The “Blue Danube” is Europe’s second-largest river and therefore, one of its most significant. For centuries it has connected different cultures and has provided a pathway to facilitate trade, war, and relaxation. Originating from the Black Forest in Germany, the Danube touches 10 countries, 3 of which are visited on Viking River Cruises Romantic Danube. I was lucky enough to experience this historic waterway on board a Viking longship and can say it is the most relaxing and luxurious way to see this part of the world. My Danube Viking River Cruise trip meant 8 days of floating (and eating) my way from Bavaria to Budapest.
Bring on the bratwurst and goulash.
Of course, there is so much more to see and do on a Danube Viking River Cruise than eat. From countless castles to learning about Nazi Germany’s uprising and fall, I have captured it here in this Danube Viking River Cruise highlights post. Starting with what the experience is like onboard to each ports excursion and highlights, it is covered here.
My Danube Viking Cruise journey was aboard the luxurious Viking Njord. This cruise ship sleeps ~190 people, has a bar, sundeck, and dining hall. All rooms are bright and airy, the decor is modern and clean, and the staff is on hand 24/7 to make your journey as comfortable as possible. They also keep you entertained and busy. Throughout the trip, you will find onboard activities such as culinary demonstrations, cultural info sessions, and local live music and entertainment. This includes learning how to make strudel, how to order coffee in Vienna, opera performances, and language lessons.
All staterooms aboard the Viking Njord are outward facing. The lower level rooms are the only ones without balconies. Middle and upper deck rooms have verandas and/or French balconies. The 2 explore suites at the end of the ship feature wrap-around balconies and a large living space.
For my Danube Viking River Cruise, I had front row seats thanks to an amazing veranda suite. With a separate living space, bedroom, and balcony, this is where I spent the bulk of my trip. With views like this, can you blame me?
Danube Viking River Cruise Food
The food aboard the Viking Njord is another highlight, so much so that I have a post dedicated to just that. With passing through so many regions while cruising down the Danube, Viking does a great job of incorporating local dishes into each dinner service. From a Bavarian feast to Hungarian goulash, Viking covers it all in a high-end and well-prepared and presented way. Breakfast includes a buffet and à la cart items as does lunch. Both can be enjoyed in the main dining hall or a lighter version on the upper deck lounge. 3-course dinners are served in the dining hall where guests are encouraged to share tables. We tried to rotate each day in a way to meet and interact with different people. Making new friends aboard is easy, especially with wine being included with all lunch and dinner services.
Danube Viking River Cruise Stops
Viking Cruises Romantic Danube journey makes 6 stops from Nuremberg to Budapest. Viking does an excellent job keeping you busy and sharing the very best local sites and attractions. Each stop on a Danube Viking River Cruise includes complimentary excursions as well as additional ones at a cost. Here’s a breakdown of each stop, highlighted by my favorites.
* Note: Viking runs the Romantic Danube cruise in both directions.
Day 1 – Nuremberg, Germany
2nd in Bavaria to only Munich in size, Nuremberg is a historic city with much to offer. The walled old town includes architecture dating back to the 15th century with many castles and towers to explore. Nuremberg is also home of the Nazi uprising and their ultimate defeat and conviction.
For my short time in Nuremberg, I opted to skip the included city walk of the of the town in favour of the optional WWII tour. If you are fascinated by European history like I am, I can’t recommend this tour enough. It takes you deep into Nazi Germany’s uprising with visits to the Zepplin Fields where Hitler spoke at rallies. From there you have free time to wander through the massive Documentation Center before fittingly ending at Courtroom 600, home of the Nuremberg Trials.
For a full review of my experience on this Danube Viking River Cruise WWII Tour in Nuremberg check out this dedicated post.
What to See and Do in Nuremberg
Included Shore Excursion: Nuremberg Tour – Explore the medieval city within the 13th-century walls. Visit the Imperial Palace, one of Europe’s then stroll past half-timbered before visiting Market Square. There you will find its famous gingerbread and the Gothic Schöner Brunnen fountain.
Optional Excursion(s): WWII Tour
Explore on your own: The Documentation Center, the Toy Musem, and the Chuch of St.Lawrence are all worth a visit. Alternatively, getting lost within the walled city is a great way to experience Nuremberg!
Day 2 – Regensburg, Germany
Regensburg is the oldest city on the Danube and is best known for its well-kept medieval city center. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Regensburg’s charm is intact and is best explored on foot. The included walking tour of the old town or the included Jewish heritage walking tour provides you with a guided stroll through one of Germany’s most interesting cities.
It was a beautiful day on my visit to Regensburg so I opted to break off from the tour at the end and explore on my own. I made my way across the 12th-centry stone bridge (which was largely under construction) before settling in for a stein of Bavarian beer in front of the massively gothic Regensburg Cathedral…which was also under construction. Crane towers aside, Regensburg was a beautifully relaxing stop and was perfectly capped off with a platter of sausages from the aptly named “Historic Sausage Kitchen” (Historische Wurstküche in German). This iconic shack on the banks of the Danube has been serving up sauerkraut and wurst since 1135 AD! Stopping here is a Regensburg must.
What to See and Do in Regensburg
Included Shore Excursion: Walking tour, Jewish Heritage Tour.
Optional Excursion(s): Munich Highlights, Wittenberg Abby, Microbreweries of Bavaria
Explore on your own: Regensburg Cathedral, its many squares, and the Historic Sausage Kitchen!
Day 3 – Passau, Germany
Passau is known as the “City of Three Rivers” as it is located where the of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers meet. This has kept Passau historically significant for centuries as an important trading post and today, an excellent river cruise port town. The included walking tour of Passau is a great way to explore the many winding corridors and alleyways. Be sure to note the line markings on the buildings. With its river convergence location, Passau has seen its share of floods and is well documented throughout town.
Also be sure to catch the included concert at the impressively white St. Stephen’s Cathedral, home of the largest pipe organ in Europe. At noon, you can take in a half-hour concert (or one-hour concert in the evenings) but be warned, the music is intense. Like an octopus mashing chords while a hummingbird plays some crazy runs intense. Clearly, I don’t get organ music, and I am a musician. It’s cool to hear and see nonetheless.
After the concert, I made my way to the point where you can clearly see the waters of the Danube and Inn mix. From there I enjoyed a coffee in the worn square before heading up to the massive Veste Oberhaus fortress. From there you are rewarded with an amazing view of the three rivers.
As you can see, Passau is gorgeous and was a personal favourite of mine on this trip down the Daube.
For a full review of my time visiting Passau with Viking River Cruises check out this dedicated post.
What to See and Do in Passau
Included Shore Excursion: Walking Tour of Passau, Organ concert
Optional Excursion(s): Salzburg Highlights, Bavarian Beerfest
Explore on your own: Head out to the point to see the mixing waters of the Danube and Inn rivers, get lost in the old town, and hike up to the Veste Oberhaus fortress. There you can take in the view as well as enjoy several museums that celebrate Passau’s historic past.
Day 4 – Krems, Austria
Although Krems is nothing to write home about, the journey through the Wachau Valley sure is. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its collection of medieval towns, terraced vineyards, and riverside castles, a scenic sailing through the Wachau Valley is not to be missed.
As you can see, what I missed in castles along the Rhine due to low water levels, I made up for in spades on this Danube Viking River Cruise.
The included tour from Krems is a visit to Göttweig Abbey, a hilltop monastery constructed in 1083. As it was a rainy day and because I had visited my share of monasteries in Bavaria I opted to take in the onboard presentations on how to make apple strudel and how to order coffee in Vienna. These would come in very handy at our next stop.
What to See and Do in Krems
Included Shore Excursion: Benedictine Abbey Tour – Visit the monks that worship and work at this scenic hilltop monastery. Sample sparkling apricot wine before viewing a short film about monastic life.
Optional Excursion(s): None.
Day 5 – Vienna, Austria
Vienna is blessed with great cafes, amazing architecture, and more museums than you could possibly visit in one trip. It’s home of the Hapsburgs, Klimt, and Freud. Both Mozart and Beethoven have called Vienna home and today, it often tops the lists of best places to live in the world. On the included city excursion, it is easy to see why.
After the tour I set out on my own to explore Vienna’s coffee culture and took a stroll along the museum quarter before making my way back to the ship.
What to See and Do in Vienna
Included Shore Excursion: Vienna City Tour.
Day 6/7 – Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is known as the “Pearl of the Danube,” and with good reason. As your ship pulls in you will be presented with iconic bridges, buildings, and castles. Sailing down the Danube and passing through Budapest is truly sensory overload. On the left you will see Pest, a cosmopolitan European city highlighted by the beautiful Hungarian Parliment building. On the right, Buda, home of the city’s castle and towering hills.
Viking Cruises does a great job of packing a lot of Budapest into a short half day tour. A guided coach ride takes you past Pest highlights such as Hero’s Square, Andrassy Avenue, and the Dohány Street Synagogue (the largest synagogue in Europe) before heading to the Buda side for a walking tour of Buda Castle and Matthias Church.
Budapest is an incredibly easy city to navigate on foot and has an excellent transit system. Those looking to explore on their own be sure to check out my post on easily accessible Budapest highlights from the Viking River Cruise port.
What to See and Do in Budapest
Included Shore Excursion: Budapest City Tour.
Optional Excursion(s): None.
Explore on your own: Enjoy the city by foot or soak in one of its many bath houses. Learn to make goulash at cooking class or visit the Museum of Terror and Hospital in the Hill for a look at life during Communist rule.
The Romantic Daube Awaits You
As you can see, taking a Danube Viking River Cruise is an incredibly scenic and relaxing way to see some of Europes prettiest parts. From riverside castles to tasting local cuisine, Viking River Cruises does an incredible job immersing its guests in the culture of each region visited. Throw in the comfort and easy going pace of these luxury river boats and you have one of the best ways to experience Europe.
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Although I was provided a complimentary Danube Viking River Cruise, as always the experience, opinions, and relaxation is my own.