Rhone Wine Cruise

  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
  • Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
Photo of Rhone Wine Cruise
Photo by flickr user lihourj

Picture this: Seated on the deck of a slow boat, a bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape on the table in front of you and plenty still to go in your glass, the sunny bankside view changing from medieval market town, to rural idyll, to neat rows of grape vines – every now and then your view is piqued by a chateau watching over the river or the spire of a nearby church. Get out and explore what you will, visiting the vineyards and cellars, or pop out for a meal in a local restaurant, or just watch the world go by from river borne comfort. What a civilised way to see the beautiful, wine drenched Rhone Valley.

There are many companies offering to take you on a wine themed cruise of the Rhone, introducing you to their favourite wineries etc., but the other option is to hire a boat and D.I.Y. , docking at some of these Rhone-side highlights en route.

Many packaged Rhone excursions begin on the Saone river at Chalons sur Saone, and visit spots in Burgundy, but the real Rhone wine region is fed by the river between Lyon and Avignon, tailing off towards Arles.  


Lyon, FranceLyon has the kind of transport links you'd expect of France's second largest city, so makes for an easy starting point.

Famed for its silk and its food, served in bouchon style restaurants, and with Beaujolais to the north, and the Côtes-du-Rhône to the south providing the accompanying wines, this is the kinda city that knows how to live well.  

To get used to the river spend a morning cruising up the valley past the vineyards of Côtes Roties, Condrieu, Château Grillet and Saint Joseph.  On land, Lyon offers some impressive art within its city limits, some of it displayed at the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon, whose collection of Egyptian artefacts was started by the Louvre, and some of it performed at the Lyon National Opera House. For a gorgeous church fix, visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, and for a wider snapshot of Lyon's history try the Historical Museum of Lyon & International Puppet Museum, the Lyon Resistance Museum, or the Lumière Museum.

For more advice about what to see and do while you're docked in Lyon, visit the Place Bellecour, with its statue of Louis XIV and tourist information pavilion.   


  • Côte-Rôtie AOC - reds of Syrah and up to 20% Viognier.    
  • Condrieu AOC - whites of Viognier only.    
  • Château-Grillet AOC - whites of Viognier.    
  • Saint-Joseph AOC - reds of Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.


Temple of Augustus and LiviaVienne was the capital of a Gaulish tribe before the Romans arrived in 47BC. It's now littered with Roman ruins; and those, and the jazz festival held in July, are some of the main reasons visitors visit.

The Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia, in the middle of town, is Vienne's best preserved Roman site and it's still in use as a museum. The other main man made attraction: Vienne Cathedral, offers photogenic river views and impressive stonework – you might even be able to admire your sailing craft from afar.

Tain l’Hermitage 

Tain l’Hermitage Nestled among famous vineyards are the little towns of Tain L'Hermitage and Tournon, both known for Valrhona chocolate and Hermitage and Crozes-hermitage wines. Tournon's medieval town is a bit prettier and it still has its feudal castle, overlooking the river, but Tain L'Hermitage has the better wine stores.


  • Hermitage AOC - reds of Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.
  • Crozes-Hermitage AOC - reds of Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.

Somewhere round Valence there's a shift in the light and it gets warmer as you get into the Midi, or south. There's more pine and eucalyptus on the river and the restaurant menu boards are subtly different.


Not surprisingly the old section of Vivers is the prettiest bit, with its Cathedral and winding streets. Stretch your legs wandering the Rue Chevrerie and Rue du Chateau, and peek into the Renaissance Maison des Chevaliers and Maison Elementaire du Commercant.


  • Côtes du Vivarais AOC
  • Côtes du Rhône AOC
  • Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC

Châteauneuf du Pape 

Wine vines have been cultivated in the Châteauneuf du Pape region since the 12th Century, mostly by knights, bishops and popes – in fact it was Pope John XXII who was the gave the papal name to the appellation.

Châteauneuf du PapeThe most common vines are Grenache grapes, but here they dabble in Syrah, Muscadin, Mourvèdre and Cinsault as well.

The medieval village, with the narrow, curving streets, huddles under the protective watch of the ruins of the ancient chateau. The buildings are in good repair, though Châteauneuf du Pape the wine attracts most visitors to Châteauneuf du Pape the town, and there are plenty of places to buy wine and learn about wine here.


  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC – reds of Grenache, with Syrah, Muscadin, Mourvèdre and Cinsault blends.


Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms, AvignonYou may know it from the song about is bridge, but Avignon also has the distinction of being the 14th Century equivalent of the Vatican.

Its Palais des Papes where the Popes lived, is probably the city's most famous attraction, but the well preserved medieval centre of town and the imposingly well preserved ramparts, also built by a Pope, are just some of the reasons a lot of people visit for more than one day.

The Avignon Cathedral is filled with treasures worthy of the Popes, some of which have been moved into the Musée du Petit-Palais, but if religious art isn't your speciality, the Calvet Museum, in an 18th Century mansion, has a wealth of great 18th Century art.  Orange, of the remarkably intact Roman ruins and the Triumphal Arch is a short drive north.


  • Vacqueyras AOC
  • Rasteau AOC
  • Gigondas AOC

Between Avignon and Arles, the Rhone passes right under the imposing nose of Tarascon Castle, a businesslike fort, known for its tapestry collection and much prettier on the inside than the outside, and Martigues, a town dubbed the Venice of Provence for its canals and bridges.


Arles, FranceAt Arles the Rhone splits into two before heading for the sea, the city sitting on a hill between the branches.

The Roman ruins littering the city give visitors a lot to look at, from the amphitheatre to the Cryptoporticus du Forum: a vast, dark, dank and wonderfully spooky underground gallery built as a barracks for public slaves. The Cathédrale St-Trophime is another local landmark most passers-by investigate.

Aside from history, Arles is also known for inspiring the art of Vincent Van Gogh - he thought the harsh sunlight was perfect for the art he wanted to create and he painted some of his most famous works here, including 'The Night Cafe', 'Yellow Room' and 'Starry Night Over the Rhone'. Though Arles has no original Van Goghs, it does have the locations that inspired him, and one of them - the hospital where he went to recover after cutting off his ear - has been turned into a library and gallery called Espace Van Gogh.

The Starry Night (Van Gogh) It's easy to organise getting to Lyon by rail. From the UK it's a Eurostar jaunt via Paris or Lille, then a TCV transfer before you're tasting off the Rhône-Alpes cheeseboard delights of Tomme and Reblochon, Blue de Bresse and Picodon. Washed down with a Beaujolais, a Côtes-du-Rhône or a Savoie white wine while you watch the world pass by your train window.

Get help planning your Rhône-Alpes adventure from WR's French Travel Specialists.

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