The Epicurean's Guide to the Danube

Few rivers flow with such natural enchantment as the Danube. The cities and towns that sprung up on the shores of one of the world’s most inspiring stretches of water seem baptized in allure — bastions of bohemian charm and fine living that any epicurean is certain to be drawn to like a siren song. While every city offers its own flavor of culture to savor, here are three of our favorites for your consideration.

Vienna, Austria

As the capital of Austria, Vienna simply thrums with culture. Within the throes and hums of daily life here are true gems of experience, life’s little delicacies for those of discerning taste. Any day here should start with a trip to a Viennese coffeehouse, an informal national institution since 1683. Some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — James Joyce, Gustav Klimt and Leon Trotsky, to name a few — gathered here for mélange (espresso with steamed milk and foam) and cake. Once you’re suitably caffeinated, the city is your playground. You might spend the day palace-hopping, exploring the opulent likes of the Hofburg, Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces — all of which have traded housing royal families for serving as museums in the modern day. Vineyards flourish and stretch just beyond the city center, meaning it’s easy to winery-hop and sample the best the city has to offer.
Your evenings are easily just as indulgent: The Vienna State Opera House has been an elegant institution since 1869, with some of the most popular opera performances in the world gracing its stage to accompany the world-renowned philharmonic orchestra. Should your visit coincide with the winter months, you’ll likely want to attend a Viennese Ball — attendees come from around the world to dress up in their finest formalwear and dance the night away.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is actually a bit of a moniker: the Danube river dissects the city in two, with the hilly Buda district on one side, and the rather-flat Pest on the other. You might want to start your day at the New York Café, as famous for its Old-World elegance as it is for its pastries and coffee. Or maybe you prefer to have breakfast on the go, in which case perusing the colorful stalls of the Great Market Hall
for delicious street food should be your go-to choice. Once your morning has been spent and your breakfast appetite satisfied, there’s so much to see and discover. A delightful experience to seek out is Margaret Island. Sandwiched between Buda and Pest is 2.5 kilometers of quiet parkland; tranquil green space perfect for a little picnic, or an after-lunch meditation. World-class relaxing baths are scattered around the city. The Széchenyi Baths are easily the most famous: The massive complex sports 13 indoor and three outdoor pools, the latter serving as the venue for Saturday-night parties when pop-up bars line the pool’s edges. The Gellért Baths are a quieter affair withmarine-tiledindoor thermal pools. The Rudas Baths spans the gamut of time in its offerings: The Ottoman-era steam bath is bucket-list worthy, but the real draw is the rooftop pool — you can savor a meditative soak while gazing out over the city’s skyline.

Linz, Austria

Compared to the first two cities, Linz is quieter, calmer. Luxury is less exclusive opulence and more the moments you make for yourself. On that note, museums make up much of the prospective to-do list: The Ars Electronica Center has been dubbed the “Museum of the Future” due to its technology-based exhibitions. The Lentos Art Museum is another must-visit. As an architectural gem housing works from many household names, you’re likely to find a fair number of reflective moments strolling its halls. But perhaps Linz’s most underappreciated gem is its Botanic Gardens. Over 10,000 plant species fill the five greenhouses, each one representing its own unique ecosystem. You could spend hours here, strolling through the greenery, considering the beauty and diversity of life on our little slice of the cosmos. For the discerning traveler who’s keen to appreciate the finer things in life, it’s hard to beat an afternoon spent smelling an extensive collection of the world’s flowers.

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