A Complete Guide To The Danube Cycle Path (The Black Forest to the Black Sea)
The Danube Cycle Path, also known as the Donauradweg, is undoubtedly the most famous bike route in Europe. Characterised by gorgeous riverside cycling, this route will showcase energetic capitals Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade, characterful villages and towns, epic views of the Danube Bend, Wachau Valley, Djerdap National Park and so much more.
The Danube River flows from its source in Donaueschingen in Germany’s Black Forest all the way to the Black Sea on the Romanian coast. This makes it Europe’s second-longest river at 1,770 miles (2,850km) in length. It would take roughly 40 – 50 days to cycle the entire river, or about a month if you were really fit and could clock 100km per day.
Most people just choose to cycle the section from Passau to Vienna or Vienna to Budapest. These are by far the two most popular sections, likely due to the fact that they’re flat, easy to navigate, have lots to see, have excellent infrastructure, and simply have the makings of a great cycling holiday.
Because of this, most information online about the Danube Cycle Path focuses on Passau to Budapest only. The route beyond Budapest seems to get largely ignored, but in this blog post, I’ll be talking about the entire route — from its start in Donaueschingen to its end at the Black Sea.
Why cycle the Danube?
Sights and scenery: The route will take you through some of Europe’s greatest cities and historical sites, as well as treat you to a variety of beautiful riverside views and picturesque towns.
Flat topography: Most of the Danube Cycle Path is very flat, making it ideal for beginners or those looking for a leisurely cycling holiday. The route through Serbia is a little more mountainous than the rest of the route, and Germany also has some hilly sections, but for the most part, you’ll find the cycling to be easy.
Easy to navigate: The route is very easy to navigate, given that you’ll be able to use both signposts and the river as your guides. Signposting is excellent in Western Europe, in particular.
Excellent infrastructure: Europe is, for the most part, very well set up for cyclists. Bike paths are well-maintained (usually), accommodation is easy to find and bike shops are plentiful. Motorists are also used to seeing cyclists on the route, so will give you space and respect.
A few highlights from my time cycling the Danube:
Danube Cycle Path Map and GPX
You can download the Danube Cycle Path GPX track here.
Hotels and Pensions
You’ll find plenty of hotels, guesthouses and pensions along the Danube Cycle Path. Many are aware that they’re on a popular bike route and so have good amenities for cyclists, such as bicycle parking. Hotels in Germany and Austria would often have signs outside to let cyclists know their bikes are welcome: “Radfahrer Wilkommen.” Booking.com has the biggest selection of hotels if you prefer to book a day in advance — which I recommend you do if you’re cycling in the summer months.
Campsites in Western Europe are abundant, with campsites in almost every town, so you shouldn’t struggle to find one at the end of each day. Camping options aren’t as abundant as you head further east, so you will need to plan your days when in Hungary and Serbia. Bulgaria and Romania barely have any campsites, so you will need to either stay in hotels or wild camp.
These are some of my favourite campsites I stayed at along the Danube Cycle Path:
- Camping Passau in Passau, Germany
- Wachau-Camping Rossatz in Dürnstein, Austria
- CityCamping in Györ, Hungary
- Camping Asin in Dobra, Serbia
- Base Camp for Adventurers in Negotin, Serbia (my absolute favourite!)
If you’re not familiar, Warm Showers is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. It’s a fantastic community — cyclists offer to host other cyclists for a night. You’ll be given a place to sleep and a shower, but it’s likely you’ll also be given food and a beer! Warm Showers hosts are most abundant in Western Europe but there are a few in Eastern Europe, too.
Wild camping is a great way to save money and enjoy nature — I met many bike tourists along the Danube who wild camped often. Wild camping shouldn’t be a problem on the Eastern part of the route (Hungary onwards). Most farmers and villagers will happily let you camp on their land if you ask, and it’s also easy enough to find a quiet, secluded spot by the river.
However, wild camping is prohibited in Western Europe. Many cyclists do it anyway and don’t get caught. Despite the fact that it’s technically prohibited, most countries do have a relatively relaxed attitude to wild campers, and may or may not ask you to move on if you’re caught. Just be discreet: find a secluded spot, wait until dusk to set up camp, and be gone by early morning.
As I mentioned before, Passau to Vienna and Vienna to Budapest are the two most popular Danube cycling itineraries. Both take the average person about a week to complete, including sightseeing along the way. I highly recommend both these options and would suggest cycling Passau to Budapest if you have 2 weeks available for your cycling holiday. Of course, if you have the time, you could even cycle the entire length of the Danube bike trail.
Passau to Vienna
The Danube Cycle Path from Passau to Vienna is 324 kilometres long (201 miles), and takes the average person about 6 days to complete. Here is an ideal 6-day itinerary for cycling from Passau to Vienna.
Day 1: Passau to Schlögener Loop (41km)
Day 2: Schlögener Loop to Linz (55km)
Day 3: Linz to Grein (55km)
Day 4: Grein to Wachau (60km)
Day 5: Wachau to Tulln (50km)
Day 6: Tulln to Vienna (40km)
Vienna to Budapest
The Danube Cycle Path from Vienna to Budapest is 289 kilometres long (180 miles), and takes the average person about 6 days to complete. Here is an ideal 6-day itinerary for cycling from Vienna to Budapest.
Day 1: Vienna to Bad Deutsch Altenburg (42km)
Day 2: Bad Deutsch Altenburg to Bratislava (26km)
Day 3: Bratislava to Györ (50km)
Day 4: Györ to Komárom (57km)
Day 5: Komárom to the Danube Bend (52km)
Day 6: The Danube Bend to Budapest (62km)
Serbia (Backa Palanka to Negotin)
While the sections from Passau to Budapest are the most popular and take all the limelight, I need to take a moment to talk about Serbia. Passing by characterful villages, energetic Belgrade, and the stunning scenery of the Djerdap National Park, the Serbian Danube Cycle Path is immensely underrated. It was my favourite country on the whole route.
The Serbian section is not quite as beginner-friendly as the route between Germany and Hungary, due to some big climbs, dirt paths and weaker infrastructure for cycling tourism. That being said, it’s rugged, raw, and exciting, with dramatic scenery, majestic mountains and much fewer crowds.
Day 1: Backa Palanka to Cortanovci (58km)
Day 2: Cortanovci to Belgrade (70km)
Day 3: Belgrade to Kovin (74km)
Day 4: Kovin to Dobra (90km)
Day 5: Dobra to Tekija (88km)
Day 6: Tekija to Negotin (78km)
Navigating the Danube Cycle Path
The EuroVelo 6 — which spans the entirety of Europe — uses the Loire, Rhine and Danube bike paths to make up its route. This means that from Donaueschingen (where the Danube begins) all the way to the Black Sea, you can follow signs that say EuroVelo 6 or Donauradweg.
The Danube Cycle Path/EuroVelo 6 is very well signposted in Western Europe. Signs are displayed at every junction and are often also placed every few kilometres to confirm that you are still on the right path.
As you reach Eastern Europe, you’ll find that signposting is not always so good. Particularly in Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, the signs are sometimes ambiguous or non-existent.
I highly recommend having a GPS map loaded on your phone and a detailed paper map to refer to. These Cicerone guidebooks are really useful, too: Danube Cycleway Vol 1 and Danube Cycleway Vol 2.
If you do manage to get lost, you can simply find the Danube. If you follow the river, it’s likely that you’ll eventually find your way back onto the bike path.
Download the Danube Cycle Path GPX track here.
What to expect on the route: infrastructure, road quality and more
I thought it would make sense to divide the route into two parts, as they differ a lot in terms of difficulty, infrastructure and overall “vibe.” Part 1 covers the route up to Budapest, which is where most cycle tourists stop, and Part 2 covers Budapest to the route’s end at the Black Sea.
Tip: A reader, Andrew, has kindly left a link in the comment section below this post to a series of excellent video recordings of his time cycling the Danube. I recommend checking them out to get a feel of the scenery/road conditions and what to expect.
Part 1: Donaueschingen to Budapest
The first part of the Danube Cycle Path really has the makings of a quintessential European cycling holiday. It has fantastic cycling infrastructure, plenty to see and is family-friendly. Highlights include the capital cities of Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, the stunning Wachau Valley, the gloriously golden Melk Abbey, the Danube Bend and more.
Germany and Austria are extremely well set up for cyclists. Bike paths are well signposted and in excellent condition; bike repair shops are frequent; there is plenty of accommodation options and there are lots of fellow cyclists around to talk to. For these reasons, they are excellent countries for a beginner looking to embark on their first cycle tour.
Slovakia and Hungary are also very well set up for cyclists, although signposting and road surface quality does start to decline a little bit.
Part 2: Budapest to Constanta
As you leave Budapest behind, you enter would I would call Part 2 of the Danube Cycle Path. This second part is a little more “adventurous,” thanks to weaker tourist infrastructure, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania.
There are longer distances between accommodation, restaurants and grocery stores, and almost no cycle repair shops or tourist offices. The language barrier can also be more challenging, as fewer people will speak Western European languages the further east you go.
The surface of the bike paths are mostly asphalt and in fair condition, although there are some unfavourable dirt paths, grassy paths and potholes to contend with.
That being said, Budapest to the Black Sea is full of wonderful scenery, such as the Djerdap National Park, the Iron Gates and the Danube Delta. The hospitality is also exceptional; I was greeted by fresh juice and watermelon at one of my campsites in Serbia and gifted oranges in Bulgaria. For me, the low prices were the icing on the cake as I could enjoy coffee and meals out more frequently than in Western Europe.
Here is a suggested packing list for a Danube cycling trip. Not all of the following items are necessary, though — it entirely depends on you.
- A bicycle
- Bike repair kit
- Tyre pump
- Bike lock
- Cycling shorts
- Cycling tops
- 1-2 non-cycling outfits
- 1 jumper/fleece
- Cycling gloves
- Trainers/cycling shoes
- Comfy shoes for evenings
- Soap and shampoo
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Wet wipes
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Quick-drying, light-weight towel
Camping equipment (unless opting to stay in hotels/guesthouses)
- A tent
- A sleeping bag
- A sleeping mat — I love this Forclaz mat
- Gas cylinder
- Portable stove — I love my MSR PocketRocket
- Cutlery, bowl, mug
- Cooking pot
- Wallet and money
- A camera
- Plug adapters
- Battery pack(s)
- Mini first aid kit
- Refillable water bottle
- Day pack
When is the best time to cycle the Danube?
The best time to cycle the Danube is between June and September. You’re likely to have warm, sunny days and can make the most of the long daylight hours. July and August can get quite hot but you stand a great chance of having a rain-free cycling holiday.
Is the Danube Cycle Path beginner-friendly?
I would say that the Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary sections are all ideal for beginners. If you choose to cycle between Passau and Budapest then you will have no issues as a beginner.
Beyond Budapest, though, the route is not quite so beginner-friendly, with less reliable signposting, hilly (though beautiful) terrain through Serbia, and less infrastructure such as campsites, grocery stores and bike repair shops available.
Is it safe for solo cyclists?
Yes. I felt safe at all times while cycling along the Danube as a solo female. Particularly from Germany to Hungary, there are lots of other cyclists on the route, as well as plenty of shops and accommodation options, and great infrastructure.
In Bulgaria and Romania, wild dogs can be a problem. They’ve been known to chase and even show aggression towards cyclists, so you’ll need to be cautious.
What kind of bicycle do I need?
A reasonably sturdy bike that has the ability to carry your load, is comfortable, and has decent tyres will be fine. You really don’t need an expensive performance bike — the Danube isn’t going to test your bike too much! I’d recommend a hybrid or touring bike. I personally used a Trek 7.2 FX. These are now discontinued, but the Giant Roam 2 Disc, Cube Touring Pro and Trek FX 3 Disc Equipped are all good, relatively inexpensive options.
Can I hire a bike for my cycling holiday?
Of course! You’ll find plenty of bike hire shops along the Danube, particularly in Germany and Austria. Here are a few options:
- Passau: Fahrrad-Klinik Passau
- Passau: Bikeambulanz Bikehaus
- Vienna: Velopold Vienna
What kind of travel insurance will cover me for cycle touring?
Most travel insurance providers will only cover cycling if it’s incidental to your trip, i.e. if you hired a bike for a day during your two-week vacation, but not if the primary purpose of the trip is cycling. As you can see, cycle touring is not covered under these grounds.
I recommend World Nomads, whom I use for most cycling, backpacking and long-term trips. You can read World Nomads’ policy on cycling-related travel here, but here are the basics:
- Cycle touring is covered but the tour must be on one continent only — no cover is available for intercontinental cycle touring. This is ideal for the Danube Cycle Path, as it stays in Europe only.
- You’ll need to tick ‘cycling – independent cycle touring’ when buying your policy.
About The Author
Lauren Pears is a freelance travel writer and blogger based in London. She writes about active adventure travel, aiming to encourage and inspire travellers to make the most of the great outdoors.
Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.
Hotels – Booking.com
Hostels – Hostelworld
Cheap flights – Skyscanner
Travel insurance – World Nomads
Outdoor gear – Decathlon / GO Outdoors
Cycling gear – Chain Reaction Cycles
Alternatively, you could buy me a coffee to say thanks!
Thank you for investing a lot of time for planning, making and sharing this journey with us. Very thoroghly covered.
On a map i’ve noticed two types of lines.
What does dotted lines represent?
My husband and I want to cycle the Danube from Vienna to Linz and back to Vienna. Are there proper cycling paths on both sides of the Danube? We are renting bicycles in Vienna and plan to do 35-50 km a day. I’ve never been to Austria, and I’d prefer the roads to be paved.
Vienna (2 nights) – Tulln – Krems – Emmersdorf – Bad Kreuzen/Grein – Linz (2 nights) – Ardagger – Melk – Mautern – Tulln – Vienna
Is this route doable? Any tips for us? Thanks!
Thank you for your description of the cycle path. I’m not a cyclist, but rather an avid hiker of caminos and long walks. Would you recommend this path for walkers as well? I’ve found it difficult to know the answer to this question in the many sites I’ve read. Thank you for your answer.
Hi Angela! I think there are probably better trails for walkers to be honest. Some parts of the Danube in Germany and Austria could be nice to walk on, but the trail through Hungary and Serbia for example does have quite a few roads that I wouldn’t want to walk on.
I’m just starting to plan a cycle trip along the Danube this summer for my husband and me. This article was so helpful – thank you so much. I was just wondering how you got to Donaaueschingen? The thing we find hardest about cycling further into Europe is how to get there with our bikes and all the gear!
Hi Julie, I’m so glad you found it helpful! I cycled the Danube as part of a longer trip from London to Istanbul, so I cycled from my house in London then flew home from Istanbul at the end.
A suggestion would be to fly to Basel with your gear and bikes, from where you could cycle to Donaueschingen (a couple days ride along the Rhine section of the Eurovelo 6), or perhaps book a minivan from the airport to take you on the two hour drive to the start of the Danube. Where will you be coming from?
We’ll be coming from London. We’re looking at trains, but it’s sometimes difficult to get bikes on them. We’ve never tried to take our bikes on a plane.
Hi, it can be difficult to get bikes on trains but it’s possible if travelling during off peak hours. I have an article about flying with your bike, which may be helpful to you: https://www.theplanetedit.com/flying-with-a-bike/
Thanks so much. That article is really helpful.
We’re coming from London. We’re thinking of ferry and trains – not always easy to get bikes on trains though. We’ve never taken our bikes on a plane.
Hi Lauren, I have been reading your blog and loved your trip! My husband and o are planning to ride our tandem in April from Istanbul to the Eurovelo 6 via the Black Sea. Would you have any information or tips on the best route? Thank so much Kim
Thank you Kim! A tandem ride sounds amazing. Unfortunately I didn’t go via the Black Sea, but rather cut diagonally through Bulgaria, so I’m not able to offer advice there. Apologies!
Thank you for taking the time to write this article. My Dad and me spent many hours planning to cycle this route and your article was very helpful. A special thanks for sharing the GPX files, which we split into stages by countries. Our initial plan was to cycle to Budapest, but we ended up cycling the entire route in October 2022!
I recorded videos of the route which can be replayed on most indoor trainers, if you or any of your readers wish to visually replay the route! It should be available here:https://videos.kinomap.com/en/playlists/25449
Thank you Andrew, I’m glad it was helpful! I’m delighted to hear that you cycled the entire route and recorded so much of it, too. I’ll be watching your videos to relive my experience vicariously through you. 😊 I hope you don’t mind, but I also added a section in the article directing people to your videos – I think a lot of people will find them useful.