Home to fabled castles, quaint local villages, and iconic capital cities, the Danube River welcomes those who are eager to discover or rediscover Europe’s treasured destinations. Each day on the Danube offers a new opportunity to discover your next favorite hidden gem. From small towns to scenic beauty, there’s a reason this is Europe’s most popular river.
Did you know: The Danube is the only major European river to flow from west to east? Coursing from Germany through Eastern Europe and into the Black Sea, it passes some of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful cities. The Danube is not only Europe's second-longest river it's also the scene of 2000 years of history. Venture to some of the most significant cities of Central Europe
There's no end to the majestic views along the Danube River. Charming small towns, scenic landscapes and exciting cities. As you venture from Nuremberg towards Bucharest, the river will take you from one spectacular city to the next, a myriad of opportunities for adventure at every stop.
Tour the Austrian capital of Vienna. Ride along the Ringstrasse, which replaced the city walls in the mid-19th century. See some of the city’s baroque architecture, including the world-famous Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and astound at the lavish decadence of Vienna's magnificent Hofburg Palace. Take a tour to Schönbrunn Palace, the “Versailles of Vienna,” erected in 1778 and graced by a number of formal gardens, Grecian statuary, the world’s oldest zoo and Roman ruins. Enjoy a classical concert.
What's on your must-taste list in Vienna?
The magical city of Vienna created some magic of its own. Did you know the snow globe was invented in Vienna In 1900? Erwin Perzy, a fine instruments mechanic, was trying to improve the brightness of light bulbs for a surgical lamp. But instead, he accidentally invented a snow globe, what an amazing accident!
Classical Vienna, home of Strauss and many great composers as well as some of Europe’s most cherished museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Mozarthaus, The Albertina Museum, and the groundbreaking Museum of Young Art. This city offers up so much wonderful architecture as well as a host of other things to see including the Spanish riding school. Discovering Vienna’s rich cultural history sounds like music to our ears.
On a rocky cliff that overlooks the Danube sits one of the largest Monasteries in Europe with an unparalleled library that dates back to the 15th century. Visit the stunning Benedictine Abbey at Melk with its 200m long Emperor’s Gallery, lined with portraits of Austrian emperors and where Benedictine monks still live dedicating their work to culture and education. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. Today's Baroque grandeur of Melk Abbey was built between 1702 and 1736 to designs by Jakob Prandtauer. Particularly noteworthy are the abbey church with frescos by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the library with countless medieval manuscripts, including a famed collection of musical manuscripts and frescos by Paul Troger.
Biking through enchanting Dürnstein is one of the most authentic ways to experience the lovely Wachau Valley. A pearl along the Danube River in Dürnstein, Austria, the UNESCO-designated Wachau Valley is home to stellar vintage wines, as well as some of the world’s most renowned apricots. Savor all the Wachau Valley has to offer on a Danube River wine-themed river cruise. There’s nothing like cruising through the Wachau Valley, known for its stunning beauty, winemaking and delicious apricots! Did you know, England's King Richard the Lionheart was once imprisoned in Austria's Dürnstein Castle having been shipwrecked on his return from the crusades? A truly unique stop along the Danube River, this legendary landmark offers a compelling history and an undeniable charm.
An undoubted highlight of any Danube river cruise is visiting the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Straddling the river, many of the city's foremost sites are located within a stone's throw of the enigmatic river's banks, including the Fisherman's Bastion, complete with a statue of the nation's first king, St Stephen. Explore this incredible city rich in both culture and beauty. Enjoy a guided city tour which showcases the capital city's architectural wonders or set out on a guided hike to Buda Hill for some breathtaking views of the waterway below.
The Danube River divides Hungary’s capital city into the once separate towns of Buda and Pest. Explore both sides connected by the graceful Chain Bridge, starting with Pest’s National Opera House along the elegant Andrássy Avenue and historic Heroes’ Square a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state. In Buda, walk along Castle Hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church named for the country’s most popular medieval king. From the heights of Buda Hill, enjoy fantastic views of the famous Chain Bridge, the first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849. Explore the Buda Castle Labyrinth; visit the Jewish Quarter and tour the beautifully restored Dohány Street Synagogue.
When in Budapest, make sure to do as the locals do and ride the city’s innovative, efficient metro tram to a local market for some delicious Hungarian treats!
Browse the countless stalls of Budapest’s Grand Market Hall and indulge in Flavors of Hungary perhaps aperitifs, breads, meats, wine, honey or strudels. A sprawling three-story marketplace with a neo-Gothic facade, the historic hall was built in the late 19th century. Today, the bustling scene is a feast for the senses, an endless array of textures, fragrances, tastes and sounds. On the ground floor, farm produce, pastries, candies, spices and spirits tempt the palate. Eateries and souvenirs are on the second floor. Locals head to the basement to see the local butchers and fish vendors.
If Hungarian cuisine owes its color and flavor to anything, it’s paprika. Cultivated on the banks of the Danube for centuries, this aromatic spice is the defining flavor of Hungary, used in many of its foremost dishes.
Soak up the restorative powers of Budapest’s nourishing Thermal Bath. Visit the Art Nouveau Gellért Spa (or one of the many other lavish facilities in this “City of Healing Waters”) and join the locals in a centuries-old tradition. Ancient Romans discovered the benefits of bathing in the thermal waters that flow through Budapest. As the city grew, the spouting springs were treasured and preserved so highly that not even the Communist government forbade their pleasures. Still today, they offer a regimen most residents of Budapest cannot do without. During your visit, you might mingle with the locals taking a soak or observe some bathers as they pass the time with a game of chess in the pool. So revered have these waters been that many have been sheltered within facilities that exude a temple-like aura.
Only through the Danube River’s Iron Gates can you witness the grandeur of the tallest rock sculpture in Europe, depicting Decebalus, the last King of Dacia. He was the last Dacian King, defeated by the Roman Emperor Trajan over 2000 years ago, but his sculpture on the banks of the Danube was only completed in 2004. Enjoy scenic cruising as you travel through one of the most picturesque areas of the Lower Danube. The Iron Gate is one of Europe’s most dramatic natural wonders—a spectacular narrow gorge with enormous white limestone cliffs.
On this river that bends and winds through 10 countries, you're bound to see and experience A LOT.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Come see what makes the Danube so spectacular. Contact us to plan and book a fabulous Danube River cruise.
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Scooter Tessari, MCC, owns The Cruise Center, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and operates the website Tasteful Journeys devoted to enrichment vacations with a culinary accent and featuring cruises, tours, and custom designed vacation packages.