Renowned as one of the best cycle routes in Europe, biking the Danube Trail offers the chance to experience some of the top highlights of Austria at a slow and relaxed pace.
From the UNESCO Wachau wine region to medieval monasteries and Abbeys, there is much to see and do along the Danube cycle trail.
Here we cover the different options for cycling the Danube cycle path, including Danube cycling tours and Danube bike rental for independent travelers, a 4 day itinerary and tips for bike touring with kids.
- 1 River Danube Bike Trail
- 2 Danube Cycling Tours vs Self Guided Bike Tours
- 3 How To Plan an Independent Cycle Trip Along The Danube River
- 4 Cycling The Danube Cycle Path: 4 Day Itinerary
- 5 Biking the Danube Trail: Frequently Asked Questions
River Danube Bike Trail
The Danube River (also commonly known as the Donau River) stretches over 2500 km (1800 miles) from Germany through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Hungary all the way to the Black Sea.
There are 4 capital cities on the Danube River and it is possible to cycle the entire length.
The most popular section for cycling the Danube is from Passau in Germany to Vienna, Austria. It is one of the most famous European cycle routes with 38,000 cyclists tackling the 320 km (200 mile) section each year.
It is not hard to understand why the Danube Bike Trail is considered one of the best cycling holidays in Europe:
- Passau to Vienna by bike is mostly flat as it follows the river downstream.
- The route is mostly along dedicated bike paths.
- The Wachau Valley offers picturesque vineyards, wineries, fortresses and stunning views.
- There are historic castles on the Danube, pretty small towns and gorgeous valleys to explore.
- Hotels and guest houses along the Danube River are well set up to accommodate cyclists.
If you are worried about the distance, don’t be. It is possible to shorten the trip and start at many different towns along the Danube River Trail.
The experience can be tailored according to your fitness level, available time and the ages of your group.
If you are traveling as a family, this is what makes the Danube cycle path the perfect route for family cycle touring.
Danube Cycling Tours vs Self Guided Bike Tours
There are a number of ways you can explore the Danube Bike Trail. They are all great options so we cover each of them in turn here.
1. Guided Danube Bike Tour
Due to its reputation as one of the best places to cycle in Europe, there are naturally many guided tours available.
On a guided tour the bike hire, accommodation and itinerary is booked for you. In addition, you cycle the Danube with a guide as part of an organized group.
This is a great option for solo and family cyclists who don’t want to travel alone or if you don’t have the time to research the best Danube Bike Trail route and accommodation.
There are a range of different tour lengths and inclusions. Tour Radar offer a comprehensive range of cycling tours, including family tours.
2. Self Guided Bike Tour
This is a hybrid option between a fully organised tour and going it alone.
A tour company books your accommodation, bike rental and provides your itinerary including the Danube cycle path map, but you ride the Danube cycling route independently.
This is a great option if you are looking for the convenience of having an expert book your trip, but like to travel independently at your own pace.
It is also great if you are looking for family bike trips in Europe as you can tailor the length and number of days you travel along the Danube.
Tour Radar offer a huge range of self guided cycling holidays along the Danube.
3. Biking the Danube Cycle Path Independently
With this option you plan and complete the trip independently.
You book bike rental (or take your own bikes), plan your itinerary and book your accommodation along the Danube.
This is the cheapest and most flexible option and the one we chose for our Danube cycling holiday. You can choose when and where you start and finish each day.
We share our tips for planning an independent trip in the following section.
There are many companies in both Germany and Austria who can help with bike rental for a Danube cycle trip.
We used and recommend Pedal Power in Vienna. Their bikes were well maintained, and helmets, child seats, panniers, locks and spare parts are available too. The team were very helpful with itinerary advice.
How To Plan an Independent Cycle Trip Along The Danube River
In this section we cover the essentials for planning a self guided cycling tour. If you plan on booking a tour, skip to the itinerary to find out more about the route.
Danube Cycleway Map
1. Planning Your Danube River Route
The first step when planning your trip is to decide how far you want to cycle. This may be influenced by how much time you have, which countries you want to cover and the general level of fitness in your group.
On average most itineraries involve 40 – 60 kilometers of riding per day and cover the Passau to Vienna route over 7 days.
But, it is very easy to shorten the kilometers each day if you have more time as there are so many small towns along the route with accommodation.
The easiest way to plot your path is with the help of the Danube Bike Trail 2 guide. With detailed maps, itinerary suggestions and highlights along the way, it is the best planning tool you can use.
There are separate books available for each section of the Danube Cycle Path. You will need book 2 for the Passau to Vienna section.
2. Decide Where to Start Your Trip
One of the challenges with Danube cycling holidays is that it is generally a one way trip!
Some tours will transport you back to where you started, but if you are planning an independent cycling tour along the Danube in Austria then you need to decide where to start (and finish) your trip.
The most important thing to know is that the Danube flows eastward from Passau to Vienna. Which means the Danube Cycle Route is best from West to East as you will be traveling slightly down hill most of the way.
It is possible to travel in the opposite direction (and we saw many people doing this), but it is slightly easier traveling towards Vienna!
If you need to make it a return trip, there are many Danube river cruise options starting in Vienna.
Vienna – Passau by Train
The easiest way to get to and from your starting point is by train. Austria has an extensive train network and most trains allow bicycles. There is an express train from Vienna to Passau taking around 2.5 hours.
If you are planning an Austria cycling trip from Vienna, it is very simple to rent your bikes in Vienna, catch a train up the river and cycle back to Vienna.
This is the option we chose to reduce costs. It worked well for us because we could pick up our rental touring bikes from Pedal Power and leave our campervan in Vienna at a campground just outside the city.
Omio is a great online tool for plotting your path and working out the best way to get to your destination.
They have all the Austrian train timetables and can display train, bus and flight options across Europe.
3. Organise Bike Rental
The next step is to rent your bikes. There are many bike rental companies in both Passau and Vienna, as well as others along the way.
But note the quality of the bikes will vary, as will the inclusions.
Bike rental in Vienna
We rented our bikes from Pedal Power Vienna. They run day tours in Vienna and they also rent gear for multi-day rides.
They have good quality men’s, women’s and children’s touring bikes which were fitted to our height, in good condition and comfortable to ride.
They also provide helmets, bike locks, a repair kit and two double waterproof pannier bags plus a copy of the excellent Danube Bike Trail 2 guide book with the bike rental.
If you don’t plan to start your trip in Vienna, Pedal Power also offer a bike delivery service between Vienna and Passau as well as luggage transfer services!
We received excellent service and highly recommend them.
If you would like to receive a quote or find out more click here and select the Bike menu at the top to go through to their Danube Bike Rental page.
4. Book Accommodation
If you are booking your own accommodation we recommend you book well in advance of your trip, particularly if you are looking for budget accommodation.
We rode the path in September and found many budget guest houses already booked out. There is a lot of accommodation available en route, but in peak periods bookings are essential.
I like to use Trip Advisor to read reviews of guesthouses and B&Bs in each town and book through Booking.com to make the most of their free cancellation policy.
Cycling The Danube Cycle Path: 4 Day Itinerary
Our 4 day itinerary below is a great option if you want to experience the Danube Cycle Path but don’t want to travel the full length of the Passau to Vienna cycle route.
It is perfect for those short on time or traveling with young children.
As we were cycle touring with kids our 4 day itinerary includes around 75 kms (46 miles) of cycling over 4 days. This is less than the standard tours which tend to have between 40 – 60 kms of cycling each day.
If you would like to start from Passau, it is very easy to add 2 additional days to the start of this itinerary.
The town of Melk and the Wachau wine region are major highlights on the route so when planning your itinerary make sure to include these two towns!
Day 1 – Vienna to Pochlarn
We chose Ybbs an der Donau as our starting point as it is one of the last towns on the train line located close to the Danube River before the next major stop, Linz.
To simplify your first day of cycling (and get an early start) it is a good idea to pick up your bikes in Vienna the day prior. This has the added benefit of giving you some time for cycling around Vienna.
There are cycle paths and bike lanes all over the city and it is flat making it an easy city to cycle around.
The main challenge is avoiding the many tourists who randomly walked onto the cycle paths!
The city is amazing with spectacular architecture at every turn and plenty of trees and green space.
Cycling in Vienna
Note that if you are staying outside the city centre and need to take your bikes on the Underground Rail it is free to take bikes on the underground trains between 9am-3pm and after 6:30pm Monday to Friday.
Note the underground trains do not have large areas where you can easily put your bike and we found it difficult to stay out of the way of other passengers.
Vienna to Ybbs an der Donau by Train
The train trip from Vienna to Ybbs an der Donau takes around 2 hours. You can book your train ticket online here.
Note there are both direct trains and trains requiring a change at St Poelten so check your ticket!
Ybbs an der Donau
When you arrive in Ybbs, it is an easy ride from the station into town on a cycle path next to a busy road then via a bike path through some nice gardens.
You arrive onto the small cobbled streets of the old town of Ybbs situated on the banks of the Danube.
I am not sure if the river was in fact a different colour in 1866 when Struass wrote “Blue Danube”, but on our trip it was more a light-brown colour, wide and flowing very quickly.
Bicycle Museum, Ybbs
If you have time, make a detour to visit the small and quirky Bicycle Museum in Ybbs.
It has a range of very old bikes, including the first bicycle and lots of photos and information about the history of bikes.
We were able to sit on a penny farthing which was ridiculously high and I imagine would have been very tough to ride.
Ybbs to Pochlarn by bike
Once you have explored the town, commence your trip on the Danube cycle way towards Pochlarn.
The path is right along the river bank and we passed fields of corn and the occasional small farming village with colourful buildings.
Much of the pathway is through fields where it is possible to stop for a picnic lunch by the river. It is an easy 15 km ride in to Pochlarn.
Many of the towns along the Danube are tiny villages with a central square. Pochlarn is a small town with not a lot going on, but it does have some outdoor cafes to enjoy a late afternoon beer before heading out to dinner.
If you are looking for something a little different, Johny’s Burgers has delicious burgers in a friendly and busy restaurant on the outskirts of town.
There is a EuroSpar and Billa supermarket not far away to top up on snacks for your ride and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from in the central square too.
Where to stay in Pochlarn
We stayed in private rooms at Familie Wagner. The rooms were simple, but well located to the centre of town and the river.
Day 2: Pochlarn to Spitz
Day 2 is an easy 25 kilometres along dedicated bike paths to the town of Spitz.
The highlight for Day 2 is a stop at Melk, famous for the stunning and colourful towers of Melk Abbey which come in to view perched on a hill above the town as you approach the town.
Melk is a popular destination for cyclists and cruise boats alike. You will notice many cruise ships docked along the river.
If you want to stop and explore the Abbey (which we recommend) there are lockers available at the tourist office located near the river to lock up your gear and panniers.
Melk is a pretty town with very old buildings painted in pastel hues with flowers in windows.
It is a great place to wander the streets and take in the pretty architecture.
Up on the hill is the impressive Melk Abbey. It has been meticulously restored and painted in a bright apricot and cream color scheme.
The abbey dates back over 900 years and has a museum inside with various religious artifacts.
One of the highlights of a visit to Melkk Abbey is the enormous library.
It has tens of thousands of ancient leather bound books and the ornate baroque church (try to visit at midday when the organ is playing).
Enjoy lunch in the abbey gardens before walking back down into town to fetch your bikes.
For much of the Danube cycling path there are bike trails on both sides of the river and you can cross between them at a number of bridges and ferries.
Shortly after Melk we crossed the Danube River and joined the bike path on the left (north) bank.
Unlike the path on the right bank, it did not run next to the river as the road tended to follow closely to the edge of the river.
It is a nice alternative as the path is occasionally a small local road rather than a dedicated bike path and it passes through a number of small villages.
We rode through villages with cobble stoned roads and orchards with apple, pear and plum trees loaded with ripe fruit.
As you get closer to Spitz the valley narrows with steep hills rising on either side of the river.
The path starts to pass through terraced vineyards which dominate the landscape. This is the UNESCO listed Wachau region, famous for ancient monasteries, vineyards and castles.
Depending on the time of year, you might be lucky enough to see the vines laden with plump bunches of grapes.
On both sides of the river castles begin to peer down at you from atop the surrounding hills.
Riding through the villages is a delight past colourful buildings with even more colourful flowers below every window.
Visit a Heuringer
In Spitz we checked in to our lovely guesthouse before taking a walk up the hill through the charming little town and into the surrounding vineyards.
It is worth stopping in at one of the local Heuringers for some wine tasting or for a meal.
A heuringer is a small tavern run by a winemaker and is often only open for a few weeks of a year in autumn (fall) when they serve the wines from the winery and cold plates of food.
We stopped in at Gritsch Roman, with a lovely view over the valley.
Try the Gruner Veltliner, Reisling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) with a cheese platter. A great way to finish the day.
Where to stay in Spitz
We stayed at the lovely Fruhstuckspension 1000 Eimerberg in the old part of Spitz. Friendly owners, comfortable rooms, a great breakfast and plenty of room for our bikes to be stored.
Day 3 – Spitz to Krems
The trail from Spitz to Krems is one of the most impressive sections of the Danube Bike Trail. Vineyards cover the landscape and ruined castles can be spotted on the ridges as you ride along.
Not long out of Spitz is a small village with an old church alongside the path. The graves around the church were covered in beautiful flowers and it is possible to explore the towers of the church.
The path continues through pretty little towns and vineyards until you reach the larger town of Weisskirchen.
We took a break here and and cycled up the rather steep road heading up into the vineyards until we found a spot to stop with a picnic table overlooking the valley and the town.
We stopped for a snack and soaked up the sunshine while enjoying the view. In the distance we could see the ruins of Durnstein castle, our next destination, set high on a ridge above the river.
The cycle path continues through more terraced vineyards until you reach the town of Durnstein. This is one of the most popular destinations in the Wachau region. The town is dominated by Durnstein castle up on the hill behind town.
Ride through the cobbled main street where you can stop to browse many tourist and souvenir stores. There are a number of well known restaurants serving traditional Austrian food in town.
If you are looking for a simple lunch affair, head to the small open air cafe called Rad’l Treff past the town. While you are there, order the Sturm – young wine that is still going through fermentation.
It is cloudy and a little fizzy and quite refreshing on a warm day. You can only find Sturm when the grapes are being harvested.
Stop for some wine tasting
One of the most popular things to do in the Wachau Valley is to visit one of the wineries for some wine tasting.
In fact it is possible to take a day tour from Vienna on bikes to visit the Durnstein Wineries. Click here to find out more.
We stopped at Domane Wachau, just on the outer edge of town.
It is a wine producing cooperative sourcing from local growers with a modern building, a shop and wonderful wine tasting.
Once you have finished (and packed a bottle or two in your panniers), continue on your way.
The afternoon will be spent cycling through yet more vineyards past many wineries.
As you approach Krems look out for views of Gottweig Abbey high up on the hill.
Krems is a small city with an old city centre. Enter the city through the impressive 15th century city gate, Steiner Tor.
Top up your snacks from one of the delicious bakeries in town and if you decide to break up your trip here, plan a day trip to Gottweig Abbey.
Where to stay in Krems
There are many accommodation choices in Krems as it one of the largest stops on the trip.
But we found it difficult to find budget accommodation in Spitz. Eventually we settled on Kolping Campus university accommodation.
It was a little out of town, but had bike storage and breakfast provided.
Day 4 – Krems to Vienna
Today the journey includes a train ride and a bike ride and there are two options.
You can hop off at Tulln and ride into Vienna (40 kms / 25 miles) or continue on to Klosterneuburg and ride from there (15kms / 9.3miles).
If you hop off at Tulln you will ride through the Vienna woods and the old city gates into Vienna.
From Klosterneuburg the ride is about 15 kms along a dedicated bike path into the city.
You also have the chance to stop in at Klosterneuburg Monastery, a 12th century monastery, which has one of the oldest wineries in Austria.
The last section of the ride is along the Danube canal that leads to the centre of the city.
It is possible to follow the ring road around the old city past beautiful old buildings riding on cycle paths the entire way.
Things to Do In Vienna
Once you reach the city, if you have the time and energy you can explore the city some more on your bikes with ease, or drop the bikes back to Pedal Power.
Our favorite things to do in Vienna were:
- Visiting the Haus der Musik
- Exploring Schonbrunn Palace (especially the hands on Children’s Museum and gardens) and
- Chilling out at the Buskers Festival which is held in the city every September.
If you would like to visit a number of attractions in Vienna, the Vienna Pass offers great value and the chance to skip the lines too.
There are single and multi-day options. Click here to check the price for the Vienna Pass.
Where to stay in Vienna
You are spoilt for choice in Vienna with a huge range of accommodation.
We were traveling by campervan and stayed outside the city at Donaupark Campground in Klosterneuburg.
It was convenient to the train and the bike path. We made our way in to Vienna each day by bike.
The whole family enjoyed this cycle trip along the Danube and I expect it will be up there as one of the top things we do on our year long adventure.
The cycling was very easy and in hindsight we could have covered more ground each day.
Biking the Danube Trail: Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Danube River Route suitable for families?
Absolutely! Cycling the Danube River is one of the best active family holidays in Europe.
We saw many families cycling with young children in bike seats, with toddlers in bike trailers and with older kids (like ours) cycling independently.
Much of the Danube bicycle trail is on dedicated bike paths and is well sign posted.
Tour Radar offer family tours with shorter distances scheduled each day and family friendly accommodation. If you book the trip independently, Pedal Power in Vienna have child bikes for hire.
A multi-day cycling trip was one adventure I really wanted to do on our Family Gap Year. I highly recommend a family cycling trip and the Danube in Austria is the perfect introduction to cycle touring.
It was easy to plan and do it independently and we are already thinking about where our next cycling trip will be.
Do I need my Own Bike to ride the Danube Bike Path?
No. There are many bike rental companies along the Danube River path, with the majority in Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
Some tour operators have offices in both Passau and Vienna and will arrange for your bike to be transported between the two cities.
If you are organizing the trip independently, many of the towns along the route are well connected to public transport, so it is possible to rent your bikes in Vienna, catch the train to the start of your route and make your way back to Vienna.
We were very happy with the quality of the bikes and service from Pedal Power.
When is the Best Time To Ride the Danube Bike Route?
The best time to plan a cycling vacation along the Danube cycle trail is May to September. Our trip was in September and we found the days to be cool, but dry.
July and August are the busiest months due to school holidays, so if you plan to travel at this time we recommend you book accommodation well in advance.
Which side of the river is best for riding?
For much of the route the bike path runs along both sides of the river.
There are many bridges along the way to cross, but we suggest you plan your route with the help of the Danuke Bike Trail 2 guide to plot the sights you want to see along the way.
Allow time to explore the smalls towns and village and don’t try and pack too much into each day.
A 4 day itinerary along the Danube is a great way to experience one of the best bike rides in Europe.
It is easy to add some extra days to the beginning or extend your trip all the way from Vienna to Bratislava in Slovakia.
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