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Colourful Danube

For many centuries Europe’s second-largest river has served to bring together the continent’s nations and peoples – which up to today makes the Danube region a fascinating cultural meeting place.

Schlöging Loop in Upper Austria © Österreich Werbung/Horvath
Schlöging Loop in Upper Austria © Österreich Werbung/Horvath
Danube Linz with Ars Electronica Center © Österreich Werbung  Peter Burgstaller
Danube Linz with Ars Electronica Center © Österreich Werbung Peter Burgstaller
Danube Cycle Path Wachau © Österreich Werbung  Peter Burgstaller
Danube Cycle Path Wachau © Österreich Werbung Peter Burgstaller

Extolled in innumerable songs and much travelled, no river in the world flows through so many countries on its way to the sea as does the Danube. This mighty river covers an astounding 2888 km from its source in Germany to the Black Sea. The Danube’s course from west to east takes it through ten countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Ukraine), and as Europe’s lifeline it unites a wide variety of peoples, religions and cultures into a harmonious whole. The diverse, sometimes idyllic, sometimes nearly mystical landscapes that line its banks are shrouded in myth and legend.

The entire history of Central Europe was written on its banks, and the centuries-long exchange between peoples and cultures left behind traces that can still be experienced today. The Danube is lined with witnesses to the past: imposing monasteries and magnificent castles and palaces.

But not only the centuries-long encounters among the peoples of the Danube region are worth a closer look. Over the course of history, a wealth of cultural treasures was left behind by the legendary rulers of Europe as well, from Marcus Aurelius and Frederick Barbarossa to the Habsburgs. Thanks to an international cooperation among tourism organisations and shipping companies, visitors can embark on an enchanting journey along this historic travel route with all its splendid buildings and artistic treasures on the “Road of Emperors and Kings”, which leads from medieval Regensburg via Passau and Vienna to Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Pristine river landscapes such as the picturesque Danube wetlands and spectacularly beautiful pastoral spots like the Wachau Valley, as well as the countless opportunities for excursions to cities and towns both ancient and modern, make this journey an unforgettable experience.

With its diverse, innovative cultural offerings the Upper Austrian capital Linz on the Danube demonstrates particularly well how fascinating it can be when various cultures, art genres and media engage with each other. Whether it is the Ars Electronica Festival, the city’s University of Art and Design, or perhaps the state-of-the-art exhibitions in the Lentos Museum, Linz has long advanced from an insiders’ tip to a “must” for art fans. This blending together of various historical periods and cultures is evidenced even in the region’s culinary traditions. The cookery brochure “Linz kocht Donau” presents dishes from southern Germany, specialities from the southern part of the Czech Republic and from the Austrian Mostviertel and Waldviertel areas, as well as historic recipes from Linz.

Mention must also be made of Linz’s sublime musical contributions, which left their mark on world culture, from Anton Bruckner’s immortal works to groundbreaking innovations in the area of electronic music, whose cradle was Linz’s Stadtwerkstatt cultural initiative. It is particularly interesting that many of the classical works that were composed here were a reflection of the cultural and political desires, yearnings, and deficits of the respective period. The city’s newest musical highlight is the recently opened Linz Music Theatre, Europe’s most modern opera house. And where else could this architectural marvel be located if not in a city on the very river that for centuries was the most important axis for artistic and cultural development in Central Europe?