The Danube is the quintessential river cruise experience. Lined with some of Europe’s most historic and culturally-important cities, to cruise the Danube is to step back in time. Picturesque villages line its banks, with imposing castles and cathedrals rising up and falling astern as you cruise down this scenic waterway.
We’re taking a look at the Upper Danube – the region that stretches from Regensburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. This is the “classic” Danube river cruise itinerary.
Regensburg has been called the most well-preserved medieval city in Germany. It’s also widely recognized for one of its most iconic features: the Stone Bridge constructed between 1135 and 1146, which today is covered in scaffolding as reconstruction takes place.
Directly adjacent to the Stone Bridge is the Wurstkuche, a small restaurant that has been serving up superb Schweinsbratwurstl vom rost mit sauerkraut (bratwurst & sauerkraut) for the past 700 years. That, plus a pint of Bavarian beer, is the perfect way to start a day on shore here during your Viking River Cruise.
Regensburg offers a multitude of ways to spend your day. There’s the aforementioned Wurstkuche, the opulent Schloss Emmeram, also known as the Palace Thurn und Taxis, is located on the outskirts of the town. There are also numerous cafes and open-air markets, tons of cool shops, a residence formerly occupied by Oskar Schindler, and – most imposingly – the Gothic Dom, or Cathedral, that anchors Regensburg and has dual spires that are visible for kilometers in either direction.
The following day will find you in Nuremburg, ready to explore more of the beauty and history of this German river cruise town.
Weltenburg Abbey was founded by is situated near the Danube Gorge and was – somewhat ironically – founded by either Irish or Scottish Monks around 620. It is thought to be the oldest Abbey in all of Bavaria. There’s a gorgeous baroque cathedral on-site, but perhaps more importantly, Weltenburg Abbey is also the location of the Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, a monastic brewery that has been making refreshing pints since 1050.
Weltenburg Cathedral is also spectacular. On a hot day of touring, where temperatures can push 93°F by afternoon, a refreshing beer and a freshly made Bavarian pretzel are just what the doctor ordered.
After spending 20 minutes in the Cathedral learning of its history, you’ll still have plenty of free time to enjoy one complimentary beer in the shaded outdoor beer garden.
From there a short walk will take you to a small ferry to whisk you across the Danube Gorge to Kelheim. This small ship provides a 20-minute cruise along the Gorge, where you’ll pass swimmers, kayakers, and bathers sunning themselves and cooling off in the rapidly-increasing heat of the day.
During the ride, you’ll also pass the imposing Befreiungshalle, or Hall of Liberation. It’s not at eye-level, however; you have to look up to see it. Standing like the coliseum high atop the Bavarian hills near Kelheim, the Befreiungshalle was constructed between 1842 and 1863 to celebrate the victories against Napoleon, everybody’s fun-loving European conqueror, during the German Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars.
These are but a few of the many options for spending a day in port, but give you an idea of why so many flock to the Danube for incredible river cruise vacations.