Imagine gliding gently along the watery highways of Europe, past castles and villages, under bridges and through locks enjoying an intimate, small ship experience.

The river is calm and the scenery ever changing. Castles appear along the cliffs, a vineyard around the curve in the river and a village dating from the 10 century materialises on the horizon. You almost wish your head could spin 360 degrees to take in in the picturesque sights at every turn.

The attention to detail onboard and the level of service from the moment you step into your stateroom with its enviable windows or balcony for those balmy evenings when you can sleep with the door open to listen to the gentle lapping of the water, makes a river cruise an ideal holiday for just enough relaxation mixed with daily sojourns in exciting European cities.

With less than 200 guests, the staff are quick to learn how you have your coffee or what your favourite French wine is. Join your fellow travellers in the lounge for afternoon tea or to sip champagne as you float along. At night you might take to the dance floor for a gentle spin, or spend an hour learning something fascinating about the local history or culture at one of the lectures – before they bring out the wine tasting.

Some river vessels are richly decorated in sumptuous fabrics and oversized furniture, others are minimalist, sleek and modern. All are elegant, relaxed and offer a uniquely personalised experience.

Head up to the sun deck above and recline on a lounger or join friends at tables and chairs under shade sails for a drink to admire the views and take photos of both sides of the river. This is the spot to be for drinking in the scenery. Choosing a ship with a large sun deck is a plus on scenic cruising days, so bear that in mind when you’re looking to book.

Another reason river cruising is so popular are the sightseeing tours that are often included in the price. Wander along with a guide using whispering earpieces which can be heard within a 200m radius so you can take photos or sneakily pop into a shop while still listening to what is being said.

Walking tours typically last a couple of hours with plenty of time to explore on your own. You might also have bicycles on your ship which are a fun way to meander off at your leisure, or put in a full workout cycling down the edge of the Danube like a local.

Disembarking any time is another bonus for river cruising as you’ll be in one place for a whole day, so getting out for a morning run or roaming through an early rising city and people-watching is easy. Often you will get to enjoy the luxury of an overnight stay in port like Passau or Budapest and there is nothing quite like seeing these gorgeous places lit up at night and you are in the heart of it all.

It’s a gentle pace and a relaxing feel. River cruising, by its very nature, makes little impact on the places you visit. You’ll quietly moor in a tiny town like Melk or Durnstein, go out on a tour ashore, then stroll around doing your own thing, and off you’ll glide again at the end of the day. No thousands of people disgorging into a town, no queues and discreet security. It’s relaxing and perfect for unwinding with your every need taken care of to the highest degree.

Often all inclusive with sightseeing, beverages and gratuities included, river cruising in Europe is one of the most relaxing and value for money holidays around.

Where did your European River cruise take you? Let us know in the comment section below.