What’s the best way to get right into the heart of Europe? Taking a Rhine or Danube river cruise, of course! Multitudes of cruise companies offer plenty of ships and accommodation types that will suit your budget and taste while providing flexible departure dates.
With centuries of intriguing history, stunning sceneries, foods that will heighten your senses and wonderful new friends waiting to be found, Europe certainly, has it all. What’s especially amazing is that exploring the region’s most beautiful cities is possible in one go, without all the fuss of continuously having to pack and unpack your suitcase.
But which route to choose?
On one hand, all Danube river cruises boast itineraries that will take you through historic cities and idyllic river banks that shelter castles, ones that echo the long faded times of knights and princesses. On the other hand, a Rhine river cruise will unveil new futuristic cities, places where modern advancements of technology have left their powerful mark.
A Rhine river cruise offers some wonderful scenery – all those romantic ruined castles set high on the hills from which the medieval barons could control their territory. There are so many picturesque towns and villages to visit along the banks that it’s like moving through history and ideal for the curious traveller who wants a lot of experience in a short space of time. – Heather, Heather On Her Travels
Lucky for you, we’re taking the guessing work out of which river cruise (and river) is the right one for you. Compare your choices below!
Experiencing A Danube River Cruise
Out of all the European river cruises, the alluring Danube River will take you through three central European capitals, while gracefully descending towards the eastern side of the continent.
A Danube River cruise will include a mesmerizing course that starts in Germany’s Black Forest Mountains and makes its way through cities such as Ulm, Regensburg and Passau.
There is so much to love about the picturesque city of Passau, Germany. In a single afternoon you can tuck into the opulent St. Stephen’s Cathedral to hear a pipe organ concert, follow the painted cobblestone corridors of “Art Alley” to discover dozens of artisans’ workshops and galleries, and climb the overgrown steps to the Capuchin Monastery to find an excellent view of the city. It’s a town famous for its numerous floods, so you might want to consider packing a sturdy pair of rubber boots! Rain or shine, Passau is a must-see city in Bavaria. – Dana & Lindsay, FEAST
You can then visit Albert Einstein’s hometown and the Gothic church in Ulm, known for having the tallest steeple in the world.
Next you can expect to walk the streets of Regensburg and head to the Old Town. The 1,500 historic buildings with an imposing Gothic architecture make this city the largest of its kind in the Alps.
You will also visit spectacular Vienna, Austria — the city of music and the one place where you can indulge your refined tastes with an opera concert and a glass of premium regional wines. Spend the rest of your time in Vienna admiring royal settlements, impressive architecture, and world-famous works of art to boot.
Vienna is an important European historic capital. It is a center for art, history and music, which makes it sophisticated and rich in tradition. But then there is another side to it, that makes it very cosy and charming. The Viennese coffeehouses, for example, are an integral part of the city’s charm. The art of relaxing over coffee and sweet pastries is something that no one can do better than the Viennese. – Vicki, Bowsessed
Last, but not least, Budapest is a hot spot for tourists from all over the world and one that your Danube river cruise will make sure you see. Enjoy a panoramic view of Buda and Pest and experience wonder at the astounding architecture of the Parliament while enjoying dinner with a view at the Fishermen’s Bastion.
Somewhere I have read that Budapest is the most underrated capital city in Europe. I can only confirm that statement, because I have never really thought of visiting the Hungarian capital even though I grew up in Austria. But when I finally made my way to Budapest in December, 2015 I realized what I have missed all that time. Vienna might be the jewel of the old Habsburg Empire, but Budapest is the rare adventurous beauty that will leave you speechless and that you won’t forget for the rest of your life. What made me fall in love with Budapest was the young crowd embracing their culture and mixing it all up with open minded ideas. Opening up bars, amazing restaurants, great coffee shops and lovely concept store – the next generation has taken over the city like nowhere else in Europe! And that’s what makes it so special to me. – Theresa, Theri’s Wardrobe
A Danube river cruise is exactly what you might be needing if you travel best with history, music and a glass of wine. Perfect for a romantic getaway, such a trip might just as well turn you and your partner into hopeless travel addicts.
I visited Budapest, Hungary and enjoyed every minute of it! There are two things that make Budapest very special to me and that’s the fresh food and the history. This city has some of the best fresh markets I’ve ever been to in all my 30 years of life. I also love that their was so much history in this beautiful place. From the churches to the baths and the bridges. I was always learning something new! – Melissa, Melissa Channel
Budapest is a hidden European gem. Since it is somewhat off the beaten path, it was a great European city to visit in the summer, as you don’t get the crowds of tourists that plague places like Prague and Paris. It boasts gorgeous architecture, a wonderful restaurant and cafe scene, plenty of green space, and plenty of fun and quirky bars. – Alissa, Alissa Rumsey
See Also: The Best Danube Christmas Markets
Experiencing A Rhine River Cruise
Starting in the Swiss Alps and passing through five beautiful countries, from the center of Europe and towards its western side, the Rhine River has many sights up in its sleeves!
Amsterdam is special because of the 165 canals that make up the city, adding to the charm of this old city. It lends itself a character not like any other. You can find hipster cafe in one lane, and a traditional bookstore in another. There are plenty of gems in Amsterdam to uncover – did you know that the narrowest house in Amsterdam is no wider than your arms extended? – Isabel, Bel Around The World
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. There is so much culture and so many things to do and see. But for me, just walking through the gorgeous streets, stopping for a coffee outside and watching the world go by. There isn’t a better place in the world. – Amelia, Xameliax
The wilderness of river banks contrasts with modern industrial cities such as Amsterdam, Cologne, or Strasbourg, adding both uniqueness and diversity to any river cruise on the Rhine. Landscapes which seem to be taken out of a fairytale are often dotted with modern boats, creating an enticing mix of modernity and bohemian spirit.
Amsterdam remains one of my favourite cities in Europe – to me it just has everything. Whether it’s an afternoon by the canal with an organic smoothie, a browse around the Anne Frank Museum followed by Poffertjes or a wild one out on the town – Amsterdam excels. The enchanting offerings of Europe are all but a stones throw away too, making it the perfect companion on a road trip or European adventure. – Mollie, Where’s Mollie?
Personally, the draw of Amsterdam is its infallible optimism. Locals appreciate, love, and take care of their city – everything from the food to the air – in a way that is truly infectious. It seems like a breeding ground for all things happy and creative! – Lela, Lela London
Don’t miss the chance of visiting Anne Frank’s famous house in Amsterdam. It goes without saying that biking along the city’s canals on one of those long and sunny afternoons is an absolute must, while a stroll through the charming little streets of Petite France in Strasbourg, is just as mandatory.
Strasbourg is a city which is unique due to it’s contradictions and cross-cultural quirks. The young and energetic vibe of a student city meshes with architecture and historical heritage from a medieval past. It’s an old and historic town, but also one which is young and dynamic. And still proudly Alsace, both French and German traditions go head to head here. – Megan, Mapping Megan
Cologne cannot be left in the basket either, especially when it comes to the many enticing attractions it offers to its visitors.
Did you know that here you can create your own perfume? In between the breathtaking views seized on the top of the Cologne Cathedral and the Deutz Bridge which overlooks the old town, make a quick stop by the 4711 flagship store to find that one scent that suits you perfectly.
The Rhine River also offers the Marksburg Castle as a must see destination. The 700-year-old hilltop castle has remained untouched throughout the course of history, providing today’s travellers with an authentic picture of how the Middle Ages looked like. The views will take your breath away.
So will it be a Danube river cruise or a Rhine river cruise?
There is really no wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a Rhine or a Danube river cruise. In fact, whichever one you choose, will most likely make you long for the other, only to find yourself booking it for your very next holiday.
So what are you waiting for?
Make the most of your next vacation by visiting Europe’s most beautiful cities and let yourself be carried away into natural landscapes rarely touched by the hands of man.