A Danube River cruise offers travelers a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of cities to which they would like to return.
During the course of our 8-day Viking Danube River Cruise, we were able to visit six cities in three countries. Many would argue, rightfully so, that it was hardly enough time to experience the richness of cities with hundreds of years of history and tradition. We would not disagree. We tend to prefer slow travel without the pressure of feeling rushed—staying days, weeks or months rather than hours.
On the other hand, there is no other way someone can see so much expeditiously as on a river cruise, where going from place to place often occurs while passengers are comfortably asleep in their cabins. No time is wasted packing and unpacking, or checking in and checking out.
We coupled our Viking Danube River Cruise with a 3-day pre-cruise stay in Budapest where we dug a tiny bit deeper. With the combination of bus and walking tours, we were able to see and learn about five other cities to which we hope to return one day for more in-depth discovery.
These are some of the city-by-city highlights of our cruise:
The stunning architecture of Pest, including the Central Market Hall designed by Samu Pecz and major monuments, such as Heroes’ Square. On the Buda side, winding cobblestone streets of the medieval Old City, murals inside Matthias Church, and panoramic views from turreted Fisherman’s Bastion.
Half-day tour highlighting art, music and architecture, including Hofburg Palace (a seat of government since 1279), St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the iconic Reisenrad Ferris wheel, and the State Opera House. During “free time,” we tasted original Sacher tortes at the Sacher Hotel while others took optional tours to Schonbrunn Palace. Using public transportation, we accompanied the chef to buy cheeses and wines at the outdoor Naschmarkt.
Toured a 900-year-old Benedictine abbey (now a school) perched on a cliff overlooking Austria’s wine country.
Where the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers meet, once the center for the medieval salt trade, we visited a church housing Europe’s largest pipe organ.
Walked inside the walls of one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities with time for lunch on our own at a beer garden.
Home of German gingerbread, watched the city prepare for Christmas Market and visited the site of the Nuremberg Trials. On an optional tour, a local historian took us to the World War II Documentation Center, site of the Nazi Party rallies, perhaps the most emotionally stirring stop.
[This is the second part of an article on river cruising, portions of which appeared in the Chicago Tribune.]
Have you ever taken a river cruise?
Previously on More Time to Travel:
- Best of Budapest: Four Seasons Gresham Palace
- Great Cocktails: Elderflower Martini at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace
- Original Sin: Tasting Sacher Torte in Vienna
- Three Ways to Experience Hungarian Cuisine in Budapest
Disclosure: Our cruise was hosted by Viking River Cruises but any opinions expressed in this post are our own.