A Danube River Cruise
Unpack once and enjoy an unhurried cruise on the Danube River through the heart and heritage of Europe from Sofia to Prague.
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The fabled Danube River flows through the heartland of Central and Eastern Europe—an evocative landscape of ancient capitals, lovely villages, and magnificent churches, palaces, and castles. Join us for this new itinerary, which showcases eight countries and many World Heritage sites— and provides a comprehensive overview of the Danube River Valley.
- Bulgaria: Learn about Bulgaria’s history from the Middle Ages to the 19th-century Bulgarian Revival as you explore Sofia and Vidin.
- Romania: Attend an organ concert and marvel at the rich architecture of Drobeta- Turnu Severin and Orsova
- Serbia: Cross the Carpathian Mountains to the Serbian-Romanian border and sail through the narrow Iron Gate Gorge before stopping in Belgrade.
- Hungary: Explore both the Buda and Pest sides of Budapest and visit Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes’ Square, the Opera House, and the Gothic-style Parliament.
- Slovakia: Discover the medieval architecture and history of the Velvet Revolution in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava.
- Austria and the Wachau Valley: Tour the lavish Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Sail through the Wachau Valley and visit Dürnstein and Melk’s Benedictine Abbey.
- Germany: Visit the historic sites of Passau, located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn, and Ilz.
- Czech Republic: Enjoy two full days to explore Prague with in-depth tours of Prague Castle, the famous Charles Bridge, and the Jewish Quarter.
Day 1 – Depart the U.S.
Smithsonian Travelers depart the U.S. on evening transatlantic flights to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Day 2 – Sofia, Bulgaria
After an early morning flight arrival depart Sofia International Airport by motor coach for the drive to the luxury and centrally located Sofia Hotel Balkan. After settling-in, the afternoon is free of planned activities. If you are ready to start exploring take a walk to the Town Square just a few blocks away.
Day 3 – Sofia, Bulgaria
The middle ages were ending when Ottoman invaders claimed Bulgaria for their own in the 14th century. At a fascinating lecture learn about the conditions and events that led to the Bulgarian Revival of the 19th century, when Ottoman forces were defeated and expelled.
Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. The tour will include the ancient ruins of Serdica, the St. George Rotunda, Alexander Batenberg Square with its former Royal Palace, the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander of Neva and Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia’s most fashionable pedestrian avenue. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Sofia on your own. The Smithsonian Journeys Expert will offer an engaging lecture. This evening depart the hotel to attend a Welcome Dinner including a live Romanian Folkloric Show. (B,D)
Day 4 – Vidin, Bulgaria / Embark Ship
Drive to Vidin after breakfast to board the first-class river ship, Amadeus Silver. A stop will be made en route in Belogradchik for lunch. Vidin on the Romanian-Bulgarian border is one of the Danube’s oldest towns. Founded as a Celtic settlement 2,000 years ago, fortified by Romans and ruled in succession by Byzantines and Ottoman Turks, it echoes the storied history of the region. On the motor coach tour, view the Mosque, Library of Osman Pazvantouglu, Crucifrom Barracks, and the Konak. Stop and enjoy a visit of the 17th-century St. Panthaleimon Church and the 19-century Synagogue. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a festive Welcome Aboard Reception, followed by Dinner. The ship departs for Dobret-Turnu Severin, Romania. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Dobreta–Turnu Severin and Orsova, Romania
Colonized by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C., the city that is now Drobeta-Turnu Severin was completely renovated after an 1829 treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. One of its most important historic sites is the remains of a bridgehead that was once part of the largest bridge in the Roman Empire built across the Danube during the reign of Emperor Trajan. After visiting the WWI Memorial dedicated to the memory of Romanian soldiers take a scenic drive to Orsova City for a live organ concert in the Catholic Cathedral, considered an architectural masterpiece of the 20th-century. The ship will follow the Danube across the southern end of the Carpathian Mountains and along the Serbian-Romanian border where you’ll see awe-inspiring landscapes of dramatic cliffs. Sail through the amazing Iron Gate Gorge, a formidable geologic wonder where the swift waters of the Danube are forced through its narrowing gap. Once a treacherous two-mile nightmare for sailors, the gorge has since been cleared of rocky obstructions and tamed by dams. The beauty of this geologic marvel makes it one of the most dramatic natural wonders of Europe. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Belgrade, Serbia
Begin the day with a discussion of present day life in the former Yugoslavian state of Serbia.
Named the White City, magnificently restored Belgrade is one of the oldest Eastern European capitals. Rich in history, the city’s signature monument is the well-preserved hillside Kalemegdan Citadel. Towering over the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers, it represents years of Serbian history, from Celtic times to present day. Enjoy a walking tour of the park and fortress and drive through the main streets of Belgrade. Within the Old Town, view the breathtaking Orthodox Cathedral, adorned with gold work and religious icons, then visit St. Sava Cathedral. Started in 1894, it is located on the spot where it is believed the Turks burned the relics of St. Sava. The afternoon will be free of planned activities. A shuttle into town from the docking site will be provided. Before dinner this evening, enjoy a local Folklore Show on board the ship. In early evening, the ship departs Belgrade for Kalocsa, Hungary. (B,L,D)
Day 7 – Kalocsa, Hungary
After lunch begin exploring on an excursion to Pécs. Join a walking tour of this lovely Hungarian city known for its Roman ruins and Ottoman mosques that have now been turned into Christian churches. Stop to enjoy a sampling of local varietal wines. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Budapest, Hungary
Begin the day with a choice of one of three excursions.
Choice #1 – Budapest is one of the world's most beautiful cities, lying in the heart of Europe and along both banks of the Danube has World Heritage Site status conferred by UNESCO. Travel through both the Buda and Pest sections of the city. On the excursion see Heroes Square, the Opera House and the Gothic-style Parliament Building. Continue to the old Castle District, with its 700-year-old Matthias Church and the turreted Fisherman's Bastion.
Choice #2 – Join a tour that highlights “living like a local.” Join your guide for a visit to the Grand Market and then stop at a coffee house to watch and learn how strudel is made. Enjoy a piece of delicious strudel, coffee or tea, and end your excursion with a taste of the local schnapps called Palinka.
Choice #3 – This tour includes a walk in the old Jewish Quarter. See the great Synagogue and the Tree of Life. Then continue to the Glass House. This is a remarkable place that served as a shelter and hiding place for about 3,000 Jews saved by Carl Lutz, the Consul of Switzerland in late 1944 and also the center of the underground Zionist organization in Hungary. See the Shoes Memorial that remembers a place and time when Hungarian Nazis shot Jews who fell into the Danube River in winter of 1944-45. The tour includes an inside visit to the Páva Street Synagogue and the Holocaust Memorial Center.
The afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration. Late this evening, the ship departs Budapest for Bratislava, Slovak Republic. (B,L,D)
Day 9 – Bratislava, Slovakia
Begin the day with a talk and discussion on the sites of the most recent uprising and the spot where the Velvet Revolution began in 1989.
Today select a shore excursion that is of greatest interest to you.
Choice #1 – Bratislava is the center and capital of the political, social and cultural life of the Slovak Republic as well as a showcase of medieval architecture. You’ll see the National Theater, St. Martin's Cathedral and the Old Town Hall. Enjoy a view of St. Michael's Gate, the only remaining portion of Bratislava's medieval fortifications and the 16th-century Primate’s Palace, former winter residence of the Bishops of Esztergom. End the tour in a famous café located in a 17th century premises completely painted in frescoes depicting scenes from the city’s rich past. See how typical pastries are made and have a sampling with a coffee.
Choice #2 – Bratislava is where the composer Hummel was born, Liszt started his career, Bartok went to school, Beethoven taught, and Haydn worked. Enjoy a special tour of the quaint Old Town center with emphasis on the rich local musical traditions including the venues associated with these famous composers. Enjoy a special visit to the Old Opera House where you will learn firsthand from an Opera docent about its history and activities.
Choice #3 – Explore old royal Pressburg, as Bratislava was once called, with its Castle and former Royal Residence. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the city from high above. Visit the Old Town center with its old world charm and great architecture. At the end of the tour, experience the rich local brewing tradition and sample some of the best Slovak beers at a typical pub in the Old Town. (B,L,D)
Day 10 – Vienna, Austria
Start the day with a lecture on how Vienna has kept itself relevant over the centuries. Begin exploring with a choice of one of three shore excursions. The center of Vienna has been designated a World Heritage Site.
Choice #1 – Visit the Imperial Apartments of the lavish Hofburg Palace. Drive the Ringstrasse, one of the most magnificent boulevards in the world. View the University, the oldest in the German-speaking countries, the City Hall, the Burgtheater, the Houses of Parliament, the two State Museums and the Opera House. Travel past monuments to Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. See the Musikverein, the “Golden” Concert Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Stadtsoper one of the premier opera houses in the world.
Choice #2 – Of all Austrian monasteries and convents, the Klosterneuburg Monastery offers incredible insight into great medieval and baroque artistic treasures as well as the valuables in the monastery’s treasury. Highlights include the Medieval Cloister, the Seven-Armed Candelabra, the Verdun Altar, the Austrian Archducal Coronet, Leopoldian Vestments and end with a wine tasting of the Klosterneuburg’s local wine. Afterward, there is a short walking tour in the center of Vienna.
Choice #3 – The waltz is intrinsically connected with Vienna and the Blue Danube. Begin with a panoramic tour around the central ring of the city en route to a historical palace on Beethoven Square for a Waltz Experience. Your ballroom guides dressed, in Grand Ballroom costumes, will offer the secrets of the original Viennese Waltz. Don’t be shy and try a few steps yourself. Afterward, enjoy a short walking tour in the Inner City.
The afternoon is at leisure to explore Vienna on your own. A shuttle will provide transportation between the town and the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 11 – Durnstein / Melk, Austria
Durnstein is one of the most beautiful towns on the Danube, with its medieval charm and Baroque character. Start your day of discovery with a choice of excursions.
Choice #1 - It was in Durnstein that Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in the 12th century on his way back to England from the Crusades. Step inside the blue-and-white baroque Stiftskirche in this charming town known as the Pearl of the Wachau Valley.
Choice #2 - Join a two-hour bicycle ride along the Danube and past the vineyards and enjoy wine and a snack-break along the way.
Choice #3 – On this excursion visit a local winery and sample some of the wines of the famous Wachau Valley.
After sailing from Durnstein the ship winds through Austria’s spectacular Wachau Valley considered one of the finest landscapes in all of Europe and a World Heritage Site. Admire lovely small villages clustered around charming churches and medieval castles. After an afternoon arrival in Melk, marvel at this masterpiece of baroque architecture with its lofty river panoramas. All of the masters of Austrian baroque had a hand in its design and development, and it is one of the most beautiful baroque masterpieces in the world. In the words of Empress Maria Theresa, “If I had never come here, I would have regretted it.” (B,L,D)
Day 12 – Passau, Germany
Nestled at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, Inn and Ilz Passau has been called “one of the seven most beautifully situated towns in the world.” See St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Old Town Hall, Niedernburg Abbey and the regal residence of the Prince-Bishops. This evening, join new friends and fellow travelers for a festive Farewell Reception, followed by Dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 13 – Prague, Czech Republic
This morning leave the ship and transfer to the luxurious comfort of the Imperial Hotel only steps away from the fantastic sights and renowned landmarks in Prague’s Old Town. The balance of the day is free of planned activities. Get together with fellow travelers in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner for some lively conversation. (B)
Day 14 – Prague, Czech Republic
Today, set out to explore Prague, where the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pass the Archbishop’s Palace, which has been the seat of Prague’s archdiocese since 1562, as you make your way to Prague Castle. Prague Castle was built in the late ninth century. For centuries, the castle has been the seat of power. Even today, it is the official residence of the Czech President. Fortifications guard a plethora of architectural, religious and national treasures. Walking through the enclave, you will see architecture styles that span the centuries. St. Vitus Cathedral, for example, has Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural elements, but it also is a showcase for 20th-century art nouveau stained-glass windows. Continue to the Royal Palace, dating from the early 12th century. As the name implies, this was a royal residence, the home of Bohemian royalty until the 16th century. Visit the 10th-century St. George’s Basilica and Convent, the oldest part of the castle. Today, the church is a part of the Czech Republic’s National Gallery and exhibits an impressive collection of Renaissance and Baroque art. As you make your way to the Old Town Square, where the tour concludes, see Charles Bridge, Prague’s landmark site. Your Smithsonian Journeys Expert will give an engaging talk. (B)
Day 15 – Prague, Czech Republic
Begin a fascinating day of discovery as you enter Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, on Parizska Street. Visit the Prague National Jewish Museum. Founded in 1906, it has weathered turbulent times under both Nazi and Communist rule. Today, it is a showcase of Jewish history and religious treasures. The collections are housed in the quarter’s six synagogues, and the exhibits provide a comprehensive look at Jewish history in Eastern Europe. Discover how traditions play a part in the different stages of one’s life at Klaus Synagogue. Maisel Synagogue traces the history of Bohemian and Moravian Jews between the 10th and 18th centuries. Pinkas Synagogue has one of the most heartrending exhibits with the names of thousands of Bohemian and Moravian Jews who perished in the Holocaust are written on its walls. Let your interests be your guide this afternoon and explore on your own. Tonight enjoy a Farewell Reception at the hotel. (B)
Day 16 – Prague, Czech Republic
Depart the hotel for Prague International Airport and your return flight home. (B)