Danube River Cruises
Danube river cruises take you on a fascinating journey through 2,000 years of history and an ever-changing montage of stunning scenery: revealing magnificent capitals, medieval wine-making villages and idyllic landscapes, all at a wonderfully gentle pace.
Flowing for over 1,700 miles through the heart of Europe, the Danube is the continent’s second-longest river after the Volga in Russia. Rising in Germany’s mountainous Black Forest, this celebrated waterway then winds through nine more countries: Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. Since early history, it has served as a cradle for Europe’s civilisations and cultures. The Greeks traded from its banks in the 7th century BC, while several centuries later, it marked the northernmost boundary of the vast Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, the river proved an important trading route, nurturing great cities such as Vienna and Budapest and the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, it’s still a vital artery, with more than 3,500 ships traversing its delta every year.
Why Danube river cruises?
On Avalon Danube cruises, you’ll see more than you can ever imagine. The Danube glides effortlessly through remarkably beautiful valleys, half-timbered villages, castle-topped hillsides, great cities and epic landmarks. After leaving the Black Forest, it meanders towards the medieval gems of Regensburg and Passau before reaching Melk, nestled in Austria’s postcard-perfect Wachau wine valley. Here, Melk’s glorious Benedictine monastery affords phenomenal views over the river and emerald vineyards below. Next comes Dürnstein, an enchanting town with a blue-painted Stiftskirche and ruined castle, once prison to Richard the Lionheart.
Further downstream lies Austria’s capital, Vienna. The celebrated ‘City of Music’ inspired Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss, stirring the latter to pen the ‘Blue Danube’ waltz in 1866. Once the seat of the Hapsburg Emperors, the city overflows with iconic sights, from the imperial Ringstrasse encircling its old town to the ornate Hofsburg Palace and Opera House.
From here, the Danube flows to Slovakia’s charming capital, Bratislava, before reaching Budapest, Hungary’s capital, with its seven bridges, imposing Parliament building and historic Buda district, home to the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. And hidden downstream in untouched southern Hungary is little-known Kalocsa, a delightful Baroque town famed for its ‘red gold’ – spicy paprika.
The Danube then crosses into Serbia, carving a path to its atmospheric capital Belgrade. Now undergoing a renaissance, this fascinating city offers imposing cathedrals, buzzing squares and intriguing museums. The river then snakes through hills peppered with Roman fortresses before reaching the rugged Iron Gates Gorge, a spectacular, narrow passage dividing the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains. A clutch of Bulgaria’s treasures lie nearby – including Veliko Târnovo, its stone-built former capital huddled up three hillsides. Further downstream, the Danube passes within easy reach of Romania’s lively capital, Bucharest, with its colossal Palace of Parliament and Communist-era boulevards. Next comes the UNESCO-protected Danube Delta at the Black Sea, whose pristine wetlands are home to extraordinarily rich wildlife.
Cruising the Danube, Main & Rhine
Many Avalon Danube cruises extend from the Danube along Europe’s Main and Rhine Rivers. From Regensburg, the Main-Danube Canal connects the Danube to Germany’s Main River and beautifully restored, medieval Nuremberg, where some itineraries offer excursions to the 1,000-year-old Czech Republic capital, Prague. Upstream, a string of quaint villages and romantic landscapes await as the Main meets the Rhine. From UNESCO-listed Bamberg and the breathtaking Rhine Gorge around the Lorelei Rock all the way to majestic Cologne and pretty Amsterdam - the latter sometimes serving as an embarkation or disembarkation-point – these longer cruises promise an unforgettable voyage along the Danube and through the best of northern Europe.