France is a paradise for houseboat enthusiasts. But it is such a vast country, filled with a near endless amount of beautiful locations, so where to start? To help you navigate, we bring you our handy tips on the best regions to take a houseboat.
In Brittany, there are numerous canals dedicated to boating, while on the banks you’ll discover historical towns brimming with traditional crafts. The canal running from Nantes to Brest has plenty of sights to see and picturesque towns to visit, while a 15 km stretch of the Erdre River is lined with 17 magical castles and chateaux. If golf is your thing, you’ll find several courses in the area around the river.
Have you heard of the cosmetic brand Yves Rocher? Well, La Gacilly is home to the company's botanical garden with more than 1,000 species of plants. But there’s no shortage of other attractions to see here, such as traditional craft demonstrations and the infamous outdoor photography festival. One of Brittany’s renaissance highlights, and well worth a visit, is Josselin Castle whose striking reflection you can see in the waters below. The town itself is an eclectic mix of painting, sculpture, ceramics, leatherwork and jewellery making. If you want to immerse yourself in ancient history, take a stroll among half-timbered 15th-century houses in the town of Malestroit.
Don't miss the delicious crepes or excellent apple cider.
French crepes and cider go surprisingly well together
Headquarters of Yves Rocher in La Gacilly commune
Nestled between the Atlantic, the Loire Valley and Brittany lies the so-called "La Douce France" — the France of the poets. Cruising along the rivers of Mayenne, Sarthe and Oudon, you’ll find numerous castles, chateaux and mills, and the near perfect Eurovelo cycle path. We can also recommend this area for complete beginners as there is hardly any traffic on the canal.
As the region is located on the west side of the country, we recommend flying to Paris or Nantes and taking local transport (the TGV train, for example) to the base in Angers.
Anjou’s leisure and theme parks are great for a bit of fun and relaxation. Kids will love climbing in the treetops at the Parc Anjou Aventure in Ecouflant, head for some wakeboarding at Wake Paradise in Spay or try the plant world theme park of Terra Botanica in Angers, whose extraordinary gardens and attractions will show you the beauty and power of nature.
The traditional meat spread of rillettes du Mans is not to be missed.
Rilette – traditional meat spread
The Charente River is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in France and no wonder, with its crystal-clear water and lush green banks surrounded by golden sunflower fields.
Wines and cognacs
Renowned for its large number of vineyards, wineries and cognac distilleries, this region could be a little dangerous when combined with boating! The town of Cognac is home to producers of Hennessy, Martell, Baron Otard and a cognac museum is located here as well.
Swimming is allowed almost everywhere on the Charente River and the clean waters make it a definite temptation. The protected beaches there will make you feel almost like you are by the sea.
Fish, fish and more fish
In addition to traditional local specialties such as cheese, meat or snails, this area offers up a wide variety of seafood (traditional mussel "mouclade" or oysters) and excellent fish (carp, trout, eels, pike and perch).
The town of Cognac and the river Charente
Here you’ll discover high cliffs, tree-lined paths and can look forward to a dip in the beautifully clear waters of the river Lot, which is permitted throughout the region. The main landmark here is the Valentré Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the picturesque town of Cahors, you’ll find the largest modern mural in Europe at 120 metres in length and 6 metres high. Taking in the site from the river itself is stunning, but you can also walk right up close to take a photo in front of it.
In this region, trying the foie gras with truffles and the foie gras confit are an absolute must. For dessert, we recommend the traditional walnut cake.
There are a total of 17 locks on the river, and just like in times gone past, you have to operate them yourself.
Travel along the river or the canal through automatic locks, stunning natural scenery and a rich cultural heritage
Visit the 12th century fortified town of Vianne, the Cistercian monastery of Flaran or the cathedrals of Condom or Moissac, part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
- Watermelon from Nérac, which can be found at local markets.
- Unconventional marmalade made from strawberries and tomatoes.
- Prunes from Agen
- Duck foie gras directly from the Lafitte farm in Montgaillard
At 539 metres long and with 23 pillars, cruising beneath the Agen bridge is an unforgettable experience.
6) Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a real testament to the beauty you’ll experience here. Connecting the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, you’ll travel past picturesque vineyards, villages and restaurants right on the banks.
Sunny, occasionally cloudy
If you're a sun worshipper, this is the region for you. The south of France is sunny most of the season and temperature records are regularly broken.
Do you know the game Carcassonne?
If you're a fan of the board game Carcassonne, but even if you don't know it (yet), the medieval town of Carcassonne is definitely worth a visit. It's a giant walled fortress with a total of 53 towers, in short, medieval as it should be.
What to taste?
The cassoulet, a dish of legumes and sausages or meat, is definitely worth a mention. At first glance, this looks like a rather ordinary dish, which is true in part, but the French really know how to cook and season it into a real delicacy.
Canal du Midi
With Camargue being so close to the Mediterranean, it shares a similar climate. This means if you’re travelling along a canal here, you really do experience the feeling of being at sea. In addition, the area offers one of the largest nature reserves in Europe and virtually lock-free boating, which beginners will especially appreciate.
Salt over gold
One of the most famous salts in the world comes from the Camargue and is a great tip as a souvenir for your family.
A horse or a flamingo
The Camargue Nature Reserve is home to flamingos, horses and bulls. These animals can be best observed somewhere like the Scamandre centre.
Flamingos in Camargue
Camargue salt “mining”
8) Loire Valley and Nivernais
The chateaux of the Loire Valley are famous among travellers and are simply a must for everyone who visits France. Travelling down the river Loire, you’ll come across the Briare Aqueduct which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same one who designed the world famous Eiffel Tower. The Loire region is also not far from Paris (only about 2 and a half hours away).
Are you fascinated by craftsmanship in times gone by? The Museum of Enamels and Mosaics of Briare, the ceramics museum in Nevers, or the town of La Charité-sur-Loire, known as the "city of books", where you can admire artists, calligraphers and illustrators, are all well worth a visit.
This area is world famous for the Sancerre vineyard. There is, of course, a winery here where you can book a wine tasting or purchase a bottle of wine to go.
Chateau de Chenonceau on the Cher River, Loire Valley, France
Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire at sunset, Loire Valley, France
A stone's throw from Paris (2 hours by car), this region offers a wealth of activities for all.
The Burgundy region is especially famous for its wines. Whether you decide to taste Chablis, Crémant or visit the wine cellars in Tonnerre or Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, you can't go wrong.
If you're a golf lover, definitely pack your clubs. Here you’ll find a 9-hole course near Château de Tanlay and a 7-hole course in Venarey.
This area is also ideal for fishing. Pike, carp and many other species of fish boldly roam the local waters. Climbing enthusiasts will also find plenty to do here, particularly the stunning natural rocks of Saussois.
Vineyards in Burgundy
10) Franche-Comté and Saône
For many, this is one of the most beautiful corners of France. The lazy French countryside, dotted with lavish farmhouses lining the surrounding vineyards is captivating, particularly if you’re someone who appreciates peace and tranquility. Come and admire the ancient castles adorning the steep cliffs, the karst rivers embedded in deep valleys and the old Romanesque bridges you will pass beneath. The region, which is also suitable for beginners, is easily accessible by car directly from the Czech Republic.
The Franche-Comté region is a fisherman's paradise, with fishing possibilities on both the Doubs and Saône rivers. In addition, you’ll find excellent wine here and Franche-Comté cheeses are among the most delicious in the world.
Don't forget your binoculars
The Vosges (a mountain chain) are so beautiful that even the charter company Nicols recommends taking binoculars along so you can admire them from a distance.
Morbier, a semi-soft cow's milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region
Despite being France's smallest province, Alsace has much to offer — a multicultural atmosphere where French and German influences intersect, world-class gastronomy and unique architecture. Alsace lies on the border with Germany, making the region easy to reach by car.
The most beautiful places
There are some truly magnificent towns in the region. Visit Stanislas Square in the UNESCO-listed city of Nancy or "La Petite France", the historic quarter of Strasbourg filled with half-timbered houses. For those who love greenery, we recommend visiting the golf courses which you’ll find in both cities.
Go by boat lift
Located in Arzviller, the only boat lift in France is an amazing piece of machinery and an unmissable visit for tech lovers.
Cruising in Europe
Did you know that you can travel by boat through three countries on one trip here? If you take a houseboat for 2 or 3 weeks, you can travel around France, Germany and all the way to Luxembourg.
Traditional houses in La Petite France in Strasbourg
Stanislas Square in Nancy
Are you interested in boating through these regions of France? Give us a call and we will happily assist you.