The most beautiful places to visit along the Danube

the most beautiful towns to visit on the danube
The most beautiful Danube cities and townsGivaga - Getty Images

The Danube

The Danube is one of Europe's most important rivers. It meanders past grand hillside castles, ancient medieval towns, and a whole host of culture-rich cities, including four European capitals. There's Vienna, renowned for its art, culture and music, Budapest, a historic gem with grand buildings like the formidable Buda Castle, Bratislava, with its neo-gothic architecture and diverse culinary scene, and Belgrade, where you'll find vibrant nightlife alongside a rich and tumultuous history.

A great way to discover the cities along the Danube is on a river cruise.

A Danube river cruise is not all about capital cities. As well as bustling metropolises, you'll also be able to explore old towns and pretty villages set amid breathtaking rural scenery, like Passau and Linz, the venerable 900-year-old abbey at Melk, and the breathtaking natural splendor of the UNESCO-designated Wachau Valley.


Renowned for its musical connections, the Danube flows through Vienna, the epicenter of classical music and the cherished residence of Mozart.


Esztergom, Hungary

Krems, Austria




Novi Sad, Serbia

Kuenringerburg, Austria

The Danube is one of Europe's great rivers, whose banks have seen the rise and fall of empires and dynasties and inspired some of the continent's most famous artists and musicians. It meanders past grand hillside castles, ancient medieval towns, and a whole host of culture-rich cities, including four European capital cities.


It flows through Vienna, known as the home of Mozart; Budapest, a historic gem where grand buildings contrast with more ramshackle, bohemian neighbourhoods; Bratislava, where you'll find neo-Gothic architecture and a diverse culinary scene; and Belgrade, with its vibrant nightlife and tumultuous history.

A great way to discover the cities along the Danube is on a river cruise. River cruises are a great way to embark on grand adventures, allowing you to visit several towns and cities on one trip, without the hassle of navigating local transport yourself.

A Danube river cruise is not just about capital cities. As well as bustling metropolises, you'll also be able to explore old towns, historic landmarks and pretty villages set amid glorious rural scenery, like Passau and Linz, the venerable 900-year-old abbey at Melk, and the breathtaking natural landscapes of the UNESCO-designated Wachau Valley.

Good Housekeeping has a boutique river cruise which will take you through several of these locations and cities along the Danube. In Vienna, you'll enjoy an exclusive visit to the Royal Lippizaner Stables with historian Lucy Worsley, to see the city's beautiful Lipizzaner horses in training.

Or, you might choose to join our festive five-night sailing with Saturday Kitchen presenter Matt Tebbutt, who'll prepare a special gala dinner for you on board one evening. Enjoy the magical atmosphere along the Danube and sip warming glühwein as you explore some of the region's finest Christmas markets.

We've rounded up some of our favourite destinations to help you feel inspired and visit the loveliest Danube cities, whether on a river cruise or a city break.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna is one of Europe's grandest cities, boasting Baroque palaces, beautifully-tended gardens and chic coffee houses where you'll feel as if you've stepped back in time. It's also a city synonymous with music, being the home of Mozart for much of his life, and still draws lovers of classical music who come to hear accomplished musicians play in the city's many magnificent concert halls. You can visit the house Mozart once lived in, which is now a fascinating museum dedicated the composer.

Vienna is also home to the the Royal Lipizzaner Stables at the Spanish Riding School, where grand Lipizzan horses are trained to perform a mesmerising type of equine ballet.

You can visit the Royal Lipizzaner Stables with Lucy Worsley as part of Good Housekeeping's Danube River cruise. You'll enjoy an aperitif and an introductory talk before watching the training of the young stallions in the imperial atmosphere of the Baroque winter riding school, accompanied by classical Viennese music.


Alternatively, see Vienna at its festive best on our Christmas sailing in December. You'll have the chance to visit the beautifully decorated Rathaus Christmas Market, Vienna's largest, and discover several smaller markets around the city.


Jorg Greuel - Getty Images

Esztergom, Hungary

Esztergom is a historically important city perched on a picturesque curve in the Danube River which marks the boundary between Hungary and Slovakia. This Danube city has been the seat of Catholicism in Hungary for over 1,000 years, and the first thing you'll see as you approach is the remarkable church that crowns the historic town.

This is Hungary's largest church and has an impressive history stretching back to the reign of the nation's first king, St Stephen. You're sure to be impressed by the scale of the Basilica up close, with its monumental 118-metre dome.

Elegant Esztergom is a port of call on Good Housekeeping's Danube cruise with Lucy Worsley, where you'll have time to visit the exquisite Basilica before sailing onwards for Budapest.


the most beautiful places to visit in france
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Linz, Austria

The Austrian port city of Linz enchants visitors with its Baroque facades, fairytale churches, and charming squares. The city has transformed from an industrial hub to a vibrant European cultural stronghold in recent years. Whether it's theatre, cinema, art, or music, you'll find plenty of thriving culture to enjoy. Of course, no visit to Linz is truly complete without indulging in its sweet culinary delights, including the famous Linzer Torte.

As well as having plenty of culture of its own to offer, Linz also makes a great base from which to explore nearby Salzburg. While not located on the Danube itself, Salzburg often makes an appearance on Danube river cruise itineraries due to its unmissable landmarks, including Mozart's birthplace and the exquisite Mirabell Palace and Gardens.

Good Housekeeping has a special right-day Danube cruise with no single supplement, perfect for solo travellers. You'll sail into Linz on the ultra-luxurious SS Maria Theresa and can either spend the day here or head to nearby Salzburg.


the most beautiful towns to visit on the danube
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Krems, Austria

Krems might not be among the better-known locations on the Danube, but it certainly has a lot to offer in terms of culture and scenery. In this small Austrian town, you'll find story-book churches and museums and plenty of spectacular vistas to enjoy on a meandering walk along the Danube's banks.

It's also a great destination for wine lovers, who can sample vintages from the surrounding Krems Valley wine region. Vineyards have flourished in this valley for centuries, thanks to the region's fertile soils, and are particularly known for their Rieslings and spicy Grüne Veltliners.

You'll make a stop in lovely Krems on Good Housekeeping's Danube cruise, where you can join an optional tour to discover Krems and parts of the surrounding Wachau Valley.


the most beautiful towns and cities to visit along the danube
Vladislav Zolotov - Getty Images

Bratislava, Slovakia

Slovakia's capital sits snugly between Hungary and Austria along the banks of the Danube. Bratislava may be compact, but it packs a punch in terms of history and culture. The city's location has made it a melting pot of cultures since ancient times, and you can expect to see these influences play out in every corner.

There's a medieval and Gothic old town that buzzes with the sound of different languages around grand Baroque palaces built by Hungarian nobility alongside communist-era blocks and a unique futuristic bridge that reflect its more recent past. A highlight is the imposing Bratislava Castle, which dominates the skyline with its four turrets, standing on a rocky hill in the Little Carpathians and looking out across the Danube.

You can visit Bratislava on Good Housekeeping's Danube cruise, where you'll have time to visit the castle and wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town and along the promenade of the Danube riverbank, stopping for a coffee and admiring the views.


bratislava aerial view
TomasSereda - Getty Images

Durnstein, Austria

If you're compiling a list of smaller towns and villages to visit along the Danube, you'll want to add Durnstein in Austria's Wachau Valley. This village is home to around 900 residents and looks like something straight out of a storybook, with its crumbling hilltop castle and pretty blue-white church overlooking the river.

Durnstein is also a must-visit location for wine lovers. This sleepy little town is well-known for its wineries and is surrounded by lush vineyards producing quality Rieslings and other wines. The surrounding countryside is also known for its sweet and plump apricots, whose trees transform the valley's orchards into a fragrant pink-white ocean of blossoms each spring.

You'll visit Durnstein on Good Housekeeping's eight-day cruise of the Danube. This cruise is ideal if you're looking to explore the Danube as a solo traveller, with no single supplement.


pictorial wachau valley,lower austria
Freeartist - Getty Images

Passau, Germany

Another small but mighty location along the Danube is the enchanting town of Passau. The town is located at the meeting point of the Danube with two other rivers, the Ilz and the Inn, and is known for its colourful Baroque buildings and winding alleyways. Having been partially destroyed by a fire in 1662, parts of the town were rebuilt by Italian architects, giving the city a Mediterranean Baroque flair.

Nestled among the charming cobbled streets of Passau is St. Stephen's Cathedral, home to one of the world's largest church organs with more than 17,000 pipes and one of the buildings which was rebuilt in the Italian Baroque style. It's well worth paying a visit to the cathedral to see this spectacular instrument.

Passau is another stop on our eight-say Danube cruise with no single supplement. You'll visit St. Stephen's Cathedral with its impressive organ and the hilltop Oberhaus Fortress.


passau at sunset
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Budapest, Hungary

Hungary's enigmatic capital, nicknamed 'the Pearl of the Danube,' is a city of contrasts. For much of history, the city didn't exist. Rather than Budapest, there was Buda and Pest, two distinct settlements on opposite sides of the river. Around 150 years ago, the two sides became one, forming the city we know today. You can still note the differences on either side of the Danube, with historic Buda being slightly more upmarket and elegant than the lively, bohemian Pest across the river.

Visitors love wandering around admiring Budapest's mix of architectural styles, from Art Nouveau to Baroque and Bauhaus. Highlights include the Gothic Hungarian Parliament building standing proudly on the eastern bank of the Danube and the famous Szechenyi Baths - one of the largest thermal spas in Europe.

Good Housekeeping's Danube river cruise with Matt Tebbutt, will take you to Budapest, where you'll dock overnight, giving you plenty of time to get to know this central European gem.


the most beautiful towns to visit on the danube
Givaga - Getty Images

Belgrade, Serbia

Another Danube city is Belgrade. While it might not be considered the prettiest city along the Danube, Belgrade has a long and fascinating history and is thought to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, stretching back over 7,000 years.

You'll see reminders of this long history as you explore, especially at the impressive Belgrade Fortress, standing at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube, first built by the Romans in the 2nd century and later destroyed, rebuilt and expanded many times.

But Belgrade has a modern flair too and is gaining a reputation for buzzy nightlife, with a whole host of excellent bars and restaurants to discover as well as a lively street art scene, with various intriguing murals adorning the walls of its buildings throughout the city.

belgrade, the capital of serbia view of the old historic city center on sava river banks image
Vladographer - Getty Images

Melk, Austria

Known as 'the gateway to the Wachau,' Melk is another exquisite Austrian city with an important religious history. Its crowning glory is its Baroque Abbey, perched high above the Danube and offering incredible views across the region's beautiful valleys and Melk's cobbled streets.

Melk Abbey is packed full of fascinating artefacts and includes a stunning library with an intricately frescoed ceiling, a spiral staircase and thousands upon thousands of books. The Abbey is also the final resting place of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria's first ruling dynasty.

You can visit Melk on Good Housekeeping's cruise of the Danube. You'll get the chance to visit the city's famous abbey and wander around the city's delightful streets, enjoying views across the Danube as you go.


Visit Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Melk on a Danube cruise with Good Housekeeping. This exclusive seven-night cruise includes a special visit to the Royal Lipizzaner Stables with Lucy Worsley who'll give a special talk and Q&A.


Or join a five-day Christmas cruise along the Danube which will take you to some of the region's finest festive markets. Joining you for part of the cruise is Matt Tebbutt, who'll craft a delicious gala dinner.


the most beautiful towns and cities to visit along the danube bratislavajpg
Vladislav Zolotov - Getty Images

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