Cycling trip along the Danube in Austria: from Passau to Vienna

 


The Danube by bike was a travel project that I had in my head for some time ... It's been two years since I caught the virus of bike travel and I try to fit at least one per year in my program . After the Avenue Verte Paris-Londres in 2019, then the Netherlands by bike in 2020, 2021 gave me the opportunity to make this adventure a reality on the Austrian part of the great European river. As in the Netherlands, I went in duet with my friend Adeline from the blog voyagesetc .

We started our trip in Passau, Germany, just before the Austrian border. Our goal was to reach Vienna a week later, following the course of the Danube along the Eurovélo 6 cycle route , which links the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. A sporting and cultural trip of 350km through Austria, to discover its charming towns, castles and abbeys. For the organization of the trip we called on a French agency, Grand Angle , specializing in hiking and cycling tours in Europe. They managed for us the rental of bikes, the reservation of hotels (with half board) as well as the transfer of the luggage from one day to another, very useful for light pedaling!

Here is the itinerary and the program of this trip: the Danube from Passau to Vienna (8 days / 7 nights from 490 euros per person). Grand Angle also provides a detailed roadbook on the stages of the bike, gpx tracks for the GPS, technical assistance in the event of a problem on the spot and saddlebags to carry the day's belongings (cameras, warm / rain clothes, picnic gear). fuck…).

Start of the bike trip: Passau in Germany

Passau is a pretty town in Bavaria at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. To respect the slow-travel theme of our trip, we arrived there by train from Paris (9 hour journey with a change in Frankfurt). This is where we picked up our rental bikes, which we chose with electric assistance to save our efforts. The Danube by bike is generally a fairly flat route with little elevation gain, but we have climbed hills a few times to take in views or take tours and we were glad to have the help of the motor. electric.

If you have time, go up the hill to the Oberhaus fortress. It is from there that you will have the most beautiful view of Passau and the confluence of the dark waters of the Danube and green for the Inn. In the city center, do not miss the Saint-Etienne cathedral, which has one of the largest organs in the world. At sunset, you can take beautiful photos from the Schanzlbrücke bridge, which crosses the Danube.

First stage along the Danube: Passau - Schlögen

Just after leaving Passau, we cross the border with Austria. The first pedal strokes along the Danube are quite easy. The cycle route is well marked and we don't need GPS. Anyway, it's simple, just follow the river! Sometimes you just have to wonder if you're crossing or not. South shore or north shore? The course is sometimes more interesting on one side or the other: it is therefore necessary to study the question a little. Bridges over the Danube are not very frequent, so the best option is often to take a ferry across. They are pretty picturesque little boats. If the boat is in front, you just have to ring the bell to call it and it arrives immediately to pick up the passengers! An exotic and original break between two pedal strokes ...

After 45km, we reach our first stage: Schlögen, where one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the Danube is located. Time for a short break at the hotel and we set off again, on foot this time, to climb to the panorama. A short hike with 200m of vertical drop all the same. At the top, the storm is threatening but the view of the bend of the river is sumptuous. A real postcard that clearly deserves the effort of walking up there.

Second stage: Schlögen - Linz

The storm was violent last night. Fortunately, we were safe in our hotel room. Many cyclists cycle the Danube with the tent on the luggage rack and sleep at the campsite. It is true that this provides a certain freedom, and a lower cost of course, but it is still very appreciable to sleep warm in a good bed, especially when you are on a sporting trip. We drop off our suitcases at reception before 9 a.m. so that the agency can pick them up and transport them to our next hotel. I really like the comfort of this formula. To have already made bicycle trips with more than 15kg on the luggage rack, it is quite physical and restrictive ...

We cycle along the meanders of the river, cross pretty, quiet and photogenic villages. At lunchtime, we easily find welcoming beer gardens for a quick and inexpensive lunch. Our 60km stage goes off without a hitch. Shortly before Linz, our destination for the day, we stop to visit Wilhering Abbey, a masterpiece of Rococo art.

At the end of the day we arrive in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, where we plan to sleep two nights to have time to explore the city. This industrial city has largely transformed in recent years to become a destination at the forefront of contemporary art and new technologies. To read: my article with all my advice and the essentials for visiting Linz . If you are only spending one night, try to arrive in the early afternoon to have time to enjoy the city a bit. Do not miss the Höhenrausch arts festival which is held annually on the rooftops of Linz from May to October and enjoy the lively banks of the Danube at the end of the day for a drink.

The Grand Place in Linz, capital of Upper Austria

Third stage of the Danube by bike: Linz - Ardagger

Our third day of cycling begins with a visit rich in emotions. About twenty kilometers from Linz, is the Mauthausen Memorial, where one of the largest concentration camps of the Nazi regime was installed. From 1938 to 1945, around 200,000 people were detained there (or in one of the 49 annex camps which depended on Mauthausen) and more than 100,000 were killed there. A blood-curdling visit, but important for the duty of remembrance. Part of the old barracks is transformed into a museum. Outside the camp, monuments pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust. Note: the visit is free. Info and opening days on the websiteThe camp is located on a hill above the town of Mauthausen, so if you don't have electric assistance on the bikes the climb is quite sporty.

At the end of the day, we leave the banks of the Danube to make a small detour through the Austrian countryside. Corn fields replace the meanders of the river. Our evening accommodation is in the village of Ardagger, perched on top of a hill (thanks to the electric assistance for the bikes…). Our stage of just under 70km took us from Upper Austria to enter Lower Austria.

Fourth stage: Ardagger - Melk

We continue to pedal towards Vienna. Following the Danube is a fairly easy route and most of the time we are pedaling on tracks reserved for bicycles. A real pleasure not to have to live with cars! The banks of the river are becoming more and more photogenic, with a succession of villages and castles like that of Grein (photo above).

Our destination for the day, at the end of a stage of about sixty kilometers, is the town of Melk, with its baroque abbey which is one of the most beautiful in Austria. You can see it from afar when you arrive by bike, perched on its rocky outcrop above the Danube. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a must to visit during a bicycle trip along the Danube.

As far as we are concerned, we were unlucky because of the “covid schedules”. We had arrived in Melk quite early enough, but convinced that we had time in front of us, we first stopped at the hotel to take a shower and rest a little. Unfortunately the abbey closed earlier but we did not have the information… Traveling during a coronavirus period is proving complicated in many ways. We had, however, checked the timetables several times, but they were not up to date. Too bad for us. Melk is a great stopover to spend the night in any case, with good addresses for hotels and restaurants.

Fifth stage: the Wachau valley from Melk to Krems

Schönbuhel Palace just after leaving Melk

Our fifth stage by bike is the most beautiful of the trip. The town of Melk marks the entrance to the Wachau Valley, the most famous Danube region, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Terraced vineyards and imposing fortresses are revealed at each bend of the river. If we had to do it again, we would choose to spend one more night in the Wachau to better enjoy it. A day's cycling was not enough to have time to see the most beautiful sites.

The Wachau Valley is one of Austria's premier wine regions. The two most popular wines are Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. During your trip, stop off at a producer or in a tasting store. You will find a lot of them in Melk, Dürnstein or Krems.

The most beautiful stages of the day were the villages of Weissenkirchen, in the middle of vineyards, whose pretty church is often the cover of tourist brochures, as well as that of Dürnstein, with its abbey with the blue tower and the ruins of its castle which overlooks the river. It is known to have once been the place of imprisonment of Richard I of England, known as Richard the Lionheart.

It is absolutely necessary to go up to the ruins of the castle to see the view of the Danube, really sumptuous in this place. The climb is steep on a path with stairs, so not possible by bike. Dürnstein is truly a beautiful village. There is also a lovely beach along the Danube. We regretted not having time to bathe there.

View of the Danube from the ruins of Dürnstein Castle

Sixth (and last) stage: Krems - Vienna

To be honest, we visited Krems in a gust of wind… In the evening when we arrived, we were too tired after our day in the Wachau valley, and the next morning we didn't have too much time because we had 85km to pedaling to reach Vienna. In any case, its historic center is worth a detour. Before hitting the road, we still took the time to taste the local specialty, the Marillenknödel, a delicious donut with apricot. Nicknamed “the orange gold of Wachau”, this fruit is a staple in the region during the summer.

For the end of the course, we put the turbo, both literally and figuratively… So far on the trip, we had rarely used the electric assistance of our bikes, except for the climbs. But on this long 85km stage (in real life with a few detours we have covered 94), we quickly go along the banks of the Danube, in a hurry to arrive in the Austrian capital!

Arrival in Vienna by bike along the Danube

We arrive in Vienna by the north shore crossing Donauinsel, an artificial island of about twenty kilometers created on the Danube. It's hot, people are swimming, enjoying a sunbath ... I am amazed to find such a relaxed and seaside atmosphere on the edge of one of the largest capitals in Europe. The Viennese are lucky to live in a city with such a beautiful natural area nearby. I can't resist the urge to dive into the Danube with my cycling shorts! A quick swim because the day is coming to an end and we can't wait to settle down at the hotel. With Adeline we promise to come back and enjoy the Danube beaches a little later because we have planned to stay five days in Vienna. It takes that to enjoy the Austrian capital. To read: my article to visit Vienna.

Nine hours on the train and six days on the bike: that's what it took us to get to Vienna from Paris. Long before I became aware of the ecological cost of air travel, I was already a fan of land (or sea) travel. This allows you to experience a real adventure, to gradually cross the distances and to reconnect with the true dimension of the journey. Now that this is an issue for the future of the planet, it is an additional motivation to take the plane as little as possible.

Cycling trip in Austria: feedback

Austria is an ideal country for a cycling trip. The infrastructure for cyclists is of very good quality and motorists are very careful with bicycles on the road. At no time did I feel in danger when we had to drive with the cars. The routes are well marked and we rarely needed the GPS, except to find the addresses of the hotels on arrival. In addition to the Danube Cycle Route, the country has many bicycle travel routes (you will find them on the website of the tourist office ).

What equipment to bring for a bike trip

On this trip, the Grand Angle agency provided us with the saddlebags, whether for the handlebars or for the luggage rack, as well as an emergency repair kit for the bicycle. The rest of the equipment was at our expense. Cycling helmets are not compulsory in Austria, but I highly recommend it. I, who cycle a lot in Paris, have a high protection helmet from the Abus brand, specialist in bicycle and motorcycle safety. This is the Pedelec 2.0, which offers strong protection in the event of a fall. Normally it is more of an urban model, but they are also very suitable for a bicycle trip. No need for an aerodynamic sports helmet when you're not looking to speed up. It also has a built-in rain cover and a rechargeable LED light on the back of the helmet.

For guidance, I recommend using a gps application on your smartphone. For my part I use Pocket Earth, with which I import the gpx tracks. You just have to remember to provide a phone holder for a bike (waterproof is better in case of rain). On the other hand, be careful, the gps function on the phone consumes a lot of battery, so you must also have an external battery to recharge it during the day.

On this trip I used a multisport GPS watch, a Polar Vantage M2This is the first time that I use this kind of watch and I, who am not very geek, was a little afraid of not being able to use it. But in the end I found it quite easy to use and ergonomic. For an itinerant sporting trip, it is really interesting to have a precise report after each stage: distance, duration, average speed, heart rate, calories expended, elevation ... You have all the information on the route taken, with the exact gpx track that you can directly share on sports social network applications like Strava. I also use it for my hiking trips or my pool lengths and it's really great. In addition, it measures the quality of sleep, with detailed information on nocturnal awakenings, light, deep or REM sleep phases.


To read before, during or after the trip: I advise you to read On the Danube Road by Emmanuel Ruben. The author cycled up the river with a friend from the Black Sea in Ukraine to the sources in the Black Forest in Germany. The book is a bit academic with a lot of historical and geographic information, but it gives a good overview of the adventure. You can find more reading ideas on the topic in my selection of books on bike travel .

Travel to Austria: practical notebook

Getting there: to compare the different options between train, plane or bus, you can search for tickets on Omio .

Tourist information: you have a lot of information on the website of the Austrian tourist office , very useful for planning your trip. Regarding the paper guide, I recommend the Michelin Austria Green Guide , which is more comprehensive than its competitors.

Payment: bring enough cash with you because many businesses, including restaurants, do not accept payments by credit card, especially outside large cities.

Travel during the coronavirus period: with the epidemic underway, you must be well informed before leaving on a trip and crossing a border. The rules change quickly, so the best thing to do is to consult the website of the Austrian Embassy in France or that of the tourist office .

Trip made in partnership with the Austrian Tourist Office and Grand Angle. Nevertheless, I remain free from the content and opinions of this article.

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