When your road is the Danube, it’s enchanting... Austria, Slovakia, and Germany are linked by peaceful river landscapes dotted with storybook castles and romantic villages surrounded by stone terraced vineyards, where making world-class wines – and tasting them! – is an art.
A mountaintop abbey lavish with Baroque art and architecture is as awe-inspiring as a castle in the Czech Carpathian mountains and the palaces and museums of Imperial Vienna. As you cruise from port to port, explore the cobblestone streets and market squares in the Old Towns of Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Grein, Passau, and Regensburg, each offering unexpected cultural treasures and culinary pleasures around every bend. And the pièce de résistance – a Tauck Exclusive gala evening with music and dancing at a private palace conjures up elegant Old World Europe just for Tauck guests!
Arrive Vienna & embark ship
Tour begins: 5:15 PM, Vienna, Austria. A transfer is included from Vienna International Airport or the Vienna Westbahnof train station directly to your riverboat, where embarkation begins at 4:00 PM. Enjoy a welcome toast before dinner onboard as your riverboat sails from Vienna to Bratislava this evening.
A day of choice in and around Bratislava, Slovakia
Awaken this morning for a choice of activities in or near Bratislava, Slovakia's visually intriguing capital city. One is a walking tour of the cobblestoned, vehicle-free historic center of Bratislava; medieval, Baroque and modern architecture mix as you visit sites that include the 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall, St. Michael’s Gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral, and the Primate’s Palace, where you’ll view rare 17th-century British tapestries; afterward, spend some free time exploring on your own. Another choice is an excursion to the countryside, lush with vineyards, for a wine-tasting and a visit to Cerveny Kamen Castle. Dating back to the 13th century, "The Red Stone Castle" is one of the best-preserved castles in Slovakia, boasting historical furnishings and artwork; during your visit, enjoy a falconry demonstration. Back aboard ship, settle in for an afternoon at leisure as the riverboat returns to Vienna this evening.
A day & night in Imperial Vienna
Begin the day in Vienna with a tour of the city’s fabulous landmarks, then take your choice of awe-inspiring museum tours: visit the Belvedere, an opulent 18th-century palace and former residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, housing masterpieces from the Medieval to Art Nouveau and Modern (including works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Shiele); the Kunsthistoriches (Fine Arts Museum), founded by the Habsburgs in the 19th century to exhibit their vast, eclectic art collection – the museum is a work of art itself; or the House of Music (Haus der Musik), featuring imaginative interactive exhibits on famous composers (where you can actually “conduct” the Vienna Philharmonic). The afternoon is free for you to explore more of this amazing city – once the capital of the Habsburgs' Austro-Hungarian Empire – on your own. Later, join us this evening at Palais Pallavicini for a Tauck Exclusive – a gala evening of dining and musical performances in elegant Viennese style. The sumptuous surroundings of Palais Pallavicini (built in 1784), with its ornate decor and magnificent state rooms, will transport you to another time – in fact, the palace facade is famous in another cultural reference... as the location of Harry Lime’s (Orson Welles) apartment in the classic film The Third Man.
Castles, abbeys and picture-perfect Dürnstein
This morning, your riverboat docks in Krems, which offers you a choice of unforgettable sightseeing excursions: visit the lofty, lavish monastery at Göttweig Abbey, a mountaintop Benedictine retreat with Baroque architectural features as stunning as the views; the grandiose design of this abbey was intended to rival Escorial, the residence of the king of Spain. Then descend to the Tulln plain to encounter Graffenegg Castle, a 19th-century count’s madly romantic vision of a medieval castle, complete with fairy-tale turrets and towers, balconies, and gargoyles. Or you can stay aboard the riverboat and sail to the picture-perfect Austrian village of Dürnstein, for a guided walking tour. Enjoy free time to explore, and if you’re game, climb to the brooding ruins of Kuenringerburg Castle high above the town, where Richard the Lionhearted was once held for ransom in the 12th century. And a third possibility is a challenging bicycling excursion (not suitable for beginners) through the Wachau Valley, starting and ending in Dürnstein. Return to the riverboat, and set off on a leisurely, scenic cruise through the Wachau Valley. You'll spy vineyards, castles, ancient hilltop ruins and monasteries as you sail; this is wine country famous for its Reislings and Grüner Veltliners, which you will get a chance to sample at a Tauck Exclusive wine tasting event in the town of Weissenkirchen.
Grein or the Mauthausen Memorial
Arrive in the typically picturesque riverside village of Grein, Austria, for a choice of sightseeing in Grein or a visit to the Mauthausen Memorial. In Grein, your visit begins with a guided walking tour of the village, which includes views of the Grein Theatre – since 1791 the oldest operating theatre in Austria – and the historic town square with the adjacent Gothic St. Giles Church, known for its fine altar and stained glass. If you wish, visit Schloss Greinburg, the privately owned castle of the Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, showcasing the history and lifestyle of one of the most significant ruling families in Europe (including Queen Victoria of England). Alternatively, pay a poignant guided visit to the museum and memorial on the site of the infamous World War II-era Mauthausen–Gusen concentration camp, approximately 20 kilometers east of Linz. You’ll tour the camp’s main complex, preserved as a museum and memorial to the victims of the last major concentration camp liberated by the Allies. Back aboard the riverboat, enjoy the chef's signature dinner and local entertainment tonight.
Exploring Passau or Cesky Krumlov
Your riverboat arrives in Passau today for a choice of sightseeing in this riverside town in Germany, or an excursion to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Once a Roman outpost at the confluence of three rivers, Passau is over 2,500 years old, a quintessential Bavarian town of pastel patrician houses, cafes, romantic cobblestone lanes and riverfront promenades, made for walking (many streets are closed to traffic). If you choose to stay in Passau, your walking tour immerses you in its storybook mix of Roman, Italian Baroque and German Gothic architecture. See St. Stephen’s Cathedral; view the hilltop fortress where Passau’s prince-bishops once resided; and peruse the 14th-century Rathaus (Town Hall). Later, if you wish, join your Tauck Director for a brisk walk to a hilltop fortress, or attend a public concert on the famous organ of St. Stephen's Cathedral, when available. Alternatively, travel to Cesky Krumlov, an incredibly well-preserved medieval town in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Your walking tour includes Krumlov Castle, one of the largest castle complexes in Central Europe, embracing 40 buildings and palaces of medieval, Renaissance and Rococo designs, plus numerous courtyards and gardens. Return to the riverboat and continue cruising tonight, bound for Regensburg.
Historic insights in Regensburg
A choice of sightseeing excursions awaits you in colorful Regensburg; one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns, it boasts more than 1,400 historic structures. You may choose a walking tour of town that includes the Dom (cathedral), the market, the town hall, and 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (a medieval stone bridge over the Danube that’s the oldest surviving bridge of its kind in the country), and a guided visit to St. Emmeram Palace – royal residence of Thurn und Taxis, the family dynasty whose fortune began in the 16th century and is the largest in Germany today. The castle, formerly a Benedictine abbey, is lush with Baroque features and frescoes, from the throne room to the ballroom and magnificent library, with displays of splendid art treasures, weaponry and fine porcelain – you can’t see it all, of course, since the family still lives here! Your second choice is a challenging walking tour of Regensburg that includes a visit to the Walhalla memorial, a massive hilltop hall of fame (with many featuring busts and sculptures of distinguished figures from Germany history), commissioned by King Ludwig I and completed in the 1840s. Your afternoon is free. Return to the ship for tonight's farewell toast followed by dinner, as the riverboat makes its way to Straubing for the end of your cruise.
Tour ends: Straubing, Germany. Fly home anytime. Transfers are included from the riverboat to Munich International Airport or Munich's main railroad station. You should allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in.