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A Viking Longship in Passau Germany
A Viking Longship in Passau Germany (Image: Viking)

The 5 Best Viking River Cruises on the Danube

A Viking Longship in Passau Germany
A Viking Longship in Passau Germany (Image: Viking)
Jeannine Williamson

Last updated
Oct 2, 2023

Read time
5 min read

Flowing through gorgeous landscapes filled with vineyards and apricot orchards, 10 countries and four capital cities -- Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade -- the 1,770-mile long Danube is a cultural dream for anyone interested in history, architecture, regional food and wine.

Viking's Danube cruises range from week-long sailings, which are the perfect introduction to this world-famous waterway for first-timers, to exciting longer itineraries along the lesser-explored Lower Danube. Viking Longships moor in the center of town making it easy to join daily excursions or take time out to explore independently.

We've picked five of our favorite Viking sailings on the beautiful 'Blue Danube' to help you plan your cruise. Read on to decide which one is best for you.

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1. Viking Danube River Cruise: Cultural Highlights For First-Time Cruisers

A Viking Longship sails past the parliament building in Budapest Hungary
A Viking Longship sails past the parliament building in Budapest Hungary (Image: Viking)

If it's your first time on the Danube take a look at Viking's eight day sailings. They cover many of the main highlights and provide the ideal excuse to come back for more.

Viking's itinerary starts in the grand Hungarian capital of Budapest, divided in half by the river. On one side is green, leafy Buda, overlooked by the Castle District with its quaint narrow streets, and on the opposite bank is busy Pest, with impressive statue-lined Heroes' Square, the wide shopping boulevard Andrassy Avenue and riverside parliament building.

You'll sail to Regensburg through the picture-postcard landscapes of the UNESCO-listed Wachau Valley and stop overnight in the magnificent Austrian capital Vienna. There, you're likely to hear that famous "Blue Danube" Strauss waltz played at one of Viking's visits to an atmospheric concert hall. Along the way you'll have the chance to learn how to make tasty Austrian dumplings or cycle along flat paths beside the sparkling river.

2. Viking Danube River Cruise: Sail Through the Heart of Europe

If you've got the time Viking can provide the experience. Embark on an unforgettable 15-day journey on the Grand European Tour through Europe that will take you from the windmills and tulips of Amsterdam all the way Budapest. Traveling through four countries -- the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary -- the epic Grand European tour is a feast for all the senses.

Combining the best parts of various Viking river cruises through Europe, each day brings ever-changing panoramas as you sail along the Dutch waterways, Rhine, Main and Danube. In Cologne you'll have the chance to sip the city's local beer in a cozy waterfront bar, close to where your longship docks. Moving on to Bamberg you might want to sample the curious smoked beer that's a specialty of this region.

There's a double helping of riverside beauty in the UNESCO-listed Upper Middle Rhine Valley -- lined by more than 40 castles and hilltop fortresses -- and Austria's glorious Wachau Valley dominated by impressive Melk Abbey, pictured above.

Learn More About First Time River Cruising

3. Viking Danube River Cruise: A Sailing Filled With Festive Cheer

A Christmas tree in front of the Schonbrunn Palace Vienna Austria
Christmas tree in Vienna Austria (Image: Viking)

A Viking river cruise is the perfect way to discover the charms of European Christmas markets steeped in tradition and history. Every town has fairy-tale wooden chalets decked in twinkling lights with spicy scents filling the air. Don't miss the chance to try some gingerbread and steaming mulled wine. You pay a deposit for the Christmas mug and can keep it as a neat souvenir.

The all-new eight-day Danube Christmas Delights cruise between Budapest and Passau includes a day in Vienna where beautiful squares are transformed into Christmas markets. After buying unique handmade gifts and decorations there’s the option to visit Vienna's famous four-legged residents with a behind-the-scenes tour to see the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School.

Finally, arriving in Passau might think you're in Italy instead of Germany. Nestling at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, Passau's earned the nickname 'Venice on the Danube'. A big sight, in every sense is St Stephen's Cathedral, which has Europe's largest pipe organ.

4. Viking Danube River Cruise: Discover the Other Half of the Danube

Dambrovita River Old Bucharest
Dambrovita River Old Bucharest (Image: Viking)

The majority of Danube cruises sail between Vienna and Budapest, with few venturing beyond the Slovakian capital Bratislava. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking not much else lies beyond. Yet it's a river of two distinct halves, and Viking's 11-day Passage to Eastern Europe will transport you to the quieter Lower Danube, close to where the mighty river meets the Black Sea.

This voyage is a perfect fit for return travelers eager to explore more. Take a trip to the Serbian capital Belgrade, one of Europe's oldest cities, to visit a violin-making workshop or savor a tasty meal of local fare. The cruise also takes in Romania's capital Bucharest (pictured above), where opulent French neo-classical, Art Deco and Bauhaus buildings earned Bucharest the nickname 'Paris of the East'.

A dramatic cruising highlight is the narrow Iron Gate Gorge, sandwiched between the foothills of the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains. Here you'll pass through the largest lock on the Danube beneath the gaze of a 140-foot rock carving of the ancient king Decebalus.

5. Viking Danube River Cruise: Captivating Capital Cities

Vienna Cathedral and coffee shop (Credit: Viking)
Vienna Cathedral and coffee shop (Credit: Viking)

On a Viking European river cruise you will discover so much more than on a tiring land-based tour of the same length. Only packing and unpacking once, your longship is a relaxing floating home as you move seamlessly from place to place.

For anyone that likes city breaks, the new 17-day Capitals of Eastern Europe itinerary is sure to please. Taking in an incredible seven countries -- Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania -- culture lovers will be spoilt for choice with each day bringing new highpoints.

Excursions will take you to historic landmarks, such as the medieval castle of Vidin in Bulgaria and baroque treasures in Osijek, Croatia's largest river port. Another day brings, Constanta, one of Romania's oldest cities and once a seaside playground for the country's elite. Or embark on a thrilling boat safari through the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve teeming with wildlife, including Europe's largest population of white pelicans.

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