Cycling along the Danube
One river, eight countries
The Danube is the second longest river in Europe, spanning the continent from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. The breathtaking Danube Cycle path directly follows its course through no less than eight countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Its western stretches are well marked and signposted and have long catered to bike tourists. The eastern European stretches may prove a little more adventurous but just as rewarding.
If longer distance journeys by bike are your thing, follow the Danube Cycle Path all the way to the Black Sea or the International EuroVelo 6 to the Atlantic coast for an epic once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Donaueschingen to Passau
A river originates somewhere in the Black Forest. As it winds its way to the Black Sea, it grows into the second longest waterway in Europe: the Danube. From its source in Donaueschingen to Passau on the Austrian border, over 600 kilometers (373 miles) form the German stretch of the Danube Cycle Path.
As the river broadens and meanders through stunning scenery of farmland and woods, you'll follow it from Baden-Wuerttemberg through Bavaria. Though most of the cycle route is flat, there are some ascents in this early stretch. Both sides of the river are largely open to cyclists, with many opportunities to cross and switch between them. Take in the towns of Ulm, Ingolstadt and Regensburg as you move towards Passau.
Passau to Vienna
On its mostly flat stretch through hilly Upper and Lower Austria, the route leads through meadow landscapes and vineyards and is very popular with families and groups. Between Linz and Krems, don't miss the Melk Abbey and visit the legendary castle ruins of Dürnstein. A definite highlight is the scenic Wachau region. Make sure to stop at a traditional Heurigen restaurant and winery to sample the local specialties.
Approaching the capital city Vienna, you'll find that the Danube Cycle Path leads along the Donauinsel (Danube Island), a recreational island constructed as part of an elaborate flood protection system in the 1970s. Tourists and locals alike come here during the summer months to rollerblade, cycle, swim and to enjoy the nightlife.
Slovakia and Hungary
Vienna to Budapest
The Danube Cycle Path may follow the river’s course through no less than eight countries, but it connects Vienna and Bratislava – among the closest two capital cities in the world – in only 64 kilometers (40 miles). If you’re on a budget, the Slovak capital is a friendly, cosy city with cheaper accommodation than Vienna, and very good beer.
On the stretch from Bratislava to Budapest, it’s your choice whether to cycle along the Slovak or the Hungarian bank of the River Danube. The Slovak side is shorter and quicker but the Hungarian side is prettier, with the cities of Györ and Esztergom along the route.
The Danube Cycle Path in Slovakia and Hungary
Croatia and Serbia
Budapest to Belgrade
The final stretches of the Danube Cycle Path are "off the beaten path" and less frequented by cyclists than those in Germany and Austria. But armed with a good map and some extra time, it is well worth taking on the Croatian and Serbian routes. After a long stretch of flat cycling you'll encounter some hills as you cross into the Balkans.
The Danube grazes the eastern border of Croatia, where the cities of Osijek and Vukovar are great stops. The Serbian capital Belgrade is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Belgrade fortress is the perfect lookout point over the rivers and the city.
Bulgaria and Romania
Belgrade to the Black Sea
On the border between Serbia and Bulgaria lies the "Iron Gate", where the river forged its way through the Carpathian mountains. For centuries, this narrow spot was known as the most treacherous passage for ships. The Danube has since been regulated with the help of hydroelectric power stations, but the "Iron Gate" is still a sight to behold.
The Romanian cycle path is 1000 kilometers long and an adventure in itself. The Danube delta, which erodes 50 meters (1/3 of a mile) of land each year, awaits with plenty of wildlife, seafood and tourist attractions. Here, you can relax and marvel at the 2860 kilometers (1777 miles) of river behind you.
The Danube Cycle Path
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