Every year on June 29th, eighty-one million people in 14 European countries celebrate the single river that ties them together and provides drinking water, food, power, recreation, jobs and transportation.
annually marks the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, which facilitates collaboration between the countries of the Danube River and the rivers that flow into it to ensure that it’s clean, healthy and safe.
It’s also the largest river festival in the world. Huge celebrations take place on the riverbanks of towns along the waterway, in addition to clean-ups and greening activities, and educational events.
That’s just one day of the year. But any visit to the region is the perfect time to discover what makes mainland Europe’s biggest waterway so special.
At 1770 miles (2,850 km), the Danube is the longest river in mainland Europe (only Russia’s Volga is longer).
Beginning in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube flows southeast all the way across Central and Eastern Europe to drain into the Black Sea. It served as a vital transportation and trade route as well as food source for the earliest humans in Europe and was even the frontier of the Roman Empire.
Today, the Danube flows through more countries than any other river in the world. In a very real way, the region was built from the river inland. In addition to countless cities and towns that were built along its river banks beginning in ancient times, the Danube also flows through more national capital cities than any other river on the planet.
The capitals are the largest cities on the Danube, and include the can’t-miss European destinations and cultural and historic centers of Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bratislava.
There are land tours in many of the countries and communities along the Danube. But perhaps the most authentic way to experience the river is to travel on it.
River cruises allow you to follow the footsteps of the ancient Europeans who navigated the river fishing, and trading goods from Eurasia into the heart of the continent, who established vineyards in the optimal terrain of steep riverbanks and microclimates nurtured along the Danube’s shores, and built the iconic cityscapes that are the hallmark of a Central European vacation. A night time sailing past the illuminated, riverbank Budapest parliament buildings (pictured top) should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
A cruise that calls in the towns and ports in the countryside along the banks of what Strauss called “The Beautiful Blue Danube”, you’ll have a whole week of ‘Danube Days’ – and memories of a lifetime.
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