View on Passau, the city of three Rivers in Bavaria, Germany.
View on Passau, the city of three Rivers in Bavaria, Germany.

The undulating and splendid Danube flows through ten countries unlike any other river on the planet and touches along its journey the shores of fascinating cities like Passau, Vienna, and Budapest. A river cruise down the Danube is a great way to explore many of Europe’s picturesque places and capture superb views while passing through imposing cities, idyllic towns, and fairytale villages.

The Danube is the second largest river on the European continent and has a long journey ahead, from its beginning, in the Black Forest of Germany, to its end, in Romania’s magnificent Danube Delta where the Black Sea happily receives its waters. It flows along 2,850 km and adds beauty to every place it passes through, creating unforgettable itineraries in countries like Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, and, of course, Germany.

The most popular itinerary: Passau to Budapest

A journey from Budapest to Passau is usually the most popular option for first-time passengers of a river cruise down the Danube. The cruise starts in Budapest and takes passengers to Bratislava, in Slovakia, where they can explore the city and sample the local cuisine. The next stop is Vienna but not before passing along the Danube Bend, a picturesque region of the itinerary, lined with scenic towns and pretty villages you can admire from the sun deck while sipping a cocktail.

Cityscape of Bratislava with river cruise boat
Cityscape of Bratislava with river cruise boat

Vienna probably needs no introduction. A cultural European gem and a cradle for musical and artistic masterpieces…and spectacular pastries, the City of Waltzes is the best destination to attend a classical music concert. The scenery changes suddenly once you arrive at Dürnstein, a lovely town adorned with cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, and the ruins of an intriguing castle, and also a great place to taste fine wine.

The journey continues in the Wachau Valley through the spectacular gorge created by the Danube itself for which it received the World Heritage Landscape distinction from UNESCO. Enjoy a drink and admire rocky slopes dressed in vineyards and orchards, castle ruins perched on hilltops, historic villages, and baroque church towers. The next stop depends on your itinerary and preferences. It can be either Salzburg or Linz, both equally charming and fascinating. The end of your Danube cruise is marked by your arrival in Passau, the place where the Danube meets the Inn and the Ilz rivers and a fantastic destination to be explored by foot or bike.

River cruise on Danube
River cruise on Danube

The off the beaten path itinerary: Nuremberg to Vienna

This Danube river cruise has as departure point the historic Nuremberg, a remarkable city with a rich past and several architectural masterpieces. Don’t miss a tour of this amazing medieval city and a chance to admire its Imperial Castle or learn about its role during WWII. And, of course, don’t leave the city without trying fabulous Franconian specialties, like the local bratwurst or gingerbread.

On the way to your next stop, Regensburg, you’ll get to cruise through the Main-Danube Canal, a captivating man-made canal that connects Nuremberg to the Danube. A tour of Regensburg will familiarize you with the town’s history and lead your steps to the Old Town Hall and the Porta Praetoria, both memorable sights. The tour is accompanied by delicious beer, sausages, and pretzels. Take your place back on the deck and relax while waiting to get to Passau where a walk along its narrow paths will reward you with a chance to admire Gothic and Italian Baroque architecture.

Next on your itinerary will probably be the pretty town of Melk, renowned especially as home to an extraordinary Benedictine Abbey, one of the largest monasteries in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This also is a great spot for hiking and biking, so as soon as you’ll be manifesting your interest in spending some time close to nature, you’ll get access to the necessary guidance and gear. The evening can be spent at one of the vineyards in the Wachau Valley if you wish to taste the local wines. Imperial Vienna awaits at the end of your Danube cruise with an abundance of architectural, historic, and artistic gems, so don’t hesitate to visit its palaces, museums, and other grand buildings.

The Parliament building on Danube river, Budapest
The Parliament building down the Danube river, Budapest, Hungary

For more Danube cruises, you should check the offers provided by various companies, like AmaWaterways Danube Cruises, Avalon Waterways Danube Cruises, CroisiEurope Danube Cruises, and Scenic Danube Cruise. They have various itineraries, including Budapest to Rousse, Bucharest to Passau, Linz to Budapest, Budapest to Tulcea (where the Danube forms the magnificent Danube Delta), and Vienna to Bucharest.

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