The Danube, of course, is one of the most legendary rivers in Europe, and the surrounding area is rich in scenic splendor, historic wealth, and architectural grandeur. With rolling hills and fertile soil, the Wachau, a section of the Danube Valley northwest of Vienna, is one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Austria. Throughout this part of the Danube Valley, you'll find castles, celebrated vineyards, some of the most famous medieval monasteries in central Europe, and ruins from the Stone Age, the Celts, the Romans, and the Hapsburgs. This prosperous district has won many awards for the authenticity of its historic renovations.

A great way to see the area is by paddleboat steamer, most of which operate only from April to October. You can travel by armchair, lounging on the deck along the longest river in central Europe.

If you're really "doing the Danube," you can begin your trip at Passau, Germany, and go all the way to the Black Sea and across to the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine. However, the Vienna-Yalta portion of the trip alone takes nearly a week. Most visitors limit themselves to a more restricted look at the Danube, taking one of the many popular trips from Vienna. If you go westward on the river, your first stop might be Klosterneuburg.