Journey from Budapest to the source of the Danube

Danube Explorer

THE TREASURES OF THE DANUBE
BUDAPEST  |  VIENNA  |  REGENSBURG  |  ULM  |  THE BLACK FOREST

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10-night individual vacation
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Direct rail journeys in first-class
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VIP arrival service with private guides and drivers
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Privately guided city walks with local insiders
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Carefully selected four-star boutique hotels
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Flights from and to London
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Travel any day you wish
Only £ 2800*
*per person when two travelling together

Danube-map

For a couple of millennia, the Danube was the most important artery of trade in Europe, and of major strategic importance. Merchants used her to transport their silk and spice and other exotic goods. The Romans used the river to mark their border with the Barbarians to the north. And over time, trading posts and military forts grew into great and rich cities. Budapest, Vienna, Regensburg, and Ulm all owe their magnificence and beauty to the Danube. This rail journey is a historic and cultural feast to some of Europe’s finest cities, ending at the source of the Danube, and concluding with a stunning mountain railway through the heart of the Black Forest.

Journey to the source of the Danube

From Budapest and Vienna to the heart of the Black Forest

In an idyllic small town in the Black Forest, a gentle stream of water trickles from an elegant fountain. It is a mesmerizing sight. At least, it is when you know that this fountain is the official source of Western Europe’s mightiest river.

For a couple of millennia, the Danube was the most important artery of trade in Europe, and of major strategic importance. Merchants used her to transport their silk and spice and other exotic goods. The Romans used the river to mark their border with the Barbarians to the north. And over time, trading posts and military forts grew into great and rich cities. Budapest, Vienna, Regensburg, and Ulm all owe their magnificence and beauty to the Danube.

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A fascinating historical journey
from the Danube in its full glory
to its very beginnings
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This rail vacation is a fascinating historical journey from the Danube in its full glory to its very beginnings. Along the route, you will experience how four of Europe’s great cities for art, culture and architecture are intimately connected by the river that flows through them.

Buda and Pest – each occupying one bank of the Danube – shows their scars and treasures from a long history of being occupied, invaded or allied with Romans, Ottomans, Habsburgs, and Soviets. In Vienna, the Danube was the strategic link to the rest of the empire. The empire may be long gone, but Vienna is still very much an imperial capital. In Regensburg, the Danube made the city a place of strategic importance to the Romans, and it still holds more Roman ruins than any other city north of the Alps. In Ulm, on the last navigable stretch of the river, picturesque timbered buildings huddle around the world’s tallest church spire, a symbol of the wealth the Danube brought to the city.

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Board a train for one of the most
spectacular railway lines in Germany,
the Black Forest Railway
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Your rail journeys closely follow the river. You only travel on direct trains and never for more than a few hours at a time. From Budapest to Vienna and later onwards to Regensburg, you travel in great style on international high-speed trains with dining cars and at-seat personal service in first-class. In Germany, Regensburg and Ulm are no longer world-class metropolises and only connected by humble regional trains, but still wonderful experiences as you now get many close encounters with the Danube.

The most memorable rail journey is your very last one. After a couple of relaxing days at the Danube’s source in pretty Donaueschingen – maybe hiking in the Black Forest – you board a train for one of the most spectacular railway lines in Germany, the Black Forest Railway. Cutting right through the heart of the legendary forest and contending with 800 meters of altitude difference along the way, this is one of the country’s few true mountain railways. The views are stunning, and the 150 years old railway still an engineering marvel.

The mountain railway terminates at Offenburg where you change to a direct high-speed train for Frankfurt Airport and your included flight home.

The journey

Your day-by-day itinerary

This ten-night individual rail vacation follows the Danube from Budapest to Vienna, Regensburg, Ulm, Donaueschingen and through the heart of the Black Forest. You travel in first-class on international express trains with dining cars to Regensburg, and in Southern Germany on humble regional trains. At every train station, you are pampered with VIP arrival service with private guides and drivers, followed by privately guided city walks with local insiders. You stay at carefully selected four-star boutique hotels. Flights from and to London are included.

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Day 1
Fly from London to Budapest

Arrive to Budapest on your included flight from London. At the airport you are met by your private driver who will take you directly to your four-star hotel. Once you are checked-in, a local insider will meet you in the lobby and invite you on a privately guided walking tour of Budapest.

Included flight from London to Budapest
Chauffeured car from airport to your hotel
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 2
Budapest

Occupied by the Romans, ruled by the Ottomans, co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and invaded by the Soviet Union. Budapest is steeped in history, and two millennia of drama and culture lurk just under her elegant surface.

This is a capital with two sides, Buda and Pest, each on their side of the Danube. Pest proudly shows the jewels in her crown from the 19th century, the golden age for the capital.  Buda also boasts several stunning buildings, not least the Fisherman’s Bastion, a fairy-tale castle with panoramic views over the Danube.

Do not miss the city’s historically grand cafés. New York Café is probably the most opulent of them all: An ultra-luxurious room with beautiful frescoes and just about everything gold-plated.

Equally unmissable are the thermal baths. An authentic Budapest experience since Roman times, choose between Ottoman, art nouveau or modern establishments. Or just go for the most famous of them all, Széchenyi with stunning neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance buildings surrounding the open-air pools.

Steeped in history, both ancient and recent
Opulent, historic grand cafés.
Day 3
Budapest-Vienna

Your three-hour journey to Vienna is on Austrian Railway’s Railjet flagship, one of the most comfortable trains in Europe.  We have upgraded you to premium first class. The train carries a bistro, but as a VIP passenger, you may choose to order and be served right at your spacious seat (you still must pay, though).

Upon arrival at Vienna, you will be met by your private guide who will escort you to your waiting chauffeured car and join you for the ride to your four-star hotel. Then, she will invite you on a privately guided two-hour city walk. As a local insider, they have an excellent idea of what to show you. But remember This your private guide, so feel free to mention anything you would like to experience on the walk.

 

 

 

Premium first-class in RailJet
Bistro and at-seat service
VIP arrival service with private guide
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 4
Vienna

The all-powerful Habsburg emperors and archdukes ruled much of continental Europe from Vienna. It all came to an end when one of them got shot and in the process started WWI, but imperial life goes on, just without either empire or emperors, in the grandest palaces in Europe.

The Vienna Boys’ Choir still sings Sunday Mass in the Hofburg Palace, Lipizzaner stallions still trot in the famed Spanish Riding School, chandeliers still sparkle in the Imperial Apartments, and summer life is still relaxed in the mere 1441 rooms of the Schloss Schönbrunn summer residence.

Vienna is much more than imperial pixie dust, however. The city is consistently voted the most liveable in the world, with locals enjoying cakes in the opulent coffee-houses, sniffing fine Austrian wines in vaulted wine cellars, or buying local delicacies in the famed food market. Follow the locals to the Brunnenmarkt – Vienna’s largest street market, and recently a colourful and fashionable district has come to life around it. Numerous artists have set up shop here, as have some of Vienna’s most exciting restaurants.

 

 

Grand palaces and imperial history.
Have a cake in an opulent coffee-house.
Day 5
Vienna-Regensburg

Welcome onboard one of Europe’s most comfortable high-speed trains. Your journey to Regensburg is on a German ICE high-speed train. This Intercity Express carries a fine dining car right next to your first-class section, and as a first-class passenger you may also order and be served right at your seat. You will not be able to see the Danube from the train, but the track closely parallels the river all the way, one historic trading route now being complemented by another.

Upon arrival, you will be met by your private guide who will escort you to your waiting chauffeured car and join you for the ride to your four-star hotel.

Then, she will invite you on a privately guided two-hour city walk. As a local insider, they have an excellent idea of what to show you. But remember: This your private guide, so feel free to mention anything you would like to experience on the walk.

High-speed ICE train
Dining car and at-seat service
VIP arrival service
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 6
Regensburg

When you cross over the mighty Danube on Regensburg’s massive Stone Bridge, take a moment to think about who has walked these steps before you: Knights on their crusade to the Holy Land, and medieval traders laden with Eastern spices they have purchased in Venice. And then consider this: On the festive day the bridge was inaugurated some 900 years ago, Regensburg was already an ancient city, dating all the way back to the Romans.

Today, Regensburg has the largest medieval town center north of the Alps – impressive, considering this is a rather small city of just 160,000 inhabitants – and the place is bursting with historical sights. So many, in fact, that UNESCO declared the entire old town a World Heritage Site. You’ll only have time for a small fraction of the more than 1,500 listed buildings, but do visit the Gothic cathedral and the remains of the Roman fortress walls. If you love hiking amongst dramatic scenery, the spectacular Danube Gorge is an easy excursion by local train. Your local insider will be happy to give you all the details.

The largest medieval centre north of the Alps
Hike the spectacular Danube Gorge
Day 7
Regensburg-Ulm

A couple of millennia ago, the stretch of the Danube between Regensburg and Ulm was of great strategic and commercial importance. For the Romans, it marked the northern border of their empire, and for traders, it was the watery highway for their barges laden with spices and other treasures from distant lands.

Today, a rail line closely follows the river all the way. Often it is at a distance, but you will cross the river several times, and enjoy fine views of the Danube as the train clings to the riverbanks at several points. But a quick look at the train for your three-hour direct journey is enough to make you realize that the river has lost much of its former importance: This is a humble regional commuter train. Clearly, being a strategically placed river-town on one of Europe’s mightiest rivers is no longer enough to give to status as a world-city.

Upon arrival at Ulm, you will be met by your private guide who will escort you to your waiting chauffeured car and join you for the ride to your four-star hotel. Then, she will invite you on a privately guided two-hour city walk and give you an authentic and personal introduction to her city.

 

 

 

 

Direct regional train
VIP arrival service with private guide
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 8
Ulm

The Donau reaches one of its last navigable stretches at Ulm, making this city an important trading centre in the middle ages. Its prominence was made clear by the construction of an unusually ambitious cathedral. The work lasted a little over 500 years and resulted in the world’s tallest spire. A record it holds to this day. On a clear day you can see the Alps from top of the 768 steps.

Ulm is bursting with history, and your local insider will take you to some of the most fascinating parts of the old town. Around the corner from the cathedral, you will find the fishermen’s and tanner’s quarter, the Fisherviertel, where timbered buildings, romantic alleys, beautiful bridges, and fine cafés can easily contrive to give you the very faulty impression that this area was also a joy in the 16th century. Please pause and consider the stench.

A fine experience in Ulm is to walk on top of the city wall and admire the view over the Donau. Cafés and restaurants huddle at the foot of the Metzerturm – the butcher’s tower – and invite you in for relaxation and great river view.

 

 

The world's tallest church spire
Day 9
Ulm-Donaueschingen

As your train leaves Ulm, it often closely clings to the riverbanks of the ever-younger, ever-smaller Danube. This is not yet the great river of Vienna or Budapest, but a young and timid thing, gently curving through the beautiful and hilly landscape of Southern Germany, passing idyllic villages that cannot really profit from its presence, because the Danube only becomes truly navigable once it has passed Ulm. When you reach Donaueschingen on your humble regional train after a couple of enjoyable hours, this is also the end of the line for any up-river journey. Because this is where it was born.

Upon arrival at Donaueschingen, you will be met by your private guide who will escort you to your four-star hotel. Then, she will invite you on a privately guided two-hour city walk and give you a personal introduction to the history of the town and its river.

 

 

Direct regional train
Beautiful views of the Danube
VIP arrival service with private guide
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 10
Donaueschingen

In the heart of the Black Forrest, small streams rise out of the ground. Eventually they merge and form the official beginning of the Danube, gently bubbling out of a beautiful fountain in Donaueshingen. It is fascinating to stand here and contemplate how this insignificant trickle of water has given birth to cities such as Budapest and Vienna and marked the northern border of the Roman Empire. How something so small can turn into the mightiest river in Western Europe.

Donaueschingen is a small and charming town, used by many as a base for excellent hikes through the Black Forrest. Indeed, some Germans claim that the very concept of hiking was invented here.

 

 

Great hiking in the Black Forest
Day 11
Through the Back Forest and home to London

The Schwartzwaldbahn – the Black Forrest Railway – is one of Germany’s most spectacular railways, and one of very few true mountain railways in the country. The line cuts through the very heart of the legendary Black Forrest, gaining 800 altitude meters along the way. Even today, 160 years after it was opened, it is considered an engineering triumph. In several spots the engineers helped the trains cope with the steep inclines by building the track as a loop that slowly gained height. This brilliant idea later inspired the Swiss to do the same trick when they built their much more famous mountain railways through the Bernina and Gotthard passes.

The journey is only one and a half hours to Offenburg, where you change for a direct train to Frankfurt Airport and your included flight home.

 

Mountain railway
Stunning scenery in the Black Forest
Change to direct train to Frankfurt Airport

Four-star boutique hotels

Stay in charming, comfortable and centrally located four-star boutique hotels carefully curated by Silver Tray. Breakfast is included, as are transfers between the train station and the hotel.

Your trains

Silver Tray has curated Europe's best trains and finest routes for you. See a few of the trains you will experience on this journey.

Railjet

This Austrian RailJet is is supremely comfortable. Especially so in Business Class – a class above and beyond first – where you can luxuriate in peace and quiet. The train carries a nice and informal Bistro, but as a VIP-passenger you may also choose to be served at your seat (for a fee).

ICE

Welcome onboard one of Europe’s most comfortable high-speed trains. The Germans have let the French go for very high speed and efficiency, while they themselves have focused more on comfort and quality of life. For example, your Intercity Express carries a fine dining car right next to your first-class section, and as a first-class passenger you may also order and be served right at your seat.

Your Silver Tray service includes

Four-star boutique hotels

+ Four-star boutique hotels
+ Highly rated and carefully selected
+ Perfectly located in city centres
+ Breakfast included

First class rail travel on direct trains

+ First class rail travel
+ Direct trains only
+ Flights from London to Budapest and Frankfurt  to London

Private city walks

+ Two-hour city walks by local insiders.
+ Fully customizable experiences
+ Insider advice about local restaurants and hidden gems

VIP arrival service

+ Private guide waiting at your train car upon arrival
+ Private transfer to hotel
+ Private transfer from the hotel to train station upon departure

Sorry, this is not included

– Food and drinks other than breakfast
– Catering on trains
– Local excursions other than complimentary city walks

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