Inspiration Destinations Europe The Prettiest Ports on Europe’s Danube River  

The Prettiest Ports on Europe’s Danube River  

August 25, 2023

Whether train, plane or road, there are countless ways to explore Europe – but many of its brightest jewels can be found riverside.

Bavarian charm, imperial palaces, medieval laneways and traditional Christmas markets: the banks of Europe’s River Danube are so jam-packed with picture-perfect sights, it’s no wonder river cruising here is enjoying a surge in popularity.

This legendary waterway begins in Germany’s Black Forest and concludes at the Black Sea, flowing through no fewer than 10 countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova). Travel from east to west and the landscapes unfolding only increase in splendour.

Read on to discover the ports that are simply unmissable along the route.

Discover more about Italy and Austria on the new season of Luxury Escapes TV, airing Tuesdays 8.30pm AEST* on Foxtel Lifestyle and on demand on Binge and Network 10. *Check your local TV listings for details.

Ready to escape? Uncover the beauty of the Danube on this exclusive Riverside Luxury Cruise.  

Vienna, Austria

The majestic Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna.

Aside from the lure of its historical connection to culture and the arts (it was the home of Beethoven, Mozart and Sigmund Freud), the Austrian capital is the destination for lovers of romantic architecture. From the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Schloss Schönbrunn palace to the glorious style mishmash of the imperial Hofburg and the Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna’s architectural legacy is extraordinarily unsung in comparison to the likes of Barcelona and Paris. Do as the locals do and ease into the morning over a newspaper at a specialty Kaffeehaus (coffee house – Vienna’s ‘bean scene’ rivals that of Melbourne), before jumping astride a bicycle to take in the sights. The Danube trail starts at the German border and continues towards Slovakia, while the Ringstrasse trail circles the Old Town and many of the city’s most iconic landmarks. As it’s arguably the classical music capital of the world, you haven’t truly experienced Vienna until you’ve attended a live concert – the 18th-century Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) is the pinnacle.

Nuremberg, Germany

There's no finer way to spend an afternoon than strolling the Weißgerbergasse of Nuremberg.

If the timber-beamed charm of Bavarian streetscapes speaks to your soul, be sure to make Nuremberg a stop on your itinerary. The cobblestone streets of the walled Old Town invite you to step back in time to the Middle Ages, with rickety medieval houses lining its prettiest street of all, Weißgerbergasse. Don’t miss Bratwursthäusle, a traditional restaurant serving Bratwurst homemade to a recipe devised in 1312 and cooked over beech wood, just like the days of old. Visitors in December will be lucky enough to visit the Christkindlesmarkt, where the scent of spiced gingerbread and Glühwein (mulled wine) wafts enticingly among the traditional stalls selling artisanal gifts. As much as its scenery feels like something out of a fairy tale (Kaiserburg Castle wouldn’t look out of place in a storybook), the city doesn’t shy away from its unsavoury history: Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds is where visitors can uncover the role it played in the Nazi regime.

Budapest, Hungary

The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest.

Add a dash of history, a dollop of trendy bar scene, a splash of grand architecture and a smattering of pretty bridges and you’re close to the perfect melange that makes up Budapest. Be sure to look skywards: a tour of the city unveils the grandeur of the Royal Palace, neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House and the simply awe-inspiring Parliament buildings, dripping in neo-Gothic and Romanesque splendour. It’s also joyously easy to navigate, thanks to its efficient (and reasonably priced) public transport network. Sure, the city is a magnet for those in search of nightlife, but that’s because it does such an excellent job of it with its generous array of microbreweries and ruin bars, ready to welcome all with beer-fuelled good times. For those who overindulge, the city’s historic hot springs await with a comforting and purifying embrace.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava Castle is a fairy tale vision above the Slovakian capital.

A change of pace from the sprawling Vienna and Budapest, the small-but-perfectly-formed Bratislava can be easily navigated on foot. It’s framed by verdant mountains and rolling vineyards, making the perimeters almost as captivating as the city itself. The hilltop Bratislava Castle, with its fairy tale turrets and Baroque glamour, is the pinnacle, and offers one of the finest viewpoints over the city (the other can be found at UFO restaurant). A wander around the pedestrianised, 18th-century Old Town makes for a pleasant day: the main square is lined with buzzing cafes and bars, while the nearby Nedbalova Street (one of the city’s oldest) is a shopper’s paradise. Don’t miss the annual display on Umbrella Street, a social media favourite for its summertime veil of umbrellas suspended above the walkway. Also beloved by the social-media-inclined is Medická záhrada park, which bursts into pink blooms each spring, and the whimsical, art nouveau Blue Church, one of Bratislava’s most beautiful buildings.

Feature image: Hungarian Parliament Building. Image courtesy of Andrey Danilovich/Getty.

Discover more about Italy and Austria on the new season of Luxury Escapes TV, airing Tuesdays 8.30pm AEST* on Foxtel Lifestyle and on demand on Binge and Network 10. *Check your local TV listings for details.

Ready to escape? Uncover the beauty of the Danube on this exclusive Riverside Luxury Cruise.  

About Rebecca Ellwood
An English girl in Melbourne, Rebecca's exploring and tasting her way around Australia and beyond – and she does love a little luxury (who doesn't, darling?)

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