Did you know you can travel all over France completely by water? The French canals and rivers will take you through cities and countryside. Let's explore with PumpjackPiddlewick

You may not know it, but France is crisscrossed by a series of canals. The French canal system connects to navigable rivers and thus the ocean. As well as other countries. You can actually boat throughout most of France (which is rather weird to say). Most of the big cities, and many of the smaller, are also visitable via boat.

Like most canal systems it was built before trains to haul and transport stuff about. In fact, it was the original way wine was shipped to Paris from Bourgogne (Burgundy region). I discovered this when I lived near Joigny, a hilltop town in the Chablis area.


Joigny sits along the navigable river Yonne, which in turn connects with canals and other rivers. When I would visit Joigny, I learned that Chablis wine was shipped via river to Paris long, long ago.

You can tell that back then Joigny had been a bustling going places town. It has a fantastic medieval centre of cobbled streets and amazing old houses. When the transport of wine shifted to more mechanised ways, the town started to dwindle until it became only a tiny spark of itself. It is still a beautiful town to visit today, though.

Canals Today

These days the French canals are put more to use for and by tourists. And it’s something to really consider if you wish to visit France in future. It’s a truly amazing and different way to see the countryside, its towns and cities. I had the bonus opportunity to work on a canal boat, and can highly recommend visiting France through its canals. You can easily hire a boat yourself, of course, take your own, or join a specialised trip.

But it also turns out there is a resurgence of use to transport goods, especially heavy goods. You probably don’t know that many cities in France have weight limitations for trucks/lorries as well as delivery time restrictions in to their centres.

Since most cities have a waterway running through them, boats have the upper hand here. And businesses have started to take notice. One enterprising business in Strasbourg, you will see in the video below, has set up a whole system where electric bikes take the haulage from the boat to where it needs to go in the city. They then return with recycling that will replace the load on its way back out. Some one has really put their thinking cap on.

And now, it seems, the word is starting to spread on this new-old form of transport.


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