Day 1: Munich
Arrive at Munich Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.
Day 2: Munich
Munich is often called the most livable and lovable city in Germany, and the Bavarian capital definitely lives up to the hype. This economic powerhouse also has a village-like quaintness that makes it a delight to explore.Featured Excursions:Exclusive Do as the Locals Do Munich walking tourMunich city tour
Day 3: Munich, Transfer to Passau (Embark)
Featured Excursions:BMW WorldYou’ll have a fascinating guided tour of the company, brand, product history and collections of BMW World, housed in a huge futuristic structure that is itself worth a trip. About 125 of the brand’s most valuable and rare automobiles, motorcycles and engines are on display.
Day 4: Passau, Cruising the Danube River
Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one, as three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town and its main claim to fame—Europe’s largest pipe organ—or “Go Active” with an invigorating riverside hike or bike ride. Three rivers meet in Passau—the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube—and three nations almost meet: Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Its central location made it a trade hub for centuries, and with trade came wealth that endowed the town with many beautiful buildings. Spend some time exploring the town itself or get out and about along the Inn or the Ilz with a bike ride or a hike.Featured Excursions:Passau walking discovery tour with St. Stephan’s organ concertThe skyline of Passau is dominated by two buildings that owe their existence to the prince-bishops who ruled the city until 1803: the great fortress looming on a hill above the three rivers, home to the bishops until the 17th century, and the green onion domes of St. Stephan’s Cathedral. As you walk through the cobblestone streets toward those green onion domes, you’ll realize that Passau retains the layout of the medieval town. However, many of the wooden medieval buildings burned to the ground in the 17th century, and the prince-bishops imported Italian artists to build a new cathedral and a magnificent new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt Italian baroque and rococo style and ornamentation, complete with opulent gilding and wonderful frescoes.Your guide will introduce you to some of the architectural highlights—the rococo stairways of the New Residence; the cathedral; and the Town Hall, which boasts a magnificent atrium adorned by large paintings by Ferdinand Wagner—and make sure you get a close-up view of the point where the three rivers meet. But one of the highlights will be aural: Settle into a pew beneath St. Stephan’s exquisite frescoes and listen to the largest organ in Europe fill the cathedral with glorious music.Note: The organ concert is only available from May 1 to October 31, excluding Sundays and Catholic holidays. An alternative venue will be organized before and after these dates.Exclusive guided Let's Go bicycle ride along the Inn RiverThe Inn River rises in the Alps, near Innsbruck (hence the name of the famous Swiss ski resort) and flows through three nations (Switzerland, Austria and Germany) on its way to Passau, where it joins the Danube. While the Danube bike path may be Europe’s best-known route for bicyclists, the Inn River bike path, which follows the river from Innsbruck to Passau, has plenty of fans. The route through the Inn River valley outside Passau is an especially attractive stretch, with great views of the lovely countryside, picturesque villages and the sparkling clear river itself. Your guide will make sure you know the local traffic and safety rules before you and your group set out along the mostly flat and paved path, and he will also make sure you have time to appreciate the sight of the three rivers—the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube—merging in Passau. You’ll be traveling on both sides of the river, crossing between Germany and Austria as you cross the Inn, and your journey will include a stop for a typical Bavarian snack of dark bread, local ham or cheese, and perhaps a glass of wine. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise at the same time.Exclusive guided Let's Go hike along the Ilz RiverPut on your hiking boots, grab a windbreaker and a bottle of water, and head out with a local hiking guide and nature expert to explore the banks of the Ilz River. This small but rushing tributary of the Danube originates deep in the Bavarian Forest, near the Czech border, and is just 40 miles (65 kilometers) long. Its upper stretch is a premier whitewater rafting location, but you’ll be hiking along the lower, serene end of the river. Your starting point is Hals-Hochstein, where you’ll pick up a nature trail that follows a curve of the river and then climbs a steep hill, where you have a great view of the river and woodlands. You will cross the river repeatedly, once by way of a dam and again toward the end of your four-mile (6.5-kilometer) hike, as you loop back to the Hals.In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Day 5: Linz (Salzburg or Linz)
Salzburg or Linz? Both are equally tantalizing. Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland; Linz may be best known for its famous Linzer torte, but it’s also a hotbed for the arts. See the sights with a local expert, or go behind-the-scenes at the Linz opera house and taste cider at an apple and pear orchard. Austria’s third-largest city, Linz boasts a long history of trading (especially in salt) and textile manufacturing—not to mention steel—but these days it is perhaps best known for its lively arts and music scene. It is also your gateway to Salzburg.Featured Excursions:Full-day SalzburgA 900-year-old fortress stands staunchly above Salzburg’s historic center, but the city is much better known for its musical heritage than it is for any military activities. Mozart was born here, performed in public for the first time (at the age of five) here and composed his first pieces here. Salzburg celebrates its most famous son in many forms: with statues, chocolates and festivals—but there are other musical associations to discover too. Walk with your guide through the Mirabell Gardens, the beautiful formal gardens where Maria sang “Do-Re-Mi” with her young charges in the movie The Sound of Music, and admire Mirabell Castle, built in 1606 by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for his mistress. The archbishop’s official residence, however, lies on the other side of the river, near the cathedral. You’ll ramble through the UNESCO-designated Old Town, where narrow lanes branch off your route, tempting you to explore the shops and cafés that line them, and cross the bridge for a look at the great 17th-century cathedral and the splendid episcopal residence. (Mozart worked for the archbishop of his day—whom he despised— before he moved to Vienna.) It’s part of a group of churches and priestly residences that are linked by arcades that you may wish to check out after your tour.Note: Lunch is not offered with the full-day excursion to Salzburg.Linz town and country: opera house and cider farm visitLinz’s New Cathedral dates to the 19th century (the old cathedral, a few blocks away, was built in the baroque era), but as you take in its neo-Gothic splendor, you might guess that it is much older—until you notice that the stained-glass windows include 19th-century Linz notables. Linz’s new opera house, however, is quite new: It opened in 2013. Covering several city blocks, the Terry Pawson– designed complex incorporates state-of-the-art backstage workshops and staging equipment, which your guide will show you. In explaining why Linz undertook this incredibly ambitious and expensive project, the governor of Upper Austria said, “Culture costs, but the absence of culture costs much, much more.”You may be ready for a break after your tour, and where better to take one than at Jindrak, a beloved local bakery famous for its Linzer torte?Refreshed, you will head for the hills—literally. A motorcoach will carry you into Mostviertel, Lower Austria’s famous cider region, where the road winds among beautiful orchard-covered hills and verdant meadows. Tour a typical farm for an insightful look at rural life and local crops, and enjoy the fruit of these orchards—pear and apple ciders—over a delicious lunch of foods produced on the farm.
Day 6: Melk, Cruising the Wachau Valley, Dürnstein
Dürnstein is one of our favorite towns along the Danube, a lovely place to wander cobblestone lanes, browse quaint shops and maybe hike up to a ruined castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). You can also opt for a tasting at Austria’s oldest winery or learn all about the world’s costliest spice from the Wachau Valley’s only saffron grower. Later, visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinary baroque-style library. You’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge or on the Sun Deck as your ship cruises through the Wachau Valley today. Over the eons, the Danube cut a gorge through the foothills of the Bohemian Mountains, resulting in a 19-mile (30-kilometer) stretch of riverine scenery so beautiful, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Landscape. Castle ruins dominate hilltops; baroque church towers appear on the river banks, marking historic villages and splendid abbeys; and vineyards and apricot orchards cling to the rocky slopes. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes ripening on the dry-stone terraces above the river, where grapes have been grown for 2,000 years. You have two ports of call in the incredibly scenic valley, Dürnstein and Melk, and an assortment of delightful ways to explore this lovely region.Featured Excursions:Dürnstein “Village Day” with exclusive Nikolaihof wine estate visit and tastingConsidering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture. And there’s no better way to conclude your village stroll than with a special tasting of organic wines at Nikolaihof, perhaps the oldest winery in Austria. The location itself is fascinating: One may encounter remnants of the first buildings on the site—an ancient Roman fort—and taste wines in a deconsecrated 15th-century chapel. Owned by the Saahs family, Nikolaihof produces some of the world’s best Riesling and Veltliner varietals; in fact, the 1995 Riesling Vinothek, bottled in 2012, actually scored 100 points in The Wine Advocate, the first Austrian wine ever to rank that highly.Exclusive saffron workshop with village strollCrusaders planted the first saffron crocuses in the Wachau Valley at the end of the 12th century, making saffron a valued crop for 700 years—but it disappeared from the terraced hillsides early in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2007 that an ecologist found mention of it in an 18th-century document at Melk Abbey’s celebrated library. Bernard Kaar, who spent years researching the history of saffron and still more years cultivating the world’s only bio-dynamically certified saffron, is one of the Wachau’s most important producers. Meet Bernard and his wife, Alexandra, for a fascinating introduction to saffron—the plant, the spice and the cultural traditions— and educate your taste buds with flavorful delicacies as you taste red-wine-and-saffron chocolate and saffron-seasoned jams, vinegars and honey. Once you are ready to depart, your host will walk with you to Dürnstein’s Kremser Gate, which dates to the 15th century, and point out the path to the ruined castle above the town, where Richard the Lionheart was famously imprisoned. You can hike up to the ruins or continue to stroll through the charming village, past the blue baroque tower of the abbey church and the picturesque 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses.Melk Abbey with library visitThe Babenbergs, a great medieval ducal family that controlled a wide swath of Austria before yielding to the Habsburgs, were the first to erect a castle on the hill above Melk, which they subsequently gave to Benedictine monks. These monks, some 900 years ago, turned it into a fortified abbey—and the greatest center of learning in Central Europe. Their library was celebrated far and wide (and still is; Umberto Eco paid tribute to it in his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose). Medieval monks there created more than 1,200 manuscripts, sometimes spending an entire lifetime hand-lettering a single volume. Today the library contains some 100,000 volumes, among them more than 80,000 works printed before 1800. This beautiful complex, completely redone in the early 18th century, is a wonderful example of baroque art and architecture, and the views from its terrace are spectacular. As you walk through the abbey’s Marble Hall with your guide, look up at the ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger: Those classical gods and goddesses represent Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, allegorically bringing his people from dark to light and demonstrating the link he claimed to the original Roman Empire.After your tour of the abbey, you’ll have time to explore Melk on your own, or you can take the motorcoach back to the ship.
Day 7: Vienna
Vienna is a cultural treasure trove revered for its art and music (and sinfully rich pastries). Experience the City of Waltzes with your choice of tours, as well as VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art—you’ll have an opportunity to view it in complete privacy, an extra special treat reserved solely for Uniworld guests. How to cap off a perfect Viennese day? An evening concert featuring works by Mozart and Strauss. The grand dame of the Danube, Vienna was the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and remains, to this day, the political and cultural center of Austria. Klimt painted here; Beethoven and Mozart composed here; Freud developed his theories here. It’s a treasure trove of splendid architecture, astonishing art collections and inviting cafés—and it’s yours to enjoy.Featured Excursions:Exclusive “Morning with the Masters” at Vienna Art History MuseumThe Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). The doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here: View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery. Then move on to the Kuntskammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your exclusive tour ends with a reception in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.Vienna city tourRing Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward-thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed. Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere.Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tourYear after year, it’s ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world. Experience Vienna as the Viennese do and you will quickly see why—it’s not just because of its beautiful architecture, peerless cultural institutions and epic history. Vienna’s a walkable city, but its public transportation is still excellent. The pleasant parks and open spaces invite outdoor activities. Its cozy coffee houses are the stuff of legend, and so are its pastries and sausage stands. Join an expert local guide for a taste of life as the Viennese live it. Walk along Ring Street, past many of Vienna’s landmark buildings: the Museum of Applied Arts, the baroque-era St. Charles Church, Musikverein (home of the Vienna Philharmonic), the Hofburg, Parliament and City Hall, on your way to Volksgarten, Vienna’s first public park (thanks to Napoleon, who blew up the bastion that had occupied the location), with its roses and fountains. Stroll along the neighboring streets, then take a break at a coffeehouse for a typical Viennese coffee.After your break, wander through the narrow lanes of Haarhoff, pausing in Jewish Square, with its tribute to the Austrian Jews who died during the Holocaust, before wending your way to Vienna’s oldest square, Hoher Markt, where one of the city’s quirkiest sights awaits you: At noon a Vienna Secession (as the art nouveau movement was known in Austria) clock features a parade of 12 historical figures, ranging from Marcus Aurelius to Joseph Haydn, marking the hour. While you wait for the clock show to begin, sample a classic Viennese treat, sausage, from a nearby stand. The adventure ends with yet another very typical Viennese activity—taking the subway.Exclusive Mozart & Strauss concert at Viennese palaceExperience the sort of entertainment Empress Maria Theresa once enjoyed herself with a private concert of classical music performed by chamber musicians in an exquisite Viennese palace. The music, of course, is by Mozart—but because this is Vienna, it is also by Strauss, and the perfect acoustics in the elegant hall will let you hear their music as if for the first time. Adding to your enjoyment: Beautifully costumed ballroom dancers bring the waltz to graceful life.You have leisure time after your tour to explore Vienna on your own. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum, which houses one million old-master prints and an impressive collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko. If you’d like to get a little exercise and see a completely different side of Vienna, borrow a bike from the ship and explore Danube Island and Prater Park. (For a wonderful view of the region, ride the Ferris wheel in Prater Park.)
Day 8: Vienna, Cruising the Danube River, Bratislava
Once hidden from the world behind the “Iron Curtain,” Slovakia retains an air of mystery and intrigue, and its small capital city has an unexpectedly colorful history. Learn more about Bratislava’s past from a local expert, then check out the whimsical street art and sample some only-in-Slovakia treats. Your ship sets sail from Budapest and heads for Vienna today. You may opt to relax onboard all day, perhaps enjoying a drink on the Sun Deck and taking in the scenery as the ship wends its way along the Danube Bend, which is lined with scenic towns—among them are the oldest settlements in the country—nestled at the foot of lovely wooded hills. On the other hand, the ship stops in Bratislava for those who wish to visit the capital of Slovakia. Although it’s not a large city, Bratislava has played a leading role in the politics and culture of the region for many centuries, and it is well worth a visit.Featured Excursions:Bratislava walking discovery tourSt. Martin’s Cathedral gives you a hint of the impressive history of this surprising city. The Gothic church was built into the medieval city’s fortifications; 19 Habsburg rulers were crowned inside it, including Empress Maria Theresa. That’s because Bratislava, then known as Pressburg, became the capital of Hungary after the Ottomans conquered Budapest in 1536, a status it retained until the middle of the 19th century. Close to the cathedral you’ll find St. Michael’s Gate, the last remaining portal of the medieval wall—and your entryway into Bratislava’s Old Town, which blends Gothic, baroque and art deco structures with some less graceful reminders of the Communist era. The stately 18th-century Primatial Palace, in the center of Old Town, was the site where the Pressburg peace treaty was signed in 1805, in which Austria ceded a great deal of territory to Napoleon. Another 18th-century palace, Grassalkovich, is now home to the president of Slovakia. Take some time after the tour to browse through the attractive shops in the lovely art deco buildings that line the squares; you can find a wide selection of traditional folk items at the ULUV (Slovak Folk Culture) shop. And you’ll definitely want to sample some of the local delicacies.
Day 9: Budapest
Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has its own distinctive character and charm. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of tours—see it on four wheels, two wheels or your own two feet. Budapest is an enchanting city that presents a vibrant mix of East and West, medieval and modern. Made up of two parts that were at one time two separate towns—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—the city, divided by the Danube, is a design-lover’s paradise. You have a variety of ways to experience the city: Take a panoramic guided tour aboard a motorcoach, sample the Budapest that locals love on a walking tour, or discover the city’s beautiful parks and gardens via bicycle with an expert local guide.Featured Excursions:Budapest city tourThis panoramic tour is a wonderful way to get an overview of the city if you have never been here before. It will carry you from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, past some of the city’s most striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, the state opera house, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the truly stunning Parliament Building—to Castle Hill, which has been called the heart of the nation. The city of Buda began here, when King Béla built a strong keep in 1243 as a defense against Mongol invaders; a castle replaced the simple fortress, and over the centuries other castles replaced that one. The current castle is primarily 18th century; a museum dedicated to Budapest’s archaeological finds is housed there, and the Castle Hill district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll go inside the magnificent 700-year-old Matthias Church, named for one of Hungary’s greatest kings, and then wend your way on foot to the picturesque Fisherman’s Bastion, whose seven fairytale-like towers represent the seven tribes that originally settled the region. It offers a glorious view of the city and the Danube below.Note: Visits to the interior of the Matthias Church may not be possible on some weekends and Catholic holidays.Exclusive "Do as the Locals Do" Budapest walking tourGet ready for a fun immersion in the daily life of Budapest— your local guide will show you how to use the metro (one of the oldest in Europe) to easily reach all the city has to offer. Start with a visit to one of the city’s irresistible market halls. Stalls spill over with produce, sausages and meats, festoons of dried paprika, cheeses and jars of honey, all of it authentically Hungarian. After you leave the market, stop for coffee and a sweet treat at Szamos Gourmet Palace, a combination pastry shop, café and chocolate maker in Vörösmarty Square. Marzipan is a favorite confection in Budapest, and Szamos has specialized in making it since the 1930s, so you might want to try some—but the shop’s truffle selection is equally irresistible. Refreshed, you’ll be ready to hop back on the tram for a visit to the gracious green spaces of Károlyi Garden, sometimes described as Budapest’s most charming small park. You’ll ramble along the boulevards and pass the Hungarian National Museum, truly getting the feel for this dynamic city, as you head back toward the ship.Exclusive guided "Let's Go" Budapest bicycle tourOnly the Netherlands and Denmark have a higher proportion of people who use bicycles for their daily transportation than Hungary, and you can spot the bright-green bikes that are part of the city’s bike-sharing program anywhere. Join an expert local guide to experience another side of green Budapest—the side that’s full of beautiful gardens and open green spaces. Wheel along both sides of the Danube, passing the Hungarian Parliament building, and swoop over the bridge to Margaret Island, the narrow strip of land sometimes called the green heart of the city. There are a few buildings on the island but it is primarily parkland. Check out the refurbished Japanese Garden with its musical fountain (the melody it plays is based on medieval Hungarian folk tunes), the art nouveau Water Tower, the petting zoo and the lovely rose garden.What’s a park without a picnic? Sit down beside the ruins of the 13th-century church (the island was named for a king’s daughter who became a nun here) for a glass of local wine and some typical Hungarian nibbles such as sausages and cheeses. On the other side of the Danube, you’ll stop at the Castle Bazaar, a handsome neo- Renaissance promenade that links the river to Castle Hill, and swing by the legendary art nouveau Gellert Baths before returning to the ship. It’s a fun and active way to get out and see the city the way locals see it.In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Day 10: Budapest (Disembark)
Disembark the ship and transfer to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home, or extend your stay in Budapest.