Nothing beats the Danube River for romantic journeys amidst breathtakingly scenic landscapes. This waterway spans 1,777 miles (2,860 km) and meanders through the very heart of Europe. Needless to say, the very best way to discover the cultural gems along the Danube is on a cruise, where the scenery comes to you! Pass by lush valleys, sprawling vineyards and famous cities, including musical Vienna and the ‘Pearl of the Danube’, Budapest.
Vienna is the capital of Austria and the centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has retained its beauty and grandeur it attained when it was the centre of the Habsburg empires. Vienna offers a variety of different coffees in its many cafes, as well as delicious local cuisine. This is also a great opportunity for people watching. There are open-air film festivals in the summer and classical music concerts from May to December and if you visit during the carnival season, try to attend one of the many über-glamorous balls. Cultural must-sees include the intriguing Kunsthistorisches Museum, the stunning Schonbrunn Palace and the absolutely exquisite State Opera House.
As capital city of Hungary, Budapest has important cultural and architectural significance on the Danube River, along with the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrassy Avenue, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In fact if you arrive via a river cruise Danube scenery will be panoramic as the city is split into two districts by the mighty river; Buda and Pest. The city has a world-class music scene and a vibrant nightlife. It is a favourite place for the youth of Europe to visit. It is called the Paris of the East and offers a lot to see and do. There are many high-quality museums including the Aquincum from Roman times, The Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and many more.
Known as the ‘City of Three Rivers’, the city of Passau was first settled by the Celts long before the Romans came. The Romans considered it a strategic area of the peninsula of Passau and with a fortress, it became an important city. The economy was based on the salt business, and most of the ancient buildings are still in use. Visitors enjoy seeing the nearby Bavarian Forest where there are many wild animals. The world’s largest cathedral organ is in St Stephan’s Cathedral and, at noon, there are concerts.
As largest city in Slovakia as well as the capital, Bratislava has a beautiful medieval inner city that has winding, narrow streets and a hill-top castle located right next to the Danube River. St. Martin’s Cathedral is one of the oldest in the city. It was built in 1204 and re-consecrated in 1445. Visitors can also enjoy a meal in the UFO restaurant observation deck on New Bridge. The Bratislava Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are fascinating places for a stroll to see some exotic animals and relax. Visitors who are in the city during Christmas enjoy the Christmas market. It is not as commercialized as other markets in Europe and has a traditional, friendly atmosphere.
The small serene town of Melk on the Danube River, it located within the Wachau Valley of Austria. Melk is famous for its Benedictine Abbey, which is built on a bluff and overlooks the river and part of the town. The restored gold–bullion gilding of statues is impressive in the Abbey church. One of the favourite activities for visitors is the bicycle ride along the river. It is about 40kms and takes about three hours. It travels through the Wachau Valley and winds along paved roads through picturesque villages. For visitors who prefer less strenuous sightseeing, there are boat rides along the river with stopovers.