- Join a National Geographic expert to explore fascinating UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Austria’s Wachau Valley, the Bavarian town of Regensburg, and the medieval Czech gem of Český Krumlov.
- Take a specially arranged tour of Vienna’s renowned Museum of Natural History, and meet with Ludovic Ferrière, the National Geographic grantee who co-curator the museum’s meteorite exhibit.
- Get guidance on technique and artistry from a National Geographic photographer, and capture a unique angle on iconic cityscapes from Budapest to Salzburg.
- Enjoy a private classical concert in the gilded halls of Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein.
From Gothic Hungarian spires to imperial Viennese treasures, discover the fairytale scenery and legendary landmarks of Central Europe. Aboard the Scenic Opal, cruise the fabled Danube River from Budapest through Austria's stunning Wachau Valley to Nuremburg. Explore gilded palaces and meticulously manicured gardens in Vienna and Salzburg; bike past charming red-roofed villages laced with lush vineyards; and witness the tapestry of medieval, Renaissance, and Roman architecture woven through old-world Europe. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.
Arrive in Budapest and embark the Scenic Opal. After settling into your spacious suite, enjoy a welcome dinner on board, complete with views of the city glittering under the night sky.
Scenic Opal for the entire voyage
Discover two distinct sides of the Hungarian capital—the cobbled hills of Buda and the grand boulevards of Pest, linked by eight stately bridges that span the Danube. Climb historic Castle Hill to see the Royal Palace and Matthias Church, the stunning setting for the coronations and weddings of the Habsburg royalty. Alternatively, explore Budapest on a city tour, and opt to delve into bustling Great Market Hall, Budapest’s largest indoor market or explore Budapest through the lens of its Jewish history.
Cruise the Danube toward Vienna, tracing the border of Hungary and Slovakia before crossing into Austria. Relax in the lounge, taking in views of colorful waterfront towns and hilltop fortifications; or join our National Geographic photographer on deck to learn techniques for capturing the splendid scenery on camera. This evening, gather for a private concert in the gilded halls of the Palais Liechtenstein, featuring the music of Strauss and Mozart.
Choose from among several available excursions today. Take a special behind-the-scenes tour of Vienna’s Museum of Natural History led by Ludovic Ferrière, a National Geographic Grantee and co-curator of the museum’s meteorite exhibit. For a glimpse at the city’s more opulent side, visit Schönbrunn Palace, the baroque summer residence of the imperial family; or peruse the ornate galleries of the Belvedere Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings, including “The Kiss.” Or cross the Slovakian border and take a guided tour through Bratislava’s old town.
Glide into Austria’s lush Wachau Valley and enjoy an early morning hike through the vineyards of Dürnstein before sailing to Melk; or take a more active excursion, cycling along the Danube from Dürnstein to Melk. Pay a visit to Artstetten Castle, the final resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and meet with direct descendants of the family who still live in the castle. Alternatively, tour of Melk’s Benedictine abbey, one of the world’s most magnificent baroque buildings. This evening, sip cocktails on deck as we wind our way beneath the valley’s vineyard-draped hillsides and iconic onion-domed churches.
Today, choose between three unique excursions. Explore Salzburg, strolling the storybook streets of the World Heritage-listed old town and visiting the Schloss Mirabell and its stunning manicured gardens. Alternatively, venture into the Bavarian Alps, learning about the region’s tradition of salt mining; and visit the scenic town of Berchtesgaden. Weather permitting, enjoy spectacular alpine views from the Eagle’s Nest—a lavish mountaintop lodge that was gifted to Adolph Hitler on his 50th birthday. Or, head to the Czech town of Český Krumlov—a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets with medieval, baroque, and Renaissance houses; lively cafés; and hidden squares.
Set at the confluence of the Danube, Naab, and Regen Rivers, Regensburg once served as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. On a guided visit, see the town’s splendid Gothic cathedral, 12th-century stone bridge, and the Porta Praetoria—the ancient Roman city gate. Or explore Bavaria’s long tradition of brewing beer on a visit to Weltenburg Abbey, home to the world’s oldest monastic brewery.
Arrive in Nuremberg and transfer to the airport to catch your flight home.
- Prague Extension
Having survived throughout the centuries with much of its architecture intact, Prague is considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. Gain firsthand insights into the city’s turbulent history as you explore the cobbled streets that wind beneath the baroque domes and Gothic spires that grace the stunning skyline.
Arrive in Prague and settle into our centrally located hotel.
Trace centuries of history on a guided tour through this “city of a hundred spires.” Get acquainted with spacious plazas and magnificent cathedrals as you wind your way along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Visit the lively Old Town Square, a focal point of the 15th-century conflict between the reformist Hussites and the ruling Roman Catholics, and see the statue commemorating Jan Hus, the religious reform leader and Czech national hero who was burned at the stake for heresy. Gaze up at the impressive Astronomical Clock, and catch its festive hourly performance. Later, choose to explore through the lens of its communist history, or step into the 12th-century Strahov Monastery, known for its extensive art and library collection. Gather this evening for a traditional Czech feast.
Set out to explore Prague at your leisure. Consider a visit to the historic Jewish Quarter, where the synagogues, museums, and cemetery tell an unforgettable story of struggle and perseverance. Cross the iconic Charles Bridge to see St. Vitus Cathedral and the courtyards and palaces that make up Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. Or delve into Prague’s modern history in Wenceslas Square, where citizens gathered during the Velvet Revolution to first demand, and then celebrate, the end of communism.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport or continue on to your next destination.