Maria Taferl and Ybbs

About 20 minutes from the north bank of the Danube is the most important pilgrimage site in Lower Austria, a scared building known as the Maria Taferl Basilica. This national sanctuary is built around a shine to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, from whom the nearby town also takes its name. According to tradition, two miraculous healings took place here in 1633, with many more miracles and angelic apparitions having been reported throughout the centuries since. The region surrounding the church is known as the Nibelungengau, after the medieval poem that became the inspiration for Wagner’s epic operatic series. Following a tour of the Basilica, sit back for a panoramic drive to Ybbs, for a visit to the Atelier an der Donau art gallery, inside the city’s Old Ship’s Master’s House. This living, working gallery offers a platform for contemporary artists in the city, most notably thanks to a series of regular symposiums inspired by one of the most important Viennese artists of the 20th-century, the Expressionistic painter, Oskar Kokoschka. After time to appreciate the many paintings and sculptures on display by artists from all over the world, our tour will conclude with a guided walk through the old town of Ybbs, where evidence of its importance as a trading centre during the Middle Ages remains.

The Ybbs-Persenbeug Hydroelectric power station

Completed in 1959, Ybbs-Persenbeug is the oldest Danube power plant in Austria and the fourth strongest in terms of performance, although it remains the most impressive in terms of location. Mainly used to generate electricity from hydropower, construction of the facility also made the Danube safer for shipping, rendering swirls and shoals a thing of the past. Simply walking out across the dam towards the lock chambers is a truly breath-taking experience, making a visit to this iconic landmark not just something for enthusiasts of technology. Nestled in glorious countryside, Ybbs-Persenbeug is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. During your time here you will be able to learn more about the lock system and how an ongoing multimillion Euro renovation project is not only keeping the plant running, but increasing its efficiency well into the 21st-century.

Visit Benedictine Melk Abbey

For more than a thousand years the Abbey of Melk has been the spiritual and cultural centre of Austria, towering above its namesake city on the banks of the River Danube. The original Benedictine abbey here was destroyed by fire in 1297, but after being rebuilt went on to survive both famine and plague throughout the rest of the Middle Ages, until work began on the current baroque building in the early part of the 18th-century. In the 20th-century Melk became the inspiration for “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, who even named one of his characters Adso of Melk, in honour of the Abbey’s significant medieval Scriptorium. During a guided tour of the abbey you will have plenty of opportunity to gain more insight into this impressive building. Time will then be available for you to explore at leisure, before your return to the ship.

City tour/walk Vienna

Known throughout the world for its wit, or “Schmäh”, as much as its beauty, the Danube metropolis of Vienna is a jewel in Austria’s crown and one of the greatest cities in Europe. During the 18th and 19th-centuries it was almost completely encircled by a huge city wall, or Linienwall, to protect its population from attacks by marauders, most notably the anti-Hapsburg group known as the Karuc, but as this threat diminished the wall was dismantled to make way for a ring-road, or Gürtel, in 1894, which is still in use today. A scenic bus tour takes us on a route encompassing much of this ring-road, for sights including the Vienna International Centre, Danube Island, the Hofburg, the Burgtheater, the State Opera, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Viennese Parliament. This will then be followed by a guided walk through the city’s charming atmosphere, with time at leisure before your return to the ship.

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The Prater (Vienna)

Fun for all ages, Vienna’s Würstelprater is a sprawling woodland amusement park filled with over 200 relaxing and adrenalin-fuelled attractions, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Central to the Prater, as it’s more commonly known, is one of the best-known and most popular landmarks in Vienna, the Riesenrad Ferris wheel, recognisable to vintage movie fans as the iconic setting for Orson Welles’s cuckoo clock speech in the 1949 noir classic, The Third Man. Built in 1897 and rising to a height of approximately 65 metres, for much of the 20th-century the Riesenrad was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and remains one of the most appealing urban rides still operating, thanks to the incredible panoramas it offers from the comfort of fifteen beautifully designed interior gondolas. A ride takes approximately 20 minutes, giving you ample time to relax and take in the views.

Schönbrunn Palace

The magnificent UNESCO World Heritage palace and gardens of Schönbrunn offer a splendid synthesis of baroque culture and art, ensuring its place as the most popular destination in Austria. A breath-taking memorial to over three hundred years of Habsburg rule, the palace was first commissioned at the end of the 17th-century by Emperor Leopold I and would gradually evolve over the next one hundred years into the vast palace that can be seen today. During our guided tour you will get to discover more about the life of the imperial family, from Empress Elisabeth “Sisi”, who was as famous for her beauty as the tragedies that blighted her life; to Maria Theresa and Franz Stephan, who unusually for the dynasty were fortunate enough to marry for true love. The luxurious staterooms and private apartments of this baroque masterpiece are a must see for any visit to Vienna.

Excursion to Göttweig Benedictine Monastery & visit of Apricot Garden and tasting

Encounter a thousand years of history in the streets, squares, old churches and monasteries of Krems with a guided walk around its cultural, historic and culinary delights, from the atmospheric church of Piaristenkirche to the medieval walls of the old town, including the 15th-century Steiner Tor baroque gate, which was fully restored in 2005 and is considered the symbol of the city. After enjoying a walk around Krems, settle back for a short scenic coach-ride to Göttweig Abbey, which boasts some beautiful panoramic views over the Danube River. In 2001 this Benedictine monastery was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and is known for its vast Imperial staircase and accompanying ceiling fresco, which is one of the biggest and most beautiful stairwells to be found in Europe. Finally, visit the monastery’s beautiful apricot garden, the perfect location for a tasting.

City tour/walk Vienna & visit to a traditional café

Known throughout the world for its wit, or “Schmäh”, as much as its beauty, the Danube metropolis of Vienna is a jewel in Austria’s crown and one of the greatest cities in Europe. During the 18th and 19th-centuries it was almost completely encircled by a huge city wall, or Linienwall, to protect its population from attacks by marauders, most notably the anti-Hapsburg group known as the Karuc, but as this threat diminished the wall was dismantled to make way for a ring-road, or Gürtel, in 1894, which is still in use today. A scenic bus tour takes us on a route encompassing much of this ring-road, for sights including the Vienna International Centre, Danube Island, the Hofburg, the Burgtheater, the State Opera, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Viennese Parliament. You will also get a taste of Vienna by visiting a typical café for a slice of Sacher-Torte, one of the most famous cakes in the world. Legend has it this delicious apricot and chocolate dessert was hastily improvised by a young apprentice named Franz Sacher in 1832, after the chef of the Imperial court fell ill and Prince Metternich demanded something dazzling and new for a special dessert. The rest, as they say, is history.

Classical concert (Vienna):

Join us on a musical journey through the majestic history of imperial Vienna, as you are entertained by one of the best chamber orchestras in the world performing swinging waltzes, polkas and operatic melodies dating from the Golden Age of Austria and beyond. For centuries Vienna has been known as the “City of Music” and tonight you will experience all the warmth and charm of this tradition in the most fabulous setting, as you sit back and enjoy musical masterpieces by the likes of “The Waltz King” Johann Strauss, Mozart and many more, after which you will be whisked back to your ship, still floating on air thanks to the wonderful magic of this lovely evening.

Heuriger excursion to a Viennese wine tavern

Enjoy a wonderful evening with music and wine at a typical Heuriger, or wine bar, which is both the name for these quaint Austrian taverns as well as the young wine itself. The price of this excursion already includes one drink, but of course there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy another glass or two of some local varieties should you desire. The best thing about a Heuriger, besides the wine, is the traditional Viennese atmosphere, just remember to say Prost!

City tour/walk Budapest

Do not miss Budapest, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Stretching out on both sides of the river, ‘The Queen of the Danube’ is truly breath-taking. To the west is the hilly Buda, while to the east is the flat plane of Pest and the prominent parliament building. The abundance of sights is immense and there is no other city able to integrate the Danube into the cityscape quite like Budapest does. During your walking tour here you will visit the castle district for the fisherman’s bastion and Matthias Church, as well as discovering more about daily life at the market hall. At the end of your tour we will then make a photoshop at Gellért Hill, for some impressive views over the city and river.

Themed tour Budapest

This unique tour of the Hungarian capital is dedicated to a very special culture-historical epoch: Art Nouveau. Even today you will find traces of the Art Nouveau influence in many buildings from this time, such as the Budapest Zoo or the Geological Institute. A particular highlight of this themed tour is the stunning art nouveau Bedő-ház apartment block, which was designed by Emil Vidor in 1903 and today houses a stunning collection of furniture, paintings and decorations dating from between 1890 and 1925.

Budapest by night

Experience an evening filled with local Hungarian folklore music and dances, while tasting a typical goulash soup and Hungarian wine. This fascinating spiritual journey is filled with authentic customs and is a great way to experience the vibrant history of the nation. Following the show, sit back on your coach and enjoy an illuminated night tour of the city, in the company of your expert local guide.

Puszta tour with riding

Enjoy a day of schnapps and salty pastries in Cszárda as you learn more about the Hungarian cowboys known as Csikós during a spectacular horse show filled with fascinating traditions. Known for their deep blue clothing, these still active wranglers predate their American counterparts by many centuries and are an important people in Hungarian history. During your time here you will also be free to explore the farm and its surroundings, including the horse’s stables, as well as sampling some local products during a little snack-break.

Budapest by foot

Experience Budapest from a different perspective and enjoy the very special atmosphere of this remarkable city during a walking tour along its most famous street, Váci utca, which is also the oldest trade route of Budapest. During this relaxed tour you will be able to learn more about the history of Hungary’s famous Pyramid Cake and of course enjoy a taste! After passing Kálvin square, the National Museum and Festetics Palace, you will also visit a blacksmith, to see this living tradition in action.

Basilica of Esztergom

Esztergom, formerly known as Gran, was once the capital of Hungary and according to legend is the place where the first Hungarian king and founder of the Nation, Stephan I, was born. Today, his former royal residence is the domicile of the bishop of Esztergom, head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, and attracts numerous visitors thanks to its magnificent neoclassical Cathedral, which is the largest church and tallest building in the country. During this tour you will be taken through all the landmarks of this important Hungarian city.

Evening light tour with background music

Experience an evening filled with local Hungarian folklore music and dances, while tasting a typical goulash soup and Hungarian wine. This fascinating spiritual journey is filled with authentic customs and is a great way to experience the vibrant history of the nation. Following the show, sit back on your coach and enjoy an illuminated night tour of the city, in the company of your expert local guide.  

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Pécs

One of most beautiful cities in Hungary, UNESCO World Heritage Pécs is filled with historic buildings and monuments, with a lively arts scene that led to it becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2010. Considered Hungary’s second city after Budapest, during our guided walking tour you will see all its most important landmarks, including Szechenyi Square, formerly the city’s marketplace and now its cultural quarter. At the centre of the square is the Trinity Column, which stands as a memorial to a devastating plague which swept through the city in the 17th-century. Behind the statue is the Mosque of Pasha Qasim and to the south of the square is the Church of Saint Sebastian and the Zsolnay fountain. During our time here you will also see the medieval Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, with foundations dating from the Roman era and a relatively more recent Romanesque façade that also reflects this ancient heritage.

Bratislava city tour

Close to the border between Austria and Hungary, Bratislava lies in the fertile Danube plain, south of the Little Carpathians. Before entering the city we will enjoy a scenic drive to the most iconic landmarks in the Slovakian capital, the Castle, or Hrad, which has some wonderful views across the city. This imposing fortress was once the home of many Hungarian kings and remains a place filled with myths and legends. On a clear day it is possible to see into both Austria and Hungary from its ramparts. The beautifully restored Old Town of Bratislava has some wonderful baroque buildings to discover, such as the Redoute, the National Theatre, the Town Hall, alongside palaces dating from the city’s Imperial and Royal era, a period known locally as the k. u. k. (kaiserlich und königlich). During our time exploring the city you will also have a chance to meet probably the most famous man in Bratislava, Gullimann Čumil, an unusual statue of a sewer worker seeming to peep out from a manhole cover in the street.

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