Sailing along on a Danube river cruise is a fantastic way to see the world and experience smaller towns and cities from a different view. A Danube river cruise will take you through some beautiful European cities where you can explore everything from medieval towns, riverside castles and world UNESCO sites. Danube river cruises include all sorts of activities from wine tasting at private vineyards to leisurely bicycle rides along the river banks of the Danube.
Sailing on a Westbound Danube river cruise is a fantastic way to start your river cruise experiance. It is simply some of the best scenery you will ever see and and is totally unforgettable.
Everything you need to know about a Westbound Danube river cruise
This itinerary is the Danube Symphony which is a 6 day westbound Danube river cruise from Budapest to Germany on an Avalon Waterways ship. On this westbound Danube river cruise you travel starting at Budapest and exploring the cities and towns of;
- Vienna Austria
- Krems Wachau Valley
- Ybbs Austria
With optional add on excursions to explore Munich before you travel home.
This is everything you need to know about our Danube Symphony river cruise Westbound on Avalon Waterways an overview and review of the whole river cruise vacation. We travelled on the Avalon Waterways Envision as part of a press invite. All views and opinions are our own. Take a look at the Photo tour of Avalon Envision ship in photos here.
Other River cruises along this strip of water include destinations such as;
Check your river cruise itinerary before you go to see if it’s the right one for you. These Danube river cruises take place at all different times of the year so you could choose to go in December and visit all of the Christmas Markets too.
Day 1 Budapest, Hungary Embarkation
On arrival in Hungary at the start destination you will be able to check in on your Avalon cruise Ship. On the Avalon Waterways flights into Budapest must arrive by 2 pm and guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
In the afternoon after embarking there is often free time to spend strolling along the cobblestone streets, browse art galleries, or explore the countries top attractions.
On embarkation day there is a special dietary needs meeting so anyone with food allergies or intolerances can discuss what they need. There is also a mandatory safety exercise and briefing followed by a port talk for more information on the area.
A bit about Budapest
Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary, and one of the largest cities in the European Union. The name “Budapest” is a composition of the city names “Buda” and “Pest”. They were united together with Obuda to become a single city in 1873.
Budapest interesting facts;
Some interesting facts about Budapest;
- Budapest is divided into 23 numbered districts
- There are 223 museums and galleries in Budapest
- Budapest has forty theatres, seven concert halls and an opera house.
- Budapest is home to a fashion week twice a year
- The cuisine of Budapest has been developed on a mix of ancient Asiatic, French, Germanic, Italian, and Slavic cuisines.
- Budapest has wonderful thermal springs, With some baths dating back to Turkish times. These
- Thermal baths contain several thermal pools with multiple steam baths.
What are Budapests top attractions
Some of Budapest’s top attractions are;
- Buda Castle
- The Labyrinth of caves of Buda Castle
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
- The Hungarian Parliament Building
- The Museum of Fine Arts
- The Halászbástya or Fisherman’s Bastion
- The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest
- Memento Park memorial statue park
- The great Central Market of Budapest
- The Széchenyi Chain B
- The Shoes on the Danube Bank
Day 2 Danube River cruise Bratislava in Slovakia
The Second day on our westbound Danube river cruise starts with breakfast followed by a cruise briefing with the cruise Director to get some more information on the rest of the cruise. The excursions today for us took place after lunch as the ship docked in Bratislava at around midday.
There were a choice of excursions with Avalon Waterways in Bratislava that were included which are classic or active. Todays excursions were;
- Active, with the Avalon Adventure Host on a Hike to Bratislava Castle which crowns the hilltop above
- Classic, Slovakias off the beaten path trip around the Capital. Joining a guided sightseeing tour of old Town’s cobblestone streets to Town Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral—Hungary’s centuries-old coronation church.
Off the Beaten path in Bratislava tour with Avalon Waterways
We chose the Classic off the beaten path tour around Bratislava with Avalon waterways and it was wonderful we saw so much in just a few hours! One of the first things we discovered was the House of the Good Shepherd which is a narrow, Rococo-style building in Bratislava. It was one of the few buildings in the area below Bratislava Castle than still remains due to the demolition of much of the Jewish quarter in the 20th century. Our guide even showed us photos of herself playing outside the house as it was when she was a small child!
Other places we saw were the Trinitarian Church, the Slovak National theatre and the winding medieval streets. One of our favourite things was the statue of Cumil the sewer worker poking his head out of manhole. He is also known as the peeper, just don’t trip over him!
A bit about Bratislava on the Danube
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is in the south west of the country. The Danube river runs through Slovakia and the Capital is the only capital that borders two independent countries Austria and Hungary.
Bratislava interesting facts
Some interesting facts about Bratislavia;
- Bratislava is the home to the Slovak National Theatre, housed in two buildings. The first is a Neo-Renaissance theatre building situated in the Old Town at the end of Hviezdoslav Square.
- Bratislava has a medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets and a hill-top castle Bratislava castle right on the bank of the river Danube.
- Bratislava is also the home of the world famous Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
- Between 1939 and 1944, Slovakia was a Nazi Germany-controlled state
Bratislavas top attractions
Some of Bratislavas top attractions include;
- Bratislava Castle
- Hlavné námestie one of the best known squares
- St. Martin’s Cathedral
- Rusovce mansion, with its English park
- Devín Castle is in the borough of Devín, on top of a rock where the Morava River, which forms the border between Austria and Slovakia
- The Old Town Hall
- Slovak National Theatre
Danube River cruise Day 3 in Vienna, Austria
Day 3 of our Westbound Danube River Cruise led us to Vienna. We had a full day to explore Vienna with a choice of excursions that were included. So after breakfast we joined the “classic” excursion of the treasures of Vienna’s Ringstrasse. Other excursions of the day were;
- Active Explore Vienna’s Danube Island by bike with your Adventure Host ( included AM )
- Classic, Treasures of Vienna’s Ringstrasse. See the Imperial Palace complex —the winter residence of the Imperial Family, the iconic Vienna Opera House and stunning St. Stephen’s Cathedral. ( included AM )
- Kunsthistorisches Museum with Austrian Crown Jewels ( included AM )
- Optional tour in the afternoon a guided Tour of magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence of Habsburg royalty. ( extra charge PM )
- Optional tour Bites and highlights of Vienna ( extra Charge PM )
- In the evening there was an optional Excursion to a Royal Waltz Concert ( extra charge PM )
Alternatively you could choose to spend your free time strolling through the city by yourself and even visit Kärtnerstrasse, the most famous shopping avenue in central Vienna.
Treasures of Vienna’s Ringstrasse Avalon Waterways
We chose to do the Treasures of Vienna’s Ringstrasse whilst in Vienna with Avalon. In fact even if you do not want to do a tour you may want to join one just to get the bus ride into the city centre and then do the city on your own.
The tour took us around the Ring road of Vienna where we discovered the beautiful historic centre with its many monuments and shops. We went inside the stunning St Stephens Cathedral and tool a look around the outside of Hofburg Palace. We even were lucky enough to catch a sighting of the famous horses at the Spanish riding school of Vienna! The world famous Lipizzans horses are taught here and play performances called the Ballet of the White Stallions. This takes place inside the unique, baroque Winter Riding School at Hofburg Palace, built under Charles VI.
After our tour we had some free time to catch a coffee before getting the coach back. We had some amazing cakes and coffee in the stunning traditional coffee house Sluka where I tried the cheese strudel with custard! You also try an authentic Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel.
We then decided to skip the coach and visit the amazing Kunsthistorisches Museum which is an art museum Housed in a palatial building on Ringstrass. We took the metro back from the museum which was so easy! Back on board for afternoon tea and dinner before sailing along to Krems over night.
A bit about Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria. It is also one of the nine states of Austria. The city of Vienna lies to the east of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The historic centre of Vienna features the Ringstrasse which is a Ring Road and a circular grand boulevard around the historic Innere Stadt district of Vienna. The late-19th-century Ringstrasse is lined with grand buildings, monuments as well as parks.
The city is rich in architectural buildings, museums with Baroque castles and gardens. Vienna is also considered by many to be the home of classical music. Many great composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Strauss II spent a large proportion of their careers in Vienna.
Vienna interesting facts
Some interesting facts about Vienna;
- Until the beginning of the 20th century it was the largest German speaking city in the world.
- Vienna is also said to be “The City of Dreams” because it was home to the world’s first psycho-analyst – Sigmund Freud.
- There are more than 100 art museums in Vienna
- Beethoven is buried in Vienna however he was moved 3 times. He has a memorial at Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) which is the largest cemetery in Vienna and the burial site of many famous people. Mozart was buried at St. Marx cemetery but his grave was lost he also has a memorial grave at the Habsburg gardens and at St. Marx cemetery.
- Vienna has over 200 balls per year, featuring as many as nine live orchestras.
Some of Viennas Top attractions:
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum
- Hofburg Palace
- The Naturhistorisches Museum
- Naschmarkt is a large and busy flea market
- Schönbrunn Palace
- The Leopold Museum, a gallery of modern art in the Museumsquartier
- The Vienna State Opera house
- The Votive Church is a neo-Gothic church
Day 4 Krems on the Wachau Valley
Exploring the Ancient Villages of the Wachau Valley is an amazing adventure, and throughout the day you explore the valley with frequent stops to get off and explore.
Krems first stop in the morning on the Danube westbound river cruise
Wachau valley excursions
This mornings excursions in Krems the Wachau valley on Avalon Envision were;
- Active Experience Wachau valley by bike with your Adventure Host.
- Discovery tour Join an interactive Wine World Experience with wine tasting
- Classic tour to join a guided walk to explore this small valley town of Krems, seemingly untouched by the new world.
Our first stop was in Krems and after breakfast a the wine tour to Winzer Krems Vineyard. At the Vineyards we sampled wine and discovered the way in which Winzer Krems produce their wine. It was finished with an extraordinary immersive tour of the cellars, a 3D film and a visit to the shop.
Back onboard after the first tour to relax and enjoy the picturesque Wachau Valley scenery. Lunch is served as you cruise to Ybbs whilst taking in the incredible view of Melk Abbey from your ship. The ship docks in Emmerdorf for the next excursions dropping off passengers for tours before continuing to Ybbs.
Ybbs tour And Arstetten castle
The excursions in the afternoon were;
- Baking and the bees
- And or ybbs and Schloss Artstetten Castle
Schloss Artstetten Castle
We visited the Schloss Artstetten Castle the former home and resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg were murdered on 28 June 1914 at the start of world war . You will learn all about the castle, its history and the the assassinations throughout the museum. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg are buried at the castle in the crypt which you can also visit. At the end of the visit we were delighted to actually meet Countess Alix de la Poëze d’Harambure-Fraye ( the great great granddaughter of Franz Ferdinand and the daughter of Princess Anita von Hohenberg). The countess greeted us with a glass of sparkling wine and spoke to us and told us of all of the history and answered our questions.
The last part of our tour on our afternoon excursion took us to the pretty town of Ybbs en der Donau to catch upwiththe ship which had sailed. We discovered some of the history of Ybbs and had a short stroll around the town. The Church St. Lorenz in Donau was particularly pretty and sits in the middle of the village.
A bit about the Wachau Valley
The Wachau is an Austrian valley which is totally picturesque and part of the Danube river. It is situated between between the towns of Melk and Krems in Austria. It is a famous area for its wines and is also 40 kilometres in length. The Wachau was listed as a UNESCO Heritage Sites in December 2000.
Wachau Valley interesting facts
Some interesting facts about the Wachau Valley
- The winemakers of this region offer their homemade wine at the so-called Heurigen, which are wine-taverns where cold food and local wine is offered. To show that their Heurigen is open the wine-makers put a small wheel made of straw in front of their house.
Wachau Valley Atrractions
Attractions of the Wachau Valley
- Dürnstein Castle where King Richard the Lion-Heart of England was held captive by Duke Leopold V
- Look out for Wachauer Nose that resides by the Danube at the ferry stop in Sankt Lorenz opposite Weißenkirchen in the Wachau valley.
- Dürnstein Abbey
The ships docks in Ybbs over night before sailing to Mauthausen
Day 5 dock in Mauthausan , Austria
Day 5 took us to Mauthausen.
Mauthusen ecursions were;
- Classic, Visit the 9th-century St. Florian Monastery—the largest monastery in upper Austria and home to Augustine monks
- Classic, Join a sobering Guided Tour of Mauthausen Concentration Camp, one of the largest and most brutal Nazi camps of WWII.
Mauthusen Concentration camp
We chose to visit the Concentration camp of Mauthusen. It is a particularly sobering visit and one that you can not say you enjoy. Having said that our tour guide was very insightful and told us a lot about the day to day lives of the prisoners at Mauthusen concentration camp. It is perhaps somewhere everyone should visit once in their life. Mautusen camp saw its first prisoners on the 8th August 1938 and it was liberated by American troops on the 5th May 1945.
Sail to Linz In the afternoon
After lunch up on the deck of the lovely Avalon waterways we docked in Linz. Lovely Linz in Austria is wonderful town to wander. There are lots of shops and gorgeous bars to sit outside and people watch! We decided to have a wander on our own in the afternoon on our own.
We discovered the huge pink elephant in the main square which represents that an elephant actually wandered through Linz in 1552. The stucco decoration in the main square was colored pink because this is a color of the city of Linz and acts as a role model and also reminder that everyone may wander through the old town with respect and understanding.
If you are travelling with children there is a mini tour train in the main square that takes at 25 minute tour of the old town and costs Adults €10, Children between 3 and 14 years €5.
There is an Optional Excursion to visit Linz and its medieval square or join an Optional Guided Hike to.
Cruising to our final destination Germany Passau
We ended our westbound Danube river cruise in Passau Germany. Avalon laid on coach to take us back to the airport or in to Munich for those staying on extra time.
Avalon also offer an add on excursion tour in Munich which you can opt for. I can thoroughly recommend adding a few days in Munich if you have the time it’s a very beautiful city.
Avalon Go app
Approximately 2-3 weeks before your holiday, you have access to a free mobile app provided by Avalon Waterways. The app is called AvalonGO and it keeps you in the know with logistics and information. The info is updated every day with each restaurant menu and also a daily planner so you always know what is going on. It has a really handy section on each destination should you need to navigate yourself around the city. It even allows you to document your journey with notes and photos to share with friends and family on social
Avalon include sightseeing with Certified Local Guides. Guided Optional Excursions and Tours, and ample free time to explore on your own.The three types of excursions are;
- Explore Classic sights
- Active excursions.
- Discovery for hands-on cultural and artistic experiences shared by local residents and experts.
Other River cruises on the Danube
Other River cruise lines offering Danube River cruises include;
- Viking River Cruises
- Arosa River cruises
Danube River cruise facts
Here are some interesting facts about the Danube River:
- Length and Location: The Danube River is Europe’s second-longest river after the Volga. It flows through ten countries, primarily in Eastern and Central Europe. These countries include Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.
- Source and Mouth: The Danube River begins its journey in the Black Forest of Germany and flows for approximately 1,770 miles (2,850 kilometers) before emptying into the Black Sea in Romania and Ukraine.
- Historical Significance: The Danube has played a crucial role in European history and trade for centuries. It was part of the ancient Roman Empire’s northern border and has been a trade route connecting Western and Eastern Europe.
- Diverse Ecosystem: The Danube River is home to a wide range of plant and animal species, including sturgeon, which are known for their prized caviar. It’s also an important migration route for various birds.
- Danube Delta: The Danube Delta, located where the river meets the Black Sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s known for its unique and diverse ecosystem, including various species of birds and fish.
- International Cooperation: Given that the Danube flows through multiple countries, there is a significant level of international cooperation in managing the river’s resources and ensuring its environmental protection.
- Hydroelectric Power: The Danube River is harnessed for hydroelectric power generation at several dams along its course, providing electricity to the regions it passes through.
- Historic Bridges: The Danube is adorned with numerous historic bridges, including the Chain Bridge in Budapest and the Iron Gate Bridge between Serbia and Romania.
- Cultural Impact: The river has inspired numerous works of art, music, and literature. The famous waltz “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II is just one example of its cultural significance.