Boat on the Danube in Wachau

Vienna River Cruise Guide: A Warning, And 6 Best Boat Trips

[todaysdate format=”F Y”]   Vienna River Cruise: Much like choosing a restaurant, cruising the Vienna Danube opens up a confusing choice. Do you prefer lush scenery over contemporary architecture? Enjoy the thrill of high speed transport or rather an elegant cruise ship, or chilling in a tiny ‘Zille’? One thing is for sure: You need to be selective to enjoy a boat ride on Donau.

Why Not All Vienna River Cruises Tick The Box

Contrary to Johann Strauss’s Danube waltz and most boat tour operators, the Danube river in Vienna isn’t always as scenic as you may expect, let alone of blue color. Unlike in Budapest, the Danube does not cross the city center. Instead, it separates the 2nd district Leopoldstadt from the 21st district of Floridsdorf. This means that a city cruise on the Danube usually introduces guests to the industrial charms of Handelskai in Leopoldstadt, and the contemporary high-rise buildings of Donau City on the Floridsdorf side. Hence, most city cruises include the more central Danube Canal, which highlights more landmarks. If you consider a Vienna river cruise, just adapt your expectations and go for a short evening cruise with soft light.

If you ask me, the best location for a truly scenic Danube river tour is UNESCO World Heritage site Wachau Valley. A top alternative is to travel to Bratislava, where you can choose between a majestic Danube cruise along the whole Vienna stretch to Bratislava, and an exciting high speed catamaran whizz. Here is my boiled down guide to the best boat trips on the Donau.

1. City Evening Cruise

Boat Trips: UN Headquarters, Vienna DanubeClearly, taking a classical Vienna river cruise connects you first and foremost with contemporary sites. To start with, the boat tour departs from the Danube canal at the north-eastern edge of the city centre. When embarking on the Vienna Danube Evening Cruise your most impressive site will be the United Nations building.

Along the Danube canal, Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Kunsthaus adds fun, and the most relaxing sites are the Prater woodlands and Danube Island. Do also watch out for Otto Wagner’s modernist Schützenhaus, and the Zaha Hadid-designed university library. On top, you’ll get to try the Otto-Wagner designed lock at Nussdorf!

2. Private Yacht Trip On The Danube

Far from the experience of a large cruise ship, this 3-hour yacht ride connects you more deeply with the surroundings of the Danube. At a pier in the 19th district you’ll step aboard. As you glide along the river, you’ll navigate the historical Nussdorf lock and enter the Danube canal, until you reach Schwedenplatz in the heart of the city. During the standard three-hour tour your round trip on the Vienna Danube and the Danube Canal will cover all the key sights. Perfect for a group of up to 7 people you can book this ride for a minimum of three and up to six hours. Read more.

3. Electric Sofa Boat On The Old Danube

Vienna boat tour: Meine Insel sofa boatClearly this is my personal favourite boat tour on Vienna’s Alte Donau (Old Danube). Cruising with this small private boat on the Old Danube’s tranquil waters made for a fabulous family experience.

Not only are these electric boats quiet and sustainable their quirky designs and large sofas make them extremely comfortable, and an easy platform to take a plunge into the waters on a hot summer day. Read my review.

4. Kayaking On The Old Danube

Boat trips: Kayaking Vienna DanubeWhen Johann Strauss composed his Blue Danube Waltz the Vienna Danube was not what it looks like today. To explore the origins of the Donau head for the Old Danube, which has turned into a quiet side arm. 

One of the best ways to experience the Old Danube along with tiny Gänsehäufel island, a lake shore café and the weekend log cabins of local residents is kayaking. During this private tour your certified open-water lifeguard will take you to the best spots. Between May and September the water is perfect for a swim, so do take your swimsuits with you. Find out more.

5. Wachau boat trip

Boat trips: Wachau shipFor a truly scenic Danube boat trip, consider cruising through UNESCO World heritage site Wachau Valley. The Wachau has earned a place in European history as the site where medieval crusader King Richard Lionheart was imprisoned at Dürnstein castle. Some boat trips also allow you to explore baroque Melk Abbey, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Besides, the Wachau is the home of award winning Austrian wine and of all things apricot. And it’s where you can float in a Zille! More information on doing a Wachau boat trip.

Here is a selection of more than a dozen cruises, boat trips, and kayaking tours on the Danube in and around Vienna. The most picturesque stretch is definitely in Wachau Valley. When cruising in Vienna, prepare for an urban and contemporary experience. Check the list of popular cruises and boat rides in Vienna and surroundings.

6. Quick Vienna To Bratislava Boat Ride

Boat trips: Catamaran to BratislavaIf you need a quick ride to Bratislava, mount this high-speed catamaran. After, all Vienna and Bratislava are the two most closely located capitals in Europe. In little more than one hour you can whizz to Bratislava and back with the Twin City Liner Vienna – Bratislava. I went there with my kids one summer Sunday. Certainly, the boat trip was exciting, though quite noisy outside.

Definitely, we found we had more than enough time in Bratislava to do sightseeing. Read my story about our catamaran ride and mini danube cruise.

Vienna to Budapest

Note: The Vienna river cruise hydrofoil service has been suspended. There is a six hour Danube cruise that takes you from Vienna to Budapest and back on a high speed hydrofoil. This is the fastest of all boat trips between the two cities. It is a good option for people who want a day cruise on the Danube and visit Budapest. Added benefit: You are free to explore both cities at your own speed and taste. Go here for a review and more information on the hydrofoil Vienna – Budapest.

About The Danube River

Boat Trips: Danube seen from DonauturmThe river Danube is the second longest river in Europe, with more than 2.845 kilometres between the Schwarzwald area in Germany and the Danube river delta at the Black Sea. It is also the most international river in the world as it meanders through 10 different countries.

In Vienna, the Danube was regulated in the 1870ies to prevent Austria’s capital from being flooded. The original Danube bed was transformed into the Old Danube (Alte Donau), now a lake. South of it, the new Danube river bed was created. The long and narrow Danube Island (Donauinsel) separates the Danube from the New Danube (Neue Donau). Explore the best places on the Wiener Donau in my Vienna Danube insider guide.

Map Of Vienna Danube From Wachau To Budapest

The river danube map below highlights the area between the Wachau Valley and Budapest. Click on the placemarks below for more information about the marked cities and areas.

go to Wachau Valley Tour Review – Wine And Danube
visit Wachau Tour – Wine Tasting And Danube Biking
find out about a Burgenland Wine Tour – Wine Tasting Near Vienna
check Vienna Wineries  – Heuriger Guide and Map by Two Natives
go to Seegrotte Tour Review – Europe’s Largest Underground Lake
for easy sightseeing go t  Vienna Sights  by Car – What To See On A Private Sightseeing Tour
explore Vienna Travel Planning – Trip Planning and Travel Consulting by Vienna Unwrapped

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