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.


2 Answers 2


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, 2011 at 19:05
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    @Vass: The connection between the Elbe and the Danube is PROPOSED, not actual (see above).
    – Tom Au
    Sep 20, 2011 at 12:53
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    @Vass: Again, proposed.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 20, 2011 at 14:13
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    Note that the Rhine-Main-Danube canal is hundreds of kilometers away from both the two rivers' sources and the Alps. Mar 28, 2013 at 8:09
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    This answer is very confusing, it does seem to mention the most important info (including the routes over the Rhone and the Danube) but why call the Rhine-Main-Danube canal the “closest thing to a pan-European waterway” or imply it does not lead to Southern Europe? It might not end directly in the Aegean Sea but it does cross the continent all the way to the Black Sea, which was mentioned in the question. Same thing for the French waterways, they really do connect Northern Europe to the Mediterranean.
    – Relaxed
    May 5, 2014 at 10:25

There are several possible routes from the North Sea or the English Channel down to the Mediterranean. All of them eventually end up in the Rhone, but you can enter pretty much any major North Western European port and navigate all the way south the the mouth of the Rhone near Marseilles.

For routes just google "inland waterways map Europe" to find a good map. There are several. The better maps code the routes according to their class, which basically tells you what the biggest vessel is that can take them.

This is a good example of such a map:


As you can see you have several options. From Germany you eventually have to make your way down to Mulhouse, and take the Rhine - Rhone canal and then travel down the Rhone. But from The Netherlands of Belgium there are several options as well. You can also enter at several of the French Channel Ports. It is certainly doable, and many pleasure craft do this every year.

  • van Desien, is the Rhone canal parallel to the Rhine the whole time?
    – Vass
    May 5, 2014 at 13:06
  • The Rhine - Rhone canal branches of from the Rhine just north of Basel, and runs via Mulhouse, and then to the Rhone... May 9, 2014 at 9:59

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