River Oise: The Barge Cruise Guide

Stretching 341 kilometres from Belgium down to the outskirts of Paris, the River Oise (pronounced waz) travels through some of northern France’s most historic landscapes, making it an ideal waterway for a barge holiday in France.

Meandering its way past Renaissance châteaux and ancient forests, the gorgeous scenery of Val d’Oise was first made famous by the impressionist artists of the nineteenth century.

Impressionist Masters

Pissarro, Cezanne and Gauguin were all enraptured by the rolling hills, the unique light and, of course, the River Oise itself.

Many of the early impressionists settled in the region, creating famous works of art which have immortalised it to this day. But it was Van Gough, who spent his last 90 days here amongst a fervid flurry of artistic expression, who really cemented the Val d’Oise’s place in art history.  

The River’s Route

With its source in the Belgian region of Hainaut, the river travels south-east to cross the border into France, where it eventually joins the Seine to the west of Paris. From there, it flows into the English Channel.  

The river has been an important transport route in France since the Middle Ages, but in 1835 parts of it were thought to be to difficult to navigate by canal barges. As a result, a process of canalisation began.

Today, some sections of the river run alongside the manmade Canal lateral à l’Oise, which connects with the Canal de Saint-Quentin at Chauny to form part of the canal network that connects Paris to northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Highlights and Things to See

Thanks to the beautiful landscape and the historic sites along its banks, the Oise has long been a popular choice for visitors who wish to enjoy a barge holiday in France. Whether you want to wander around beautiful Renaissance palaces, hike through the ancient forests or discover more recent history, there is plenty to keep you occupied.

For an impressive glimpse into France’s royalist past, it’s worth stopping off at the Château de Compiègne, a palace built for Louis XV. Despite falling into disrepair after the revolution, the palace’s fortunes were restored when Napoleon visited in 1799 and began restoring it as an imperial residence.

Another historic landmark that’s worth discovering while you’re on your barge holiday in France is the Armistice Clearing in the Compiégne Forest. The site plays host to the Compagnie des Wagons-Lit railway carriage, which saw no fewer than two armistice signings during the First and Second World War, respectively. Today, a museum on the spot features a reconstruction of the artillery railway carriage, as well as a memorial garden that’s dedicated to all of the soldiers who died for their country.

A barge holiday in France is a wonderful way to explore this picturesque landscape and to make its longstanding history come alive. As you float along these historic waterways, you won’t want to be anywhere else in the world!

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury itineraries for a barge holiday in France. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

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