Want to enjoy a boat holiday on the French waterways but not sure where to go? We’ve picked 11 of the best canals and navigable rivers to cruise on in France
Canal du Midi, Occitanie
From Toulouse to the Etang de Thau.
Perhaps the most famous of French canals, the Canal du Midi is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Flanked by perfect rows of plane trees, the canal attracts visitors the world over who love its serene banks, green waters and fascinating locks.
Canal de Nantes à Brest, Brittany
From Nantes to Brest
This lovely waterway slices through inland Brittany in three closed off sections, which are no longer linked together after a section was submerged by the Guerlédan dam in 1920. It takes you through the lovely towns of Josselin, Malestroit, Pontivy or even La Gacilly and offers the chance to discover inland Brittany’s whimsical countryside.
Canal du Nivernais, Burgundy-Franche-Comté
From Auxerre to Decize
Originally built as a way to float wood from Burgundy to Paris, this canal is now known as one of the most picturesque of the Burgundy waterways. It meanders through unspoilt countryside, dotted with charming and sleepy villages and includes a spectacular view of Auxerre’s cathedral, abbey and préfecture.
From Valence-sur-Baïse to St-Léger
This short stretch of river is a tributary to the Garonne and is a lovely natural waterway, favoured by fishermen. It flows down to Valence-sur-Baïse, crossing the lovely towns of Nérac and Condom along the way and features historic locks.
Canal de la Marne au Rhin, Grand-Est
From Vitry-le-François to Strasbourg
Crossing the rolling hills of Lorraine, steep wooded valleys and picture-perfect Alsatian villages, this canals offers the perfect panorama to Alsace, ending in style nearby the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
La Seille, Burgundy-Franche-Comté
From La Truchère to Louhans
This little-known canal is an affluent of the Saône with only four locks. It is a quiet waterway and crosses a natural reserve so offers a glimpse of a preserved natural environment, dotted with a few ancient mills.
La Charente, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
From Angoulème to Tonnay-Charente
Meandering through the enchanting Cognac country, the navigable stretch of the Charente is a delight to cruise on, thanks to a gently changing scenery, lively otters and mesmerising light. Plus you can stop in pleasant towns such as Jarnac, Cognac and Saintes.
Canal de la Somme, Hauts-de-France
From St-Valéry to Péronne
The Somme river was canalised to accommodate leisure boats and is a very beautiful waterway which takes you through marshy valleys. It begins at the Somme estuary at the harbour town of St-Valéry-sur-Somme, and offers an alternative approach route from the English Channel to the waterways of central France and a nice way to see Amiens too.
Canal de la Robine, Occitanie
From the Junction Canal to Port-La-Nouvelle
Officially a branch of the Canal du Midi, this waterway takes you down the river Aude through Narbonne and then out to the Mediterranean at Port la Nouvelle. A short and quiet canal it’s easily explored entirely over a weekend’s gentle cruising.
Canal de Briare, Centre-Val-de-Loire
From Briare to Montargis
This is one of the oldest canals in France and features the Pont-Canal de Briare, an amazing feat of engineering dating back to the 19th century. From Briare you can carry on and enjoy a peaceful cruise on the Canal Lattéral à la Loire.
Canal du Rhône à Sète, Occitanie
From Beaucaire to Sète
This stretch of waterway connects the great Rhône river to the blue Etang the Thau and the fascinating town of Sète which gives you access to the Canal du Midi of course. On the way you can enjoy the beautiful Camargue landscapes.