Beginning Saturday, I’ll be cruising the Romantic Danube on Viking River Cruises.
I’ve cruised the Danube many times, and I consider this to be a good starter itinerary for those who want to give river cruising a try. On a single itinerary, you visit some of Europe’s greatest cities, including Budapest, Vienna and historic Nuremberg. Plus, you’ll step ashore in some charming ports of call, such as Melk, Passau and lovely Regensburg.
Read more about Viking River Cruises’ Romantic Danube itinerary on our sister site, River Cruise Advisor.
Romantic Danube Itinerary
- Saturday, December 15. Arrive in Budapest, Hungary’s vibrant capital divided by the Danube River. Transfer from the airport to your ship. After boarding, you have free time to take a stroll beside the Danube or in the Váci Utca, a pedestrian thoroughfare featuring shops and cafés. We’ve written a great deal about Budapest on our sister site, River Cruise Advisor. Click Budapest, Hungary for stories and photos to inspire you to visit this great city on the Danube. Also see Last Night at the Budapest Christmas Market.
- Sunday, December 16. Budapest. Your morning begins with a panoramic tour of the Pest side of the city. Journey along Andrássy Avenue and see the 19th- and 20th-century mansions, National Opera House, Parliament Building and Chain Bridge. Stop in Heroes’ Square to learn more about Hungarian history, then cross the Danube to Buda’s Castle District. Walk up the hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church; enjoy brilliant views. Rejoin your ship in Visegrád for lunch as we begin cruising along the scenic Danube River. Enjoy a midafternoon Viennese coffee workshop, complete with apple strudel. See In Pictures: A Day in Beautiful Budapest, Hungary
- Monday, December 17. Arrive in Vienna just after breakfast for your half-day city tour. See some of Vienna’s gracious architecture, then ride along the beautiful Ringstrasse with sights including the Opera House, Stadtpark and Hofburg Theater. You then see St. Stephan’s Cathedral. After lunch aboard, the afternoon is yours to further explore this city on your own. Shop along the Kärtnerstrasse or take an optional excursion to Schönbrunn Palace, home of Maria Theresa and summer residence of the Habsburgs. Dinner is served aboard and you may choose to complete your day in this “City of Waltzes” with an optional evening concert. Read more about Vienna on River Cruise Advisor. Be sure to check out A Day in Vienna, Austria.
- Tuesday, December 18. After breakfast, sail through the stunningly scenic Wachau Valley to the Benedictine abbey at Melk, and join a guided tour through the ornate interior of this baroque architectural gem. See its elaborate frescoes and admire the library’s extensive collection of medieval manuscripts; enjoy the garden courtyard and the terrace’s Wachau Valley views. Rejoin your ship for dinner and leisurely cruising along the Danube — taste some local Austrian specialties as you spot charming riverside towns and castle ruins here and there. Read more about Melk on River Cruise Advisor. Be sure to check out In Pictures: Melk, Austria.
- Wednesday, December 19. Enjoy a glorious morning arrival in Passau, at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. Your guided walk along the town’s narrow streets takes you through the Old Town and past traditional patrician houses. You see the Oberhaus Fortress and visit the impressive baroque St. Stephan’s Cathedral with its ornate interior. Eat lunch aboard, but return to the city for further exploration on your own before an early evening departure and cruise through the night. Check out all of our stories about Passau.
- Thursday, December 20. After breakfast, meet your guide dockside for a walking tour through the scenic town of Regensburg, considered one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities. See one of the largest groupings of 13th- and 14th-century church spires, towers and patrician houses north of the Alps. You also encounter the 12th-century Old Stone Bridge, St. Peter’s Cathedral and a number of idyllic courtyards. Take time to stroll the streets, shop or visit Germany’s oldest restaurant, the Alte Wurstküche. Lunch served aboard. This afternoon, enjoy scenic cruising along the Danube River—or take an optional Danube Gorge excursion. Travel by road to Kelheim and board a ferryboat to the Danube Gorge’s dramatic scenery and spectacular 400-foot chalk cliffs. Visit Weltenburg Abbey, renowned for the dark ale brewed here by monks since 1050, then rejoin your ship in Kelheim in time for dinner aboard.
- Friday, December 21. Main-Danube Canal & Nuremberg. Early this morning, you sail through a number of locks that comprise the Main-Danube Canal, an engineering marvel stretching 106 miles from Bamberg on the Main River to Kelheim on the Danube. Begun as Charlemagne’s dream in 793, it was completed in 1992 with 16 locks that raise the water level 1,332 feet. Today it enables river travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Arrive during breakfast in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second largest city. Your tour features the former Nazi parade grounds and the Palace of Justice, historic home of the Nuremberg Trials; or, join an optional World War II history tour visiting the Documentation Center Museum. You have a brief stop at the Court House before returning to the Old Town area enclosed by ancient city walls. Your tour ends with a walk from the imperial castle grounds past the Albrecht Dürer House on your way to the Main Market Square with its elaborate Gothic fountain. Lunch is served aboard, but you have the rest of the day to explore. Your ship remains docked overnight. Read more about Nuremberg on River Cruise Advisor.
- Saturday, December 22. After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight. I could have extended my trip with three nights in Prague, Czech Republic, but I’ll be ending my Romantic Danube cruise just in time for the holidays.