Art and History on the Danube - MS Oscar Wilde

Art and History on the Danube - MS Oscar Wilde

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Art and History on the Danube - MS Oscar Wilde

8 Days

Visiting: Budapest, Esztergom, Bratislava, Dürnstein, Melk, Linz, Salzburg, Mauthausen, Vienna

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:


Trip Styles:

River Cruise

This tour is no longer available

Tour Overview

This action-packed cruise will uncover some of Europe's most fascinating history as our knowledgeable experts take you back in time to reveal how art and architecture along the Danube have been influenced by life on the river.  

From imposing basilicas that hide some of the region's most spectacular art to the opulent royal residence of the Habsburg rulers, Schönbrunn Palace. We'll deep dive into the significance the Danube played on European history - and enjoy some breathtaking views along the way. You'll be joined by our knowledgeable experts - who'll captivate you with stories the history books didn't cover and reveal insider secrets known only to the locals. 

We'll spend our days uncovering the history and art of three capital cities (and some of the historic landmarks in between) and the evenings enjoying life on the river on our luxury river cruise ship. This holiday is a unique twist on our popular Blue Danube river cruise, ideal for those with an interest in art and history.   


  • Happy by day two or we'll bring you home with a full refund

  • Tour the most historic towns and cities along the Danube, including guided tours of Vienna, Durnstein, Budapest and Bratislava.

  • Visit Esztergom Basilica and Melk Abbey.

  • Immerse yourself in the local culture with a Hungarian folklore show on board.

  • Explore Salzburg or Linz with an expert guide on a tour of the town's most interesting sights.

  • Enjoy a classical Live music performance on board with stunning views of Vienna.

  • Click here to see our departures exclusively for solo travellers

  • Discover the opulence of the Habsburg dynasty through the imperial architecture and lavish interiors of Schonbrunn Palace.

  • Wander through the galleries of Budapest's Museum of Fine Arts and learn more about the museum’s most prominent pieces.

  • Tour the most historic towns and cities along the Danube, including guided tours of Vienna, Durnstein, Salzburg, Budapest and Bratislava.

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Day 1

Location: Budapest

Arriving in Budapest, we’ll transfer to our luxury cruise ship where our friendly crew will be waiting to welcome you on board and help you settle into your beautifully crafted floating hotel.

There’s always a sense of expectancy and excitement on the first night and, after an excellent dinner in the stylish restaurant, conversation is sure to revolve around the adventures ahead.

Day 2

Location: Esztergom

We'll wake up having journeyed upstream to Esztergom - nicknamed 'The Rome of Hungary’ (and with countless monuments, palaces and temples, it's definitely earned its nickname). As one of the country's oldest towns - and a royal capital during medieval times - there's plenty of history to explore here and nowhere in the city is richer with history than the basilica.

Standing sentinel over the Danube on the border with Slovakia, Esztergom Basilica is the seat of the country's archbishop and home to one of the world's largest altarpieces. The painting - which depicts the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Girolamo Michelangelo Grigoletti - is the largest painting in the world painted on a single piece of canvas – and it’s not just its size that makes it spectacular (but you’ll have to see it for yourself to truly comprehend its beauty). We'll enjoy a guided tour of the basilica, seeing the magnificent painting - and other priceless religious artefacts.

The first floor is home to the treasury, lined with hand-crafted masterpieces, important relics and ornate instruments once used in the cathedral - their shine is almost blinding. Here, you'll see one of the most elaborately decorated Gothic chalices in the world, made in the 15th century using a special goldsmith technique. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is amazing.

Nestling below are a myriad of churches resonating with the atmospheric sounds of choir; this is the best of provincial Hungary, and little has changed since Habsburg times. As you enjoy your first lunch on board, we'll leave Esztergom in our wake. Top tip: Stay on the sun deck (or look out of the panoramic windows on board) to spot the different landscapes, towns and villages of Hungary on one riverbank and Slovakia on the other.

+ Included experience – Visit to Esztergom Basilica.

Day 3

Location: Bratislava

This morning, we'll explore Slovakia’s fast-emerging capital city, Bratislava, on a guided tour exploring the city’s long history. Until recently swathed in the drab uniformity of Communism, the city has rekindled the splendour of its imperial past in its beautifully restored Old Town. The imposing 17th-century castle commanding expansive views across the Danube and the gleaming white turret of St. Martin's Cathedral - the largest (and oldest) church in the city - are hard to miss. The cathedral is a landmark of the Habsburg dynasty, it saw the ascension of many Hungarian monarchs between the mid-1500s and 1830, including 10 kings, 1 queen and 7 royal wives (there's even a large replica of the Hungarian crown on the spire to remind you of its imperial past). Inside, you can roam through the spacious courtyard - following in the footsteps of royalty and venture up the cathedral's staircase for panoramic views of the Old Town.

This afternoon, we'll cruise into Lower Austria, a peaceful, bucolic region and home to some of the country’s best wines.

Our captain’s not one to boast, but he’ll show off his skills as we navigate along the serene river and through the locks. The mechanisms here never cease to fascinate guests as we continue to cruise towards Dürnstein during dinner.

+ Included Experience – Guided tour of Bratislava.

Day 4

Location: Dürnstein, Melk


Dürnstein is known principally for the ice-blue tower of its abbey, which dominates the view, and the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 after being captured on his return from the crusades. 

This morning, we’ll take a guided walking tour to explore this memorable town. Set on a rocky outcrop high above the river, the castle is now ruined, but it’s easy to imagine England’s legendary monarch seething with frustration far from home, while waiting for his family to raise funds to pay his ransom. 


After lunch on board, we’ll head to the remarkable Melk Abbey. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this enormous honey-coloured building, standing resplendent above the surrounding countryside. Originally a castle, it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th-century and, although reconstructed in Baroque style during the 18th century, it has remained a monastic school and monastery ever since. 

The Abbey is renowned for its 214-yard-long Emperor’s Gallery lined with portraits, many fine rooms and an ornate library. After rejoining the ship, dinner will be served during the final part of our cruise upstream through the pretty Nibelungengau, immortalised in the music of Wagner.

+ Included Experience – Guided tours of Dürnstein & Melk Abbey.

Day 5

Location: Linz, Salzburg, Mauthausen


After reaching our mooring in Linz, we'll take a drive to Salzburg to discover some of the city's main sites in the company of an expert local guide including a visit to Collegiate Church – the church of the University of Salzburg. It’s one of the most important Baroque Churches in Austria, built by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. While the outside is striking with intricate detailing, the inside seems bare by comparison. Every wall and all decorative elements are white and there are no paintings as not to distract from the overall architecture. It makes for an excellent venue for concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions. It’s also steeped in history – look closely and you’ll see scorch marks on the marble floor from when the building was used as a warehouse for hay during Salzburg’s Napoleonic occupation.

Later, you can enjoy time at leisure to explore Salzburg as you wish. It was once an independent state whose archbishops turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps - and it still is today. You'll probably have heard of its most famous resident - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was born and spent the first 25 years of his short life living in Salzburg. Understandably, they're very proud of him. You can't walk through the city without spotting something that pays homage to him: statues, ice cream, chocolate - even rubber ducks! You can feel his influence throughout, especially in the beautiful music that drifts through the streets from violinists and harpists who practise in the square.  It's a must-see destination for any music lover.

Dominating the skyline is Salzburg Cathedral - a stunning feat of baroque architecture with a mighty dome and two towers - which rises from the delightful Altstadt, or Old Town. This UNESCO-protected area is sure to enchant you with its unique mixture of medieval and baroque buildings - it's well worth a wander during time at leisure this afternoon.


Alternatively, after our guided tour of Salzburg, you may choose to join us for a visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial. Places like this need no introduction. As a company, our philosophy is to inform our clients about all aspects of the countries we visit, which includes the dark side of history as well as ‘tourist musts.'

When the memorial was established in 1949, only remnants of the original camp remained. In place of the wooden barracks, nations have erected their own memorials to the victims. The guided tour will be extremely moving as you move through the cemetery, memorials and exhibitions. If you wish to stay in Salzburg for the full day instead, you are free to do so. 

We return to the ship for another splendid dinner as we sail overnight to Vienna.

+ Included experience – Guided tour of Salzburg & optional visit to Mauthausen 

Day 6

Location: Vienna

The city’s very name provokes images of elegance, fine music, wide boulevards, Baroque architecture and a rich tapestry of people who were drawn here from all corners of Europe.

For 200 years until the First World War, Vienna was the cultural centre of Europe and many of the showpiece buildings, galleries, aristocratic palaces and magnificent churches you see today were built to reflect its imperial status. The city’s most iconic monument is the breathtaking Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, whose striking multi-coloured roof and huge Gothic South Tower dominate the skyline.

There’s also the colossal Hofburg, the former royal court that is now home to a collection of museums, the Crown Jewels and the Spanish Riding School, and where the Vienna Boys’ Choir performs. Then there are the lavish Imperial Apartments and an outstanding collection of relics of the Holy Roman Empire, including, allegedly, the sabre of Charlemagne himself. The Kunsthistorisches Museum, which contains the world’s fourth-largest collection of paintings, is just across the road.

This morning we’ll tour the city with a local guide who’ll offer insights into why Vienna is one of Europe’s great capitals – it was the seat of the Habsburg emperors and played host to some of the world’s finest classical composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and, of course, a whole family of Strausses.

Later, after lunch on board, we'll take the short drive to explore Schönbrunn Palace - one of the most popular sights in Vienna. We'll experience the opulence of the Habsburg dynasty and explore the stunning architecture, richly furnished rooms and expansive garden of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

While the palace was commissioned in the 17th century by Emperor Leopold I, it was Empress Marie Theresa who transformed it into the Palace we see today. On the imperial tour, we'll see the grandeur of Austria's imperial history, walking in the footsteps of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Franz Joseph. Adorned with exquisite furniture, elaborate chandeliers, and intricate wall hangings, these rooms offer a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle of the Habsburg dynasty. Don't miss the portraits in the Great Gallery, the exotic influences of the 'Chinese Cabinets', and the impressive Hall of Ceremonies.

This evening we’ve arranged what is truly the ‘icing on the cake’: After a spectacular Captain's dinner, we’ll enjoy a classical recital. No visit to Vienna is complete without a live musical experience, to hear this exquisite music played in the city of its creation makes a wonderful finale to the day. Later this evening, we’ll begin the final journey to Budapest.

+ Included experience – Guided tour of Vienna, afternoon visit to Schönbrunn Palace & live classical recital

Day 7

Location: Budapest

After a morning cruising through Hungary’s pastoral landscapes (and lunch on board), we'll start our sightseeing tour of this captivating city, which truly lives up to its reputation as the ‘Pearl of the Danube’.

The twin cities of Buda - built around the hilltop fortress - and Pest have been fought over through the centuries. The Ottomans ruled here for 150 years before being ousted in the late 17th century, but their legacy lives on in the many thermal baths fed by hot springs, giving rise to Budapest’s other sobriquet – the ‘City of Spas’.

After the end of Ottoman rule, Budapest became an imperial city of the Habsburg Empire, attracting great cultural and commercial wealth - so there's plenty of art and history to uncover here.

Today, you can choose your city tour experience with adventures that cater to a more historical focus or an art-focus.

A history-filled adventure in Budapest begins at Castle Hill where you could choose to explore the beautiful castle district. There are two churches, seven museums and a theatre among streets and squares that beg to be explored - each with its own special atmosphere. Here, you can look out at a dramatic view across the river to the awe-inspiring neo-Gothic Parliament Building and beyond. Budapest’s endless museums and outstanding Art Nouveau architecture are fittingly elegant end to your Danube cruise - and if you're looking for souvenirs the city has excellent shopping opportunities.

Alternatively, you could choose to include a visit to Budapest's Museum of Fine Arts within your tour of the city – it's the perfect sanctuary for any art-lover. With an extensive European Art collection, you can get lost amongst treasures spanning from ancient times to the end of the 18th century. The Egyptian collection is one of the richest of its kind - thanks to 19th-century globe trotters, art collectors and dealers who visited the Nile Valley during their pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. There's also a comprehensive collection of antiquities - especially rich in Greek and Etruscan antiquities - almost 3000 artworks by the old masters - Raphael, Titian, Velázquez, Hans Holbein, Poussins and John Constables (to name just a few of our favourites) - create a unique mix. You don't have to be an art enthusiast to appreciate the art, history and culture housed here.

This evening’s dinner closes with a lively folklore show, giving you your last taste of Hungarian art and culture. Then it’s time to enjoy one last evening with your brilliant travel companions and reflect on all the inspirational places, sights and sounds you have experienced on a truly ‘imperial’ cruise.

+ Included experience – Guided tour of Budapest with a choice of Art or History focus & a Hungarian folklore show.

Day 8

Location: Budapest

We’ll transfer to the airport for your return flight to home.

What's Included

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of sole occupancy;cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes: All meals on board (except one lunch if choosing the Salzburg excursion) - from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day - including welcome cocktails and the Captain's dinner. Complimentary on-board tea and coffee All visits and excursions as mentioned Airport transfers Coach travel as mentioned Travel to and from port of embarkation The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of sole occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:; Full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant. Complimentary on-board tea and coffee; All visits and excursions as mentioned; Airport transfers; Coach travel as mentioned; Travel to and from port of embarkation; The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge Complimentary on-board Wi-Fi

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...


This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...


I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Julie Berry (Google Reviewer)  

What a fantastic holiday to...


What a fantastic holiday to Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska Cruise. If you are thinking of booking this do it right now. From start to finish everything was great. The hotels, the transport and the cruise. The rep was absolutely fabulous. If you have ‘B’ as your rep you will make a friend. She is so full of knowledge. We went on this trip with strangers and left it as friends.

Mrs Bodnarec (Google Reviewer)  

Thankyou Riviera and all the...


Thankyou Riviera and all the staff on the William Wordsworth Danube River cruise. My husband and i have just travelled on the Danube to celebrate my husbands 60th and we had such a lovely experience. We were younger than most of the travellers but we met so many lovely people so this wasnt a problem. The staff were so lovely and professional. The service we experienced was so high. The boat was beautiful, the food amazing and the excursions were informative and well managed. I would definately recommend riviera as a company. In fact we are now considering their Japan holiday.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat


Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...


Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome


Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...


Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Norma Patrick (Google Reviewer)  

Recently went on a tour...


Recently went on a tour of the Deep South USA plus Texas. Before we set off on the trip we were informed that our trip On the Amtrak train would not be going ahead and we were given a £50 refund each. We were disappointed especially as there was no consultation beforehand and to only receive £50 each in compensation was poor. This was one of the reasons we had chosen Riviera Travel and may have considered another company had we been given the choice. Despite this we had a fabulous holiday, although we thought the tour guide was poor. There was no music played whilst we were traveling on the coach and when asked if more could be played we received a flat ‘no’. If we had relied on the tour guide all the time we wouldn’t have gone anywhere. However we ignored his comments that Nashville was ‘mad’ and went downtown and had the best night. All in all we had a wonderful holiday but it could have been better from Riviera Travel point of view. This is a very expensive tour and we thought the standard of hotels were very poor in some places. Probably would try a different tour company next time.

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...


Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

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    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 500 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 101 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 101 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 100 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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