Loire Yonne Nivernais

Loire – Centre – Nivernais :: Hotel Barge Canal and River Cruises

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This region of rolling countryside – the Garden and Heart of France – is defined by two rivers. The wide yet often shallow Loire (with the Loire Lateral Canal alongside) and the winding River Yonne.

The very pretty Nivernais Canal connects north-south between the two; and the Loing and Briare Canals connect the Loire with the River Seine and Paris. In the far west, the River Cher flows into the Loire at Tours.

This is a land of natural beauty, history and architectural delight. Of course, this is where French royalty and nobility chose to build their most sumptuous chateaux – nearly one thousand of them. It is a place of lush meadows and cherry trees, castles, formal gardens, ancient Gothic cathedrals and abbeys; and historic riverside towns such as Orleans, Auxerre, Clamecy and Nevers.

It is also a land of vineyards and prized wines that date back to Roman times. Of Sancerre, Chablis, and Pouilly-Fumé.


Barge Cruising Region – North Burgundy

map burgundy yonne► Hotel Barges cruising in this locality

Canal de Bourgogne (North) – River Yonne

A hundred miles or so south east of Paris, North Burgundy is a region steeped in culture and history and is considered by some to be the gastronomic heart of France, with its Boeuf Bourguignon, its buttery garlicky snails and its Coq au Vin, not to mention its stunning Chablis wine.
Founded in 1163, Villeneuve sur Yonne is one of a number of well-defended towns so characteristic of the area, harking back to a past full of conflict that included the Hundred Years War: even small farms and village churches had their own fortifications and the effect today is one of ancient charm.

It is a land of castles and abbeys: the impressive renaissance chateau at Ancy le France and the chateau at Tanlay with its romantic moat and famous trompe l’oeil frescoes are both a testament to former wealth and power, while the influence of the medieval church is more than evident in the abbey at Vezelay, which is the starting point for one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostella. Constructed in limestone as pale as a watermark, it is said to house relics of Mary Magdalene. Fontenay Abbey was built by St Bernard of Clairvaux in 1118 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The lives of more ordinary folk are evident in the beautiful half-timbered town of Noyers-sur-Serein with its characteristic medieval arcades, where walnuts and truffles were traded and enjoyed as a complement to the fine local wine.

Getting There
Hotel barges normally collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Paris hotel. The primary French international airport is at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. There are also TGV express train stations at Sens, Migennes, Montbard and Dijon; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.

– [below] In the region: Villeneuve sur Yonne, Ancy-le-Franc, Fontenay, Chablis, Tanlay, Vezelay, Noyers-sur-Serein –yonne-villeneuve-500x300  ancy-lefranc-500x300  ancy-lefranc2-500x300

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Ancy ©Thierry Gromik | Vezelay ©Adrian Fletcher | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a


Barge Cruising – The Nivernais

map burgundy nivernais► Hotel Barges cruising in this locality

Canal du Nivernais (north)

The Nivernais region is part of the modern department of Nievre and was originally a province centred around the town of Nevers in western Burgundy. It is most famous for its narrow squiggle of a canal – the Nivernais – which links the Loire and the Seine basins and crosses the remote and beautiful heathland forest of the Morvan. It was constructed in the 18th century to bring timber from the countryside to Paris and is one of the most characterful and unspoilt waterways in the whole country. It is often possible to buy local produce from some of the 110 locks along the way and many of them have exhibitions or beautifully planted gardens to ravish the eye.

Among the Nivernais’ natural wonders are the Rochers de Saussois, a towering limestone bluff that soars above the River Yonne which feeds the canal as it goes, while man-made highlights include the chateaux of Bazoches which was built in 1180 and has had forty owners including the brilliant military architect Vaubun; and Tanlay with its romantic moat and famous trompe l’oeil frescoes. Vezelay is the starting point for one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostella and it is easy to understand why pilgrims might be drawn to the pale and compelling beauty of the medieval abbey, particularly as it is said to house relics of Mary Magdalene.

Still on a religious theme, Auxerre is a historic city of such astounding loveliness that it boasts not just an 11th century cathedral, but a 12th century abbey too, and is where the unforgettable canal finally joins the river Yonne.

Getting There
Hotel barges normally collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Paris hotel. The primary French international airport is at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. There are also TGV express train stations at Sens, Migennes, Montbard and Tours; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.

– [below] In the region: Auxerre, the Morvan, Noyers-sur-Serein, Saussois, the Canal du Nivernais, Tanlay, Vezelay, Bazoches –auxerre-500x300  morvan  noyers-sur-serein-500x300

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Auxerre ©Nelson Minar | Morvan ©mortaise.com | Saussois ©Penny Liley | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a


Barge Cruising – Loing Valley, Briare and Loire

map loing briare loire burgundy► Hotel Barges cruising in this locality

Canal de Loing – Canal de Briare – Canal Loire Lateral

South of Paris, where the western part of Burgundy blurs prettily with the Loire Valley, a cruise along the Canal de Loing, the Canal de Briare and the Canal Loire Lateral reveals a number of hidden treasures in a landscape that inspired the painter Alfred Sisley. He memorably captured numerous aspects of the ancient town of Moret-sur-Loing, which has associations not just with Thomas à Becket, but with the Three Musketeers as well.

There are engineering feats to marvel at along the way– when the elegant aqueduct at Briare was constructed in the 1890s to cross the wide span of the River Loire, at 662 metres it was the longest in the world, while at Rogny you can see a flight of seven locks – the fact that they are no longer in use gives them an atmospheric quality full of echoes of the past, but also provides the chance to take in the detail of their construction

The wooded forests of the region attracted royal hunting parties from as early as the 12th century and the Palace of Fontainebleau originally served as a hunting lodge. Its medieval fortifications were given a glorious renaissance makeover in the 16th century and of all royal palaces it is the only one to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. It was where Napoleon abdicated from the throne before he was exiled to Elbe. Thousand year old castles are plentiful – Saint Fargeau and Sully-sur-Loire boast breathtaking examples. Equally charming is the ancient town of Montargis, which with its network of narrow canals and bridges invites comparisons to Venice.

Getting There
Hotel barges normally collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Paris hotel. The primary French international airport is at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. There are also TGV express train stations at Sens, Migennes, Montbard and Tours; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.

– [below] In the region: Rogny, Briare, Moret-sur-Loing (Alfred Sisley), Montargis, Fontainebleau, Fargeau, Sully –rogny-7-500x300  loing-500x300  briare-500x300

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Rogny ©Quietude | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a

Style: 5* Grand Luxe

RenaissanceE W Fleet

  • Style: 5* Grand Luxe
  • Capacity: 4 cabins / 8 guests
  • Cruising: West Burgundy‑Loire

Hotel Barge Renaissance accommodates just eight guests in elegant, country-house style where fine furniture and fabrics have been specially chosen... Read more

C’est la VieOwner Operated

  • Style: 5* Grand Luxe
  • Capacity: 4 cabins / 8 guests
  • Cruising: West Burgundy‑Loire, North Burgundy

C'est la Vie offers a fabulous chance to float serenely through the French countryside and escape the demands of everyday life. Drift past infinite... Read more

Style: 4* Excellence

LucioleOwner Operated

  • Style: 4* Excellence
  • Capacity: more than 6 cabins
  • Cruising: Nivernais

The Luciole makes everyone happy. With over 50 years cruising under her belt, Luciole knows exactly how to please, combining comfort, exceptional... Read more

La Belle EpoqueE W Fleet

  • Style: 4* Excellence
  • Capacity: 6 cabins / 12 guests
  • Cruising: North Burgundy

La Belle Epoque is spacious and luxurious, just the perfect barge for 12 guests to explore the delightful Burgundy region. She has been designed... Read more

MeandererOwner Operated

  • Style: 4* Excellence
  • Capacity: 3 cabins / 6 guests
  • Cruising: West Burgundy‑Loire

Meanderer truly represents floating luxury - cruising the charming waterways of the Upper Loire region where the itinerary takes in its rich... Read more

Style: 3* Premier

L’Art de VivreE W Fleet

  • Style: 3* Premier
  • Capacity: 4 cabins / 8 guests
  • Cruising: North Burgundy, Nivernais

L'Art de Vivre offers first-class cruising through the glorious countryside of northern Burgundy. Dotted with picturesque chateaux and pretty... Read more

JohannaOwner Operated

  • Style: 3* Premier
  • Capacity: 3 cabins / 6 guests
  • Cruising: Somme‑Picardy, Paris‑Champagne, West Burgundy‑Loire

Johanna is a beautifully converted hotel barge for six guests cruising through the northern regions of Belgium and France. Available for charter or... Read more

RandleOwner Operated

  • Style: 3* Premier
  • Capacity: 2 cabins / 4 guests
  • Cruising: North Burgundy, Nivernais

Varnished mahogany and sparkling glass and brass are the hallmarks of style aboard the very pretty Randle. She's a River Boat style hotel barge in... Read more

Style: 3* Smart

Deborah CroisiEurope

  • Style: 3* Smart
  • Capacity: more than 6 cabins
  • Cruising: West Burgundy‑Loire

Hotel barge Deborah is one of CroisiEurope's newest barges and offers smart and distinctive furnishings throughout her main deck and cabins. She... Read more

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We have explored the rivers and canals of France on our own yacht and motor boat since 2003, logging up nearly 10,000km along most waterways, in most regions, at all times of year. Independent, impartial and enthusiastic, we have personally visited and know every hotel barge, every owner-operator and fleet, published on french-waterways.com.

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advice-350x217We feature information about 50 wonderful hotel barges, of various sizes and price/style levels, more than 100 individual cruises to choose from every week of the season, in 8 regions across France. Some book flexibly by the cabin, others exclusively charter the entire hotel barge. Quite a choice!

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