A Luxury Guide To Boating Holidays In France

France is one of the best locations for boating holidays, with a vast network of rivers and canals winding around the country and connecting many of its popular towns and cities. It’s a place with plenty of famous holiday destinations, and one of the best ways to see many of them in a single trip is to travel by boat.

You might think that a boating holiday would involve cramped conditions or days spent doing nothing but looking at the scenery, but this isn’t the case at all. In fact, luxury boating holidays are growing more and more popular amongst travellers looking for a new way to see a country, with France often top of the list for where to visit on this kind of trip.

In this article, leading canal boat holiday provider Locaboat shares an invaluable guide to planning a luxury boating holidays France has on offer, including where to visit, what to do and which kind of trip to choose.

Where To Go On A Luxury Boating Holiday In France

A Luxury Guide To Boating Holidays In France

France has over 2700 miles of inland waterways, so you’ve got plenty of locations to choose from when it comes to deciding where to go on your holiday. Some regions and areas are more suited to luxury travel than others, which is why the following destinations are recommended for an incredible French boating trip.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in France, home to a range of different waterways that you can explore. Whether you’re wine tasting near the Nivernais, admiring cathedrals in cities like Sens or visiting the numerous chateaux built in the stunning countryside that this area is known and loved for, there’s more than enough to see and do on a brilliant French boating holiday.

Canal de Bourgogne

The Canal de Bourgogne is one of the most popular canals for a boating holiday in France, connecting the River Seine and the River Rhône in the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region. What makes it such a great place for a luxury trip is Burgundy’s status as one of the country’s best wine producers, offering plenty of opportunities for wine tasting and vineyard visits.


Cruising the River Seine is a classic choice for a boating holiday in France, and if you’re looking for luxury then the country’s capital city always delivers. Dine at the finest Parisian restaurants, enjoy incredible culture in the museums and art galleries, and admire the city’s elegant architecture from the water or as you wander the streets.

A Luxury Guide To Boating Holidays In France

​​Canal de Briare

If you’re seeking a luxury boating trip in France that focuses on cultural sightseeing, the ​​Canal de Briare is the perfect place to explore. At one end, Montargis has a status as ‘the Venice of France’ and is home to plenty of beautiful architecture, whilst Briare at the other end of the canal is a charming town with a castle, church, aqueducts and lovely waterside walks.

The River Rhône

The Rhône travels from Switzerland to France and is a fantastic waterway to explore for a French boating holiday with visits to some of the country’s best destinations. Highlights include historic Arles, Avignon with its religious legacy, the food capital Lyon, picturesque Viviers and cultural Mâcon, which is a great city for wine.

Canal du Centre

Another brilliant route for a French canal holiday filled with delicious wine tasting is the Canal du Centre, which links the River Loire and the River Saône. Not only can you plan multiple trips to nearby wineries and sample the produce of the region’s grapes, but it’s also an incredibly picturesque route with many lovely towns and villages that you can moor beside.

What Type of Boating Holiday Should You Choose?

A Luxury Guide To Boating Holidays In France

Boating holidays are a really popular choice for travellers that want to explore a destination at a slow pace and fancy seeing more than just one destination on their holiday. There is a range of different options to choose from when you’re planning a trip around the rivers and canals of France, all of which offer luxury experiences that ensure you’re always travelling in comfort.

River cruises often take place on larger boats that can easily navigate the currents and traffic on France’s largest rivers, with private cabins for all passengers and communal areas for dining, socialising and admiring the view. A river cruise with a set itinerary is a great choice if you want to maximise activities or sightseeing on a boating holiday in France, especially if you’re only away for a few days.

If you’d rather opt for a more luxurious option, a hotel barge offers sumptuous comfort and service for its guests, usually limiting passengers to small groups to create a more intimate

experience. These types of boating holidays often feature exceptional catering, with many vessels having a talented chef on board preparing every meal for guests throughout the journey. 

Finally, France is home to an impressive number of canals, so canal cruises are a very popular choice if you’re looking for a boating holiday that promises outstanding scenery. This option is ideal if you want to float serenely down French waterways and enjoy trips to small towns and villages along the way, with plenty of luxury vessels offering a great experience to guests wanting to explore canal routes.

Self Drive or Crew and Captain?

An important aspect of a boating holiday to consider is whether you want a self-drive trip or you want to leave the navigating up to a captain and their crew. Both options are great for luxury travel experiences, but there are different benefits and drawbacks to each.

A self-drive boat holiday puts you in charge of steering your vessel, which is actually much easier than you might think. Canal boats in particular travel very slowly, so even if you have no boating experience you’ll quickly learn how to steer and navigate locks, enjoying the freedom that captaining your own barge gives you.

A self-drive boat trip offers much more privacy than being a passenger on a boat with a crew and captain, which often means sharing the vessel with other passengers. You can also choose exactly how to spend your time and moor your boat wherever you wish, giving you full control over your itinerary and allowing you to plan your ideal luxury boating holiday in France.

However, some travellers may find having to steer their own boat stressful instead of exciting, and having to plan your route and activity in advance may not be what you want when you’re planning a relaxing and luxurious experience.

Many boating holidays with a crew and a captain have a set itinerary, allowing you to select a holiday with all the meals and activities planned in advance. Catering is also usually provided on these kinds of trips, meaning that all you have to worry about is which outfits to pack!

Group boat holidays also offer more space than being in charge of your own vessel, giving you a private bedroom as well as access to communal spaces to eat and watch the scenery go by. Many trips also have themes, such as fine dining or historic sightseeing, which can be great if you have a particular type of luxury holiday in mind.

Whether you choose a self-drive boating holiday or an organised tour with a captain and crew, luxury experiences can be plentiful on each. In the end, it comes down to the amount of privacy and freedom that you want on your holiday, as well as how busy you want to be during your trip.

What to Do on a Luxury Boating Holiday in France

A Luxury Guide To Boating Holidays In France

A lot of what makes a luxury boating holiday in France so enjoyable is the things you can do on your trip. France’s waterways take you through many of the country’s most popular destinations, so they’re a great choice if you want to plan a trip that makes it easy to fit a lot into each day’s itinerary without too much travelling.

Below are the top three suggestions for luxury things to do on a French boating holiday. 

Fine Dining

France is a country that is renowned for its food, and if you’re looking for luxury experiences for your holiday then fine dining should be at the top of your list.

As we’ve already mentioned, some boating holidays Europe offers come with a private chef on board, giving you ample opportunities to enjoy outstanding French cuisine. But you can also plan trips to restaurants along the route of whichever waterway you’re cruising along, sampling a range of flavours for every meal.

If you’re travelling through established towns and cities then you’ll have a great range of choices for places to eat, whether you opt for well-loved restaurants or up-and-coming dining options from avant-garde chefs. If you’re mooring close to smaller towns and villages, you’ll also have the option to visit local places to eat and enjoy traditional flavours in places that don’t feel as touristy.

For a luxury self-drive experience focused on food and drink, you could choose 4 or 5 gourmet restaurants along a certain river or canal and then cruise between each over a week or so, enjoying tranquil scenery by day and exquisite cooking each evening. 

Wine Tasting

Alongside its cuisine, France is also known as one of the best places for wine in Europe. If you’re seeking luxury experiences, then a trip to a vineyard or a winery for a tour and a tasting session is the perfect addition to a boating holiday.

Some of the best regions in France for wine-tasting experiences include:

  • The Loire Valley
  • Bordeaux
  • Brittany
  • Provence
  • Champagne
  • The Rhône Valley
  • Burgundy

You can plan an entire boating holiday around visiting different wineries, or just include a tasting session in your itinerary for a luxury experience one day of the trip. The great thing about France is that there are so many different places to choose from for wine tasting, so you’ve got a lot of options no matter where you visit.

Art and Culture

Another great way to spend a luxury boating holiday in France that Locaboat recommend is trips to art galleries, museums, castles and chateaux around the country. Whether you’re a fan of history, an admirer of art or just want to experience the houses and collections that were once owned by the wealthiest members of French society, there are plenty of places you can visit near the country’s waterways.

Another great idea for a luxury holiday is to book tickets to a concert or theatre performance as part of your trip. Many of France’s cities and larger towns have arts venues with a varied program of music, theatre and dance, and you can enjoy a luxurious and cultural night out before returning to the comfort of your peaceful river or canal boat.


Luxury holidays come in many shapes and sizes, but what ties them all together are unique and high-end experiences and an unbeatable level of service.

France is one of the best places in the world to enjoy this level of luxury in everything from the places you visit to the food and drink you enjoy, making a luxury boating holiday in France a brilliant choice for a trip you’ll always remember.

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