Rivers in Europe aren’t just full of fish, they’re full of history and that makes them some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Civilizations across the globe have their histories tied to rivers. In fact, UNESCO has the Rivers and Heritage Initiative to help preserve them.

Those who are travelling to Europe and are eager to learn about European history should definitely plan a visit to the major rivers in your travel destination. You can even book river cruises for a more immersive and luxurious experience.

If you are not sure which rivers to visit during your European travels, you are in luck because we’ve looked into them. There are six prominent rivers in Europe that are steeped in history and we’re going to tell you about them up next.  


6 Rivers in Europe to Visit for its Historical Significance

Danube River

Known for being the second-longest river in all of Europe, covering a good number of countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine, it finishes up pouring into the Black Sea.

This body of water is treasured for the fortresses and castles that line its banks, which clearly shows a distinction between the empires that existed near it. It is also known for its vital role in the development of settlements and the political landscape in the countries through which it winds. 

Rhine River

Home to the Germanic and Celtic tribes of history, the shores of the Rhine River has been the scene of various cultural and political events throughout the decades. Even Julius Caesar himself crossed this waterway in 55 and 53 BCE.


One of the most disastrous events in terms of the environmental aspect of the river is its contamination with pesticides and other chemicals when a chemical warehouse in Switzerland caught fire in the 80s.

Today, it is visited because of the castles that were built along its shores including the Rheinstein Castle, which was constructed in 1823.

River Thames

Located in Southern England, this waterway has several bridges named London Bridge going over it, immortalizing the river through the children’s song. You can view various attractions along its shores including the White Tower and the Traitor’s Gate.

As a tourist, you can also ride a small boat to cruise this body of water. This will give you the chance to view a lot of historical locations such as the Kelmscott Manor, the Tower Bridge and other amazing attractions. 


Po River

Po River is the longest one in Italy, which covers part of the Cottian Alps and ends in the Adriatic Sea. Because of this waterway, the nearby area became home to pre-historic settlements, especially as it made the soil rich.

Being the longest river in the country, you can cruise along it using a boat. This way, you can have a look at different attractions in the country in cities that run along this body of water such as Turin, Cremona and Ferrara.

River Loire

This river is known for being the longest one in France, which made the Loire valley a major cultural location in Europe. In fact, the history of settlements along the Loire can be traced back to Neanderthals that lived near this water source.

Throughout the years, it has become a culturally rich destination, especially with the majestic chateaux that can be found on its shores. This is because the royal families of France developed the area and created wonderful gardens and parks.

The Volga

Lastly, you want to visit the Volga River in Russia. It is an extremely important waterway in European history because of its economic, cultural and political contributions. It traverses Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara, Saratov and Volgograd, and into the Caspian Sea.

It is the venue of many of Russia’s historical events and even folklore, making it home to colorful stories about the country and its people. It is a perfect destination for a summer vacation in Eastern Europe. Going on this trip will give you the chance to experience the country’s wildlife and nature, as well as the great cities near it.

The Bottom Line

Your European travels can be made into a fun learning experience by visiting these rivers in Europe. These will show you not only the physical culture of the place such as buildings and spaces but also how the living culture like language and values came to exist.