Danube River Cruise: Budapest to Passau

The Danube River, often hailed as “Europe’s Main Street,” winds through the heart of the continent, offering an unrivaled passage through captivating landscapes and centuries of history.

Embarking on a river cruise from along the Danube is an odyssey that intertwines cultural richness, scenic wonders, and a profound sense of tranquility.

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The Popular Route

There are many different ways to cruise the Danube, but the most common route, which I would recommend myself, would be the 8 day/7 night Budapest to Passau. 

A Danube River cruise from Budapest to Passau isn’t just a voyage; it’s a passage through time, culture, and natural beauty. It’s a mosaic of experiences – from the melodies of classical music and aroma of freshly baked strudel to the embrace of medieval architecture and stunning landscapes, enjoy the tranquility of cruising along one of Europe’s most legendary waterways.

From the cultural richness of Budapest to the quaint charm of Passau, this voyage along the Danube epitomizes the essence of European allure, leaving travelers with an indelible sense of wonder and a treasure trove of unforgettable moments.

This is also a great route because it mixes in big cities like Budapest, Slovakia, and Vienna, with the quaint villages and countryside of Austria and Southern Germany. The stops are also lined up so you get the big cities first and then a more laid back rural experience on the back end, or vice versa if do this in reverse, Passau to Budapest. You also get the benefit of seeing three capital cities on this itinerary which is an interesting contrast.

How River Cruises Work

For those that haven’t been on a river cruise, you’ll love it! I’m a younger man in my late thirties, so I was skeptical thinking a river cruise is just for “old folks”, but that just isn’t true. European river cruises are awesome. River cruises in general are so much more preferable to the big ocean liners that you see in the Caribbean in my opinion.

Your floating hotel is small, often less than 200 passengers, making getting around the ship much more manageable. All meals are included, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and let me tell you the good cruise companies know how to treat. The food is absolutely first class, and by the end you definitely feel like you ate your money’s worth.

Activities and daily tours are also included in most river cruise packages. This makes it easy as you don’t have to think about what you’ll want to see and do, the local guides have it covered. And, if you decide you want to just relax and shop you can opt out of the daily tour and do the town on your own. The flexibility is great!

Recommended River Cruise Companies

Avalon Waterways: A leading river cruise company known for its innovative “Suite Ships” that offer spacious Panorama Suites with wall-to-wall windows, with a focus on luxury, immersive experiences, and personalized service in all the major waterways of Europe.

Viking River Cruises: Viking is the 900 lb gorilla as the world’s largest river cruise line. Renowned for its extensive fleet, immersive itineraries, and emphasis on cultural enrichment, Viking offers a range of European river cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Seine, and other iconic waterways.

AmaWaterways: Recognized for its luxurious ships, innovative design, and diverse itineraries focusing on more culinary experiences, active excursions, and cultural immersion, AmaWaterways cruises along various European rivers, including the Danube, Rhine, and Douro.

Scenic River Cruises: Celebrated for its all-inclusive luxury, Scenic offers top-notch amenities, innovative features like balcony suites with retractable windows, and diverse itineraries across European rivers like the Danube, Rhine, and Seine.

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Budapest: The Embarkation Point

The journey commences in Budapest, the stunning capital of Hungary, where the Danube splits the city into two distinct halves – Buda and Pest. As the ship sets sail, guests are treated to panoramic views of Budapest’s iconic landmarks: the majestic Buda Castle, the imposing Parliament building, and the striking Chain Bridge illuminated in the evening’s glow.

Typically, cruises will often have a short night cruise through the city. The Hungarian Parliament Building is all lit up which is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen!


Vienna, the capital of Austria, exudes imperial grandeur fused with artistic and musical richness. Known for its stunning architecture, including the opulent Schönbrunn Palace and the majestic Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna captivates visitors with its historical charm.

This cultural epicenter boasts a vibrant arts scene, classical music concerts, and captivating operas. Strolling through its charming streets adorned with coffee houses, experiencing the aroma of freshly baked pastries, and exploring its world-class museums make Vienna an enchanting destination.


As the ship glides along the river, passengers are greeted by a tapestry of landscapes that evolve from the lush Hungarian countryside to the growing urban center of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. This compact city boasts a captivating blend of medieval history and modern vibrancy.

The charming Old Town, with its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored buildings, invites exploration of historic squares, picturesque courtyards, delightful cafes and iconic landmarks like Bratislava Castle.

Tranquil Landscapes and Historic Towns

The voyage continues into rural Austria, a land steeped in culture and architectural splendor. Quaint towns with their cobblestone streets and medieval charm, invite exploration of historic squares and picturesque castles.

Passengers revel in the scenic beauty of the Wachau Valley, adorned with terraced vineyards, rolling hills, and the captivating Melk Abbey perched high above the river. The quaint town of Dürnstein (pictured above), known for its blue church tower and rich history, offers a delightful stop to savor local wines and explore its cobblestone streets.

Linz and Passau: Disembarkation

Continuing through Austria is a stop at Linz. Blending historic charm with modern art and technology, Lenz features the Hauptplatz and cutting-edge art at the Ars Electronica Center, as well as stunning views from the top of Pöstlingbergbahn Bergstation overlooking the entire city.

And then, as the voyage navigates into southern Germany to near its end, Passau welcomes travelers with its baroque architecture and the convergence of three rivers – the Danube, Inn, and Ilz. Visitors can explore its historic old town, stroll along the riverbanks, and indulge in the town’s rich cultural heritage, making it a delightful stop on a Danube River cruise.

The Onboard Experience

Beyond the captivating destinations, the river cruise experience itself is typically one of luxury and comfort. Passengers indulge in gourmet cuisine, relax on panoramic sun decks, and enjoy enriching onboard activities such as wine tastings, live performances, and lectures that delve into the history and culture of the regions visited. 

Download 10 Crucial Things To Do Before Traveling Abroad to help plan your next adventure; packing tips, getting foreign currency, finding the right adapters, phone plans, and more!

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