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Black Forest to Black Sea: A river cruise guide to the Danube

Destination Reviews

The mighty Danube flows an extraordinary 1,800 miles from its source in the Black Forest of Germany via Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania to its delta at the Black Sea.

As you might imagine, the cruise options along this historic highway are varied and exciting. The river is a gateway to four capitals - Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava and Belgrade - and its banks feature spectacular scenery, national parks and breath-taking waterfronts.

The Danube is the ideal choice for your first river cruise, as it offers everything: extraordinary cities, pretty villages, great music, rich history, Jewish heritage, cultural treasures, art and architecture, with so many things to see and do. Remote abbeys, terraced vineyards and beautiful countryside contrast with signature ports of call packed with 'must see' attractions. Most river cruise vessels carry bicycles, and this is a wonderful region to explore by bike.

Schobuehel Castle on the Danube, Austria

When selecting your Danube cruise, you have choices: from the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal through to Passau, you will learn so much World War II history visiting the courthouse, the Zeppelin Field rallying ground and the museum at Nuremburg, in contrast to the pretty town of Bamberg, for a short time the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. Other highlights include the lovely medieval Bavarian city of Passau, home to Europe's largest pipe organ, where the river features three colours at the meeting of the brown Danube, the green Inn and the black Ilz.

AmaWaterways - AmaPrima at Passau

Dress up and waltz into Vienna for a classical music concert, where sweet strains of Strauss come alive, visit the Spanish Riding School to see the Lipizzaner horses, and stop off at the famous Hotel Sacher for indulgent Sacher Torte. Relive the magic - and the dark undertones - of The Sound of Music on a trip from Salzburg. Roam the lands of the Habsburgs, and feel the long arm of history stretch through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, with all its pomp and circumstance.

Alte Hofburg in Vienna, Austria

As you cruise through the picture pretty Wachau Valley, sit out on deck to enjoy the landscape of green hills, dotted with red-roofed houses, and the Benedictine Abbey that rises high above the town of Melk.

Melk Abbey, Austria

Sailing into Budapest, with its grand palaces bathed in sunlight, is an unforgettable experience, and an excellent introduction to your tours of these two towns (Buda and Pest) sitting astride the river.

Scenic Crystal in Budapest, Hungary

Less known is the onward stretch through Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania all the way to the Black Sea, visiting the proud cities of Belgrade, capital of Serbia, and Bucharest, the Romanian capital, with plenty of time to explore the wide tree-lined boulevards. For returning visitors, this is an itinerary to look out for and includes the serene Danube Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spectacular scenery of Belogradchik's rock formations and the cruise through the Eisernes Tor, the stunning Iron Gate, a deep river gorge through the Carpathian mountains.

White pelican on the Danube Delta, Romania

Following the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992, a long held dream first cherished by Charlemagne back in 793 AD, it is now possible to cruise all the way from Amsterdam on the North Sea right though to Constanta on the Black Sea, an extraordinary 28-day journey.

Download our River Cruising Uncovered brochure

Thinking about a river cruise but don't know where to start? Our informative guide is packed full of everything you need to know, including which cruise lines we recommend, what to expect on each river and how to make the most of your trip...

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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