Take a city break

Different urban sights on the Danube are historically significant, artistically valuable and very exiting for anyone who visits. That goes equally for small towns and big cities, but also for the capitals of the Danube countries: although six out of ten are not situated on the river, they are all influenced by its history and importance and shouldn't be passed over when visiting the Danube destinations.

Bratislava

Bratislava - the Europe's most glamorous city! Well OK, not quite. And truth be told, Bratislava, with fewer than half a million people, is never likely to be. But it might be Europe's most relaxed, because what this city does have is old-town charm, sophisticated restaurants, traditional pubs, good music ranging from jazz to opera, stylish people, and a human scale which means that as a visitor you will not spend half your day trekking in and out of underground stations or getting from the airport into town. All this, and Europe's greatest river – Danube – as a backdrop.

Known as Pressburg to German-speakers or Pozsony to Hungarian-speakers, Bratislava got its present name only 90 years ago. But the city has a long and proud history that dates back to pre-Roman times.

The hillsides on the edge of the city have been home to vineyards for centuries, and close to Bratislava are wine towns where you can taste the best - and it is startlingly good! - that Slovakia has to offer. In the city itself there is plenty to see and do. Bratislava's long history - as home to Celts, Romans, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and of course Slovaks - means there is an impressive range of architecture, languages and cuisine.

The handsome homes of the Austro-Hungarian noble families who built palaces here dot the city, and many of them are now open to the public as museums and galleries. From the Bratislava Castle, with its long and chequered history (it has been destroyed more than once), there are great views over the mediaeval old town and the Danube valley from its fortifications.

The Danube River itself is, of course, one of the city's main assets. There are several cafes along its banks, within walking distance of the centre, most popular is propably the 'UFO' at the top of SNP Bridge. Alternatively, you can take to the water yourself: daily hydrofoil services link the city with nearby Vienna.

If, having enjoying the food and drink, you feel like walking - or biking - there are almost unlimited opportunities in the forested hills to the north of the city, or along the Danube to the south, where inline skating is also very popular on the scores of kilometres of traffic-free paths.

Belgrade

The city of Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, located on the confluence of Sava into Danube. Rich history, remarkable architecture, and a specific "Balkan mentality" of people, make it a very exciting place to visit.

Belgrade Fortress - Kalemegdan is one of Belgrade's highlights. It is the place where the city was founded, a place where it lead its battles, and today a place with the best possible view to the spot where two rivers meet. Beside the Fortress itself, the complex offers a number of monuments, but also a Zoo, Military Museum, Observatory and beautiful promenades.

Skadarlija is an old bohemian quarter of Belgrade, which is vibrant and live 24/7. It arose during the 19th century, with a large number of inns (called "kafana"), and since then, has been a gathering spot of the most renowned personalities in Belgrade. It is frequently compared to the Montmartre of Paris - both in appearance, and atmosphere. In all the inns, a visitor may taste typical Serbian food, drink local vines and listen to live traditional music till the early morning hours.

On the banks of the Danube lies Zemun – once a separate city now famous part of Belgrade for its river taverns and restaurants, specific atmosphere and tasteful dishes made of fish, fresh from the river. Rich cultural life includes offerings of numerous important museums and galleries, cultural centers and other institutions, giving Belgrade a reputation of the city of culture. In addition to social life of Belgrade, many kafanas, clubs and restaurants are open until dawn and can be found throughout the city, while numerous “splavs” are spread along the banks of both rivers.There is a large number of festivals and events organized in Belgrade - FEST Film Festival, BELEF summer art festival, BITEF international theater festival, Beer Festival, Belgrade Boat Carnival and many others.

However, one of the most valuable tourist attractions of the city is a specific way of living. Belgrade taverns, pubs, cafes and restaurants are full of people, any part of the day, any day. People are hospitable, willing to talk and joke all the time -showing the best side of the Serbian capital.

Vienna

The city of Vienna is the capital of Austria and one of the worlds' most attractive tourist destinations. At the same time, it is the city with such a high standard of life, that it is officially declared as one of the most desirable living places.

As the centre of former Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which ruled the region in the 18th and 19th century, it offers monuments of its history in every street corner - the city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, with 27 castles, two imperial palaces (Schönbrunn and Hofburg), 163 palaces and 280 imperial parks and gardens. The beauty and the luxury of these sites can only be measured with their historical and cultural significance. For more than six centuries, the Hofburg complex was the official residence of the Habsburg emperors, while today it houses important museums and state rooms. On the other hand, Schönbrunn complex offers the oldest surviving zoo in the world, which is quite unusual for once imperial palace. It was built in 1752, with the essence of the original Baroque design and characteristic Viennese charm. Apart from the beauty and the animals, a visitor can enjoy unorthodox, modern architectural solutions - visitors now stand in the old lion cages, while the animals themselves roam in their modern enclosures.

There are 107 museums in Vienna, which offer - among other treasures - the biggest collection of painting by Gustav Klimt (including famous "Kiss") and one of the biggest collections of Venetian paintings. With its 87,800 square meters, The Museum Quartier in Vienna is among ten largest cultural areas in the world.

Vienna is also a city of music. Every evening, 10 thousand people listen to live classical music, and more than 15 thousand concerts are held every year. Vienna State Opera has a different programme during 300 evenings a year, with almost all seats taken. The music tradition goes far in the past, since there is no other city that has been home to so many composers: Mozart, Mahler, Haydn, Beethoven and Johan Strauss (the king of the Viennese waltz), all worked here.

Budapest

Hungarian capital Budapest is one of world's most romantic and entertaining capitals. At the same time, it is a capital that offers an educational travel through history of Europe: the majestic castle of Buda, the unique design of the Parliament, world famous baths, or the first metro line on the continent, are just a few highlihts of the city's rich heritage. It also boasts broad boulevards and green parks, grand Art-Nouveau mansion and vibrantly painted churches, lively cafés, world-class music venues and famous cuisine.

There are also many museums, second largest synagogue in Europe and third largest in the world, beautiful Hungarian Opera House, but - at the same time - some interesting modern-day sights. One of those is the Statue Park, a theme park with striking statues of the Communist era, located just outside central part of the city.

Beside all the other things, Budapest is also a city of bridges. Since the Danube divide it into two parts - Buda and Pesta, the river is spanned by 14 bridges. One of the most famous is Chain Bridge, which is 380 m long.

For 30 years the Spring festival has been one of the largest cultural festival in Hungary. Besides classical music and jazz concerts, there are theater performances, film screenings, open-air programs and other festival-type events.

Budapest is often called Spa capital with largest number of thermal springs within the city border in the world and many type of spas from - from historic Turkish to Art Nouveau and modern baths, to medical and party spas located in Hungarian capital. Spa culture is going back to the period of ancient Romans.

Thanks to its remarkable architecture, infrastructure, and an unforgettable view of the river and from the river, riverside panorama of Budapest is ranked on the UNESCO World Heritage list. One of the most unusual ways to experience this sight is - by tram No.2. This specific tram holds the 7th place at National Geographic's World Top 10 Trolley Rides.

A wide range of Danube cruises is also something that every visitor may choose from.

During the night, the city that used to be one of two centres of Austria-Hungarian Empire, can hardly be recognized: it suddenly changes and becomes a pulsating, youthful and artistic place. The visitors willing to miss their sleep, may enjoy - according to personal preferences - posh bars, high class restaurants or underground pubs.

The city of Budapest is a venue of dozens major cultural events and festivals. One of the most popular is Sziget festival, organized on a Danube island, with almost half a million of visitors every summer.

A number of interesting events are also organized on The Danube Day, June 29th - all celebrating the river and its importance to the history and modern life of Budapest.

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