Locaboat boating holidays take you right to the heart of a region, giving you a real flavour of the place and allowing you explore it up-close, in your own time, in your own way. Rent a boat from one of our bases and take charge of your holidays!
Take a cruise in a self-drive boat with Locaboat
Locaboat’s selection of over 200 river cruises lets you choose between some of Europe’s most beautiful waterways, rivers and lakes. With a fleet of 330 self-drive boats, Locaboat Holidays has 24 departure bases in 5 European countries. Wherever you decide to go, our priority is to make sure you have an unforgettable holiday.
Cruising along a waterway is a unique way to travel. Aboard a self-drive boat, with no licence required, you’re in complete control of your holiday and are free to discover the most beautiful corners of France and Europe. On your journey you’ll take in local cuisine, cathedrals, castles and all the other highlights of European culture!
How do I select a cruise?
We are experts in European self-drive boat hire. First, choose your destination, then the boat of your dreams, and we’ll train you to skipper it. When you rent a boat with us, you have so many options: in our boating holidays in France, you can explore the Burgundy wine trail, discover the magical landscapes around the Canal du Midi, or choose one of our other bases to discover this magnificent country by boat.
Outside France, we offer boating holidays in Ireland, Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Enjoy a romantic cruise around Venice, choose Ireland to reconnect with nature, or enjoy a peaceful and relaxing holiday exploring the lakes of Germany.
You’ll find all the information about our cruises, activities and unmissable sites on our website’s destination pages. If you’d like some advice about choosing where to go, don’t hesitate to contact our teams – they’ll be able to find just the place to make your holiday special.
Destinations for your Boating Holidays
Welcome to the home of waterways tourism. If you’re looking for a canal cruise, France is the obvious destination.
In Ireland, boat hire holidays are not just a good idea – they’re the obvious way to see the country.
The Dutch are just as passionate about boats as they are about cycling – and there’s no wonder.
When it comes to boat hire holidays, Italy offers some spectacular waterways for exploring this fascinating, surprising country that you’re bound to fall in love with.
In Germany, boating holidays mean watching the lakes slowly unfold from the deck of your boat.
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Help me Discover our collections
We’ve created collections to help anyone who’s undecided or who hasn’t been on a waterways cruise before. Collections provide suggestions for boating holidays based on themes. Browse our website to find inspiration – and if you still can’t make up your mind, don’t hesitate to contact our travel advisers who will be delighted to help you complete your holiday planning.
Cruise & Dive
A cruise along the waterways is an adventure in itself – but the excitement doesn’t stop there. Boating holidays also give you the chance to dive into the water and enjoy a memorable swim.
Disconnect & take a break
For a real holiday in the wilderness, hire a self-drive boat and cruise into the most beautiful unspoilt areas. Boating holidays let you unwind to the rhythm of the waterways.
Is exploring iconic cities and great cultural sites your idea of a great holiday? A waterways cruise on a cultural route promises the perfect city break.
Symbols and mystery, history and culture, art and tradition… Boating holidays on one of our legendary routes mean a cruise through history, discovering local stories on the way.
Two on a boat
A romantic holiday on the waterways: enjoy a well-deserved couples cruise, going with the flow aboard your Pénichette® equipped with all mod cons.
Boating for foodies
Discover France’s finest vineyards and sample the wines they produce: enjoy a holiday on a self-drive boat following a trail through some of France’s most famous and picturesque wine regions.
Your first waterways cruise will be an unforgettable experience. No licence is needed to hire a self-drive boat – just take the helm and fulfill your dream of cruising in freedom on your Pénichette®.
Choosing a destination for your European boat cruise
Picturesque canal barge holidays through France
Arguably one of Europe’s most popular destinations, France is a nation of contrasts and variation. From culture soaked cities to idyllic villages in small French communes, France has something for all tastes. One of the best ways to see the best of France is from its many waterways. Combining natural river routes with the country’s former industrial canals, there are not many areas that can’t be travelled via a boat. There are a number of routes that shine above all else, and it is these that are best for canal boat vacations.
In France, there is no waterway more famous than the Canal du Midi. This man-made canal system was constructed during the late 17th century and has long since been a source of pride for French civil engineering and modern tourism.
Starting in the city of Toulouse, the Canal du Midi snakes its way through southern France and finally flows in the Mediterranean lagoon coastal region of Étang de Thau. Canal boat holidays in France mainly cover this area of the country. This is mainly because the Canal du Midi route combines everything that is great about barge holidays in Europe. From the fantastic canalside views of the French countryside, warming southern French weather, endless sights of historic and cultural intrigue to some of the best cuisine found in France. All of this can be seen easily with a Canal du Midi boat hire.
It is not only the sun-soaked waters of southern France that have appeal. The northerly French provinces of Brittany, Burgundy and the Loire Valley all offer their own experiences and create their own unique waterways boating holidays.
Canal boat holidays through the Emerald Isle
Ireland is a country so defined by its rolling green hills and rural expanses, that there are few better ways to travel and see the nation than by canal boat. Canal boat cruises can be made throughout Ireland and along one of its main waterways, the River Shannon. As the River Shannon is intersected by canals and other river tributaries, River Shannon cruises can take you to every corner of Ireland and even into the UK’s Northern Ireland. As the isle of Ireland is relatively small compared to many other European destinations, creating a route across is an easy undertaking. Following the River Shannon’s course, from source to sea, means you can travel in a number of different directions and makes Ireland the perfect destination for canal boat holidays for a beginner.
Boating holidays in Ireland can start from a number of different destinations, and finding the right one for you depends on what you want out of your canal cruise. Many may wish to start their boating holiday from Ireland’s capital, Dublin. This is perfect for those flying into the country and renting their boat in the city, as the rental can be acquired and returned in the city. Another reason for starting your Irish riverboat adventure here is the fact that Dublin is connected to the national waterways via the Royal Canal.
Taking the Royal Canal and the River Shannon routes will allow you to see all that Ireland has to offer. The River Shannon interlocks with a series of loughs and lakes, adding to the appeal of Irish barge boat holidays.
Dutch waterway holidays; Holland and beyond
Known as one of the low countries, the Netherlands’ topography lends itself perfectly to waterway exploration. The country is crisscrossed by a network of canals, rivers and estuaries, creating a perfect landscape in which to travel via barge or boat. With many of the Dutch towns and cities being built intertwined with the country’s canals, canal holidays throughout the Netherlands can be some of the most rewarding.
Take Holland’s capital; for instance, Amsterdam is a city that is constructed seamlessly with an interlocking network of canals and waterways.
Boat hire in Amsterdam will allow you to tour the city with ease and see its many sights from the comfort of your boat. Boating holidays in Holland can cover the country in many directions, enabling you to see all corners of the country.
Starting in Amsterdam, canal boat trips make their way south and into the Dutch countryside. Heading south-east, holidaymakers can boat all the way to the city of Utrecht, winding through the countryside as you go. Opting to take the south-west route will take you all the way to the city of The Hague, which can also be done in one loop. As well as boating into Holland’s interior, trips can be made northerly to North Holland and the surrounding North Sea coastline.
Memorable riverboat holidays across Germany
Alongside your traditional European destinations such as France and Holland is slightly obscure, yet none the less rewarding destination of Germany. This vast European nation has its own fair share of history, culture and diversity. With such a variation in landscapes and regions, canal boat hire in Germany gives visitors the chance to see the cities of Hamburg and Dresden along the Elbe, Dusseldorf and Cologne along the Rhine and the idyllic countryside of Bavaria along the Danube. Similar to Amsterdam, the city waterways of Germany’s capital Berlin allow visitors to travel throughout the city via its rivers and canals; this provides a whole new way of seeing and experiencing the city.
Barge holidays in Germany can start from a variety of different locations, all depending on which part of the country you are in. Starting your holiday in Berlin will provide you with a number of canal boat routes, and deciding on the route for you can be a difficult one. Taking an easterly route will allow you to travel from Berlin via the River Spree, opening up into the idyllic Brandenburg countryside. This river route winds on for miles and will eventually take boaters to the German-Polish border.
Taking the western route from the capital will open up the state of Saxony-Anhalt before you. A journey this way will incorporate iconic stops such as Potsdam and Brandenburg. Taking your barge boat rental north from the German capital means you can boat your way as far north as Schwerin and even on to the North Sea beyond.
Rent a barge in Europe and explore its Italian peninsula
It is not only the northern European countries that offer waterway holidays. In fact, Italy is one of the best destinations for European canal boat cruises . With destinations such as Venice available, one of the most famous canal-strewn cities in the world, choosing Italy for your boating holidays abroad is a fantastic choice. Starting from Venice, canals run throughout the city and Veneto region as a whole. With canals and rivers running westwardly from the coast and into Italy’s interior, there are several routes which to take.
With the numerous inlets and waterways linking the sea to the country’s interior, there is almost a limitless number of routes you can take when travelling along Italy’s eastern coast. Visiting the city of Venice alone is amplified by seeing it from the water. This unique perspective of seeing the city from this view makes an Italian trip up there with some of the best canal holidays in Europe.
City highlights during your canal barge cruises in Europe
Soak up the Dutch capital from its many waterways
Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands, is one of the most perfectly placed cities to be explored via its waterways. As the whole of the country is on a flatter plane, the building of canals was easier, and the routes of its rivers flow easily through the country. The city itself is a collection of crisscrossing canals and streets, providing the ideal waterway road to explore the city and what a city it is. As the capital of The Netherlands and as a European city of culture for centuries, Amsterdam has pleasantly to see and do.
One of Amsterdam’s more famous landmarks is the former home of the Frank family, an unassuming Jewish family that the world learns from from the wartime diaries of the family’s youngest daughter, Anne Frank.
Anne and her family hid in the attic of this home for two years, during the Nazi occupation of the country. Visitors can view this preserved home and attic and see it as it was during those harrowing years.
Amsterdam is also a city renowned for its impact on the pages of European art history. One of the best places to see this impact is at the Van Gogh Museum, home to the largest collection of work by the Dutch painter anywhere in the world. As well as this, there is also the former home of one of the greatest Dutch masters, Rembrandt van Rijn, to explore. This also houses works by the famous artist and is a step back into the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century.
Boat through France’s iconic citadel city of Carcassonne
When you embark on one of the best canal boat holidays in Europe, boating down the Canal du Midi, there are many fantastic landmarks and settlements to see. Constructed in the late 17th century, the canal was and is an impressive feat of engineering and one that opens up the south of France for exploration. While navigating the Canal du Midi, the waters will pass through the town of Carcassonne, and no holiday along this canal would be complete without stopping off at this jaw-dropping settlement.
The city of Carcassonne is a citadel fortress and one of the best-preserved examples in all of Europe.
The citadel walls and turrets expand royally around the city, with huge castle walls and towers looming large all around you; Carcassonne is truly an awe-inspiring destination. Contained within the city are some of the best-preserved Medieval buildings, creating a look found nowhere else. This dual UNESCO site attracts millions of visitors every year, and it is easy to see why. You can make your way freely around the citadel city, yet you will need to book a tour to explore the walled ramparts. As well as the impressive walled city citadel, Carcassonne is also home to the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire is a 13th-century church that was constructed in the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. With so much to see, it is important to allow yourself enough time.
See the Irish capital from its river and canal
One of the highlights of travelling throughout the Emerald Isle by boat is seeing its capital city Dublin from the waterways. On entering the city via its Royal Canal, boaters can moor in the city and be in its very heart in no time at all. As the capital of Ireland, Dublin has its fair share of history, culture and activities in which to enjoy and sometimes even one day are not enough to see all the city has to offer. Let us take a look at some of the best things to do in Dublin when visiting via boat.
One of Dublin’s most iconic locations in the city’s Temple Bar. This cobbled street is the epicentre of the city’s thriving nightlife scene, with bars booming with traditional Irish folk music seven days a week; this is where you are likely to discover your new favourite Irish live act. Another of the city’s must-see sights is its Guinness factory; home to the iconic Irish stout. Taking a tour of this factory has become a right of passage when visiting the Irish capital.
See Venice with some of the best barge holidays in Europe
A city that lends itself perfectly to exploration by boat is the Italian city of Venice. Travelling along the eastern coast’s many canals and the huge Venice Lagoon opens up the 118 small Islands of Venice for exploration. Side by side with the city’s famous gondolas, luxury canal holidays don’t come any more stylish than this. As the city is constructed from a network of waterways and islands, exploring from a boat is both easy and practical, making boat hire abroad a simple task.
Venice is a city steep in history and culture and has stood at the crossroads of Europe for centuries. This iconic city is a playground for history buffs and has an endless stream of landmarks and sights to see.
For a birdseye view of the city, why not take the escalator to the top of the Campanile, Venice’s bell tower. Originally constructed during the early 10th century, the Campanile is both the oldest and tallest building in all of Venice. Making your way to the top will provide breathtaking views of the city’s canals and streets below.
Alongside the city’s towers and canals, no visit to Venice would be complete without sampling some of its famous cuisines. Known all over Italy for its special Vancian dishes, Venice is particularly known for its exceptional seafood, with the Baccalà Mantecato, famous above all the rest. This salted cod mouse dish is Venice’s signature dish and can be found all over the city. The wider Veneto region is also renowned for its great white wine, something that a real foodie can not overlook when visiting this North Italian city.
Canal boat hire in Europe choosing the right size
A smaller boat for two
If you are planning to travel around Europe’s waterways on a romantic break with just the two of you or a small family group, then opting for a smaller boat is best. Choosing a boat such as the Penichette Classiques is a great option for navigating the narrower canals and rivers of Europe. The boats are capable of holding two to four passengers and make a great home for a week or two. No matter what your budget is Penichette Classiques come in a variety of different types and are for the economical boater and the luxury ones.
The only drawback to boats such as the Penichette Classiques is their lack of storage space. This lack of storage space for food and supplies is ok if you are simply using the boat as a mode of transport on your holiday.
Larger boats for the whole family
Those who are looking for a boat rental in Europe for the entire family or a large group of friends should hire a much larger boat such as the Pénichette Aft Deck. These types of boats are capable of playing host to up to twelve people and contain a double bed, basin, lots of hanging space and storage. Although these larger boats are much bigger, they’re just as manoeuvrable and agile as the smaller boats. You will have no problems navigating even the narrowest of European canals and rivers.
The biggest advantage of having a larger boat such as the Pénichette Aft Deck is the overall space for supplies. If you are travelling for an extended period of time, having this extra space is a God-send and will keep you in comfort as you travel throughout the many waterways.
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