The Danube Cycle Path from Passau to Vienna makes for one of the most beautiful cycling holidays in Europe. It’s perfectly easy to see why: this stretch of the Danube river will take you through thousands of years of history; dramatic palaces, hilltop castles, ornate monasteries and rustic villages.
But it’s not just the historic sights that make this one of the popular cycle routes in Europe – the paths are smooth and flat, mostly free of motorised traffic, and will wind you through terraced vineyards, apricot orchards, forests, gorges and scenic farmland. A feast for the eyes and easy on the legs; this is cycling at its best.
The Danube river flows from The Black Forest to The Black Sea – a whopping 2900km (1780 miles). It’s an impressive river, and from Donaueschingen to Budapest, you’ll find a dedicated cycle path along its bank. The section from Passau to Vienna, though, is arguably the most impressive, and sees some 38,000 cyclists along its paths every year.
Highlights along the Danube
This may be a cycle tour, but there are plenty of sights to see along the way, so allow ample time for sightseeing!
- Passau: Passau itself is well worth a look. Its old town was rebuilt baroque style in the 17th century and is rather impressive.
- Schlönger Loop: The river makes a complete 180-degree turn here; a great photo opportunity!
- Linz: I thought Linz was a fabulous city; it’s got some outstanding museums and an impressive castle with spectacular views over the city.
- Grein Village: Grein makes for a great coffee or lunch stop – it’s very picturesque with lovely views over the Danube.
- Melk Abbey: A UNESCO heritage site, the beautiful Melk Abbey is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen. Definitely set aside time to visit the Abbey.
- Wachau Valley: The Wachau Valley is famous for its wine, and spans from Melk to Krems. The cycle path through Wachau will take you through beautiful vineyards, orchards and rustic villages. Be sure to stop in Dürnstein village to sample some wine!
- Vienna: The capital city of Austria, Vienna is home to beautiful palaces, museums and gardens. I’d allow a few days to explore Vienna.
Passau to Vienna by bike: route & itinerary
The cycle path from Passau to Vienna is 324 kilometres long (201 miles), and takes the average person about 6 days to complete. I think this is a good length of time, as it allows you to sight-see and have enough time after cycling each day to enjoy your surroundings. With this in mind, I have come up with an ideal 6 day itinerary for cycling Passau to Vienna.
Day 1: Passau to Schlögener Loop
Day 2: Schlögener Loop to Linz
Day 3: Linz to Grein
Day 4: Grein to Wachau Valley
Day 5: Wachau Valley to Krems
Day 6: Krems to Vienna
Day 1: Passau to Schlögener Loop (41km)
Start in Passau, a gorgeous German city on the border of Austria, and follow the Danube east. While a little touristy, the city’s Old Town is well worth a look, as it boasts stunning baroque architecture and quaint lanes.
As you leave Passau, you’ll cycle alongside the Danube river amongst the fabulous scenery of the Upper Danube Valley. The route will take you to the impressive Schlönger Loop, where hard granite forces the river to bend and make a 180-degree turn.
Day 2: Schlögener Loop to Linz (55km)
You’ll need to take a ferry across the river at this point, due to the lack of a complete bicycle path. I paid €2 for a short ferry ride (just a couple of minutes). The scenery will dramatically change as you get off the ferry. You’re now in Austria! Lush, green hills await you.
Arriving in Linz, you’ll be greeted with a plethora of ornate, baroque architecture. Many people argue that Linz is a boring, industrial city, and while part of it definitely is, Linz also has a lot of great stuff to offer. I’d advise spending an afternoon in Linz if possible.
Be sure to head to Pöstlingberg, a 540-metre high hill with a viewing platform over the city. You can get a tram up to Pöstlingberg if you’d prefer not to bike up the incline. There’s a café at Pöstlingberg called Jindrak Café, which offers fabulous views over Linz and a range of delicious pastries and sweet treats. There’s also a museum in Linz called Ars Electronica Centre, which I highly recommend to those interested in technology. Or, simply explore the boutique shops on LandstraBe or stroll around the Hauptplatz and enjoy a cup of coffee with a slice of traditional Linzer tart.
Day 3: Linz to Grein (55km)
After you’ve spent some time in Linz, continue on towards Grein. The route will take you away from the river a little way, treating you to meadows and scenic farmland before re-joining the river again. While there’s not much to do in Grein, it is very scenic. The village centre is really beautiful, boasting the oldest theatre in Austria, and the views across the Danube are superb.
Day 4: Grein to Wachau Valley (60km)
The next major stop on your journey should be the town Melk. Melk is home to the Melk Abbey, a simply spectacular Benedictine Monastery overlooking the Danube. It’s one of the most beautiful baroque ensembles in all of Europe, and honestly, I thought it was staggering. Entrance to the abbey is €12.50, and I promise, it’s well worth the price tag. The church inside the abbey was easily the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Now, from Melk, you’ll enter the Wachau Valley. Wachau spans from Melk to Krems, and is, in my opinion, the most impressive part of the Danube. It’s renowned for its wine, and here, you’ll find yourself cycling through terraced vineyards, apricot orchards and rustic villages. The villages in the valley are peppered with wineries and taverns, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to sample some of the region’s wine.
Day 5: Wachau Valley to Krems (40km)
As you ride through the vineyards, you’ll come to the village Dürnstein, a really beautiful place to spend an afternoon. Dürnstein is the perfect location for wine tasting. I recommend a visit to Domäne Wachau – one of the most established wineries in the region. I entered their shop one afternoon and asked if I was able to tour the winery and maybe taste some wines. Kindly, they gave me a free mini-tour and I was able to taste 5 of their wines, plus a delicious apricot liquor. Domäne Wachau is directly on the bike path, so you won’t be able to miss it.
Just 8km downstream from Dürnstein, you’ll reach Krems. If you’re up for more wine, I suggest a visit to the winery Winzer Krems, or alternatively, head to the beautiful Gottweig Abbey for some 18th-century architecture.
Day 6: Krems to Vienna (65km)
The Danube gets seriously impressive as you leave Krems and head for Vienna. You’ll pass through the historic town of Tulln, known as the “Town of Roses,” before continuing on through the Vienna Woods and through the “Gates of Vienna.”
I’m sure Vienna needs no introduction. The capital of Austria, it’s famous for arts and music, boasting past residents such as Mozart, Beethoven and Freud. Baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces abound; Vienna deserves a few days of exploring.
Practical tips for cycling Passau to Vienna
- Most people cycle the route from west to east – from Passau to Vienna. I’m not sure why, but this is definitely the most opted for direction. As such, it makes sense to do the same, as there’ll be less oncoming cyclists along your path. Plus, Vienna makes for an impressive finish!
- Just to avoid any confusion, Passau is in Germany. About 27 kilometres downstream, you’ll cross into Austria. There is no obvious border (and no passport control) – I had no idea I’d even crossed the border until I looked at my GPS!
- The cycle path itself is well-maintained, flat, smooth and easy to follow. Honestly, it’s quite difficult to get lost. Just follow the green Donauradweg R1 or EuroVelo 6 signposts. If you do get lost, then follow the river downstream, and you’ll probably end up back on the path. The river will become a loyal and reassuring companion.
- The Danube’s bike paths are home to a huge variety of cyclists. There were elderly folk on e-bikes, families towing children in wagons, speed demons on racing bikes, couples on tandems – the lot. As such, I think pretty much anyone who isn’t horribly unfit would be able to successfully complete the route.
- There are lots of accommodation options along the bike path. I personally camped, but there are also lots of guesthouses and pensions along the route for those who prefer a little more luxury. There were often campsites, guesthouses and pensions directly on the bike path, so it was very easy to find a place to stay the night. Many hotels would have signs outside to let cyclists know their bikes are welcome: “Radfahrer Wilkommen.”
- Remember to take your time. The sun doesn’t set until after 9pm in the summer so you have a lot of time to complete your days ride. Be sure to enjoy it – there are lots of sights along the way.
Thank you for reading!
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