The Danube is regarded as a queen among rivers, cutting a regal path across the European continent that takes it through 10 countries and numerous cities.
This waterway, the second-longest in Europe after the Volga, is still a working river, but stands unique as the world’s only river to flow through the capitals of four countries: Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Belgrade (Serbia) and Budapest (Hungary), and is divided into two distinct parts.
The Upper Danube, running westwards from Budapest to Regensburg in Germany, travels through Bratislava and Austria, past Vienna and through the rolling hills of the spellbindingly-pretty Wachau Valley with its historic settlements, vineyards, cycle paths and hiking trails.
The Lower Danube stretches eastwards from Budapest to Romania, where the majesty of the of the Iron Gate Gorge and its mountainous setting is a scenic backdrop that adds to the fascination of exploring these former Communist nations. The Danube Delta, where the river flows into the Black Sea, is an unspoilt lush wilderness known for its rich birdlife and biodiverse habitats.
But Budapest sits arguably as the star of this river, the spires of its Gothic parliament building and distinctive towers of Fisherman’s Bastion lookout making it a highlight of Danube cruises, especially at night when the city’s illuminated skyline makes it one of the best sights on any river cruise.
Most sailings operate from March to November, though as summers can be hot, spring and autumn are considered to be ideal with seasonal colours and mild temperatures that make excursions and activities such as cycling trips, more comfortable. Christmas market cruises bring festive cheer to sailings from late November into December, while cruises over Christmas and New Year add a yuletide flavour.
Cycling and hiking trips through the Wachau Valley, Jewish heritage tours of Budapest, orchestral concerts in Vienna; Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz. Other highlights include Bratislava, Melk Abbey, Bucharest, Iron Gate Gorge, Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, Ruse in Bulgaria, Danube Delta.