The perfect location for a river tour, the Danube River is the second largest in Europe, stretching from the Black Forest of Germany to the edge of Ukraine into the Dead Sea. A cruise along the Danube offers affordable luxury to explore some beautiful sights of Central and Eastern Europe away from the common tourist traps. Here are just a few of the prettiest stops along the Danube.
Prettiest Danube River Cruise Port Cities
Usually the first port of call, Passau offers plenty to do for lovers of history and art. Enjoy the contrast between the wizened Gothic architecture and contemporary interiors of the Museum Moderner Kunst, which has many small, changing exhibitions showcasing local artists’ work. Meanwhile, the Römermuseum brings a former Roman fortress back to life, displaying both military artefacts from the Roman conquest of Bavaria, with plenty of fun activities for the kids on offer.
Undeniably one of the highlights of Melk has to be the magnificent Benedictine Abbey, featuring a museum in the former Imperial rooms, a grand Imperial staircase decorated with cherubs, and a painted library housing over 90,000 manuscripts and books. A walk further south takes you to the picturesque Wachau Valley, an area containing many small ancient towns dotted around medieval churches. The town of Spitz, further north, has been occupied since the Celtic period and houses historic markets, as well as the curiously named rock formation Teufelsmauer (Devil’s Wall).
Home to yet more incredible cultural and religious history, a more recent point of interest in Bratislava is the Church of St. Elizabeth (a.k.a Blue Church), built in 1911 and remarkable for its cool and modern blue interiors filled with beautiful art nouveau decor. For souvenir shopping, look no further than the Úl’uv Market, full of artisan handicraft workshops and stalls with a variety of folk-art offerings to take home. The other big selling point of Bratislava is the incredible Opera culture, with the National Theatre regularly staging Slavic and International operas, ballets, and dramas, partly catering to English speakers.
The originally divided town of Budapest is a joy for arts lovers. The 9th century Great Synagogue is a beautiful example of traditional Romantic architecture, with many recent additions from national artists for the Holocaust memorials. The eclectically designed Parliament building is open daily for tours in several languages; while later you can enjoy a rest in the art nouveau Gellért Baths.
It’s worth doing your cruise research to compare different routes and what’s available at different times of year. From a short weekend in Bavaria to a Christmas Market tour through to Budapest, the Danube has something to offer every traveller.