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Rivers are the ‘veins’ of the Earth. They carry large amounts of water to lakes and oceans, and they transport nutrients and people from place to place. They can range from a few kilometres long to spanning entire countries or continents.

Of all the long rivers in the world, the Danube would definitely be one of them. Passing through many countries from Central to Eastern Europe, the Danube river has a long and rich history.

Many people have heard of the Danube, but did you know that it’s the river that runs through the greatest number of capital cities in the world?

Exploring the Danube River is just one of many things to do in Budapest.

Read on to find out more about this fascinating river.

The Danube is the longest river in the EU, and the second longest in all of Europe.


After the Volga river in Russia, the Danube is the second longest river on the European continent.

But, considering Russia is not a part of the EU (European Union), the Danube is the longest river in mainland Europe, so in Western and Central Europe. It’s a long body of water that stretches out over a distance of approximately 2850 km (1770 miles).

The Danube flows through 10 countries with almost 1/3 of it passing through Hungary.


Passing through ten countries in Europe, starting in the Black Forest in Germany, and ending in the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine, the Danube crosses the following countries (in order from west to east):

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Croatia
  • Serbia
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Moldova
  • and Ukraine

About 30% of the river runs through Hungary. Including the major Danube river cities like Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, and Bratislava (which are all national capitals), the Danube also goes through many other smaller cities and towns.

It is a fast flowing river, moving at a rate of between 400 to 10,000 cubic metres per second.

Flowing at an average rate of between
4 to 15 kilometres per hour depending on location, and having an average
discharge of 7000 cubic metres per second, the Danube is a fast flowing river –
its speed is equivalent to a normal walking pace or a brisk jog.


It provides drinking water to about 60 million people.

The Danube provides a source of drinking water for millions of people in Europe. Although it is moderately polluted in most parts, it is clean enough to drink in the regions between Stuttgart and Alb-Donau in Germany; some residents of the German communities of Ulm and Passau have also been using water from the river.

Notably, around ten million people in Austria and Hungary get their drinking water from ground and spring sources, particularly wells. This all comes from the Danube!

According to International Commission for Protection of Danube River | © ICPDR

It is a major shipping and transportation route for most of Central and Eastern Europe.


As one of the longest and largest rivers in Europe, the Danube provides a main transportation route for many commercial and industrial ships. It connects the port of Rotterdam all the way to the Black Sea, so pretty much most of continental Europe.

It is also a big tourist hotspot, passing by many beautiful, historic sites such as the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest and the Iron Gates gorge on the border of Romania and Serbia. Not surprisingly, this makes the Danube immensely popular for river boat cruises and sightseeing tours in Europe.

The Danube is the resting place for many WWII German ships.

Many planes, ships, and submarines were brought down during World War II, but did you know the Danube happens to be one of the graveyards for German warships? Yep, you heard that right!


Towards the end of the war, some German soldiers deliberately sunk their ships to avoid capture (and thus imminent defeat), by the Soviet Union.

Thus, the Danube is, to this day, the resting place for these unfortunate vessels! Today, these sunken ships can be seen from the banks of the Danube in the summer, where the water level is at its lowest.

There are more than 3000 species of animals, birds, and plants living in or among the Danube Delta.


A very ecologically and biodiverse place, the Danube river Delta is home to more than 45 freshwater fish and 300 bird species, including the Northern Pike and the Wels Catfish. It is also the habitat of many species of carp, sturgeon, trout, and salmon, some local and migratory species. These plants and animal species depend on the river for their water source and livelihood.

It passes through many national parks and islands and is surrounded by a good number of hiking trails.


The Danube is a natural paradise, passing through a countless number of forests, parks, and islands.

Some of these famous places include:

  • Iron Gate National Park (Romania)
  • Biosphere reserve Danube Delta (Romania)
  • Donauleiten Nature Protection Area (Germany)
  • Great War Island Nature Reserve (Serbia)
  • the Sultans Hiking Trail between Vienna and Smederevo
  • Serbia, and the beautiful Danube Bike Trail (the Danube Cycle Path)
  • Islands that it surrounds include: Margaret Island in Budapest, the Great War Island in Serbia, and the Island of Vukovar, Croatia.

There are a total of 62 dams on the Danube, with the largest being the Iron Gate between Romania and Serbia.


Along with all its parks, nature reserves, and islands, did you know that the Danube also contains 62 dams? Of these 62, 59 lie on the first half (1000 km) stretch of the river; the other three lie in Gabcikovo, Serbia, and on the Iron Gates gorge for the last two. Thus, the Danube is an important source of hydropower and water storage.

It was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, and the famous Blue Danube waltz is Austria’s “Second National Anthem”.


Considering its historic, cultural, and societal purposes, to name a few, is it really any wonder the Danube was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site!? It was given this title back in ’91 (finally!), and continues to be a cultural and ecological gem of Europe today. 

The Danube is featured in many films, stories, songs, and poems, and did you know the Blue Danube Waltz – the beautiful waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, is seen as Austria’s “Second National Anthem”?

Because it’s just that sensational!

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