Me and a friend starting to cycle the Donau in Passau, Germany
Here’s what you need to know to get the most of cycling the Danube from Passau to Vienna:
Choosing Which Direction to Cycle the Danube:
OK, this is an easy one. Most cyclists, myself included, cycle it from west to east – from Passau to Vienna. It slopes slightly downhill and normally the wind is on your back making for an easier ride! Plus, Vienna makes for a rather impressive finish. You can easily spend a few days exploring there – which I highly recommend if you have the time!
Choosing When to Cycle the Danube:
If you choose a self-guided cycling tour, it’s available from near the end of March through to October 15th. From my perspective, weather in March can be unpredictable, so I personally wouldn’t do it until mid-April. I did it the beginning of May, and the weather was relatively good.
We had a couple of rainy days, but temperature wise it was perfect – warm, but not too hot. Ideally you would want to cycle before the end of June, or alternatively, in September or October. Passau to Vienna is the most popular section of the Danube Cycle Path. It sees up to 600,000 cyclists a year with the majority of those in July and August. If you do choose to cycle it in July and August, make your hotel/B & B reservations early (or let us do it for you ), as places fill up quickly. One hotel that we stayed at in May was 80% booked for June already and fully booked for July and August.
Who Will Enjoy Cycling the Danube?:
What surprised me most, was the variety of people we saw cycling. My friends and I ranged from our late 30s to early 50s, but we also saw speed demons, parents pulling young children in wagons and seniors. So in other words, the Danube is suitable for pretty much anyone in reasonable shape.
I throughly enjoyed myself, even with my limited cycling experience. Having said that, I do recommend doing longer cycle rides before biking the Danube. While I was fine physically, I ended up with a compressed nerve in both of my hands which was really painful. Had I done longer trips prior to this one, I would have installed a handlebar extender for my bike. That could have prevented this injury which took several painstaking weeks to heal.
Where to Stop Along the Danube?
This is a personal choice of course and will vary according to your interests, but a few of the highlights include:
- Passau: Before you start cycling it’s worth exploring Passau’s Old Town. It was rebuilt in the 17th century by Italian baroque masters after a fire.
- Schlönger Loop: one of the most photographed parts of the river where it makes a complete 180 degree turn.
- City of Linz: It’s the capital of Upper Austria, and was the European Cultural Capital in 2009. In addition to some outstanding museums, there is also Linz Castle and the nightly riverside light show.
- Enns: the oldest town in Austria, dating back to 1212.
- Nearby is the Mauthausen concentration camp (note: it’s a steep climb to get there).
- Celtic village of Mitterkirchen: you can visit the Outdoor Museum of Mitterkirchen and view the reconstructed Prehistoric Celtic Village.
- Baroque village of Grein: I stopped for lunch here. It was one of my favourite places along the entire route.
- UNESCO Melk Abbey in Melk: We did the self-guided tour and I loved it. You also get a fantastic view over the city from the top. The small city of Melk is also worth exploring and makes for a great coffee, lunch or overnight stop.
- Wachau region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its wine and sometimes referred to as the Tuscany of Austria. This is a wonderful area to stop and do some wine tasting, while cycling among vineyards. I also highly recommend stopping at the picturesque village of Dürnstein. It also happens to be perfect for wine tasting. Note: many of the wineries are closed on Sundays, so try to visit this region on any other day, but Sunday.
- Just outside of Vienna, you’ll cycle through the Vienna Woods and through the Gates of Vienna.
- The Klosterneuburg Monastery is also worth a stop. If possible, you’ll want to spend a few days exploring Vienna as well.
- There are numerous other villages, castles, churches and museums to visit along the way. This gives you an idea of just how much there is to see.