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I would like to travel from the North Sea to the warmer waters of the south Mediterranean. Either the Black Sea, Adriatic, or Aegean. From wikipeadia I see that there is a link from the Netherlands on the Rhine river, its tributary the Main, and down a canal linking it to the Danube river into the Black Sea. (wiki link to Rhine-Main-Danube) I found some ferries that do inland cruises along those waterways, and they look great.

Trying to look for other alternative but similar routes has been interesting. Just looking at maps there seems to be other rivers from the North Sea like the Elbe which could go south wards, but I do not know whether they will have connections to the main bodies of water down south. I can find extensive information on tourist sites, webpages etc. Not even the common maps have features from what I know on them on how to see only the rives and main water ways in Europe.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Western Europe is divided north and south by the Alps. For this reason, there are currently no water routes that go all the way from northern to southern Europe.

The closest thing for now to a pan-European waterway is a route along the Rhine to Bavaria, to a point just over 100 miles from the Danube. A canal connecting the two was completed in 1992. This was in the "middle" Alps, still a relatively low elevation containing the sources of the two rivers.

Note that while the Rhine goes from northwest to southeast (upstream), the Danube flows mainly east to the Black Sea. So your "southern" leg really ends in Southeast Europe.

There are several proposed canal routes.


The most interesting of them would connect the Rhine in Germany to the Rhone in France, linking the north Sea and Mediterranean directly. That's over hillier country than the Rhine-Danube connection.

Another proposed connection is from the upper Elbe to the Danube, across the Czech Republic and Austria, also linking the Oder river in Poland. Those parts of Europe are not as populated or as prosperous as the Rhineland, which is why completion of the connections may take some time.

As for reaching the Aegean/Adriatic Seas? Maybe in another century or two across the Italian and Yugoslavian Alps. The connections mentioned above were envisioned in 1938-9, probably in connection with World War II>

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I am not sure if I understood your text, but the link you give shows a route from the north to black sea. Also the route in the link I included is another route. The French canal system also appears to be another option, and there is pure ODe route described in your link.There are then 4 different possibilities. –  Vass Sep 18 '11 at 19:05
To update my previous comment. From emailing an authority in the link Tom Au published, a route from the Elbe or Oder stops north of the Danube it appears. –  Vass Sep 20 '11 at 12:19
@Vass: The connection between the Elbe and the Danube is PROPOSED, not actual (see above). –  Tom Au Sep 20 '11 at 12:53
@Vass: Again, proposed. –  Tom Au Sep 20 '11 at 14:13
Note that the Rhine-Main-Danube canal is hundreds of kilometers away from both the two rivers' sources and the Alps. –  Michael Borgwardt Mar 28 '13 at 8:09
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