Among the most popular is the river Rhone, a waterway which begins at the Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps and meanders through the heart of southern France before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. If you are lucky enough to be exploring the Rhone on your 2014 European river cruise, here are some fine cities you could experience along the way.
The largest of the cities which the river Rhone runs through, Lyon stands as a true example of French heritage and is famed for its host of exquisite architecture – as well a fine selection of events. Among the unmissable structures found in the city is the beautiful Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, a Lyon cathedral which was built between 1872 and 1884. The historic site of Lyon was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1998, with the wealth of age-old sights here more than enough to keep you entertained for days on end.
Also found in Fourvière is the Ancient Theatre, a well-preserved performance space from the Roman Empire which was first built around 15BC. With a diameter of 108m and enough seats for 10,000 people, it has stood the test of time today remains a cultural venue, as well as a popular tourist site.
There’s also the superb restaurant scene, which has developed thanks to two of France’s most famous winemaking regions being just close by: the Beaujolais to the North and the Côtes du Rhône in the South. Christmas is a spectacular time to be visiting the city, especially with the Festival of Lights illuminating popular Lyon landmarks with a blanket of vibrant lights. Taking place on 8th December each year, it dates back to 1643 and more than four million visitors from all over the world flock to see the light displays.
Finally, the fine array of parks and gardens found across the city offer the perfect sense of peace and tranquillity for visitors, the largest of which being the Parc de la Tête d'Or, which sprawls across 117 hectares of the city. Its main attraction is the large lake, which offers beautiful photo opportunities throughout the year.
Standing on the left bank of the river Rhone and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, Avignon holds a longstanding relationship with religion and was blessed with a huge presence of popes and antipopes during the 14th & 15th Centuries – why it is known by many as ‘The City of the Popes’. Among the finest sights to see in the city during your river cruises in France is the Palace of the Popes, recognised as among the largest and most important gothic buildings across Europe and one which attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.
Another stunning landmark worth checking out is the Avignon Cathedral, located above the Palace of the Popes and a monument which has stood tall since the 12th Century. The seat of the Archbishop of Avignon and a national monument of France, its most-renowned feature is the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary, which can be found on top of the western tower. Inside many treasures can be admired, perhaps the greatest of which being the tomb of Pope Benedict XII which dates back to 1342.
Should you be keen for a change from exploring the rich architecture and marvelling at the city’s ancient ramparts, the famed Avignon Festival sees hundreds of arts festivals taking place over three summer weeks. Finally, no visit to Avignon is complete without discovering the impeccable views offered from the rock outcrop of the Rocher des Doms; it’s a spot where you won’t want to forget your camera.
We finish with Arles, the former home of the legendary post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh amongst a host of other famous names throughout history. Despite only living here between February 1888 and July 1890, the beautiful cityscape and traditional charm of Arles helped the master create over 300 paintings and drawings. It is one of the last cities which can be discovered during a river Rhone cruise, as it forks shortly upstream to create the Camargue Delta.
With the city holding such an extraordinary relationship with the arts, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it is home to one of the largest international photography festivals. Established in 1970, the festival has continued to grow in both popularity and stature and today welcomes expert camera users from all over the world.
Another example of the diverse history which can be discovered across France, one of the most impressive sights in the city is the Arles Amphitheatre – standing strong in the city since 90AD. Once capable of housing 20,000 spectators, it is still used today and is a popular play and concert venue during the summer months.
Also of interest with history enthusiasts exploring the city is the Church of St. Trophime, particularly its cloister, which dates back to the 12th century. It was designed to be used by the Canons, those who managed the church property. Today, it serves as an important example of French sculpture, preserved beautifully for visitors to admire during their visit to the city.
Image Credit: Prochasson Frederic (Shutterstock.com)
This content was written by Ashley Collins. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.