Danube River, detailed descriptions and prices of cruises

Danube River

Detailed description of the longest tributary of the Danube with a brief tour of the surrounding attractions. Where is the Danube River and which countries it connects.

The Danube’s landscaped waterfront is a great place to explore the sights of more than 10 European countries. The length of the river, almost 3,000 km, makes it the second longest in Europe and the longest waterway in the EU.

According to scientists, the name appeared in the Proto-Slavonic language from Gothic, where it was a transformed Celtic word “Danuvius”. Celtic tribes lived on the banks of the Danube, which at that time was known as the Istrian, in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The famous Greek explorer Herodotus wrote about it in his “History”, dated to the 5th century BC.

The Danube River is 2 to 2.8 m deep in various parts, and its source is in the German Black Forest. In Baden-Württemberg near the village of Donaueschingen at an altitude of about 700 meters above the plain, the mountain streams Breg and Brigach merge. It is here, near the fortifications of the local castle, that the confluent spring of the famous river flows.

The source of the river

General information about the Danube

The Danube estuary is a delta on the Ukrainian-Romanian border, where its waters mix with the waters of the Black Sea.

The basin of the river makes more than 800 thousand km 2 . Throughout its length there are steep turns of the channel: first to the southeast in the German mountain range and then to the northeast. Near Regensburg there is the northernmost mark of the riverbed, after which it flows southeastward again and passes through the Vienna Basin, the Middle Danube Depression, the Southern Carpathians and the Lower Danube Depression. The southernmost mark of the channel is near the Bulgarian town of Svishtov.

About 30 km from its source, near Immedingen, this waterway almost completely disappears underground for about 200 days each year, only seeping through the calcareous rock.

Depending on the terrain, season, and climatic conditions, the level of the navigable Danube River varies between 1 and 5 meters.

Romania and Serbia

It is not difficult to find on the map where the Danube River is located: it is the decoration of many European countries, as well as a natural border for some of them. To admire its beauties can:

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Croatia
  • Serbia
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Moldova
  • Ukraine

It is also important to know which countries the Danube connects through its rather extensive basin. Additionally they include Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, certain regions of which are part of the river delta.


To imagine the importance of this water artery for the ecosystem of the entire European part of the continent, it is worth examining in detail what rivers flow directly into the Danube. There are quite a few of them, both on the right and left sides. The right tributaries are considered (the area of flow is given in parentheses):

  • Iskar (Bulgaria);
  • Iller and Isar (Germany);
  • Morava (Serbia);
  • Lech (Germany and Austria);
  • Sava (Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia);
  • Drava (Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Hungary);
  • Inn (Germany, Austria and Switzerland);
  • Raba (Hungary and Austria);
  • Ens (Austria).
Ganges River in India, photo not for the faint of heart 18+

The left tributaries of the river are (in parentheses the area of flow is given):

  • Prut (Romania, Moldova and Ukraine);
  • Morava (Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia);
  • Siret (Romania and Ukraine);
  • Váh and Hron (Slovakia);
  • Tisza (Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania);
  • Ipel (Slovakia and Romania).

The longest tributary of the Danube is the Tisza, which is slightly longer than 960 km. This river flows through the regions of the five states.

Tisza River

Excursion on the Danube

River cruises on this majestic river are very popular due to the fact that in 7-8 days you have the opportunity to see at least half of Europe. The cost of such a trip on a comfortable motor ship, depending on the conditions of the trip varies from 800 to 2000 Euros. The standard route on the Danube is a visit to the following cities:

  1. Budapest . The Hungarian capital Danube is divided into two halves connected with each other by 7 original bridges. Here are worthy of attention the old parliament building, art galleries, and many ethnographic and art museums with splendid collections of art objects.
  2. Esztergom, located on the southern bank of the river in the northern part of Hungary, almost on the border with Slovakia. The city is worth a visit to the largest Hungarian basilica with a unique chapel made of red marble.
  3. Bratislava . The capital of Slovakia, stretched in the foothills of the Southern Carpathian Mountains, is known for such sights as Devin Castle, the cathedral of St. Martin of the VIII century, the presidential palace of the XVIII century and other attractions. Especially worth mentioning is the SNP bridge over the Danube, built using high technology.
  4. Vienna . The Austrian capital is a wonderful place to experience ancient European architecture. This includes numerous palace complexes Schönbrunn, Hofburg, Belvedere, the famous Vienna Opera House, and museums with a variety of exhibitions of masterpieces of painting and sculpture of past ages.
  5. Emmersdorf . This small town is located on the west of the famous wine region of Austria – Wachau Valley. Here you can taste the most exquisite wines.
  6. Linz, the historical center of which with its numerous monuments of Baroque architecture is worth seeing, and Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. In Salzburg the historical center, located on the left bank of the Salzach river, is worth a visit. In Salzburg there is a house-museum of the great composer, as well as numerous cathedrals, churches and citadel Hohensalzburg.
  7. Regensburg is the residence of the bishop of the Catholic Church. After disembarking, be sure to check out the medieval Gothic St. Peter’s Cathedral and order authentic Bavarian sausages at the region’s oldest eatery. You can find it by the Stone Bridge over the Danube, which dates back to the 12th century.
  8. Passau . The city is situated on the border of Bohemia, Austria and Germany and its architecture is reminiscent of Baroque and Renaissance times. Passau’s main attraction is the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. The waters of each of them have a different shade: blue, green and black respectively.

Cruises on the Danube

Danube Cruise Photo

Danube cruises, or Danube cruises, are a great way to experience Central Europe. The itinerary and map of a Danube voyage cover more than ten European countries, so different in both standard of living and traditions and natural features. Also the river can show the most beautiful capitals of Europe, which is difficult to get to at the same time, during a single tour. Just a cruise on the Danube offers such an opportunity – if only you had 7-15 days to spare, good weather and an irresistible desire to travel.

The Chla River in the Stavropol Territory, Shpakovsky District

Danube Cruise, itinerary

Bucharest-Oltenica, Romania

Travelers usually take a regular flight to Bucharest, the starting point of the cruise. Upon arrival, cruise organizers may offer a tour of the Romanian capital. Bucharest’s main historical landmarks include Revolution Square and University Square, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Ceausescu Palace, which recently opened to the public.

Danube Cruise, Landscapes

After the acquaintance with Bucharest, located 45 km from the Danube, the tourists will see a small port city on the Danube, where the trip begins – Oltenica (Roman Oltenița). Once a fortress during the Roman Empire it was called Dafna. Oltenica is situated in a beautiful place – at the point where the river Ardzhes flows into the Danube. The border with Bulgaria is not far away, and Bulgarian landscapes open up on the other side of the Danube.

2. Ruse (Bulgaria)

The largest Bulgarian port on the Danube, Ruse (Rushuk) is the fifth largest city in Bulgaria. It is situated on the right bank of the Danube. The history of modern Ruse can be traced back to the distant past – its origins date back some 5,000 years to the reign of the Roman Emperor Vespasian.

In the 1st century AD the fortress and port Sexaginta Prista were built on the Danube shore, which could accommodate up to 60 ships. The citadel was on the main road from Belgrade (its name at that time was Singidium) to the Danube delta and further on to the Black Sea. Under the fortified stone walls of Ruse in the 19th century during the numerous Russian-Turkish wars the Russian and Ottoman (Turkish) armies fought several times.

Channel of Danube near Ruse, Bulgaria

Modern Bulgarian Ruse deserves at least a one-day walk to get acquainted with the city. If you don’t have much time, you can take an excursion to Veliko Tarnovo, the ancient capital of Bulgaria (XII – XIV century), a city rich in architectural monuments and very popular among tourists.

Oryahovo (Bulgaria)

Oryahovo is a small Bulgarian port on the right bank of the Danube. It is located in Vratsa region, near the town of Mizia. Numerous ferries ply along the Danube shores from Oryahovo, and there is also a border crossing point, because on the left bank of the river there is the territory of neighboring Romania. In the vicinity of Oryahovo there are the remains of the IX century defense system – the fortress of the First Bulgarian Kingdom on the Danube.

Danube on the plains of Bulgaria

Cruise ships usually stay here overnight, and in the morning groups of tourists visit the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia.

4. Iron Gate of Danube and Serbia

The Danube River serves as a modern-day natural border between the territories of Romania and Serbia. Moving up the riverbed, the cruise ships pass through the picturesque mountainous terrain of the natural Serbian National Reserve Djerdap, where the Danube route starts in the mountain gorges of Romania and Serbia – the so called Iron Gate Danube parade.

Maya River, Khabarovsk Region: tributaries, excursions

The entrance of the Danube at the Iron Gate

The Danube begins to narrow rapidly, losing its width – from one kilometer (in the Belgrade area) to 160 meters at the Djerdap dam, separating Serbia and Romania. The river winds between mountain gorges and cliffs overhanging the surface of the river for some 100 kilometers. It is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most beautiful river landscapes. The Romanians call the place where the course of the Danube narrows sharply, Porţile de Fier (Iron Gate).

Channel of the Danube near Iron Gate

The Iron Gate serves as a kind of geological border, separating two mountain ranges – the Carpathians and the Balkans (Stara Planina mountain range, which stretches across Bulgaria and Serbia), on the border of Serbia and Romania, slightly below the town of Orsov. The natural water barrier is 15 km long and 162 m wide. In the Djerdap gorge on the Danube, in the 70s of the last century, with the participation of the USSR, a huge hydroelectric power plant was built. In 1984, a little further downstream from the first hydroelectric power plant, another hydroelectric power plant was built, and since 2011 its dam has been used as the border crossing point between Serbia and Romania.

If the cruise you’ll be taking is scheduled in the spring, there’s a good chance that Jerdap will look like landscape Norway and its famous fjords(see Sea Adventures, Best Destinations). Near the tiny town of Golubac the Danube changes before our eyes from a calm plain river into a rapid and turbulent mountain stream. The swift mountain stream finishes in the town of Kladovo, 100 km downstream, not far from the Bulgarian border.

Bridge over the Danube

Schengen (or Romanian) visa allows getting off at the Romanian coast and visiting some interesting sights on the territory of this country. Serbian coast is available without Schengen, tourist routes are completely open for up to 30 days (see the Balkan Peninsula vacation map).

5. Belgrade (Serbia).

In Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, river cruise ships stop for tourists to explore the city. A tour of Belgrade usually includes a visit to the Kalemegdan fortress, a walk through the lively center topped by Republic Square, a tour of Knez Mihailova Street and Serbia’s most important Christian cathedral, St. Sava Church. Read more about Belgrade.

Danube Banks near Belgrade

In the afternoon, if you have free time, you can take part in a walking tour on Topola. The popular tour, which is organized by local travel agencies, introduces the beautiful complex of the Serbian princely and later royal dynasty Karadjordjevic in Sumadija, on the Oplenac hill in Topola. The complex includes the Karageorgevich Museum, the villas of King Alexander and Queen Maria, but its main attraction is the church of St. George.

Also, from Belgrade is very convenient to move for a day or two to Croatia and its interesting places – the sunny Adriatic Dubrovnik and mysterious Plitvice Lakes. The country is rich with good beaches and merry parties. Learn more.

6. Vukovar (Croatia) – Mohács (Hungary)

Danube Cruise Map

Cruise ships arrive on the Danube in the morning in Vukovar, the Croatian town where the largest and bloodiest battle of the last war in the Balkans took place. Vukovar is still being rebuilt after that war, but that doesn’t stop tourists from seeing the city’s main attractions:

  • Franciscan Monastery (built in 1688).
  • The Bishop’s Palace (founded in 1777)
  • Vuchedol – archaeological monument of Slavonian culture five kilometers from the city, which saw the late Neolithic period
Telaga Waja River and rafting in Bali

At the beginning of the 16th century, a decisive battle between the Hungarian and Ottoman (Turkish) military legions took place in Hungarian Mohacs. The Hungarians suffered a crushing defeat and opened the door to the Turks into the heart of Central Europe for 160 years. In 1687 Mohacz again became the center of the battle with the Ottomans. But this time the Ottoman army was still defeated by Austrian troops.

Danube Cruise off the coast of Vukovar, Croatia

Modern Mohach is a very small town of about 20 thousand people. It is renowned for its colorful annual week-long Bushoarash festival, held in early February. According to legend, the Croatian Shockers who live in Mohač were able to drive the Ottomans out of the town and liberate their homes and land from the invaders by making a terrible noise at night in the locality.

Mohacz, Bušoyaras Holiday

7. Budapest (Hungary).

Further upstream on the Danube cruise itinerary, travelers are greeted by modern Budapest, or rather the two ancient cities of Buda and Pest, united in 1873 to serve as the Hungarian capital. The city tour includes a walk through the streets of Pest, an introduction to the Opera House and Heroes’ Square, beyond which the city’s Varoshliget Park begins.

Danube in Budapest

Heroes’ Square is decorated with several outstanding monuments. In the center of it is crowned by a tall column, the top of which is a statue of the archangel Gabriel. The monument commemorates the thousandth anniversary of the Magyars’ crossing of the Carpathian Mountains. Semicircular colonnades on both sides of the square, behind the Archangel Gabriel column symbolize the monument to the heroes of Hungary.

On either side of the square are two buildings with neoclassical architecture. One of them is the Museum of Fine Arts, the other is the Mucarnok Exhibition Hall (Museum of Modern Art).

The other part of the Hungarian capital, Buda, is on the right bank of the Danube. Buda was the capital of Hungary before the Ottomans (1361 – 1541), then three centuries later it regained the role of the major city of the country – in 1784, and in 1873 was united with Pest. Thus the enormous city of Budapest was born.

The most impressive sights of Budapest are:

1. Fisherman’s Bastion (Hung. Halászbástya), an architectural ensemble on Fortress Hill in Buda, a huge square surrounded by a gallery adorned with hipped conical towers.

2. Castle Hill is an ancient fortified area of the city, where in the 13th century was built a royal palace and the refugees fleeing from the Mongol invasion found refuge. Later Gothic arches and rich Baroque houses were built on the territory of Castle Hill. Modern development of Castle Hill has not touched its ancient landmarks. During the walking tour tourists can also visit Trinity Square, Mátyás Templom Church and Halászbástya (Fishermen’s Bastion), which we mentioned above. These witnesses to the city’s history give us a chance to see how Buda was in the past.

The Ara-Osheya River is the right tributary of the Kitoy River

Danube cruise

The easiest way to get to Castle Mountain is by cable car from Chain Bridge, which connects the right and left banks of Budapest. For those who like to explore the city streets by moonlight we recommend a walk through Buda at night.

8. Bratislava (Slovakia)

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. A walking tour of the city, which is almost always organized for passengers of Danube cruise ships, introduces the most interesting sights of the Slavic city, among which the Slovak Renaissance castle Červený Kamin (16th century) is especially popular.

A cruise on the Danube, Bratislava at night

. And ahead of us awaits the inimitable Vienna – the capital of the emperors and royal cuisine!

9. Vienna (Austria)

The Austrian capital is not enough one day to get acquainted. It requires at least two or three. First of all it is worth discovering the main monuments of old Vienna – the famous sightseeing ring, starting with the Opera House, continuing to the castle Hofburg, then walking through the streets of the city center to St. Stephen Cathedral.

Vienna on the banks of the Danube

If you have some free time, you can devote to discovering “Vienna Versailles”, the country residence of the Austro-Hungarian emperors – Schönbrunn Castle. Spend an evening in Vienna and enjoy classical music, which is played everywhere: in concert halls, cathedrals and museums. Learn more about Vienna.

10. Melk (Austria).

In the morning after bidding farewell to Vienna the Danube opens the breathtaking scenery of the Wachau valley in the federal state of Lower Austria. The towns of Melk and Krems have found their residence here, and the distance from Vienna is about 80 km to the west. This region is famous for winemaking, the cultivation of juicy fruits, it is very popular among tourists. Once the ship stops in the port of Melk local guides are ready to show the tourists Melk Abbey and one of the local wineries (for example in the town of Dürnstein) and a tasting of Bacchus’ drinks.

Melk Austria, Danube Cruise

Linz (Austria)

The modern Austrian city of Linz, with a population of about 200,000, was founded by the Romans on the site of an ancient Celtic settlement. The ancient empire used Lentos in 15 BC as a defense citadel on its northern border.

Landscapes of the Danube valleys, Lower Austria

Linz is of particular interest to tourists:

  • the main square (Hauptplatz) – located in the old city center on the southern bank of the Danube, built in 1260.
  • St. Martin’s Church (79), the oldest church in Linz that is still in use, not only in Linz, but in all of Austria.
  • The Schloss (German: Schloss) – the former residence of Emperor Frederick III. It is located in the western part of the old city, on the Danubian mountain rock.
  • Lentos Art Museum – it has a collection of modern art

A cruise on the Danube assumes that tourists spend their free time in Linz, and if they want they can take part in excursions introducing the neighboring Czech Republic or visit the charming Austrian Salzburg.

12. Passau (Germany).

Cruise ships usually arrive in Passau in the evening. From there tourists go to the nearest airport, which is located in Munich, Bavaria. If time permits, we suggest staying longer in Bavaria to see southern Germany in more detail.

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