Danube cycle path – biking the Danube from Regensburg to Vienna

by Apr 13, 2022Austria, Germany

Sunrise Duernstein Kunringerburg Danube River

The Danube cycle path from Regensburg, Germany to Vienna, Austria, is a very popular and classic cycling route for a reason – mostly flat bike paths beside a very scenic section of the Danube River.


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The Danube cycle path (officially known as the Donauradweg or Danube Cycleway) is considered one of the most scenic bike tour routes in Europe. The route runs from Donaueschingen in Germany for approximately 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) to Budapest in Hungary.

Donauradweg Bikepath Letters

We spent a magical two-weeks in 2017 biking the Danube along bike paths and roads from Regensburg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, passing through four countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary). The entire bike route is considered a classic and well worth doing if you have the time and energy. If not, choose the shorter and arguably the most scenic (and most accessible and popular) section of the Danube bike path running between Regensburg, Germany, and Vienna, which is what we will focus on here.

Much of the bike route stays on dedicated cycling paths beside the Danube or follows along short sections of very quiet country roads and village streets, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about car traffic while you are marveling at all the natural beauty on the cycling route. Along the way the bike path winds past castles, castle ruins, cathedrals, and abbeys, and through quaint villages, through deep green valleys, and across beautiful meadows. As if that is not enough, the bike path also cuts through the famous Wachau region in Austria, famous for its history, plus expansive vineyards, orchards, and wonderful wines.

River Cruise Ships On The Danube Walhalla

One way to see the Danube River is on a river cruise. The other way is on a bike. We prefer the bicycle — much less crowded, more freedom and frankly, you see more.

The Danube cycling path from Regensburg to Vienna is mostly flat, meaning it is accessible to cyclists of all levels and ages. Expect to encounter lots of others on a bike tour, either with an organized group, on their own, or with a family.

You can certainly do this trip on your own, and there are a number of resources to help you plan your bike trip, from completely on your own with Danube Cycle Path, to Euro Bike which helps organize self-guided tours along the Danube, to organized tours with the likes of ExperiencePlus! Bike Tours.

Donauradweg Near Passau

Near Passau, a sign proclaiming a “beer cycle path” and yes, there is an actual beer tour loop one can take on a bike.

To learn more, follow along as we take you through a visual journey of our Danube bike tour featuring key highlights and stops along the Danube River, beginning in Regensburg and ending in Vienna.

Regensburg

Our biking the Danube tour began in the Bavarian city of Regensburg. We’d recommend arriving two to three days prior to beginning your tour so you can fully enjoy this wonderful, well-preserved, historic city. A great and quick way to learn about the things to see and the history is on a sightseeing train tour.

The history of Regensburg goes back more than 2,000 years, and few European cities can boast as many surviving medieval buildings and structures. The Steinerne Brücke, or Stone Bridge is the oldest bridge in Germany, for instance, and the oldest functioning bridge over the Danube. From Regensburg, the Danube is navigable by ships and meets the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal which enables river traffic on the Rhine, the canal, and the Danube to travel from the North Sea all the way to the Black Sea, cutting all the way across Europe from its most northwestern tip to the southeastern point of the European continent. Read our Regensburg city guide to learn much more about things to do in Regensburg.

Best view in Regensburg is from Trinity Church.

The view over the rooftops of Regensburg from Trinity Church.

We stayed at the Hotel Münchner Hof located right in the heart of the old town, a perfect location for exploring while you are in Regensburg. And just as perfect for heading out and onto the bike path to begin your journey biking the Danube toward Vienna.

Regensburg Hotel Munchner Hof

Regensburg to Niederwinkling 

Day One (approximately 75 kilometers or 47 miles)

The bike path along the Danube passes through ancient Roman settlements and into the Bavarian countryside. You’ll absolutely want to make a side trip (short climb) up to Walhalla Temple. The views are incredible. Walhalla is located just past the small village of Donaustauf. It was built by King Ludwig I who wanted to construct a grand temple to honor great Germans. When it opened in October 1842, 162 figures were honored in the building. The monument was designed by the architect Leo von Klenze, who modeled Walhalla on the Parthenon in Athens. 348 marble steps lead up to the entrance. Walhalla’s walls and columns are also made of marble, and the dimensions of the interior spaces nearly match those of the Parthenon. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee to get in, but you can peek in the door a bit if you just want to enjoy the exterior views.

Walhalla Monument View

The view from Walhalla over the Danube is magnificent.

Biking The Danube Church Cornfield Near Niederwinkling

A small, picturesque chapel on the way to Niederwinkling.

In Niederwinkling, we stayed in Hotel Buchners, located just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the Danube bike trail and the restaurant on site is super.

Niederwinkling to Passau

Day Two (approximately 77 kilometers or 48 miles)

There are two Benedictine monasteries on this section, but one you will absolutely want to tour — the Abbey of St. Michael of Metten.

Library Ceiling Melk Abbey

The abbey’s library, only accessible on a guided tour, features 160,000 volumes including one of the earliest bibles printed in Germany and a 1493 “Nuremberg Chronicle,” one of the earliest world history books printed in German and Latin.

Melk Abbey Library Books

As the Danube bike path arrives in Passau, on the Austrian border, the Danube nearly doubles in size, since Passau is at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers.

Passau has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Take the time to wander through the old town and admire the baroque architecture. We’d recommend you also peek into Passau’s Saint Stephan’s Cathedral, home to the largest organ outside of the United States. And, if you have time, book a walking tour – they are informative, entertaining, and a great way to learn more about this magical city.

Passau Walking Tour Danube

We enjoyed a most entertaining and informative walking tour of Passau.

In Passau, we would suggest the Hotel Wilder Mann, located very near Saint Stephan’s. The Wilder Mann (literally “wild man”) is an ideal base for exploring the scenic old town district.

Passau Morning Light Danube River Bike Path

Departing Passau in the early morning light.

Passau to Linz

Day Three (approximately 99 kilometers or 62 miles)

Departing Passau, the Danube flows through the densely wooded slopes of a narrow valley between the Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian Forest) and the Sauwald (formerly, “Passau Forest”). There is a small sign marking the border, but unless you stay alert you will cross the border and enter Austria without even realizing it.

Welcome To Austria Border Danube Bike Path

Therese at the Germany / Austria border on the Danube bike path. The chalk welcome is courtesy of Experience Plus, their trademark sustainable chalked navigation system, which works wonderfully to guide cyclists along the route.

Just past the border and at the village of Schlögen, the Danube River makes a sharp turn and begins a meander like a giant “S” if looked at from above. The cause of this redirection is the granite in the mountain at Schlögen. There is a 1.4-kilometer trail (less than a mile) at the town of Donauschlinge called “Schlögener Blick” that will take you up for a view down onto the loops the Danube makes. At Schlögen, the Danube cycle path crosses over the river, requiring cyclists to take a tiny and very quaint ferry to the other side. When we were there, it was run by a man who does this seasonally every year and seems to love chatting with travelers.

Ferry Crossing Passau To Linz Danube Bike Path

Michael waiting for the bike ferry.

The day’s ride ends in Linz. Now more recognized for its culture and contemporary art scene, as well as its industry, this was a city that Adolf Hitler considered as a hometown. During his dictatorship, Hitler established Linz as one of the spiritual centers of his Reich, together with Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg. Building on the strength of its steel industry, Hitler had goals to transform Linz into a riverside architectural wonder that would rival Budapest. Fortunately, his grotesque dream was never realized. Linz will be the first large city the bike path encounters, with its giant chemical works giving a foretaste of the heavily industrialized Danube sections in Hungary, much farther down. The best way to experience all the history and cultural wonders Linz has to offer is on a walking tour.

Old Town Linz Danube Cycle Path

Old town Linz main square at sunset.

We stayed at the Hotel Wolfinger in Linz. Located right at the main square in the old town of Linz, the Hotel Wolfinger occupies an historic building from the 15th century.


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Linz Waterfront Danube River At Sunset

Mist is rising from the Danube River at sunset along the Linz waterfront.

Linz to Bad Kreuzen

Day Four (approximately 67 kilometers or 42 miles)

Approximately 20 kilometers after leaving Linz and just before reaching the village of Mauthausen, the bike path goes past a place that is an example of the darkest times in German-Austrian history — the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial site.

The memorial is a short distance off the route, but in an exercise never to forget, a visit is really a must for anyone passing by. At the bottom of the road leading up to Mauthausen is a sobering reminder that racism and hatred toward fellow human beings have no place in this world. This artwork (in the photo below) is by Polish artist Eva Kaja near the entrance to this vicious camp where 90,000 men, women and children died from unimaginable torture, hunger, inhuman abuse, gassing, and mistreatment shows heads slowly disappearing into the ground. This demonstrates how individuality is lost and all humanity slowly disappears as all lose any right to their own fate, becoming only material for political manipulation. It is unimaginable that humans could have been — can still be — so cruel to each other. It must stop, no matter what a country’s leader says. We cannot allow a misled belief in white nationalism and a continuation of discrimination to have a toehold in society. No place. Ever.

Memorial Art Outside Mauthausen Concentration Camp

We stayed in Schatz.Kammer Burg Kreuzen, a modern lodge situated in front of the walls of the Kreuzen Castle, with beautiful views of the Danube River from every room, and a Kneipp spa. Located a short but rather steep pedal off the Danube bike path in the tiny village of Bad Kreuzen.

Sunrise From Bad Kreuzen

Our view at sunrise from the hotel in Bad Kreuzen.

Bad Kreuzen to Dürnstein

Day Five (approximately 90 kilometers or 56 miles)

Enjoy the relaxing downhill ride to Grein where you will take a ferry across the river. During the high season, there can be quite a line waiting to take the ferry, so if you don’t want to wait, there is a bridge crossing two kilometers (1.25 miles) up the river.

Ferry Crossing Danube River Bike Path

In approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles), the bike route arrives at Melk, an important spiritual and cultural center, due in large part to its famous abbey. The Melk Abbey sits on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Danube and is absolutely worth a visit. The ceiling frescoes of the Marble Hall and 100,000-volume library are two of the reasons this abbey is one of the best-known abbeys in Europe.

Melk Abbey Danube River Bike Path

The Melk Abbey. It is as magnificent as it appears.

At Melk, you will cross the Danube yet again, and then begin a spectacular journey into the Wachau region, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you pedal through the meandering river valley, we guarantee you will be stunned by the scenery – oh do take time to stop and enjoy and take photos! The steep river valley alternates with floodplain forests, with banks and slopes filled with sun-kissed hillside grapevine terraces.

There are apricot orchards, too (the region is well-known for its jams, brandies, and liqueurs). And sprinkled in between the vines and orchards are picturesque villages, beautiful churches, castles, and castle ruins. If you stop into a café on your ride (and why on earth wouldn’t you?) be sure to sample the apricot dumplings and apricot strudel. Oh my delicious!!!

The highlight of the ride through the Wachau is pedaling into the village of Dürnstein. It sits on a ledge on the north bank of the Danube. Overlooking this wonderfully quaint village sits the ruins of an ancient castle, but this is no ordinary Danube castle! The Künringerburg was where Richard the Lionheart, England’s crusader king, was imprisoned and held for ransom. Take a stroll up to the castle for sunrise or sunset for an extra special view (the cover photo is from the castle).

Duernstein Village Street Danube River Bike Tour

Picturesque village streets of Dürnstein.

We stayed in the Hotel Richard Löwenherz, right on the Danube River, with an amazing restaurant patio overlooking the river and equally majestic, historic rooms.

Dinner With A View Of The Danube River

A million dollar view of the Danube at sunset from the outdoor dining patio at Stockingerhof restaurant in Dürnstein.

Dürnstein to Vienna

Day Six (approximately 96 kilometers or 60 miles)

From Dürnstein, the mostly flat bike route follows a somewhat complex network of bicycle paths along the Danube. This is a long day of pedaling, with some sections quite flat and unbroken without a lot of variety. Eventually, however, you’ll arrive right in the heart of Vienna, the largest city in Austria and one of Europe’s leading musical centers. It was first a Roman and Celtic settlement, but as the Austro-Hungarian Empire rose to prominence, magnificent medieval and baroque architecture became especially prevalent as you will see.

Vienna Danube River Bike Tour

To learn more about Vienna, start with a guided walking tour. Then, as you have time and interest, a few must-see highlights include the Schönbrunn Palace, the Vienna State Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum (if you are into art museums), Hofburg Palace, and shopping streets (for delicious food and cafes too) like Kohlmarkt and Graben in the historic city center.

Michael Hodgson Sausage Plate Vienna

Nothing better in the rain than brats with bread, mustard and wine.

Which does bring us to food. Vienna is internationally recognized for its Viennese pastry and what goes with it: coffee! Be sure you spend at least a bit of time experiencing the coffeehouses of Vienna which are, frankly, a Viennese institution of the first rank. And get your tastebuds ready to enter pastry paradise (don’t worry, you can ride or walk off the calories later. Really, how many times are you in Vienna?).

Der Gigerl Restaurant Vienna Danube Bike Tour

Gigerl restaurant in Vienna.

We stayed in the cool and hip 25Hours Hotel right in the heart of Vienna’s museum quarter. There is a wonderful on-site restaurant, a rooftop bar and there is a spa area (do check for COVID safety protocols or other restrictions for all facilities of course). Best of all, the center of the city is just a 10-minute walk away.

25Hours Hotel Vienna Danube Cycle Path

25Hours Hotel in Vienna is funky, fun, cool, comfortable, and perfectly situated. Rocky and Dumont have already settled in.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi, thanks for your really interesting review of the route, it looks great! We’re planning to cycle the same route this summer but would prefer to rent bikes while we’re there, do you know of any companies who hire bikes that you can pick up in somewhere like Munich and drop off at the end in Budapest? I’ve been looking around but can’t seem to find anything, however when we did the camino de santiago lots of bike companies offered this service.

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