Canal boat holidays in Alsace Lorraine & Ardennes take you from the historic homeland of Rimbaud to surprising areas of wilderness. Space and time slip by as you cruise through eastern France on your license free Pénichette®.
Cruise from one surprise to the next on the eastern canals
With an amazing historic heritage, softened by nature over time, this waterways region is a real breath of fresh air. While you cruise on your self-drive boat from one landmark to the next, you’ll pass through lush natural surroundings and beautiful orchards. From the banks, you can reach pretty villages, with half-timbered houses and flower-laden balconies. The high points of your cruise could include the amazing boat lift at Saint Louis d’Arzviller (it replaces 17 locks!), or the beautiful Strasbourg with its famous Grande-Île at the heart of two canals. With its half-timbered houses, gourmet restaurants and bridges bright with flowers, you’ll fall in love with this capital of Europe, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Anyone interested in history will be drawn to this region: it was marked by wars for a long time, but today the superb remains and powerful symbols are all that’s left. As you go with the flow, you can live life to the full by mooring your canal boat and joining in the festivities: sample a good choucroute (sauerkraut) on the quay, or how about an excellent boudin blanc (white pudding) from Rethel at one of the festive markets?
Two bases to start your canal boat holidays
in Alsace Lorraine & Ardennes
Cruising along the many canals on a Pénichette® from one of our bases, your boating holidays will take you from the Ardennes forests to timeless Alsatian villages, pretty as a picture.
Discover the map of the
destination and its waterways
Glide along on a cruise that wakes up all your senses
Canal boat holidays in Alsace Lorraine & Ardennes are a real pleasure, with bucolic gardens, historic monuments, lush natural surroundings and lively cultural attractions. Here are 5 ‘must-see’ sites.
The Meuse Valley, an ideal waterways route for cycling stopovers
You’ll love leaving the town behind and getting a breath of fresh air in the Meuse Valley!… enjoy the perfect combination of boat and bike by following the green way along the river: the landscapes pass gently by in perfect harmony.
Gondrexange Lake, unspoilt charm
This 700-hectare lake lies between Strasbourg and Nancy, and is well-known as a fishing spot and a lovely place to swim. The lake was created by monks who bred fish in the middle ages. These days it’s enjoyed by skippers and crews on boating holidays.
The Arzviller boat lift, a great idea!
On the Marne-Rhine Canal, take your no-license boat on a detour via the inclined plane at Saint-Louis d’Arzviller and experience this boat lift, which overcomes 44.55 metres of altitude difference… The facility is unique in Europe.
Charcuterie, the gourmet treasure of the Ardennes
Note to gourmets: culinary tradition is a way of life in the Ardennes. Make sure you sample its famous ham or celebrated white pudding from Rethel. If you’re passing through on your Pénichette® in July, drop into the annual event in Fumay where this local dish is celebrated.
The stork, Alsace’s iconic bird
At the Parc de l’Orangerie in Strasbourg, visit the zoo and then enjoy a poetic sight: watch one of these famous migratory birds from Alsace taking off.
A peaceful cruise, in harmony with nature and local traditions.
If you go with the flow, canal boat holidays in Alsace Lorraine & Ardennes can be a real source of inspiration and a way to completely recharge your batteries. This waterways experience will take you to north-east France, following routes that are well away from humdrum, everyday life. Churches with onion-domed bell-towers, half-timbered houses, villages in bloom and hanging gardens: you’ll discover Alsace-Lorraine from the Marne-Rhine canals, the Saar, the Moselle or the Vosges.
Then heading northwards, filling your lungs with the unpolluted air, you’ll plunge into deep forests and protected marshes. From here you could catch sight of some of the carnivorous plants that are typical of this region. Your cruise, punctuated by the occasional lock, is the most relaxing way to explore this unspoiled, authentic region, with its natural beauty and hidden treasures along the banks. From the helm of your Pénichette®, boating holidays will take on a new dimension on this cruise.
During your Alsace boating holiday Discover the beauty of the Marne-Rhine Canal
Venturing eastwards along the Marne Rhine canal
The northeast French region of Alsace has long been a point of contention and allure for those exploring the further reaches of the European heartland. A long-contested stretch of land between Germanic and Franco influences, Alsace canal boat hire gives you a real perspective of the northeastern French and the northwestern German way of life. There are many large towns and cities that really define this region, but maybe none-other than the city of Strasburg. A border town between the nations of Germany and France, Strasburg has long been a city that encapsulates both regions and the culture of these two major European nations.
Starting out from Locaboat’s base at Lutzelbourg, you can take your boat on a westerly or easterly route, depending on what you want to see.
Heading out on an easterly route along the Marne Rhine canal will take you towards the city of Strasbourg, one of the shining highlights of a Marne Rhine canal cruise. Standing in the centre of the city is one of its most famous attractions, the Strasbourg cathedral. For centuries, this cathedral was one of the tallest buildings in the world and its height is still awe-inspiring today. Dating back to the 11th century, the cathedral is adorned with a myriad of decorations, sculptures and breath-taking facades. No visit to Strasbourg would be complete without paying the cathedral a visit.
Along with its more famous cathedral, Strasbourg is also home to the more modern European parliament, one of only three non-capital cities around the world to have an international institution.
Continuing your journey westward from Lutzelbourg
Canal boat holidays that venture west from Lutzelbourg open up a whole new perspective of the Alsace region. The commune town of Lutzelbourg is not only the base for Locaboat but also a pleasant little town within its own right. Before you set out along the Marne-Rhine canal through France, be sure to explore what the town of Lutzelbourg has to offer. Once a hilltop fort town, the hills surrounding Lutzelbourg used to be peppered with fortifications, the ruins of which you can still see today. The town offers a peek into the area’s medieval past while providing breathtaking views of the canal and the rolling farmland below. Moving further west in your canal boats, you will soon come to one of the canal’s most famous sections, the Plan incliné de Saint-Louis-Arzviller.
This inclined plane allows boats to make their way up the canal and climb the Vosges Mountains. Anyone truly interested in canal travel and the history of the waterways will see this as both a means of travelling as well as a historic attraction. Constructed in the mid 18th century, the plan was, and still is, an impressive feat of engineering and one of the most visited in the Lorraine area.
Once you leave the Plan incliné de Saint-Louis-Arzviller, you will begin to climb your way westward and through the higher valleys of Alsace-Lorraine. Views from the foothills above are like no other, and on clear summer days, views like this remind you why you began a canal holiday here in the first place.
Following the twists and turns of the Marne Rhine canal to Nancy
Once the waterways have climbed through the Vosges Mountains, you’ll begin a straightforward westerly route towards the famous French city of Nancy. As you follow the canal, you’ll come to a confluence of canals and rivers at Gondrexange, a small commune town on the banks of the Marne Rhine canal. This is home to one of the biggest drop-locks in France, known as the Écluse de Réchicourt-le-Château. An impressive feat of engineering it’s a must-see for any canal barge fanatic and must be navigated to carry on your way west.
Taking your Marne Rhine canal boat hire further west, you’ll soon be navigating the waters just east of Nancy.
As you draw closer, the city and its built-up suburbs begin to appear on the horizon, a sight drawing you ever closer to the inner city.
Walking around the city, you will notice that there is a seemingly endless amount to attract you to the streets of Nancy. The Place Stanislas is the centrepiece of the city and has a well-deserved UNESCO status. This 18th-century town square was the brainchild of Pole, Stanislas Leszczyński, the last Duke of Lorraine. Wandering around the square, you’ll be shocked by the beauty and grandeur of the square and its city centre. There are numerous other sights to see in the French city aside from the main square; these include the city hall, opera house, the Fine Arts Museum and Triumphal Arch.
Boating north and crossing international borders
Leaving Lutzelbourg northwards along the River Saar
Instead of travelling westward towards the city of Nancy, the Marne Rhine canal joins a northerly course at Gondrexange taking you into the River Saar. Boating through this section of borderland France is a whole new experience, as small river inlets, rolling green farmland, and small settlements pass you by. While there are no huge French cities to grab your sight-seeing attention in this area of Alsace-Lorraine, it is nonetheless a beautiful route northwards, where nature and its floral beauty vie for your attention.
After entering the River Saar, you will soon come to the commune town of Mittersheim, which stands on the edge of the river and canal route. For those who really love the water, the canal passes through Mittersheim Lake.
This great expanse of water is home to a variety of wildlife, including a number of waterfowl and birdlife. Alongside bird watching, Mittersheim Lake is a great place for watersports or a spot of fishing. The town itself is only small, yet the traditional timber homes and overall green look makes it an ideal place to stop off for a cafe lunch.
Boating close to the borders, you may choose to dock in the commune town of Sarralbe. Similar to spots along the Canal du Midi, Sarralbe is home to a number of religious sights that once played a major role in Alsace Lorriane’s history. Known as the Cathedral of the Saarland, St Martin’s Church is made completely from pink sandstone from the Vosges mountains.
Crossing the French-German border
Leaving Sarralbe, your boat will meander ever closer to the French-German border. Yet, before it reaches the border, you will pass through the town of Sarreguemines. Originally a Roman settlement, Sarreguemines has been at the forefront of Franco-German relations for centuries – the town was part of Germany for some time and then returned to France after the First World War. Famous for crafting earthenware, the town of Sarreguemines is home to an earthenware museum, displaying a huge collection of pots, vases and many other items crafted in the town.
Carrying on north along the Saar, you will seamlessly and unceremoniously pass over the border and into Germany, making this a real European boating adventure. As soon as you enter Germany, you will tumble into the canalside town of Saarbrücken.
Saarbrücken is the capital and largest city in the German state of Saarland and is home to a wide variety of culture and history.
At the very heart of the town is one of the most stunning Protestant churches in all of Germany. The Ludwigskirche, as it is known, is a perfect example of German-baroque architecture and fits ideally into the artistically designed Ludwig square. Just to the west of the city is the Völklingen Ironworks, which is one of the only smelting works built in the 19th century that made it right through to the modern-day. This unique fact has given the Völklingen Ironworks UNESCO status. You can take a tour of the Völklingen Ironworks and learn about the industry here and the science behind smelting.
Edging further north towards the German city of Trier
As you head further into the German interior, you will come to the city of Trier, which many see as the end of the canal route. Finishing up in Trier isn’t a bad place to call an end to your canal holiday, as the city has so much to offer. Tier is home to the last remaining Roman gate, north of the Alps, a stunning monument to the Roman settlement that once stood here. To see more of the city’s Roman history, head to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, a museum that has more Roman artefacts than any other German museum. For a more modern attraction, head to the city centre of Trier where you can catch the weekly market, set in the picturesque square. Surrounded by stunning colour faceted buildings and cobbled streets, the centre of Trier seems to have fallen out of a picture postcard.
Ready to go ?
Book your boating holiday now!
Our current Special offers
Early Booking ⏰
Locaboat Gift Voucher
Long weekends 2024
BLOG Alsace & Ardennes
Lush and unspoilt, welcoming and natural, with a powerful and iconic historic heritage, the waterways between Alsace and the Ardennes offer untamed landscapes and unexpected discoveries. Immerse [...]
Fancy being one of the big influencers? Go cruising to find the best instagrammable sights on the French waterways and watch the ‘likes’ coming in!
In 2018, Locaboat is extending its fleet by introducing the Pénichette Évolution®. It’s going to be a real gem in terms of comfort and technology,