Founded by the Celts more than 2,000 years ago, Passau is one of Bavaria's oldest cities. Known as the "City of Three Rivers," it rests at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. The city has long enjoyed its strategic position and grew to great economic and political power because of it. The legacy of its past prosperity lives on in graceful arcades, colorful houses with rococo facades and the glorious baroque St. Stephen's Cathedral, home to one of Europe's largest pipe organs. Passau is also where two nations meet; it is here that the German-Austrian border begins.
Originally known as Lentia in its days as a 1st-century Roman castle-settlement, Linz is today's provincial capital of Upper Austria. In this leading cultural center, you can sample the city's famous Linzer Torte, the jam-filled cake topped with almonds, in any number of cafes. In the heart of the Old Town, narrow lanes lead to the Hauptplatz, once the largest town square in Austria. Handsome patrician houses, the 17th-century Town Hall and an impressive cathedral line the open space. The steepest mountain railway in Europe delivers visitors to Postlingberg hill and its 18th-century pilgrimage church.
A small university town at the eastern end of the Danube's Wachau Valley, Krems is surrounded by terraced vineyards. In its heyday, during the 12th century, Krems held even more importance than Vienna for its iron, grain, salt and wine trade. As to the latter, the city has played a long and celebrated part in the popularity of the Wachau's wine culture; the valley's south slopes in Krems are bathed in sunlight all day and create some of the best Riesling and Veltliner wines in the world. The city's cobblestone streets, taverns, wine bars and coffeehouses have a
Renowned as the "City of Waltzes," Austria's capital city of Vienna is Europe's center of classical music. Strauss and Mozart composed many of their finest pieces here. Vienna's musical history is matched by the elegant, graceful architecture that lines the Ringstrasse, the wide boulevard encircling the Inner City. Baroque, neo-Renaissance, Gothic-Romanesque and other splendidly styled structures, from the Hofburg Palace to the Vienna State Opera, take the breath away with their grand facades. Vienna has a more intimate side, too: inviting footpaths lead through green parks, and famed Viennese cafes sweeten your stay with coffee and the city's
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
The only national capital that borders two other countries, Austria and Hungary, the Slovakian capital of Bratislava is filled with lovingly restored baroque city palaces and leafy squares. The Little Carpathians rise steeply in the north and the enormous hrad, or castle, perches 300 feet above the Danube, lending the city a picturesque setting. Below the castle, the Old Town boasts elegant mansions, Art Nouveau houses and gracious pedestrian zones. Eleven Hungarian kings and eight queens were crowned in St. Martin's Cathedral, today a concert hall that plays a central role in the city's rich cultural offerings.
Riverside beauty, a vibrant cultural scene and echoes of late 19th-century architecture and romance blend together in Budapest to form one of Europe's most rewarding cities. Hungary's enchanting capital straddles the banks of the Danube, with traditional hillside Buda on one side and modern Pest on the other.