Popular with first-time cruisers, the 1,775-mile-long Danube River flows through 10 countries, from Germany to the Ukraine, and passes along several major capital cities, including Vienna and Budapest. Often called the "Blue Danube," thanks to Austrian composer Johann Strauss II's famous waltz, the Danube is Europe's second-largest river. As such, it has been an important transportation route for more than 2,000 years.
Cruise itineraries often take passengers along one part of the river, on the Upper Danube (the section here on the map with key stops in Vienna and Budapest) or the Lower Danube (Budapest to the Black Sea on the map). Regardless of which cruise you take, you'll have a ringside seat for gorgeous scenery, historic towns, wine regions and often the opportunity to bike along the river.
Reasons to Go: Cruising by scenic Old-World villages, castles that evoke fairytale stories and picture-perfect bucolic landscapes, along with opportunities to take in local culture, sample wines and visit UNESCO World Heritage sights make this a popular river to cruise for many people.
Who Would Love It: Music-lovers especially will enjoy this river -- particularly a stop in Vienna, the "City of Music," where many great composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and the Strauss family, all lived at one point in their careers. Live concerts are almost always an excursion option.
Who Wouldn't: It's hard to think of a reason that someone wouldn't like the Danube; the river really has it all. That said, river cruises on the Danube do tend to be busy, stopping for just one day in Vienna or Salzburg, for example. If you'd like more time in these cities, you might want to consider a pre- or post-cruise trip.
Updated April 19, 2023