In the final part of our cycle routes Donau Radweg, also known as the River Danube Cycle Way, is an ideal route for beginners, families, or anyone looking for an easy to follow bike tour. There are charming accommodation options on the banks of the Danube river and most hostels in Austria offer laundry facilities so you can do your washing en route.
Cycle the Danube: Passau to Vienna
It runs from the Black Forest in Germany, through 10 countries to Romania at the Black Sea (1,870m). But beyond Budapest the path seriously deteriorates. So, we suggest completing the stretch between Passau on the German border to Vienna in Austria. You’ll enjoy lots of National Parks which run alongside and the River Danube Cycle Way/ the Donau Radweg in northern Austria is the best bespoke route for beginners. The route is pleasantly downhill from Passau to Linz and then on to Vienna. About 90% of this is on dedicated cycle paths. Best bits include the stunning Danube Ring, also known as the Schlögener Loop, the Wachau valley wine region of northwest Vienna as well as plenty of pretty medieval towns including Melk and Krems. Any problems en route (eg. sore bottoms!) and there are plenty of train stations where you can cut the pedalling short. Make sure you book a hostel in Vienna where you can relax and spend some time soaking up the culture, relaxing in the parks or exploring the heady nightlife!
Distance: Approx 200 miles
Terrain: Cycle paths so you are fine on most types of bike.
Getting to Passau: Bikes can be carried on most InterCity (IC) trains (but not the high-speed versions) for about €9 with a reservation in advance. There is a tick box for those travelling with bikes on online websites. Regional trains depart daily from Munich to Passau (2 hours). In Austria, bikes can be places in the luggage van of most medium and long distance InterCity Trains. You will need to purchase a one-day bike ticket for €7. Reservations are possible but there is usually plenty of space for bikes. Book Passau hostel.
(Click on map for detailed cycle route)
On arrival you’ll want to send a day or two exploring this attractive town with its legacy of waterways and atmospheric medieval streets and archways. It’s something of a crossroads for all sorts of travellers so expect a few crowds. The Jugendherberge Passau has dorms, private and family rooms from €22 per person, per night and is located in the historic quarter of the city. with breathtaking views, what a way to begin your trip!
Cross over the suspension bridge to begin the cycle on the north side of the river. Cycle path runs alongside main road. At Jochenstein, the border crossing is very uneventful, just a rickety wooden bridge over to Austria. Just after this, you can catch a cute little ferry with your bike across the Danube to the Engelszell monastery (€3 round trip).
Continuing on you’ll reach the spectacular Schlögener Loop, a point at which the Danube makes an about turn of about 180°. Take the ferry to the right bank. Onwards, and it’s plain sailing (well pedalling) to Ottensheim where the path ends abruptly and you’ll need to cross to the left bank again on the ferry. Here you’ll be running alongside a busy highway but still on your own cycle path all the way to Linz. This short stretch is the least pleasant of the whole trip, but lasts for just 5 miles. A recent capital of culture, Linz is Austria’s third largest city and is nice and bustling. Try Youthotel Linz; they welcome bicycle-riders and offer private rooms from €26pppn including breakfast
A sobering affair, a potential detour is to visit the concentration camp at Mauthausen. It is quite an uphill slog (14% grade for just under a mile) but at the museum you can pick up an English audio guide to escort you around the barracks and the ‘death steps’. It was a quarry and POW were put to work and 130,000 were killed here.
Grein comes complete with a picturesque castle and, after crossing over to the right bank on the little wooden ferry designed specifically for cyclists, Ybbs an der Donau also makes for an idyllic stop as river steamers pass you by. As the banks of the river drop away to form deep gorges, approach the Benedictine monastery (Stift Melk) at Melk – best viewed when bathing in an evening glow from its clifftop position. Push on and the landscape changes somewhat at you entry wine country with the rolling vineyards of the Wachau valley, reknowned for their intense-flavoured Austrian wines. En route to Krems, there are plenty of opportunities to savour Smaragd, Riesling or Grüner Veltliner at the numerous inns dotted along the Danube.
On your way into Vienna, watch out for the Donauinsel, a narrow island on the Danube which the Donau Radweg (the Danube cycle pass) passes through. It is a popular nudist spot on the river bank going on for a good 3 miles. As you enter Vienna you’ll also pass Heiligenstadt, Beethoven’s summer residence. You’ve arrived! Both Jack’s Hostel (Dorms from €18pppn) and Westend City Hostel (Dorms and private rooms from €20pppn) offer bike storage and have modern furnishings.
Since you have travelled this far, why not carry on to Bratislava!
For more information about putting bikes on trains in Europe, visit Seat61.com
- On your bike! Cycling in Spain
- Cycle-friendly cities and hostels
- 3-day cycling tour in Tuscany
- On your bike! Cycling in Wales
- Bonkers! The weirdest bikes on the web
Don’t forget, you can WIN a bike and cycle accessories of your choice worth €350! Competition closes Wednesday 31st Aug 16:00GMT (17:00BST).
Thanks to chris_from_edinburgh, Ralph Grizzle, jay8085 and evocateur for the images off Flickr! Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.