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Top Trip Memories

  • Sipping wine on deck or on your own balcony as your river cruise boat drifts past an ever-changing panorama of old-world Europe.
  • Enjoying your cozy cabin – after unpacking just once – and letting your ship serve as your floating hotel, with all meals included.
  • Gliding into Budapest, Hungary, known as the “Queen of the Danube” for its dramatic setting along the river.
  • Wending your way through Austria’s gently curving Wachau Valley, a photographer’s dream dotted with vineyards, castles, monasteries and pastoral villages.
  • Exploring Vienna, Austria, home to Habsburg palaces, grand boulevards, decadent pastries, and the musical legacies of Strauss and Mozart.
  • Touring Passau, Germany, Bavaria’s “Three Rivers City,” where the Danube, Inn and Ilz meet, and the imposing Oberhaus Fortress overlooks it all.
  • Basking in the scenic splendors of the narrow gorges known as the Iron Gate: Lined with white limestone cliffs, it’s one of Europe’s most memorable natural wonders.
  • Meandering the streets of ancient Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, where Baroque palaces and Gothic cathedrals are juxtaposed with bustling sidewalk cafes.
  • Discovering the oldest town on the Danube – Regensburg, Germany – which dates back 2,500 years to a riverside Celtic settlement .
  • Cycling sections of the Danube Bike Trail, which extends nearly the entire length of the river, while your river cruise boat anchors in port.
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Tour Tips

  • Because the Danube is Europe’s longest river outside Russia, you have several choices of routes.
  • The most popular stretch flows from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary (or reverse).
  • Allow at least eight days for your cruise (for the Nuremberg-Budapest itinerary) and up to two weeks or more to sail farther into Eastern Europe.
  • Going downriver – from west to east -- tends to be a smoother voyage, though seasickness is seldom a problem.
  • To judge the best value as opposed to just the lowest price, watch for how many “extras” are included in the base rate – port excursions, alcohol, balcony cabins -- that could add to the cost.
  • Many Danube itineraries include options for intriguing side trips away from the river – such as to Salzburg in Austria or to medieval Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.
  • You can combine a Danube river cruise with a Rhine river cruise through Germany all the way to Amsterdam via a canal replete with locks.
  • For maximum privacy and comfort, consider splurging on a balcony cabin, where you can relax and watch the changing riverside tableau pass by.
  • May through September is the most popular (and expensive) season on the Danube (September often offers the most pleasant weather with fewer crowds).
  • Don’t overlook the magic of Yuletide cruises, when the entire region comes alive with colorful outdoor Christmas markets.
  • Some Danube River cruise lines market almost exclusively to baby boomers aged 50 and up, while others also cater to younger passengers.
  • If you plan on traveling alone on your cruise, check into policies on charging for single supplements; they might match you with a same-sex roommate to avoid the extra charge.
  • Some luxury river cruise lines offer special evening events on shore – such as private concerts or dining in palaces – or provide complimentary bicycles for sightseeing and exercise.
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Danube River Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.7 out of 5

100%

recommend

43 Reviews

  • Excellent 31
  • Great 11
  • Average 1
  • Disappointing 0
  • Terrible 0

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.7
  • Guide
    4.7
  • Activities
    4.7
  • Lodging
    4.7
  • Transportation
    4.7
  • Meals
    4.7

Tour Reviews

Danube River Cruise with Dracular's castle

Danube Discovery Cruise

5.0
November 2016
SmarTours
Recommend: Yes
We thought the trip was excellent. The river boat was good and the people on the boat were VERY gracious. I loved the size of the river boat. Our TD, Dusan J, was excellent. Would have loved for him to stay with us the whole trip. He left after the cruise and we had another one for mountain portion of the trip. He was OK but I can't remember his name. He was very knowledgeable about the area. It would be better if you kept same one for all of the trip. I will take another river cruise with smarTours.
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5.0
November 2016
SmarTours
Recommend: Yes
Renata, our guide, was outstanding. She went beyond what guides normaly do to make this tour unforgettable.
5.0
October 2016
SmarTours
Recommend: Yes
I just returned from this trip a few days ago. The food, guides, history and scenery was wonderful throughout the tour. What a lovely surprise Poland was with its beautiful buildings and interesting history. I took all the optional tours which added greatly to the overall tour and they were a good value for the money. Overall it was a great trip.
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5.0
October 2016
SmarTours
Recommend: Yes
What a fabulous tour...great tour guide(s), great accommodations, wonderful food and lovely people on the tour!
5.0
October 2016
SmarTours
Recommend: Yes
Thank you for organizing such a variety of experiences for the great cities tour. Renata, our guide, was brilliant, organized, interesting, and made our journey memorable. She gave us many tips to elevate our enjoyment and keep us safe. This is my second trip with Smartours and I'll continue to use your company....a great value, thoroughly educational, and a quality adventure!
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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Classic Westbound Danube River Cruise

A Danube river cruise is one of the best ways to see the heart of Europe. With two weeks, you can cover a lot of ground at a more leisurely pace - plus have the opportunity for longer shore excursions which will hit upon both the major cities and smaller attractions.

Day 1: Arrive in your beginning city. Many classic Danube river cruises begin in Budapest or Prague.

Day 2, Prague: Walk across the famous Chain Bridge, visit the Jewish Quarter and see the Old Royal Palace. Enjoy a local meal and overnight stay before taking a scenic drive to Budapest where you will embark your river cruise vessel.

Day 3-4, Budapest: Enjoy the day exploring the city. Take in the architectural marvel that is the Hungarian Parliament building, climb Gellert Hill, walk across any one of Budapest’s famous bridges, explore the Great Market Hall.

Day 5-6, Slovakia: Slovakia is a beautiful country, with massive green forests and hidden castles. Explore the capital of Bratislava and take in the sights from Castle Hill.

Day 7-8, Vienna: Sail from Prague to Vienna, where the cities strong music legacy will come alive. Visit the Opera House, enjoy a classic Viennese pastry as you walk the beautiful streets.

Day 9, Melk: Explore the Benedictine Abbey

Day 10-11, Passau: Optional day trip to Salzburg, or take a walking tour of the city

Cruises that follow this itinerary:

Enchanting Danube Cruise with Uniworld - 8 Days, premium trip

Magnificent Europe Westbound - 15 Days, premium trip

Imperial Spendors with Globus - 10 Days, premium trip

Or see All Danube River Cruises

Classic Eastbound Danube River Cruise

Another popular Danube River option is to travel east, where you will experience Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, as well as some Balkan states, depending on the cruise line.

Day 1, Arrive starting city: Many eastbound Danube River cruises begin in Germany

Day 2, Passau: Take a walking tour and visit St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

Day 3, Salzburg: Take a day trip through the historic city and Sound of Music setting. Set said this evening to begin your Danube river cruise experience.

Day 4, Vienna: Learn the strong music legacy of the city. Visit the Opera House, enjoy a classic Viennese pastry as you walk the beautiful streets.

Day 5, Budapest: Take in the architectural marvel that is the Hungarian Parliament building, climb Gellert Hill, walk across any one of Budapest’s famous bridges, explore the Great Market Hall.

Day 6, Moacs: Still in Hungary, take a day excursion to Pecs with its extensive Turkish influence.

Day 7, Croatia: Enter Croatia and explore the beautiful city of Osijek, which has existed since Neolithic times.

Day 8, Serbia: Explore the city of Belgrade and Kalemegdan Fortress, Nicolas Tesla Museum

Day 9, Bulgaria: Veliko Tarnovo, see the royal castle ruins at Tsaravets Hill

Day 10, Vidin: Continuing through Bulgaria, see the Belogradchik Fortress,

Day 11-12, Romania: End your journey in beautiful Romania. Tour Bucharest, where you’ll see Royal Palace Square, Patriarchal Church, and the famous  Arch of Triumph.

Cruises that follow this itinerary:

Balkan Adventure with Intrepid - 15 Days, value trip

Danube Reflections with Tauck Tours - 12 Days, premium trip

Grand Danube Cruise, Eastbound with Avalon Waterways - 18 Days, premium trip

Or see All Danube River Cruises

Danube River Cruise Highlights in 1 Week

When you take a river cruise on the Danube, you are surrounded by impressive history from start to finish. Coupled with spectacular views of old and new Europe, it’s a trip that’s sure to inspire.

Day 1-2, Budapest: Take in the architectural marvel that is the Hungarian Parliament building, climb Gellert Hill, walk across any one of Budapest’s famous bridges, explore the Great Market Hall.

Day 3, Bratislava: Enjoy a walking tour of this fascinating, vibrant city, to see Mirbach Palace, and the St Martin Gothic Cathedral.

Day 4, Vienna: Explore the classical music heritage here. Visit the famous Opera House, Hofburg Palace, and tour the Spanish Riding School for a glimpse of the famous Lipizzan horses.

Day 5, Melk: Melk Abbey, wine tasting in the Dürnstein region. Discover the history of Richard the Lionheart.

Day 6, Passau: Tour St. Stephen’s Cathedral and see its main claim to fame: the largest pipe organ in Europe!

Day 7, Nuremberg: In your last stop, visit Zeppelin Field, the Palace of Justice, and explore ancient sites in Old Town.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Romantic Danube with Viking River Cruises - 8 Days, luxury trip

Enchanting Danube with Uniworld - 8 Days, premium trip

Danube River Cruise Bike Tour with Backroads - 8 Days, premium trip

Or see All One Week Danube River Cruises

Danube River Trips & Tour Advice

The blue Danube, which flows for nearly 1,800 miles across ten countries, is one of Europe’s most romantic, enchanting waterways. With a variety of Danube River cruise lines offering a wide range of itineraries, how do you decide which is best for you? Stride helps you waltz through the entire process of comparing, choosing and booking the perfect Danube cruise to fulfill your fantasies.

For much of the Roman era and, later, the Ottoman Empire, the Danube River marked the northern border of their conquests. For the Greek historian Herodotus, the Danube was the “King of European Rivers.” For medieval tradesmen, the Danube was a vital lifeline linking otherwise isolated villages. For Viennese composer Johann Strauss II, the river offered inspiration for his Blue Danube Waltz, one of the most beloved pieces of 19th-century classical music.

For modern-day travelers, the Danube is known as one of the top river cruising destinations in the world. Stretching from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, a distance of 1,777 miles, the Danube is second in length only to Russia’s Volga among European rivers. But its allure as a romantic waterway ranks second to none.

A Danube River Cruise

By far the most relaxing and intimate way to view the Danube is by a river cruise. The key is to find a Danube river cruise that meets – or, ideally, surpasses – your expectations. Since Danube River cruising is so heavily oriented toward port stops – with sightseeing offered frequently along the routes – it’s crucial to decide which of its diverse regions you want to visit.

The popular Nuremberg to Budapest itinerary will entice you with the grandeur of Vienna – the jewel of Austria’s once-powerful Habsburg Empire -- and the beauty of Budapest, where the Danube slices through the heart of the city. Medieval-era towns – some still perfectly preserved – also adorn this route. The 12th-century-era village of Dȕrnstein in Austria’s Wachau Valley – where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned during the Crusades – and the nearby town of Melk, home to a restored 11th-century Benedictine Abbey, are two superb examples.

Sailing the Danube in Far Eastern Europe

But don’t overlook the possibility of exploring deeper into Eastern Europe. Beyond Hungary, the Danube flows through or past Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine, before emptying into the Black Sea. The Danube’s Iron Gate, a series of narrow, steep gorges bordering Serbia and Romania, rivals Austria’s Wachau Valley for sheer scenic glory.

It’s also possible to explore a number of less-traveled small towns as well as big cities – including Belgrade and Bucharest in this emerging region of Europe. (Since Eastern Europe is now experiencing rapid development, it’s a good idea to visit now.)

Choosing Your Danube River Cruise Line

Equally important is to choose among the variety of Danube river cruise lines, each with its own style and appeal. Among the top choices, Viking River Cruises features the most ships and caters to English-speaking passengers age 55 and up; Scenic Cruises, Tauck, and Uniworld trumpet luxury, exceptional service and all-inclusive rates; AMA Waterways and Avalon Waterways are more budget-oriented but offer a wide range of itineraries, including Christmas market cruises; and Grand Circle, popular with American retirees, has a reputation for its excellent guides and shore excursions.

But there’s no reason to be daunted by the array of possibilities. Instead, relax and let Stride do the heavy lifting for you: we’ve laid it all out here for you to comparison shop for the Danube river tour of your dreams -- the one that will soon have you waltzing down the Danube to your own special rhythms.

Find more useful tips in our blog post "Top Ten Tips for Choosing a European Cruise Line." 

More Danube River Guided Tours

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