Embark Bella in the historic German city of Passau and spend the night on board cruising to Melk, a spiritual centre for more than 1,000 years, since Margrave Leopold I made Melk castle his residence in the 10th century. In the 11th century the castle was given to Benedictine monks who transformed it from a castle into a fortified abbey. Visit the abbey, including the Marble Hall, the magnificent Library and the Imperial Room before enjoying a relaxing afternoon on board Bella as she glides downstream, passing from Austria into Slovakia and then Hungary.
The following morning Bella berths in Esztergom, the first capital of Hungary and the birthplace of King Stephen, crowned in the city as the first king of Hungary. Enjoy a walking tour, including a visit to the Basilica, this morning before sailing downstream along the scenic Danube Bend this afternoon. Enjoy the unfolding landscape of tiny villages dominated by Baroque spires and the craggy silhouettes of once great castles before Bella’s early evening arrival in Budapest, where illuminated castles, bridges and other city monuments create a memorable cityscape.
Following a night in Budapest, enjoy a full day exploring this striking city. A city tour explores Buda and Pest, two separate cities that were physically joined when the Chain Bridge was built across the Danube in 1849 (becoming Budapest in 1873). View St Matthias Church and visit the Fisherman’s Bastion, from where there are wonderful views over the Danube to Pest, dominated by its fine parliament building and Heroes Square.
Journey out to Gödöllö, the second largest Baroque chateau in the world and, from 1867-1916, the favourite summer residence of Joseph Franz I and Queen Elizabeth (known as ‘Sissi’), or take a supplementary full-day excursion into the Puszta, the hinterland of Hungary, where you can explore the countryside in horse and carriage and enjoy a horse riding display by the Csiko, Hungarian horsemen.
Following a relaxing morning on the river arrive in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia,once one of the most important cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Explore the city on foot, viewing the cathedral, the Kapitulsgasse, the seminary and visit the Primatial Palace, built in the late 18th century. In a city known for its music, enjoy an exclusive evening concert ashore before setting sail for Vienna later tonight.
Bella arrives in Vienna to enjoy a full day and evening exploring one of the great capitals of Europe. Enjoy a city sightseeing drive along the Ringstrasse – initiated by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1857 – taking in panoramic views of the city from the gardens of Belvedere Castle, and explore on foot the pedestrian centre or visit Schönbrunn Palace, built to rival Versailles.
Your last full day on board and a morning in Dürnstein. The ruins of a fortified castle, said to have once been the prison of King Richard the Lionheart, dominates the little town with its well preserved medieval and Baroque buildings. Enjoy a walking tour and then relax on board this afternoon, enjoying the views as Bella cruises through the Wachau Valley, renowned for its vine clad slopes, churches and castles en route to Passau.