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Autumn Cruising on the Blue Danube – River Cruises 2020

  • Discover the joys of cruising on the Danube during the autumn season – and take advantage of autumn wine festivals
  • Explore four fabulous capital cities lining the banks of the river Danube and discover the benefits of autumn excursions
  • Be inspired to book a Danube river cruise this autumn and enjoy a vibrant tapestry of autumn colours as you sail

Autumn is a rewarding time of year to cruise along the Danube river. Not only can you explore four fabulous cities after the summer crowds have dispersed and temperatures have dropped, but nature puts on a dazzling display of colour at this time of year. It’s a season to be jolly too, with wine festivals in full flow.

Cruising the Danube in autumn

Embark on a Danube cruise in autumn and while the river may be blue, the surrounding scenery will be basking in glorious autumnal colours. From the comfort of your ship or while exploring destinations on cultural excursions ashore you’ll witness Mother Nature at work, turning the countryside, riverbanks and parks vibrant shades of gold, orange, copper and red.

Visiting the four cities on the itinerary of a Danube river cruise – Bratislava, Salzburg, Vienna and Budapest – are often more pleasant during the autumn months when tourist attractions are not so busy, yet the sun still continues to shine. Cruises in September and October also coincide with wine harvests and festivals, so if you fancy a glass of chilled white or robust red you’ve arrived at the right time. Just pack some layers for cooler mornings and evenings, and remember it can be chilly when exploring wine cellars.

danube river cruises 2019 krems on danube wachau austria

Krems town in Wachau, Austria

Danube river cruises 2020: autumn in Bratislava

Although Danube river cruises typically sail from Budapest, the first of the Danube cities you get the chance to properly explore is Bratislava. The historic Slovakian capital has a beautifully restored Old Town with burgher houses and noble palaces, as well as an imposing 17th-century castle sitting high above the Danube’s banks.

If in the city on 28 September this year, the White Night contemporary art festival sees Bratislava come alive with dance performances, concerts and plays. Day becomes night and night becomes day – it’s an experience like no other.

Autumn is also the time when wine grape harvest festivals – events celebrating traditional winemaking – take place. Usually held in September visitors can look forward to tastings at local cellars. However, don’t worry if you prefer a frothy pint. Just arrive for the city’s Oktoberfest to taste the best of the region’s craft beer.

danube river cruises 2019 bratislava slovakia autumn

Bratislava, Slovakia

Danube river cruises 2020: autumn at Melk Abbey

Next up on a typical Danube cruise itinerary is the resplendent Melk Abbey, an enormous honey-coloured castle that is home to monks of the Benedictine Order. Situated on a rock overlooking the river Danube, the abbey is famous for its splendid architecture, library and decorative frescoes, as well as its 195-metre-long gallery lined with portraits of emperors.

After admiring the Melk Abbey interior, step outside into the substantial abbey park and continue your appreciation there. During the autumn months, the gardens also look rather magnificent.

danube river cruises 2019 melk abbey austria

Melk Abbey, Austria

Danube river cruises 2020: autumn in Salzburg

When your river cruise arrives in Linz there’s the option of a day trip to Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With a pleasant autumnal temperature of around 20°C in September – and October being the month with the least number of rainy days – the weather is conducive to a spot of sightseeing. Start your walk in the charming Old Town or head to Mirabell Palace where its formal gardens will be seasonally stunning.

A traditional festival, Rupertikirtag, also takes place in Salzburg towards the end of September to celebrate the city’s patron saint. With fairground rides – including a 170-year-old carousel – as well arts and craft markets and food stalls, there’s entertainment for all. Look out for locals flamboyantly dressed up in their pretty dirndl skirts and finest lederhosen.

danube river cruises mirabell gardens salzburg austria

Mirabell Palace Gardens, Salzburg, Austria

Danube river cruises 2020: autumn in Vienna

Vienna’s elegant boulevards are a joy to wander along at any time of year, but it’s one of the Danube’s capital cities that becomes ever-more entrancing in autumn, especially if you’re able to while away a few hours in the botanical gardens or vast park at Schönbrunn Palace. Trees and shrubs will have swapped their green colour for vibrant golden hues – on a sunny day, with a clear blue sky above, it’s a must-see sight.

Autumn is also the best time of year to visit Vienna if you’re a fan of fine wine, as you can participate in a wine hiking day. In late September, vineyards open up trails and welcome visitors to explore their estates, sampling local wine and regional culinary delicacies on the way.

When Vienna celebrates Austria’s National Day on 26 October, visitors can watch a military parade. It’s also a good day to visit museums as a few state buildings offer reduced ticket prices.

danube river cruises 2019 st stephan cathedral vienna

St. Stephan cathedral in Vienna, Austria

Danube river cruises 2020: autumn in Budapest

Returning to Hungary’s capital as your Danube cruise comes to an end, now’s the time to discover Budapest. With the autumn temperature still around 23°C in September, it’s an ideal month for visiting the city’s many attractions, including Castle Hill, St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament building. As it’s easy to explore Budapest by foot, you’ll get the chance to appreciate nature’s seasonal delights in City Park, also the home of the largest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe.

Another reason why autumn can be the best time to visit Budapest? It’s when the Budapest Wine Festival takes place, over four days at Buda Castle at the beginning of September. A much-anticipated event, there’s a harvest procession where you’ll see traditional folk costumes, concerts and performances – and yes, much wine tasting.

With seemingly endless galleries, museums, spas, and welcoming wine cellars and bars, there is plenty to keep you entertained in Budapest if you arrive later in autumn as the weather turns colder. Just wrap up and enjoy.

danube river cruises view from fishermans bastion budapest

View of Budapest from Fisherman’s Bastion, Hungary

Book your autumn cruise on the Danube

If you haven’t already decided on a European cruise for this year, why not look forward to an autumn holiday sailing along the river Danube? It’s the perfect choice for city-break fans, art aficionados, nature lovers, wine appreciators and culture vultures alike. Riviera Travel’s The Blue Danube River Cruise is the ideal place to start.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.