French barge cruise

Cruise and tour itinerary

The week’s itinerary combines cruising the Nivernais Canal with daily tours in the barge’s private bus

Daily itinerary

The Luciole cruises between the city of Auxerre and medieval Clamecy towards the South, alternating the direction each week.
A week on board balances cruising the Nivernais Canal with daily excursions in our accompanying bus.

The Captain pilots the barge along the Nivernais canal with precision. Each day we cruise for 6 to 7 hours through the glorious scenery. The Luciole’s evening moorings vary; dramatic Auxerre, charming villages and Medieval Clamecy, where time stands still.

Our expert guide, knows this historical and culturally rich region well. Every day his informed tours take you to delightful destinations of wine tasting, shopping and sightseeing.

Lunch in a classic French restaurant on shore is also included.

Sample itinerary

Please be aware that the direction of travel alternates each week

The rendezvous in Paris at the Hotel Mansart with the Luciole's representative is at 1.45pm, followed by the journey to Auxerre in the barge's private bus. The Luciole will be moored on the impressive river frontage of the city, overlooked by the Cathedral St Etienne, the 13 - 15th Century Abbey of St Germain and the Parish Church. A Champagne reception, delicious canapés and our crew, welcome Luciole passengers on board.

Cruise - Auxerre to Vincelles

The cruise upriver leads us into beautiful pastoral countryside intermingled with sweeping reaches of the River Yonne. After lunch we pass by Bailly. Here in 1972 local winemakers restored the fortunes of these ancient vineyards with the production of sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne in the large limestone Caves de Bailly. The picturesque villages of St Bris and Irancy, also devoted to wine, stand nearby. We moor for the evening on the wide river in Vincelles.

Tour - Wine tasting in Chablis

A journey in the afternoon is made to a wine cellar in the Chablis vineyards, barely sixteen kilometres to the east of Auxerre. Chablis is one of the greatest names in wine, with production within a strictly-defined area. The most prestigious wines are produced from vineyards on the south of the town on 'Grand Cru Hill'.

Cruise - Vincelles to Accolay

In the morning the canal takes you towards the River Cure on the 'Vermenton Arm' and the village of Accolay.

Tour - Walking tour of Auxerre

Our excursion to historic Auxerre is in the afternoon. The city offers many historic features: the Cathedral of St Étienne, Abbey of St Germain, with the Romanesque crypt and attractive clock tower in the centre of the town, built in the 15th Century. The Church presides over one of the most attractive waterfronts in France, recently renovated and where the Luciole now has her own private mooring. Auxerre was originally a Roman camp and became a centre of learning and pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. It was declared a holy city by the Pope in the 11th Century. The afternoon provides a good opportunity to visit the shops and enjoy French provincial life.

Tour - Market day, Noyers-sur-Serein

In the morning we travel from Accolay, to the delightful town of Noyers-sur-Serein. With its friendly market stalls, half timbered houses and turreted ramparts it is easy to see why Noyers is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. Above the town, the reconstruction of the medieval castle progresses. Catholic Henry IV ordered the destruction of the Protestant-owned château in 1599. Look out for the orchids in May and June

Cruise - Accolay to Mailly-le-Chateau

After lunch the Luciole’s journey continues southwards to a night-time mooring beneath the walls of Mailly-le-Château. Here you can take the steep path from our mooring at Bourg d’en Bas, or Lower Town up to Mailly-le-Château where a terrace offers spectacular views of the Yonne Valley.

Tour- Vézelay Basilica

We visit Vézelay is in the morning, where the spectacular 11th Century Basilica dominates the steep sided hill town which has numerous shops and cafes. Vézelay was the historic starting point for two of the Crusades to the Holy Land, where Saint Bernard preached to the Crusaders in the presence of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Vézelay owed its position of influence and prestige since it holds the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene and a Papal declaration attesting to their authenticity. The town was a high point of Medieval pilgrimage and was a major gathering point for the Crusaders on the way to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

There is plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere of this hilltop town and a super chance to visit the numerous craft shops selling clothes and gifts. Another opportunity too, to stop at one of the local cafes and watch the world go by (very French cafe life!). .

Cruise - Mailly-le-Château to Chatel Censoir

We cruise in the afternoon to an evening mooring at Chatel Censoir, passing through a region where dramatic cliffs stand by the water's edge. Watch out for the delightful ducks and geese, who have made this canal bank their home. Along the cruise route the Rochers du Parc and those at Les Saussois are regularly used by climbers. Do take a look at our video for a true idea.

Cruise - Chatel Censoir to Clamecy

Our final cruise in the morning takes us to the delightful Medieval town of Clamecy, a worthy venue for the climax of our cruise. The town features the 12 -16th Century church of St Martin that stands up on the hill in the town centre. Beside the river, stands the church of Our Lady of Bethlehem, which was opened in 1927. It was dedicated to the 50 successive bishops of Bethlehem who, unable to preside in Bethlehem itself, were resident at Clamecy from 1225 until the French Revolution in the late 18th Century.

Tour - Château of Bazoches

Our final tour is to the imposing Château of Bazoches. Set on a hillside amidst splendid rolling countryside, this was the 17th Century home of the Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707). Vauban was France's great military tactician and engineer, who was responsible for the creation of the first coherent network of fortifications surrounding the developing kingdom of France. He was also a prolific and at times visionary writer who remained steadfastly loyal to his roots in the Morvan region around Avallon and Vézelay and considered the Château of Bazoches as his true home.

After breakfast, the Luciole bus departs for Place Vendôme, central Paris where taxis are available for onward travel. Anticipated arrival is at 1pm. For guests wishing to travel elsewhere in France by train or hire car, a stop can always be made in Auxerre en-route to Paris.

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Nivernais canal route map

Nivernais canal & route map

View route map

The Nivernais Canal

Explore this glorious waterway in the center of France and escape the crowds

The River Yonne was an important route for transporting goods to Paris. In 1784 work began on the Nivernais Canal as we know it today. This entailed the building of wiers and locks to increase the depth of the waterway. Freight traffic soon rose in variety and volume: stone, wood, grain and wine were carried northwards. Embracing both river and man-made canal, the Nivernais preserves the character of 200 years ago.

The Nivernais is intricate and very beautiful. The canal is rated by experienced barge travellers as one of the finest cruise routes in Europe. It takes a dramatic and varied route, with breathtaking panoramas as the waterway weaves through the heart of Burgundy. While the boat gently slips through the water; there is time to look around from our raised sundeck and admire the bankside flora and absorb the beauty of the countryside.

The Nivernais Canal towpath is now an excellent cycle route, with a smooth and flat surface running alongside the canal for the whole of our cruise. With no cars, it provides a perfect opportunity to stroll or cycle the short distances between the locks or bridges. We have bicycles on board for those wishing to pedal alongside the barge or explore nearby villages.

Our tours

The week’s itinerary combines cruising with daily excursions in the barge’s private bus
visiting famous vineyards, medieval towns, historic châteaux and colorful markets


Auxerre offers ample opportunities to discover French fashion and architecture. A place to shop, or simply relax in one of the many charming French cafes with a chocolat chaud or chilled beer

Auxerre rises dramatically from the western bank of the River Yonne. The Cathedral of St Etienne dominates the town along along with the older Abbey of St Germain, dating back to the 5th Century, together they create a sky-line to dream about.

The city was originally a Gallo-Roman town: a busy port on a trade route called the Via Agrippa. In the centre of the town the delightful old clock tower built in 1483 and depicting the lunar months on a gilded face, is not to be missed.

The Luciole moors beneath the imposing Cathedral, on the recently re-develped river front. As dusk falls, a serene sky provides the backdrop to the city’s magnificent architecture: a sky-line to dream about, reflected in the River Yonne.


A tasting at a prestigious winery to explores wines of real distinction -their complexities and their pleasures
Our Chablis excursion reveals breath-taking views across the vineyards

For a memorable wine-tasting experience we visit an aclaimed winery. This region of Burgundy is highly respected by wine connoisseurs worldwide. Chablis is held to produce the finest and most complex of Chardonnay wines with its distinct mineral overtones.

Proud domaine owners have tended the same soil here for generations, protecting vines from winter frosts and nurturing the fruit-bearing plants during the summer sun. The most prestigious wines the Grand Cru are grown in a small specific area, we take a visit into the vines to see what it is all about.


Once a centre of medieval Europe, now a World Heritage UNESCO site, the Basilica at Vézelay is magnificent. The Basilica of St Mary Magdelene in Vézelay is one of France’s religious and architectural gems - a stunning blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles.

Originally it was a Benedictine monastery in the 9th Century. In 1058 it was announced that Relics of Saint Mary Magdelene were enshrined in the crypt, bringing pilgrims in their masses to pay homage en-route to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, thus starting an era of prosperity. Construction of the basilica was started in 1104 and eventually completed in 1215.

Crowning the ‘Eternal Hill’, the spectacular Basilica is the focal point of a huge expanse of rich, rolling countryside. It was from here that Saint Bernard preached the Second Crusade. Here too, in 1190 Richard the Lion Heart, King of England, joined forces with Philip Augustus of France to launch the Third Crusade. On the southern flanks monks still tend to the vines of ancient vineyards - producing an excellent wine that we are delighted to serve on the Luciole.

Wander down the Eternal Hill at your own pace. Take the time to browse the craft expositions, art galleries, cafes, boutique clothes and antique shops that line the route. The perfect opportunity to find souvenirs and enjoy the hill top town, a favourite in France for so many reasons.


Turreted, elegant and set in a pastoral landscape with views across the valley. This handsome chateau offers a new insight into bygone France and the history of the nation

The 12th Century Château of Bazoches became home to the Marquis de Vauban in 1675. He was a genius engineer and military tactician of Louis XIV (the Sun King) playing a very important role in shaping French history as we know it today. During his lifetime Vauban built thirty-seven new fortresses, and radically upgraded three hundred others to withstand gunpowder. Vauban took part in many sieges. Evidence of musket ball dents can be seen in his suit of armor.

Still owned by Vauban’s descendants, both the château and grounds have been lovingly restored. The Great Hall contains many exhibits, featuring examples of strategic wartime plans and fort designs. A spiral stone staircase leads to the living quarters, splendid in the affluence of the Baroque era, while the downstairs area features a library of rare books and a large model of the 74-gun ship that sailed to America in 1780.


Voted as one of the top 50 prettiest villages in France
We visit on market day, providing opportunities to buy gifts from the varied stalls and artisan shops

There are many treasures in this truly French market town with its winding cobbled streets that nestling beside the meandering River Serein. Stalls of fruit, vegetable, cheese and flowers as well as silk scarves, jewellery and clothes are fun to browse. Here is an opportunity also to visit the Andy and Claire Squire’s rustic pottery or the leather workshop, of Brice and Yazmhil, to see their high-class hand tooled leather bags and belts.

During the 12th Century the Dukes of Burgundy constructed France’s largest château above the town of Noyers. However, the Dukes were considered a threat to Paris and so in 1599 King Henri IV encouraged the townsfolk to raze and plunder the chateau, still evident in the use of stonework in the cottage facades. Restoration is now underway to rebuild the château. Working from old manuscripts the ruin is slowly being returned to its former glory.

Speciality cruises

Bespoke itineraries of activity, art, wine, pampering and more – fully customizable for family and friends booking a whole-boat charter
We also offer a Wine cruise ro Walking Cruise to individuals, who can book by the cabin

Speciality charters are available for charter groups or themed weeks designated in advance only.
However if you are interested, please have a look what at what else we can offer and get in touch.
Please note that these are an optional extra, and therefore a supplement is required.

Activity speciality cruise


Any week for Charter Groups

Thrills and adventure, perfect for families wanting an exciting activity vacation.

History speciality cruise


Any week for Charter Groups

Historical tours and visits of Burgundy's rich history

Ladies speciality cruise


Any week for Charter Groups

A cruise of pampering and relaxation We dovetail in the extras with our regular itinerary

Walking speciality cruise


Any week for Charter Groups

Guided daily walks through the picturesque Burgundy countryside

Wine speciality cruise


Any week for Charter Groups

Wine tours and tasting to vineyards, cellars and winemakers accross Burgundy

Luciole's bus

Paris transfers

Free transfers between Paris and the Luciole are included in our cruise prices
We rendezvous on Sunday afternoons at a hotel in central Paris

Pre cruise transfer

We meet in central Paris at the Hôtel Mansart - 5 rue des Capucines.
Our Sunday rendezvous is at 2.15pm.

The hotel reception desk receives passenger names in advance and will direct you to the rendezvous lounge, which is available to Luciole passengers from 12.30pm.

Passengers can make room reservations directly through the Hôtel Mansart website. Please scroll down for further information about booking a room, including a discount code.

The Luciole’s Tour Guide will arrive at 2:15pm to greet you, before driving passengers in our Mercedes bus to the Luciole, The journey is in the region of 100 miles, with arrival for a Kir Royal reception between 5 and 6pm. A rest-stop is made halfway along the drive.

Post cruise transfer

At the end of each cruise, we provide a transfer service back to the Place Vendôme in central Paris - where taxis are available for onward travel. The estimated arrival time is at 1pm, under normal conditions. However, this cannot be guaranteed, should there be any unforeseen delays.

We strongly recommend that you do not make reservations for flights before 6pm, the Eurostar before 5pm and domestic trains before 4pm.

We are unable to take responsibility for any missed travel departures.

Charter groups only

For Charter Groups we are able to organise a group rendezvous and drop-off at a location of your choice in Paris or at a Paris airport. Please do not hesitate to ask.

Independent travel

Passengers preferring to join the Luciole independently are welcome to arrive directly to the barge. The boat will be moored in either Auxerre or Clamecy, depending on the cruise direction.

Please contact us to let us know your travel plans and we will advise you of the various options to join the Luciole.

For on-going car hire, Auxerre is the most suitable location. At the end of each cruise, we are able to drop passengers directly at a car hire office of their choosing in Auxerre, regardless of the boat’s direction.

Bike riding

Hôtel Mansart

We have worked in partnership with the Hôtel Mansart since 2007

The 4 star Hôtel Mansart is situated in the renown 1er arrondissement of Paris, close to the Place Vendôme, famed for the Hôtel Ritz. From the Mansart a short walk south and you reach the rue de Rivoli, home to the renown Musée du Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries. A 5-minute walk north from the Mansart takes you to the adjacent 9th arrondissement, to the Opéra Garnier and Les Grands Magasins on Boulevard Haussmann.

Staying at the Hôtel Mansart can make the Sunday rendezvous at 2:15pm very straightforward. It really is the perfect location and way to begin the cruise.

Confirming a reservation directly through the Hôtel Mansart website offers a more attractive price than through any other travel sites. To receive the complimentary breakfast, please use the promotion code ‘LUCIOLE’ on their booking page.

Book the Mansart

Paris eiffel tower

Paris top tips

Some recommendations and travel advice by Will

Click the button to see our top tips

Paris top tips
Bike riding


We carry 12 bikes onboard - 4 are electric!

Bikes are a great way to explore the nearby villages to find hidden bars, cafes or chateaux. This season we will also have four electric bikes onboard, perfect for those who need some extra peddle power!

Along side our cruise route, the Nivernais Canal is a towpath, a ‘designated’ asphalt cycle route, with no permitted cars. The roads nearby are quiet and lead into villages and small towns, or up into the vineyards. The Luciole passes through a lock every mile or two, offering the perfect place to jump on or off the barge whilst we are cruising, or passengers can leave the boat once we are moored. The chef can make up a picnic for lunch if passengers want to go further afield and we can even arrange to meet adventurous cyclists at our tour locations and bring bikes back in our bus.

Our bikes are hybrid, meaning they offer a bit more comfort than a road bike and they have 21 gears. All the bikes are maintained regularly by our deckhand and are well suited and comfortable for the easy terrain.

Hot air baloon over field


Hot air ballooning

Take a flight in a hot air balloon to float above the beautiful scenery of the region. From the air you see a bird’s eye view of historical landmarks, the abundant wildlife and undulating landscape. A flight can be arranged with the highly reputable balloon company France Montgolfieres, whose operation is based close to the canal route. For those wishing to take a balloon flight, details will be confirmed once on board the barge, taking account of weather patterns at the time.

Visit website

Hotel barge Luciole

Cruising since 1976

Phone: 00 44 1625 576880
From USA: 011 44 1625 576880

23 Adlington Road, Bollington
SK10 5JT England

1-2 Quai de la Republique, Auxerre
89000 France

© Hotel Barge Luciole 2024

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