Mini Danube Cruise. If you plan a day trip from Vienna to Bratislava by boat consider taking the catamaran during the warm months. At just 60 km distance from Vienna, this stretch of the Donau provides a great setting for a mini Danube cruise, or more precisely: a fun high-speed ride down the Danube. To decide about this travel option, read my story.
Our High-Speed Mini Danube Cruise
Not only are the catamarans the most classy passenger boats on the Vienna Danube they are also the fastest. Our Danube catamaran departed on a sunny Sunday at 9am from a quay on the Danube canal in the city centre. At that point, the canal itself had at best urban charm, boasting a mixture of graffiti walls, two man made sandy beaches with deck chairs, and the Badeschiff, a ship moored closeby with a restaurant, bar and its own swimming pool.
The scenery changed abruptly after the first few hundred meters, giving way to lush green shores which accompanied us until we floated into the huge wide Danube itself. By then, the boat whizzed us across the river at an average speed of up to 55 km per hour. It was fairly quiet in the passenger room which looked like an aircraft cabin with three times the space and view.
The passing scenery of this mini danube cruise:
Nationalpark Donau-Auen (Danube floodplains), sandy shores with sculptures of driftwood, dozens of little huts of amateur fishers (like this one on the photo) and a few motor boats and canoes every now and then. Close to the border with Slovakia, the city of Hainburg appeared, followed by the ruins of Theben castle on a huge bedrock towering over the Danube. Shortly after, we Bratislava castle on the left with the city at its feet.
Downstream, the trip took an hour and 15 minutes (upstream: an hour and a half).
Bratislava‘s old town is a jewelry box of beautiful town houses, churches and institutional buildings from all cultural epochs. Specifically, the city center with its cobble stoned pedestrian area of nice little squares and alleys with dozens of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops is perfect for leisurely exploration. The center itself mixes elegant 18th and 19th century architecture typical of the Habsburg Empire. Some cafes and pharmacies still carry signage in three of the Imperial languages: German, Slovak and Hungarian.
Timewise, we could have easily visited Bratislava castle which you can access right from the old town. At that time I still travelled with a push chair. Given that the many steps up to the castle didn’t combine well, we decided to give my little son another year and then mount the castle.
Back on the boat, we decided for the full speed boat experience up on the sun deck. Standing on the guardrail, the strong head winds and the engine noise created that adventurous feeling of doing something really cool. That feeling grew when we whizzed past two standard danube cruise ships in seconds.
Other than the hydrofoil boats to Bratislava, the catamaran takes off directly from Schwedenplatz at the city centre and go down the Danube canal for the first 12 km, therefore by-passing the Danube lock at Freudenau. Online booking is easy and once you have booked you get a fairly unobtrusive mail by a city tour operator including a few offers.
Season: 31th March to 28th October (if you travel outside these dates, consider a round-trip car transfer from Central Vienna to Central Bratislava).
Among the main highlights of Bratislava is certainly the castle, from which you have a beautiful view of the Danube Valley and into Austria and Hungary. The old town is a pedestrian area and full of nice restaurants and cafés. More info and tickets for catamaran or hydrofoil to Bratislava.
These boat rides have become one of the most popular day trips from Vienna for travellers, like Ashley and Carolyn who raved about their journey in their Lazy Travelers blog.
The high speed catamaran doesn’t operate during the winter months. And it doesn’t come with a private guide who picks you up at the hotel. This private tour does. You will have your own private driver and guide to get you to Bratislava by car. In Bratislava, a local guide will show you around town and Bratislava castle. On the way back, you can choose between returning by car, boat or train. Find out more.
Other Day Tours from Wien
visit Burgenland Winery Tour Review: Wine Tasting Near Vienna
go to Vienna Woods – Tour Ideas by a Native
check Vienna Salzburg Day Trip – Small Group Tour Review
learn more about Vienna Prague Day Trip – Tour Review