Originating in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube is the longest river in the European Union. It flows eastwards for a distance of some 2,850 kilometres, passing through four major capitals before reaching the Black Sea at the UNESCO-protected Danube Delta.
The epitome of European elegance and sophistication, Vienna owes its reputation to the cultural and architectural legacy of the Hapsburg Empire. During the 15th century this dynasty’s influence spread throughout Europe, necessitating a capital city to reflect its wealth and prestige.
The Ringstrasse, the Opera House and the palaces of Belvedere, Schönbrunn and Hofburg are testaments to this enduring legacy, while the music of Mozart, Strauss and Mahler are further flowerings of Vienna’s natural artistic expression.
The Hungarian capital is a city of two halves, with Buda to the west overlooking Pest to the east. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe, it boasts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
These include the Danube embankments, the Buda Castle quarter, Andrássy Avenue with its magnificent buildings and squares, and Europe’s oldest underground railway (which retains most of its original stations). Another subterranean highlight is the world’s largest thermal water cave system.
The Wachau Valley
This region of glorious riverscapes and stunning vistas is picture-postcard Austria at its best. Here the Danube embraces lovely old villages such as Emmersdorf and Dürnstein.
Another must-see is the Benedictine Abbey of Melk, a wonderfully ornate example of baroque architecture with a magnificent setting above the Danube.