Prague is the crowning jewel of Bohemia and an up-and-coming destination for a burgeoning river cruise scene. George Rowlands explores the reasons to visit the charming Czech capital on a luxury Danube river cruise.
After emerging from the crushing grips of Communism in 1989, modern-day Prague is a gem in the crown of Central Europe. A thriving cafe culture, world-class restaurants alongside local eateries, museums revelling in Czech Republic’s chaotic history, quirky markets, vibrant festivals, and more. There are plenty of reasons to visit Prague.
A stunning city
This is the City of a Hundred Spires, where the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prague offers a breathtaking mix of Baroque, Gothic, Modernist, and Renaissance architecture all within walking distance of each other.
There are countless fascinating historic sites like the Charles Bridge. Built as far back as 1357, this iconic bridge has stood the test of time to become one of the oldest in-use bridges on the continent. Likewise, no trip to Prague would be complete without a mooch around the famous Prague Castle. The largest castle complex in the world, this sprawling site sits at the top of the hill with unbeaten views of the city around you.
There are also interesting modernist sites like the Dancing House. Built-in 1994, this fine example of quirky post-modernist architecture offers a stark contrast to traditional Czech buildings around it. A quick tip: The restaurant inside Dancing House, Ginger & Fred, is absolutely phenomenal and the views are marvellous.
A rich variety of food and drink
Trdelnik, goulash, open sandwiches, sausages, pancakes, and dumplings are all staples of Czech gastronomy. It’s a very traditional meat-and-potatoes kind of affair. Hearty, filling, warming, and delicious – especially in the winter. U Červeného Páva is the place to go if you want a true taste of authentic Czech cuisine. Try the Prague Sausage; it sounds simple enough but it’ll knock your socks off. Even more so when washed down with a litre of cold Czech pilsner.
Prague is a beer-lovers paradise. Czechs are actually the biggest beer drinkers in the world, beating even Germany to the top spot with a huge 156.6 litres of beer per capita every year. Pilsner was invented in the Czech Republic, and there are plenty of spots to enjoy a cold pint of amber elixir all over the capital. In a city where winter brings wet grey weather six months out of the year, these cheery pubs are an integral part of surviving the gloom.
For an authentic Czech beer-drinking experience in a mediaeval tavern, try U Sedmi Svabu.
And the rest
You’ll find art all around you in galleries, museums, and even on simple residential streets; Prague is one of the most exciting cities in Europe when it comes to street art. History too, and no less than 14 million treasures find their home in the National Museum. Look out for Czech icon Mucha’s art dotted around the museum, it’s “iconic”… literally.
All in all, Prague is perfect for the aimless wanderer. It’s a maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards to get lost in. All the major sites are close together – the Astronomical Clock, St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Town Square, and the rest. A three-day programme in Prague is more than enough to take in this enchanting city before or after a Danube river cruise.
Luxury river cruises help you see the world
Look at a map and you’ll notice most of the world’s major cities are located on the banks of an iconic river. We’ve got the Thames snaking through London, the Seine sweeping past Paris’ most famous landmarks, and the many romantic rivers of Portugal, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. Luxury river cruises let travellers sail straight into a country’s heart.
As romantically-lazy or as physically-active as you like, river cruise itineraries find the balance between nature and culture; idyllic countryside and beating-heart cities. River cruisers get to spend more time in locations that need more time spent. Docking in city centre locations means no time is wasted.
Back on board, everything you need is typically included in your luxury river cruise fare…
- Flights and airport transfers
- Accommodations depending on your choice of suites
- Beer, wine, and soft drinks at meal times
- Complimentary shore excursions and guided tours
- Onboard events and entertainment
- Usage of onboard facilities such as swimming pool, spa etc.
A luxury river cruise is ideal for travellers looking to see the world from a different angle. With smaller ships and fewer passengers on board, river cruises feel more intimate and relaxed. Importantly for first-time cruisers, there’s pretty much zero chance of getting seasick too!
Danube river cruise visiting Prague
At 2,850km long, the mighty Danube River roars from the borders of France and Germany straight through the heart of Europe. It visits huge country capitals and quaint villages with rolling vineyards before pouring into the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine are all ports of call for this meandering river. You’ll notice Czechia is not on that list.
“Prague serves as a transfer destination for Danube River cruises. Passengers frequently overnight here for one day or more before journeying by bus to meet their ships.”
Prague is the perfect destination to start or end your luxury river cruise. It’s super accessible, with direct flights from most major UK airports. There’s also an indirect train service with a stop in Brussels for those who don’t like flying. Its location in the absolute middle of Europe means it’s only a short transfer to your luxury river cruise embarkation port, irrespective of where on the River Danube that may be.
Avalon Waterways: Danube Dreams
This Avalon Waterways westbound tour of the River Danube includes a 2-night post-cruise Prague programme. Danube Dreams embarks from Budapest before visiting big-hitter cities and smaller locations on the way to disembarkation in Vilshofen, Germany. From there, passengers are taken to Prague by coach where they’ll enjoy various guided tours.
“Avalon Waterways are masters of River Cruising, casting a light on places and people with fascinating itineraries and a world-class, tried-and-tested cruising experience.”
James Cole, Founder & CEO of Panache Cruises
The Avalon Waterways experience is framed by the best views in the cruise industry. Panoramic Suites feature wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that provide view-gazing opportunities more than 30% larger than the industry standard. Window-facing beds mean you’ll wake up to the imposing sights of downtown Vienna floating past your window.
Emerald Cruises: Prague & Danube Explorer
This Passau to Budapest sailing features a three-night Prague stay before heading to Passau to start an eastbound voyage along the Danube. In Prague, you can enjoy a guided tour, indulge in coffee and cake at Lobkowicz Palace, and discover the Taste of Czechia. Your Luxury Danube river cruise then takes in Linz, Český Krumlov, Melk, Dürnstein, Vienna, and Bratislava before disembarkation in Budapest.
Emerald river cruises are contemporary and chic, cutting stylish shapes as they head east towards Budapest. A three-tiered atrium and heated swimming pool impressively turn into a cinema on some evenings.
Emerald Cruises offer different types of excursion for different types of traveller.
- EmeraldPLUS are immersive excursions from Bavarian band performances to elevenses with local Slovakians
- EmeraldACTIVE features guided hikes, bike rides, canoe excursions, wellness experiences, and more for cruisers who like to move
- DiscoverPLUS excursions are for those that want to experience their destination further, paid for on a per-activity basis
Scenic Cruises: Gems of the Danube
Scenic river cruises promise a truly all-inclusive experience. Starting with a three-night stay in a luxurious Prague hotel, you’ll then transfer to Nuremberg in Germany by coach. From there, you’ll board an elegant, comfortable, and contemporary Scenic Space-Ship. Scenic Amber meanders east up the Danube, taking in Regensburg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna while you’re fine-dining and fine-wining all the way. You’ll disembark in Budapest, the Queen of the Danube.
- Dining at your choice of up to five onboard venues
- Premium beverages all day, every day
- Butler service for every suite
- A mini-bar that’s topped up throughout your cruise
- Salt Therapy Lounge and gym access
- The use of onboard e-bikes
- Return airport transfers and flights
- All onboard gratuities
AmaWaterways: Iconic Christmas Markets
Something a little bit different, AmaWaterways sail down the Danube taking in all the iconic Christmas markets on the way. Beautiful at this time of year, it starts with a three-night stay in Prague with free time to explore and try an “educational” beer-tasting experience before heading to Nuremberg for disembarkation. Famous for its Christmas market (see below), this Bavarian gem is the embarkation point for a bit of Christmas magic.
You’ll then take in Regensburg, Passau, Melk, Vienna, and finally Budapest.
“There are many reasons to book AmaWaterway. Whether it’s their innovative ship design including the double-wide AmaMagna, the wellness programme with optional walks, hikes, bike rides, champagne yoga, and more; critically-acclaimed dining, or simply the fact that their massive fleet sails down all the iconic rivers of the world.”
James Cole, Founder & CEO of Panache Cruises
The Danube river cruise Bucket List
With such a large catchment area, spreading the full width of Europe, there are plenty of things to see, do, and try on a Danube river cruise.
- Bathe in Budapest’s Gellert Baths
Budapest in all its neoclassical architecture, hilltop views, fascinating history, massive shopping districts, narrow streets, and a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes is the Danube river cruise destination. The Hungarian capital is also built on thermal springs, and a visit to any of the many baths in the town is a must for any weekend visitor. Gellert Baths are just about the most famous and most impressive.
- Cruise the Iron Gates
Iron Gates is a magnificent natural gorge on the east end of the River Danube. It forms part of the border between Romania and Serbia, dividing the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. It’s two miles long, 530 feet wide, and a haven for wildlife and 360° panoramic views of untouched wilderness. That is until you reach the Rock Sculpture of Decebalus.
Commissioned by a Romanian businessman in 1994, Decebalus was a Dacian king who took on the armies of the Roman Empire. These days he’s a Romanian folk hero and this enormous sculpture is befitting of that status.
- Drink in Nuremberg’s famous Christmas market
Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria and often gets overshadowed by its bigger brother, Munich. Steeped in history, nature, ancient architecture, beer, sausages, and gingerbread, Nuremberg is a must-stop on your Danube river cruise. There are diverse modern shopping districts and cool historical landmarks including the mediaeval castle with brilliant views. The event of the year, however, has to be the famous Christkindlesmarkt.
- Wander around Bratislava’s colourful Old Town
Yet another European capital stop on your Luxury Danube river cruise is Bratislava, Slovakia. Nestled in between the Danube and the surrounding Carpathian Mountains, Bratislava is delightful, thriving, and underrated. There are plenty of historic sites to explore such as the famous Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral, and the Slavin Monument.
Boutique shops, cafes, pubs, historical buildings, museums, and churches – the Old Town is perfect for a wander around due its narrow cobbled streets when your luxury river cruise floats in for the day.
- Try an apricot in Krems
Krems is a town in Austria just 50 miles from the palatial capital Vienna, but worlds away from the big-city pace of its busy streets. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is here that marks the beginning of the Wachau Valley, famous for its wine production. Besides the wine, the region is famous for its apricots which are described as perfectly plump.
Churches, museums, historical buildings, old towns, wine taverns, a benedictine monastery, and historic monuments, there’s plenty to see in this riverside gem.