From the Three-River City of Passau, embark on a ship journey to the magnificent city of Budapest and back: On this river cruise, you'll experience the thousand-year-old cultural history of Europe up close. Traveling from Germany, you'll leisurely journey aboard a river cruise ship through Austria and Slovakia to Hungary, exploring world-famous capitals like Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava, as well as significant cultural landmarks such as the Basilica of Esztergom or the winemaker village of Weissenkirchen. As you follow in the footsteps of the once glorious Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, you'll simultaneously witness the romantic Danube landscape at its finest. Ahoy!

River cruises are on trend and gaining more and more popularity. Long discovered by seniors, nowadays you'll find both young people and families with children on these elegant river cruise ships. A river cruise is unlike an ocean cruise. The ships are much smaller - accommodating 200 to 300 guests on board - which offers a more personal interaction with the crew. River ships can also navigate narrower ports, allowing them to dock very close to the city center. Seasickness? It's nearly non-existent on a river cruise. And another advantage: a river journey ensures relaxed travel without the need for constant packing and unpacking! To fully enjoy your journey, the choice of cabin is crucial. On the main deck of many modern ships, you'll usually find exterior cabins with portholes. For a special view of the passing landscape, cabins on the upper decks with French balconies or even private balconies are perfect. Intrigued? Then, come aboard!

The embarkation for my Danube river cruise is Passau, a popular starting and ending port for Danube cruises. If you have some time before or after the trip, explore the Three-River City on the border with Austria, where the Danube, Inn, and Ilz converge; easily observed at the Three Rivers Corner, where the waters are distinctly different in color. Moreover, Passau offers many historical sights. Visit the town hall with its Baroque-style halls and colossal paintings depicting the Nibelungenlied and the history of Passau. Or visit the castle and the "Veste Oberhaus" museum opposite the old town. With an area of 56,000 m2, it's one of the mightiest castle complexes in Europe. Another impressive structure in Passau is St. Stephen's Cathedral. Here, you'll encounter not only opulent interiors but also the world's largest organ.

After the warm welcome from the ship's crew, it's time to slow down for a few days, unwind, and enjoy life on board. Sit back and savor the moment. The crew plays a significant role in this; your suitcase is already in your cabin. With your luggage neatly stowed away and your clothes organized, it's time to cast off and, in the next moment, you're already cruising through the wonderful Upper Austrian river landscape. The lounge awaits you for a welcome drink with a fantastic view of the river. One could easily get used to this life on board!

In the evening, gather at the restaurant on the salon deck and raise a toast with the captain and his crew to an eventful journey, followed by an exquisite 4-course dinner. With a bit of luck, you may find pleasant table companions and make lifelong friends.

During the night, the ship passes through several locks and reaches the Wachau early in the morning. After a hearty breakfast, it's time to explore the tranquil village of Weissenkirchen. Surrounded by sunny vine-covered hills and nestled between the silver ribbon of the Danube and green forests, the mighty Gothic parish church of Weissenkirchen rises in the Wachau. Along with the winemaker villages of Joching, Wösendorf, and St. Michael, this winemaker village forms the largest wine-growing community in the Wachau and is one of the most popular vacation spots in the Wachau World Heritage region. In one of the numerous restaurants, try a glass of Grüner Veltliner, the dominant grape variety that produces here extremely fresh and simultaneously fiery wines.

In the afternoon, the cruise continues downstream. Onboard guide Günter invites you to a lecture about the Danube and the Danube countries: The Danube, with a total length of 2,857 kilometers, is, after the Volga, Europe's second-largest and second-longest river, traversing or touching a total of ten countries - more than any other river on Earth. The Danube, one of the oldest and most significant European trade routes, connects different cultures. Political tensions and wars have often led to blockades and disruptions of the waterway. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, however, the Danube has regained its economic importance. The river also hosts many diverse and unspoiled natural habitats, but it's also an important location for hydroelectric power plants and flows into the Black Sea via the vast Danube Delta.

The first extended stop on our Danube river cruise is the former Hungarian capital, Esztergom, with its basilica that must be captured in photos from the ship itself. Esztergom has a compelling history: Until the 11th century, Esztergom was the capital of Hungary and remained the most important place for Hungarian culture for over 400 years. The city, once home to kings in massive palaces, has hardly lost any of its former splendor and is still referred to as the Royal City. The Basilica of Esztergom is its landmark: St. Adalbert's Cathedral. The impressive structure is the country's largest church and a Catholic center at the same time. Rising to a height of 100 meters on Castle Hill, directly by the Danube, it offers a beautiful view of the neighboring Slovak city of Štúrovo, the river valley, and the northern part of Esztergom. Descending the castle hill, you'll see many houses built in Baroque or Rococo style. In general, buildings of various architectural styles represent the city's history. The most beautiful of them can be found on Széchenyi Square and the adjacent streets. After a brief visit to the souvenir shop, you'll continue on the beautiful blue Danube.

For music lovers, a Classical Piano Concert is offered in the panoramic bar, the onboard guide shares entertaining stories, and sun worshippers adjust their deck chairs on the upper deck to enjoy the last rays of the sun. During the night, the ship passes by Bratislava and heads towards Budapest. For all those interested in technology, it's worth staying awake: The ship reaches the Gabcikovo lock at midnight, the largest lock of the entire journey. Here, the ship is lowered by a staggering 20 meters. Soon, the ship cruises past Visegrad at the Danube Bend - a breakthrough of the Danube between the volcanic mountains of Pilis and Börzsenöy - where the Danube turns southward. From here, it's not too far to the Hungarian capital.


Budapest, the "Pearl of the East," can be explored on an optional city tour in the morning. Starting in the Pest district, the journey begins by coach, passing the neo-Gothic Central Market Hall to reach the Small Boulevard. Here, you'll catch a glimpse of the National Museum, the grand Synagogue, and St. Stephen's Basilica. The bus then travels along Andrassy Avenue, the famous boulevard with luxury boutiques and opulent villas, the State Opera, and the Franz Liszt Museum. Our first stop is at Heroes' Square, dominated by the 36-meter-tall Millennium Monument. Next, the bus takes us around City Park, offering views of the zoo, the city's largest thermal bath, and the historic wooden roller coaster. Crossing the Margaret Bridge, we reach the Buda side of the city, enjoying a beautiful view of Margaret Island, the impressive and often photographed Parliament building, and the historic Chain Bridge, currently undergoing restoration. To conclude the city tour, we head uphill to the Castle District, where you'll have time to visit Matthias Church and the charming Fisherman's Bastion. Budapest lies at your feet from here! Passing by Buda Castle and the Gellert Bath, we descend back to the Danube and cross the river to return to the ship, where the lunch menu awaits. The afternoon is free for passengers to explore individually. Some take advantage of the beautiful weather on the sun deck, while others stroll to the Central Market Hall to buy fruits, salami, spices, or handicrafts. I treat myself to a round of relaxation at the world-famous Gellert Bath.

For those who still have the energy to go out in the evening, you can join the organized "City Lights Tour" to experience Budapest at night, or explore cultural Budapest on your own. How about a groovy jazz concert?

Just before midnight, it's "anchors aweigh." A few guests enjoy one last look at the glittering lights of Budapest from the panoramic deck. Overnight, we sail upstream once again, heading towards Bratislava. The next morning is dedicated to the Slovak capital and its picturesque old town with its charming alleys. Not far from the ship's mooring and impossible to miss, the impressive cable-stayed bridge leads to a UFO-like tower restaurant, where delicious cappuccinos are served. If you enjoy shopping, you'll certainly find something at the "Eurovea" shopping center. Those who opt for the guided city tour will see the oldest Slovak university, the National Museum, the city's most beautiful Rococo house, and even the Presidential Palace through their camera lens. Of course, a stop at Pressburg Gate is a must. Later, you'll have time to explore the old town with its Coronation Cathedral, the Old Town Hall, and its many small streets and squares. Be sure not to stumble over Cumil, the sewer worker, who mischievously observes you from a manhole cover.

The rest of the day is spent leisurely on the ship: reading, listening to music, enjoying a sauna, or watching the landscape glide by from the sun deck, before the ropes are secured in Vienna late in the evening.

New day, new adventure, and welcome to Vienna! Indulge yourself in the times of the Danube monarchy and explore Vienna on a city tour including a visit to a traditional Viennese coffeehouse. Once again, it's up to you whether you want to explore the Austrian capital on your own or join a guided city tour: Passing by the Prater, home to the historic Giant Ferris Wheel and the world's tallest chain carousel, the bus follows the Danube Canal to the famous Hundertwasser House. After a brief photo stop, the bus turns onto the Ringstrasse. Built in 1858 around the city center after the demolition of the old city walls and fortifications, the six-kilometer-long boulevard is one of the world's most attractive grand avenues, lined with numerous monumental buildings and beautiful parks. Our heads turn from side to side, as there's so much to see: the Academy of Fine Arts, the luxurious "Imperial" hotel, St. Charles's Church, the Vienna State Opera, the Hofburg, City Hall, and the Burgtheater. At the remarkable St. Stephen's Cathedral, you'll have time to explore the surrounding area on your own. Some guests will visit the Imperial Palace with the local guide, while others will enjoy the view from the north tower of the cathedral or savor a slice of Sachertorte in one of the many cafes. Delicious! In the afternoon, a visit to the Albertina is a must, where one of the most significant collections of modern art is on display. You'll find masterpieces such as Monet's Water Lilies or Degas's Dancers, Viennese Modernism from Klimt to Schiele, as well as prominent names like Beckmann, Picasso, and Warhol. After a fulfilling day, the choice is yours. Either return to the ship for dinner or spend the evening in the city. I absolutely must try a legendary Wiener Schnitzel at Figlmüller. And since you're in Vienna, why not end the evening with a classical concert at the "Sala Terrena" in the Mozart House.

On the penultimate day, the river cruise ship once again navigates through the stunning landscape of the Wachau, with its numerous castles and monasteries, and makes a final city stop in the charming town of Linz. Creative, modern, and cosmopolitan, this city exudes a vibrant atmosphere. The UNESCO City of Media Arts has become a magnet for artists and media professionals from around the world. Enjoy Linz with a city tour on the Linzer City Express or join a City Art Walk, an engaging exploration of art in public spaces, including a visit to the ARS Electronica Center. And don't forget: have an original Linzer Torte packed up at the pastry shop! In the evening, aboard the ship, it's the grand finale. Guests dress up for a gala evening, savor a final aperitif, and toast once more to the journey with newfound friends. After a sumptuous 6-course menu, the cake parade receives thunderous applause from the attending guests. A river cruise is fun, a river cruise is splendid... !

How to get there:
By train, bus, car - depending on the arrangement

How long should I stay:
1 week, longer is always possible

Best time to travel:

The river cruise itself, city visits like Budapest, Vienna, or Bratislava

Swiss organizers and more information:


Realised by Michael Bachmann
Further travel pictures under​​​​​​​