Rent boat to see canals in France and Netherlands
Rent boat to see canals in France and Netherlands
The Vision, a self-skippered boat for vacationing in Europe. Photo by Le Boat

There are many ways to travel Europe. The rail system is excellent, backpacking is popular, and a rental car can provide the flexibility to personalize your itinerary. But few people think to travel by boat – not a cruise, but a personal, multi-day boat rental.

Le Boat is a company based out of the United Kingdom that offers personal boat tours throughout England and other countries in Europe. The company’s newest cruiser, “Horizon”, can be booked in 11 regions throughout Germany, Italy, Holland, England and France.

What makes this a unique experience is the fact that the tours are unguided. Laws in Europe allow anyone over the age of 18 to pilot a boat without any form of licensing or prior experience. While this may seem a little unnerving, companies that offer rentals provide and adequate but brief orientation. After all, it’s their boat!

Rent a boat in France or Netherlands
Exploring Europe by rental boat. Flickr/Roth

While rentals may be more expensive than an automobile, these vessels provide lodging as well. This can create significant savings when compared to hotel stays for a larger party over a week’s time. Boats can sleep 10 people, partitioned in multiple bedrooms, and include a kitchenette as well as a furnished entertainment center. These amenities can cut down on food costs as well, leaving room in the budget for other adventures.

Routes offered in Amsterdam can be the ideal way to experience the historic Floating Flower Market of the Singel Canal. A wide variety of flowers are displayed for sale, including a plethora of the tulips for which Holland is famous. The night is alive in Amsterdam’s clubs and cafes, but the museums are the main attraction. The Rijksmuseum displays thousands of artworks by old masters, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Van Gogh Museum tells the story of the ever-popular impressionist, displays his work, and offers cocktails.

Le Boat flotilla. Photo by Le Boat
Le Boat flotilla. Photo by Le Boat

Le Boat also rents vessels to would-be captains on the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Stone arches pre-dating the automobile are a favorite amongst plein air painters, many of whom would gladly sell you their impressionistic work on the spot. Wind-whipped cypress trees reminiscent of Van Gogh sculpt a horizon line between terra cotta rooftops. Attractions along the route include the renowned vineyards of Paraza in the Aude Valley and the medieval city of Carcassone. Carcassone has been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic age and is famous for its immense fortress, the Cité de Carcassonne.

If You Go

Know that Le Boat tours are self-guided. You will be tasked with the captain’s duties and the perks that come with them – namely the ability to control your own schedule. As such, research activities in advance to find adventures that suit your tastes and your timetable.

Amsterdam Info

Info on Southern France

Le Boat

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