As you already know from my article on waterfront cities around the world, I really like a metropolis — the larger, the higher — set by the water, be it an ocean or a grand river. And it doesn’t get a lot grander than the Danube. The second longest river in Europe after the Russian Volga, the Danube springs within the Black Forest in Germany, and it crosses 10 European international locations alongside its 1,770 miles till it flows into the Black Sea. Not surprisingly, it’s common for river cruises.
There are 4 magnificent capital cities situated on its riverbanks: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade. So as to add to this spectacular record, each Bucharest and Sofia lie inside a brief distance from the banks of the Danube. They’re so shut, certainly, that river cruises alongside the Danube cease and permit passengers to go to each capital cities, in addition to tourism boards providing day journeys from every metropolis to the Danube for river journeys to the estuary. So I took the freedom of including these two cities to this record of fantastic capital cities alongside the Danube.
Whereas every of the cities has the Danube in widespread with the others, these capitals couldn’t be extra completely different from one another, every providing distinct historical past inside a novel setting, and every having its personal language, delicacies, and ambiance. Having visited every one, I discover it not possible to decide on a favourite, as I like all of them for particular causes.
Learn my record of cities, beginning within the west and shifting east to search out out what they’re and what they’ve to supply and see if you’ll find yourself with a favourite.
Vienna barely wants an introduction with its imperial buildings, wonderful church buildings, fairly and really well-behaved Lipizzaner horses, well-known cake, and a lot artwork and tradition. For artwork lovers, the Museum of Utilized Artwork and the Hundertwasserhaus are a should, for music and palace fiends, a concert at Schönbrunn Palace is fantastic, and free yearly, whereas meals lovers want to return ready.
From the famed Sachertorte to the creamy coffees, from Wienerschnitzel to the Naschmarkt (snack market), an enormous meals market, there’s something scrumptious at each nook. Finest carry outfits with elasticated waists or work a few of it off strolling alongside the Danube. However do take word that you want to take the metro line U1 to Alte Donau and stroll from there, because the Danube is just not really proper within the metropolis middle of Vienna.
Professional Tip: On my first go to to Vienna, I used to be a poor pupil and couldn’t afford excursions or guides. As a substitute, I purchased myself a day ticket for the public transport and hopped on each tram I noticed, driving it from starting to finish, having fun with the views, listening to the locals chat, and hopping off every time I noticed one thing attention-grabbing. It nonetheless works very properly right now, particularly since Tram 1 is worth it driving.
Lower than 50 miles from Vienna, within the southwestern nook of Slovakia lies its capital Bratislava. With a inhabitants of lower than half 1,000,000 and an ideal little previous middle, Bratislava is ideal for a weekend or a 2-day journey. With most of its sights situated inside the previous medieval middle dominated by the primary sq. surrounded by Gothic and Neo-Baroque buildings, you may get in every single place in Bratislava on foot — even as much as the fortress. Though if you wish to keep away from the meandering and simple, however fairly quite a few steps uphill, take bus quantity 203 or 207 to the highest.
The previous city middle is strewn with numerous quirky sculptures: a man peeping out of a manhole, a paparazzo taking an image across the nook, a soldier sitting on the primary sq.’s bench, and plenty of extra. Excellent for posing for foolish footage.
Stuffed with cafes and eating places, artwork galleries, little shops, and the prettiest blue church, Bratislava is a delight to find.
Professional Tip: Amidst the previous sights, you too can go tremendous trendy with a journey up the UFO Bridge throughout the Danube. This space-age tower permits for fabulous views throughout town and surrounding mountains and has a fairly good restaurant on the prime as properly, (with bathrooms with a view!), however e-book forward.
Roughly 125 miles additional east of Bratislava lies the fantastic Budapest, providing two cities in a single: Buda on the west facet of the Danube and Pest on the jap riverbank. That is, with Vienna, the grandest metropolis alongside the Danube, with magnificent structure (the Parliament Constructing alone, the world’s largest, is price a go to) starting from Baroque to Artwork Nouveau to Socialist Classicism, and plenty extra.
Whereas Budapest is most well-known for its bridges, fortress, and ice cream (sure, ice cream), I loved the previous Central Market Corridor with its nice meals stalls, the funicular as much as the fortress, and the Gellert Baths greatest. The baths supply an important have a look at and into the Hungarians, with swimming costumes optionally available within the showers, and massages being approached not with candles and whale music, however in a no-nonsense method that scared me a bit of at first however felt good afterward.
Professional Tip: Eat at Hilda Restaurant, a surprising little place serving nice Hungarian delicacies — from goulash to paprika rooster — and regional wine. It’s not the most cost effective however might be one of the crucial trendy.
Belgrade, some 235 miles from Budapest, is a type of European capital cities that’s barely on any abroad customer’s radar. Mendacity on the confluence of the Sava River and the Danube, town is filled with historical past, charming neighborhoods, and a few actually very good eating places serving nice meals at — for guests — ridiculously low costs.
With its turbulent historical past (the final struggle solely led to 1999), town is a hotchpotch of buildings courting to the Romans, the Center Ages, and all the pieces since. Right here is an imposing fortress to discover with one of the best views throughout the confluence and the encircling countryside, whereas the previous city Stari Grad is an atmospheric quarter to meander, and Skadarlija road is an ideal cease for foods and drinks.
To get essentially the most out of the Danube, head to the completely beautiful city of Zemun within the northwest of Belgrade, after which stroll again into Belgrade alongside the Danube. There are many cafes and eating places, stalls, and sights alongside the best way.
Professional Tip: Simply earlier than you attain the bridge again throughout the Sava, pop into the attention-grabbing Contemporary Art Museum.
These final two additions to the record of capitals alongside the Danube don’t lie on the Danube, strictly talking. However Bucharest is situated lower than 50 miles from the Danube, and excursions on the river and towards the estuary, plus stops of the busy river cruises are all virtually on the doorstep. And Bucharest is a surprising metropolis with the moniker Paris of the East, and you’ll quickly uncover why it’s referred to as that. Not solely are the buildings grand and exquisite, but additionally there’s an Arc de Triomphe (Arcul de Triumf), and the road indicators are of the identical blue and inexperienced enamel design as these in Paris. Stunning tiny church buildings (do pop into each single one, please, in any other case you’ll miss out) distinction with the imposing buildings of the Folks’s Palace and the Athenaeum, and the Outdated City is surrounded by inexperienced parks. A wierd however worthwhile web site is the Dimitrie Gusti Nationwide Village Museum, an eclectic however attention-grabbing assortment of historic rural homes.
Professional Tip: Don’t miss Carturesti Carusel, considered one of my favorite bookstores ever.
Lower than 100 miles from the Danube and really a lot linked with Danube tourism, Sofia is a small capital with a lot to see. Historic historical past, beautiful Russian Orthodox church buildings, fabulous artwork galleries, and even huge Roman ruins which historians — and I — stumbled upon by pure probability. There are superb eating places and bars, together with one which grew to become my native for the time I used to be there: The Cocktail Bar on Angel Kanchev Road, with backyard seating, the place you could possibly sit outdoors and simply take pleasure in being a part of Sofia’s individuals.
Sofia is a really habitable metropolis, and whereas not enormous on apparent vacationer sights, there are such a lot of smaller issues to see, that this may even be my favourite of the lot. Along with Bucharest. And Bratislava. And. Oh, by no means thoughts. Each single of those cities alongside the Danube is gorgeous in its personal proper and properly price a go to.
To double-check, you possibly can “mop up” most of them in a single single cruise, after which add some extra, by crusing again from Sofia on the Danube to Prague, crusing previous — and stopping off at — Belgrade, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, by Germany, however then turning off into the Vlatava to Prague.
Professional Tip: In the event you keep within the Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Marriott Lodge, you not solely have the traditional St. George Rotunda out again, but additionally the primary buying drag Vitosha Boulevard, and the beautiful Sveta Nedelya Church proper on the doorstep.
For extra on journey in Europe, discover these articles: