London's "Little Venice" neighborhood is threaded with canals and lined with houseboats.
You needn't go to the French countryside to live on the water. London's "Little Venice" neighborhood is threaded with canals and lined with houseboats.

Barging 101
• Barging costs
• Barging tips
How to rent a barge
Just picture it: A boat to call your own, puttering down the canals of rural france as a whopping 4 mph.

What is is like to rent a barge in Europe?

As you watch the countryside slip by, you sip a fine burgundy you picked out the the cellar of the vineyard yourself just yesterday and nibble on some cheese and salami you bought at the daily farmers market in that medieval village to which you biked this morning.

That's the lifestyle of a barge trip along the river and canals of Europe. With most European travel, you flit from hotel to hotel by bus, train, car, or plane.

On your own barge, you get to lounge around your lodgings while Europe is slowly scrolled past you, and you can stop this slow-mo film strip any time to get in closer on something that catches your fancy simply by tying up, grabbing your bike, and pedaling off to explore some hilltown, city, vineyard, or ruin.

How much does a barging trip cost?

Prices vary greatly depending on location, size of the boat, and sailing season (the highest rates are, as you'd expect, in summer), but for a ballpark estimate:

To those rates, expect to add about €40 to €60 ($50 to $70) for fuel, insurance, cleaning, the fee to park you car while you barge, and one bike (additional rental bikes usually run about €5 per day).

Some barging basics & tips

There are endless rules and tips for barging the canals and rivers of Europe, but here are a few top ones that have less to do with the technical aspects (that info's widely available), rather more to do with the experience:

Barge brokers, tour companies, and rental outfits

European Boating Holidays (

Operates both, a self-drive barge rental outfit, and the more luxurious, which rents five-star houseboats.

Le Boat (

Luxury river cruises through France, Holland, Belgium, Scotland, England, and Ireland (self-drive barges available as well).

4Winds Tours (

A tour company that runs trips mixing barging with biking throughout Holland, Friesland, Belgium, France, Austria, and Germany. They also do barge rentals.

Small Ship Cruises (

Loads of links, tips, and resources for all sorts of boating and sailing trips around the world—including, yes, a good selection of barging resources.

French Country Waterways (

One of the premier luxury barging outfits, with high end barge tours of France's most famous rivers and regions: the Upper Loire, Burgundy, Champagne, and Alsace-Lorraine.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.