Highlights Of A Slow Float Through Heritage Sites, Christmast Markets & Fascinating Cities
Could there be a better way to see Europe than floating down its most famous river – the Danube? The mighty waterway winds its way past imperial castles, lush vineyards, stately cathedrals, modern cities and historic monuments through 2,000 years of history. Here are some of the highlights along the way...
An enchanting city often referred to as the “Queen of the Danube”, Budapest has two parts – Buda, the hills, and Pest, the flat lands – divided by the Danube.
• City Highlights: St. Stephen’s Basilica; the Dohány Street Synagogue; the Hungarian National Museum; the Opera House; the Parliament Building; the UNESCO-designated Castle Hill district and St. Matthias Church; views from the 19th-century Fisherman’s Bastion.
• Shore Excursions: Walking tours that include the Central Market Hall, where you’ll have a chance to sample some local delicacies and a stroll along Váci Utca, the main shopping street where Budapest’s affluent citizens have come to see and be seen for more than 100 years.
• Christmas Markets: The Christmas Market on Vörösmarty Square, to shop for traditional Hungarian wares and holiday treats like spiced wine and cinnamon-spiced gingerbread. Highlights include a two-metre Advent wreath and a hand-carved manger, part of a Nativity scene that includes live animals. Savour traditional honey cakes with spiced wine or aromatic coffee.
A one-time capital of the Hungarian Empire (11 kings and eight royal wives were crowned here between 1563 and 1830), Bratislava is now the capital of one of the world’s youngest countries.
• City Highlights: the city’s Old Town including St. Michael’s Tower, Zichy’s Palace, Palify’s Palace, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Old Town Hall, Franciscan Square, Primatial Square; Danube’s Left Bank including Hodza’s Square and Hviezdoslav’s Square.
• Christmas Markets: Bratislava’s first Christmas Market was established in 1993, but Slovakians have quickly embraced the holiday traditions of their Austrian and Hungarian neighbours, filling stalls with distinctive local folk art.
The former imperial capital of the Hapsburg Empire, Vienna is an architectural treasure trove. It’s also a city of sophisticated art, dining and shopping this is set against a backdrop of baroque splendour.
• City Highlights: Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Austrian National Library (said to be the most beautiful library in the world), the Ringstrasse; the State Opera; Shoenbrunn Palace; The Belvedere, Kunsthistorisches Museum; St. Stephen’s Cathedral; and coffeehouses, of course.
• Shore Excursions: Walking tours of the city’s historic centre. Sip a coffee in a traditional café and then explore Vienna’s oldest square, Hoher Markt, with its Ankeruhr, an Art Nouveau clock that features a parade of 12 historical figures. Walking tours of Vienna’s shopping streets.
• Christmas Markets: Austria’s most famous Christmas Market, with more than 140 wooden huts, is set in front of City Hall; the smaller but equally charming Christmas Market at Freyung Square, which has taken place every winter since 1772.
The beautiful Wachau Valley, a 30-kilometre stretch of the Danube between Krems and Melk, that winds between steep, densely wooded slopes on the south side and a mixture of crags and south-facing vineyards on the north, has been declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape by UNESCO. Dotted along the banks are small historic towns and winemaking communities.
• Valley Highlights: The white church in Weissenkirchen; Gottweig Abbey in Krems; the Baroque village of Durnstein; the Benedictine abbey in Melk.
• Shore Excursions: Walking tours in Weissenkirchen that include a sample of the local apricot schnapps; a guided hike through a celebrated vineyard and a taste of the wines; a visit to Melk’s magnificent abbey, a masterpiece of Baroque art and architecture situated high atop granite cliffs; guided cycling tour of the entire Valley
Austria’s third-largest city boasts ultra-modern artworks and masterworks of the 19th and 20th centuries housed in gleaming new galleries along with the charming centuries-old architecture of the Old City. The Main Square is the largest in Central Europe, and a ride up the continent’s steepest traction railway yields panoramic views all the way to the Alps.
• City Highlights: Landhaus, a Renaissance tower and Kremsmünstererhof, an historic hotel in the Old City; the Old Market and, of course, Linzer torte.
• Shore Excursions: A visit to a local farm and a sampling of Most, the local hard cider made from pears and apples; a daytrip to Salzburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its well-preserved Medieval town centre and musical heritage. See Mozart’s childhood home; the enchanting Mirabellgarten; and the garden from the famous “Do-Re-Mi” scene in The Sound of Music, which was filmed here in 1964.
• Christmas Markets: The illuminations on the Landstrasse in Linz link two Christmas markets – the Hauptplatz and the Volksgarten markets. Salzburg’s Christmas Market, at the foot of the Hohen-salzburg and around the cathedral features the aroma of spiced wine and Austrian pastries, holiday performances, and traditional handcrafts.
Passau Tourismus e.V.
Sitting at the confluence of three rivers – the Danube, Inn and Ilz – Passau was a key centre of European trade for centuries. The city’s Baroque buildings, erected after the fire of 1662, add Italian flair to the quintessentially Medieval German town centre, with its winding streets and narrow alleys.
• City Highlights: St. Stephan’s Cathedral and Europe’s larges pipe organ; the New Residence; Town Hall.
• Shore Excursions: city walking tour; cycling excursions along the riverbank.
• Christmas Markets: Passau’s Christmas Market, set against the glorious backdrop of St. Stephan’s Cathedral, boasts unique crafts, including Bavarian-style miniature houses and glass ornaments.
Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmbH
Housing the highest concentration of bars in Germany, Regensburg is also one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in Europe, capturing 2,000 years of history with 1,500 listed historic buildings.
• City Highlights: UNESCO World Heritage Old Town with Stadtamhof ensemble; the 12th-century Stone Bridge; the towering Gothic cathedral; Krauterermarkt square; Cathedral Treasury Museum; historic Adler Pharmacy; Golden Tower, the highest medieval residential tower north of the Alps.
• Shore Excursions: A city walking tour of historic sites or sites associated with Germany’s oldest Jewish community; the Audi Factory.
Deutsche Zentrale fur Tourismus e.V.
A city of emperors and princes, leaders and followers, inventors and scholars, Nuremberg is Germany’s most vibrant museum of history. The medieval fortress begun in 1140 and expanded until the 17th century is the beginning of the Historical Mile, a route that passes city fortifications, ornate churches, elaborate fountains and reminders of Nuremberg’s place in international trade.
• City Highlights: Deutsche Bahn Museum; Albrecht Durer House; Nazi Party Rally Grounds; Old Town; Germanic National Museum; Nuremberg Trials Memorial.
• Shore Excursions: guided tour of the city’s most important Second World War sites; walking tour of Old Town.
• Christmas Market: Christkindlesmarkt, a tradition for more than 400 years, is the largest and oldest Christmas Market in Germany and offers up traditional crafts, decorations, food and spiced wine.