Ask ten people the highlight of their Europe adventure and you’ll get ten different answers, and none of them will be wrong.
It’s an especially hard question when you’ve explored via luxury Europe river cruise; five star operators such as Scenic make sure that every day is packed with unforgettable highlights. It’s not just the fabulous destinations you visit, it’s the little touches that bring you the best that the region has to offer; usually served on a silver platter.
Here are my personal highlights from a recent voyage amidst the jewels of Europe, in no particular order. Although I can guarantee you’ll enjoy every one of these moments, I know there will be plenty more that you’ll discover for yourself.
1. Mystical Weltenburg Abbey
This is the oldest monastery in Bavaria, dating back to 620 AD, but it was the setting that made it truly mystical.
From aboard our ferry on the waters of the Danube we had a million-dollar view of Weltenburg Abbey. The mist-laced rock walls of the Danube Gorge set off the warm stone walls of the monastery to perfection, and I felt like we were sailing through a romantic postcard from the past.
2. The alpine meadows of Wachau Valley
The steep slopes of Austria’s Wachau Valley were blanketed with yellow flowers, and cruising through the heart of these vibrantly coloured hills is a view I will never forget. There were villages dotted along the way, and I expected a milkmaid to pop out and start yodelling at any moment.
3. A horse-and-carriage ride through Vienna
Riding through the streets in an open air carriage was a magical introduction to Vienna. The crisp air was a refreshing caress on my face, and I had a blanket to keep me warm as I soaked up the sights of the ancient city enjoyed with an accompaniment of clopping hooves on cobblestones.
4. The cobblestones of Salzburg
Salzburg is like a town from an ancient fairytale, with its cobbled streets and gorgeous historical buildings. I loved exploring the winding lanes, visiting the house where Mozart was born, and even having a cheeky little dance around the fountain from the Sound of Music.
5. Royal bakery, Vienna
On a walking tour of Vienna, our guide pointed out Demel, a patisserie that once supplied treats to the royal court. If it was good enough for the Queen, I figured it was worth checking out! I returned for afternoon tea, and watched the master bakers at work behind a glass window. They must have been hitting the mark, because the famous Sacher torte melted in my mouth in an indulgent burst of chocolate and apricot jam.
6. Private Viennese concert
As part of Scenic’s Europe River Cruise Enrich programme, we enjoyed a private evening concert at Palais Liechtenstein that showcased the music of Strauss and Mozart. The introduction to the show was a wonderful prelude to the music itself. Learning a little about the background of the musicians while soaking up the atmosphere of the historic city palace made each note rich with beautiful meaning.
7. The ancient streets of Castle Hill
Only local car traffic is permitted in the World Heritage site of Castle Hill in Budapest, as it is home to some of the city’s most important medieval sites. Buda Castle is in excellent condition, but the real winner here were the fabulous views over Budapest.
8. Six-course degustation, Scenic Jasper
On our first night of our Europe river cruise aboard the Scenic Jasper we were regaled with an incredible six course degustation at the chef’s table. We were tired from our journey, and the beautiful food was like a balm to the soul. It didn’t hurt that each course was paired with local wines chosen by a sommelier!
9. Budapest by night
For another magical view of Budapest, cruise past the city by night. The magnificent buildings are bathed in a yellow glow that makes them so beautiful that it’s hard to believe they are real. The stately walls of Parliament House were breathtaking in their grandeur, and the towers of the Chain Bridge looked stunning in the warm lighting.
10. Staff aboard the Scenic Jasper
The staff on the ship were wonderful, even better than I expected from a five-star service. Their memory of names, likes and dislikes was just incredible.
I only had to tell Hans, our waiter, once the wine I liked and I was offered that type of wine at every ensuing meal. On one occasion, a different waiter was about to pour me something else and Hans intervened, advising his colleague that I preferred a different kind!
11. Virtual guide
I loved our guided tours, but I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to explore at my own pace. The Scenic Tailormade GPS systems are a stroke of genius. You can set off on your own adventure with maps and information at the ready, and listen to the recorded guide at each destination.
It was useful in the guided tours as well, as we didn’t have to stay in such a tight group to hear what the guide was saying, and those who wanted to lag had no fear of getting lost.
Hi, I'm Fiona; I've got over 20 years of experience in travel. I’d love to help you plan your own Europe river cruise with Scenic, and I'm always up to date with the best prices and packages. Give me a call, drop me a line, or stop by Gunther & Turner Travel Associates and tell me what highlights you’re chasing!