There is a river in the heart of Europe that has inspired poets, composers, and world leaders alike. We dare you not to be captured by the hard currents and lush flow that has roused musicians like Johann Strauss to write “Blue Danube,” the most famous waltz in the world. Experience firsthand the international waterway that cuts through 2,000 years of enigmatic European history.
Cruising down the Danube is the most leisurely way to experience European cities and countries. An expansive 1,775 miles long, it’s Europe’s second largest river and because it passes through 10 countries and four capitals the opportunities for cultural enlightenment are endless. Indulge in this river cruise experience, aboard luxury ships paired with majestic panoramic views.
WHEN TO GO
Fortunately, the Danube can be enjoyed all year long. The most popular months to go are May to September, but for the prepared traveler, there is never a bad month.
Take note, the summer months clock in at high temperatures, so make sure your clothing is appropriate, and you bring a portable fan. For a festive change, go during December to tour the elaborate Christmas Markets. Celebrate the season with traditional fare, mulled wine, and exotic presents to buy. Just make sure to bring a cozy jacket and sweater to enjoy the picturesque views.
KEY STOPS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Most cruises will stop at some or all of these historical towns:
Passau, Germany is a memorable and colorful little town. Take in the rich culture and historic sights as you explore this cruisers’ favorite!
See: Stephen’s Cathedral, Domplatz 9, 94032
Let’s get one thing straight: Europe is not lacking in Cathedrals. What distinguishes this one from the rest is its large organ – the largest in Europe. With more than 17,974 pipes and five different organs, you will have a church experience to rule all others. Become an architectural expert as you observe the stunning Baroque elements and pristine stucco work on the columns and arches. A visual treat!
Eat: Cafe Simon, Rindermarkt 10, 94032
One of the best parts about traveling through Europe is the desserts! Treat yourself with chocolates, truffles, and cakes at Cafe Simon. Or, experience the most delicious ginger bread, known as Lebkuchen, which means loaf of life. This also happens to be the oldest ginger bread recipe in all of Germany! The luckiest travelers will catch Chef Simon giving a demonstration.
Eat: Half-Meter Wurst
It’s worth the hype! This town is known for their long sausages. A classic street food most popular during the Christmas Markets. You don’t want to miss it.
Melk, Austria is a quiet enchanting city that is full of breathtaking sights and expansive views.
See: Melk Abbey, Abt-Berthod-Dietmayr-Strabe 1, 3390
Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable parts of your cruise. This lavish Baroque abbey is overlooking the vast Danube River lying atop a rocky outcrop. It’s a massive baroque building and still functioning home to Benedictine monks. The monastery is filled with marble and frescoes, and a culture so rich you will feel like you’ve transported to another era. Take a guided tour and keep your camera handy, the views are spectacular.
Eat: Apfelstrudel and Melange
Apfelstrudel and Melange are synonymous with Austria. Indulge in some mélange, the traditional coffee which is served black with an abundance of milk and cream. You can find this perfect pairing at any of the charming and authentic coffee shops.
Vienna, Austria is the artistic and intellectual capital of Austria. With past residents like Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. Prepare to indulge in culture and history.
See: Schonbrunn Palace, Schonbrunner Sclobstrabe 47, 1130
Notably, Vienna’s most famous and impressive buildings. A must see attraction while visiting if you enjoy stunning architecture, opulent furniture and expansive gardens. It’s Austria’s own version of Palace of Versailles with 1,441 rooms and gardens.
See: Download Musicians’ walks
Music and Vienna go hand in hand. Open your ears and let the Waltzes and operettas guide you down the streets and lead you to the city’s concerts halls and stages. Download Musicians’ walks and stroll along to the tracks of great composers through the streets: https://www.wien.info/en/music-stage-shows/city-of-music/musicians-walks-download
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is surrounded by vineyards and the Little Carpathian Mountains. Get ready to socialize because it’s known for its lively bars and cafes.
See: The Old Town, Stare Mesto neighborhood
Explore the center of Bratislava and the oldest part of the city built in the 18th century. While walking the streets, stop at St. Michael’s Tower, the Bratislava City Museum, Zichy’s Palace and the Main Square.
Budapest, Hungary The Hungarian capital city with over 2 million residents.
See: Fisherman’s Bastion, Szentháromság tér
Simply put: the best place to enjoy a panoramic view while enjoying neo-Gothic architecture. Built as a viewing platform in 1905 by Frigyes Schulek.
Viking River Cruises was voted World’s Best River Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure Magazine. You can choose anywhere from 8 to 23 day tours. A great way to experience Europe in pure luxury.
- Walking and bus tours are included in the cost of the cruise and are a great way to learn about the architecture and history at each new port of call.
- Utilize the library, language classes and history lessons onboard. They are fun and informative, plus a great place to socialize with other cruisers.
- The most picturesque views are between Melk and Vienna. Travel to the top deck or watch comfortably from your private balcony. This part of the trip is usually scheduled for the daytime hours, so that guests can fully appreciate the pristine beauty. Keep a camera at hand for this perfect photo op.
- Enjoy the live entertainment on board, with pianist, opera singers, and Austrian musicians to engross yourself in the European culture that surrounds you.
- Research the local cuisine before cruising and pay attention to the authenticity while on board! The meals are tailored to reflect the local cuisine.
- Book a room with a balcony or a veranda for the optimal way to experience the majestic views.
Avalon Waterways was selected as a 2016 Cruise Critic Editors’ Pick for its amazing views. This river cruise fleet features panoramic windows throughout their ships and their Panorama suites feature floor-to-ceiling, retractable windows. Choose from 8 to 24 day cruises and watch the world go by.
- Take your pick of daily activities such as included walking tours, guided bike tours or city sightseeing tours. Complimentary bicycles are available on select sailings for exploring on shore. Their Active Discovery itineraries include guided hikes, canoe and jogging tours!
- Try one of six Christmastime itineraries featuring guided sightseeing tours to Christmas markets in Vienna, Nuremburg, Prague and other traditionally festive locations.
- Savor a daily full breakfast, lunch buffet, alternative lunch options and four-course a la carte dinners onboard. Relish in regional wine, beer & soft drink options as well.
- Enjoy special onboard and onshore experiences presented by entertainers, artisans, and experts, designed to enrich your cruise. The 10-Day Danube Dreams itinerary, for example, includes an onboard performance of Slovakian & International music.
- Book the panoramic suite and turn your stateroom into a fresh-air balcony.
AmaWaterways was chosen as the Best River Cruise Line by Cruise Critic Editors because of its programming. Their art and wine-centric itineraries, as well as onboard entertainment, are focused on local customs and culture — performances by European dancers, art classes and wine tastings keep passengers occupied onboard. Choose from 10 to 20 day cruises and discover the Danube lifestyle.
- Celebrate European wine heritage on a cruise that showcases the acclaimed wine regions along the Danube. Wine cruises are hosted by top wine experts and feature complimentary lectures, wine tastings, fine-dining options with paired wines, and excursions to historic vineyards and wine cellars.
- Most staterooms offer French Balconies or revolutionary Twin Balconies – a French Balcony plus a separate Outside Balcony for privacy to bask in your river cruise.
- Every lunch and dinner on board includes regional wines as well as complimentary beer and soft drinks. In Europe, complimentary sparkling wine is also served with breakfast!
- Most ships carry more than two dozen bicycles and safety helmets, free for use to explore riverside bikeways or participate in complimentary guided bike tours.
- Try one of the land programs available with deluxe hotel stays. These are fully-hosted by an AmaWaterways cruise manager and include daily complimentary hot buffet breakfast, a complimentary city tour and transfer from ship to hotel!
Scenic has been resoundingly awarded for their inclusive shore excursions and spacious ships (cleverly named Space-Ships). Every destination and itinerary includes Freechoice excursions so you can choose to explore at your own pace. More importantly, all fares include meals, drinks, excursions, internet access and butler service. Choose from 8 to 30 day cruises and experience inclusive river cruising.
- Choose from handpicked and unique excursions, such as a private Viennese evening concert featuring the classical music of Strauss and Mozart or a traditional home-cooked meal hosted by a local family in Croatia – all included.
- Tailormade tours are self-paced and self-guided, meaning you can explore locations with exclusive GPS devices that share insights and stories behind each place of interest.
- Onboard dining fare is sourced from regional suppliers and the cruise line’s chefs draw inspiration from the local region. There is an extensive selection of complimentary beverages as well.
- Scenic Space-Ships offer some of the largest staterooms and suites on any fleet. Their Sun Lounge balconies open up to extra space as well as the unfolding landscape.
- Be sure to attend the exclusive Scenic Sundowners cocktail reception, held on shore at some of the most remarkable riverside locations.
- Take in the ever-changing scenery aboard the ship on the Sun Deck – with patio seating and amazing views.