Vienna is dominated by imperial castles and places: Schonbrunn, the magnificent summer residence, the Imperial Coach Collection, the Palm House, the Butterfly House, Belvedere Palace, magnificent state rooms in Hofburg, and the imperial crown in the Treasury. Stop by Ringstraße - the showplace of the monarchy built where Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the demolition of city walls. Important buildings include the State Opera, the Museums of Fine Arts and Natural History, Parliament, City Hall and Vienna University. The world capital of music. A long line of great composers Johann Strauss, Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, Mahler and Schonberg all worked here. A city with splendid concert halls, such as the Golden Hall, from which the Philharmonic's New Year's Day concert is broadcast annually. International stars love to appear here in the State Opera, Volksoper, Konzerthaus, and at festivals like the Vienna Festival, the Klangbogen concerts during the Musical Summer, the Jazz Festval and the Haydn, Mozart and Schubert festivals.
Caught between eastern and western Europe, Budapest has a character uniquely its own. It's also the last cheap, civilised city in Europe. Budapest can seem like one big sight, with each phase in its history, from the Ottoman period until the Communist days and from renaissance to revolution, leaving its mark on the city. For the tourist, a trip to Hungary's capital is dominated by the majestic sights of Buda. In the summer, there are open-air festivals at Szeged, Diosgyor Castle in Miskolc, Gyor and Pecs. Visit the former Royal Palace complex, the Matyas templom and the Belvaros. Margaret Island is a giant recreational park and feels pleasantly separated from the city bustle. Hungarian National Gallery houses Hungarian art since the birth of the nation. Although Esztergom is Hungary's most sacred city, home of the Archbishop and the nation's biggest church, it has a real-life edge. The first-time visitor to Szeged is invariably struck by its space and grandeur. One's immediate impressions of Hungary's third largest provincial city are of greenery and plazas, of broad.
Gateway to the Wachau valley, Melk is world renowned for its magnificent Abbey. One of the most splendid examples of Baroque architecture in Europe, the Abbey dominates the town from high above the Danube river. Admire the splendour of the famous Melk Cross, the Abbey library and the Collegiate Church.
In the third millennium, Passau was considerably enlarged by the prince bishops of Passau, who made it their royal residence and capital of the largest Danube diocese. The wonderful Baroque buildings dominating the city today were built after a fire of 1662. One of the most striking is cathedral of St. Stephan, with the world's biggest church organ. One of the best ways to enjoy the magic of Passau is with a sightseeing tour. Other sights to see include: Neue Residenz - an Episcopal palace; Veste Oberhaus - Citadel of the prince bishops with the best view of the Old Town and confluence of the three rivers; Town Hall, which is lavishly decorated halls with monumental paintings; Niedernburg Abbey - tomb of Gisela, first queen of Hungary; Maria Hilf - an abbey and place of pilgrimage overlooking the town center; Dreiflusse-Eck - the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz; and St. Nikolai - a University church with Romanesque crypt.
Bratislava is Slovakia's capital and largest city. The Carpathian Mountains, which begin at the Iron Gate of Romania, finally come to an end here. Vineyards on the slopes of the Little Carpathian Mountains meet the Danube River. The Austrian border is almost within sight of the city and Hungary is less than 15 miles away. Many beautiful monuments survive in the old town to tell of its past under Hungarian rule, and Bratislava's numerous museums are surprisingly rich. Franz Lizst visited Bratislava 15 times, and the opera productions of Slovak National Theatre rival anything in Europe. The old city, which is packed with museums and palaces, and the castle are the best parts of Bratislava - the rest of the city is pretty drab. Climb up the castle for great views and to check out the very interesting Museum of Folk Music within. The Slovak National Museum and the Slovak National Gallery on the river are also worth a visit. Hviezdoslavovo námestie (square) is a convenient orientation point, with the old town to the north, the Danube to the south, and Bratislava Castle to the west.
This Roman-built capital city is an important trade town along the Danube. For people interested in its past, it has an impressive list of important historical figures who have passed through or made Linz their home. Friedrich III, the Hapsburg Emperor, spent his last days in Linz, and for a time it was the most important city in the empire. Adolph Hitler went to school here for a brief period of time before moving on. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Symphony No. 36 in Linz, and today it is called the Linz Symphony. Sights to see include the Dreifaltigkeitssäule - a monument constructed in memorial of the people who died in the plague epidemics. There are several museums and castles in the area as well. Once in Linz, you'll understand why it was such a place of historical significance.
Vilshofen is a small town on the banks of the Danube, and it has a welcome blend of modernity and history along its city streets. The old city center with its tower and St. John cathedral, antiquated narrow streets, monuments, and Baroque architecture. In the old tower, view rotating art exhibitations at the City Gallery, or visit the African Museum within the Benedectine Abbey Schweiklberg, as well as other sculpture parks that give Vilshofen its modern flare. Nearby, for exploring the region's outdoors, hike and bike through Vilsengtal, a nature reserve.
Danube River Cruising
A Danube River cruise is the best way to experience the lovely landscapes, cultural heritage and centuries-old architecture of Old World Europe. On a Danube River cruise, you'll discover Europe's vineyard-lined valleys and beautifully preserved medieval towns in countries such as Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Romania. There are several different intineraries to choose from, but cruises generally include gourmet cuisine, panoramic views, and folklore performances.
Weissenkirchen, or "White Church", is a charming town sprawled along the banks and the hills of the Danube River. Like other villages in the Wauchau Valley, you can see terraced vineyards, off-set by the red roofs of the town proper. View the white church the town is named for, which in its long history has served both as sacred space and protection from invaders in the the 16th century. You will find the inside designed in the traditional Gothic and Baroque style. Visit the Wachaumuseum, housed in a 16th century building, to learn more about Weissenkirchen's role in wine production, as well as the importance of the salt trade in the town's development and art by Krems painter Kremser Schmidt. Nearby villages include Krems and Dürnstein, while further up stream you can visit the Göttweig Abbey and Melk.