Salzburg or Český Krumlov: Which One Should You Visit?

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When embarking on a journey along the majestic Danube River, travelers are presented with a delightful dilemma; should you choose the day trip to Salzburg or Český Krumlov?

One the one hand, the musical haven of Salzburg, Austria is where you can walk the same streets as Mozart and absorb the city’s classical influence, on the other, the charming medieval town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a pretty, UNESCO-listed town with incredible views and hidden corners to discover.

Lady taking photo of a castle from a river cruise ship in Austria
Cruising the Danube River

Choosing between the two is no easy task.

Especially as for some Danube River cruises, you may have the third choice of remaining with the ship to explore the port town.

Having visited both, we’ve decided to put together this guide that will explore both Salzburg and Ceský Krumlov in detail, highlighting their unique features, attractions, and cultural offerings to help you figure out which city is the best fit for you. We’ll also share our experiences with the third choice: Passau.

Whether you are drawn to the musical allure of Salzburg or the medieval enchantment of Ceský Krumlov, both destinations promise an immersive journey through history, art, and culture.

Salzburg vs. Český Krumlov: Our Choice

lady with arms outstretched in tunnel of greenery
Do Re Mi tunnel, Salzburg

On our 8-day Danube River cruise with Avalon Waterways, I too embarked on a Google search to help me figure out whether Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov was the best choice for our optional excursion.

I didn’t find much helpful information, with no one giving a definitive reason for their answer – this is one reason I have written this post so you don’t come up empty handed.

As we were traveling as a family of four, we split up to experience both destinations. We’re hoping our combined experiences – and many photos – may help you make the best choice for you.

We were also in an unusual position that we experienced the “normal” third option to stay at port.

Dad and daughter standing on a bridge with a castle in the background
Cesky Krumlov

Unfortunately, our river cruise could not depart from Nuremburg due to unusually low water in the Danube (we left from Vilshofen in Germany instead which changed our itinerary slightly).

As compensation, Avalon generously offered the optional excursion to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic or Salzburg in Austria as complimentary.

It also meant the normal third choice “staying in Passau” was something the entire ship experienced due to the itinerary change.

Normally, those who don’t visit either Salzburg or Český Krumlov would have an included city walking tour of Passau followed by a scenic sail to Linz where you’ll meet those returning form the day trip.

Mom and two daughters having lunch on a cruise ship
BBQ lunch in Passau

Originally Craig was going to Český Krumlov and I was going to stay with the boat in Passau to do the included excursions and scenic river sail, as I did not want to miss that.

Because our itinerary changed, the optional day trips to Salzburg and Český Krumlov were moved to depart from, and return to, the Austrian town of Linz, though most will depart from Passau if water levels are optimal.

So in this guide, we’ll also share the usual third option as a choice to choose from: Passau and the scenic sail.

Note: We traveled in partnership with Avalon Waterways and Globus Travel, who is a long-term partner of ours!

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Option 1: Salzburg, Austria

hilltop with buildings beside river

Nestled in the heart of Austria, Salzburg offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and breathtaking attractions.

Known as the birthplace of the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg exudes a distinct air of musical heritage that permeates its streets and landmarks.

It’s also home to the Sound of Music, which was the main drawcard for me choosing this optional excursion on our Avalon Waterways river cruise.

I have many beautiful memories connected to watching this movie with my family and good friends to serving Friedrich von Trapp (Nicholas Hammond) several times at my hometown seafood restaurant I worked at. He was friends with the owner and dined frequently. He was a lovely man and there was no mistaking those baby blue eyes!

When choosing between Salzburg and Ceský Krumlov, I felt that Cesky Krumlov is a place I’ve (Caroline) always wanted to visit, and I feel, I will get there one day. For that reason, I choose to go to Salzburg, as I probably wouldn’t make the effort to travel there in the future. I’ll save Ceský Krumlov for another time so I can spend longer there.

We also visited many medieval cities on our 2 week Italy trip so I wanted to try something different.

Why Choose Salzburg on your Danube River Trip?

river running through Salzburg with buildings on hilltops

Here are some reasons you may want to visit Salzburg:

  • Salzburg showcases a harmonious blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architectural styles.
  • The city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is adorned with elegant palaces, grand churches, and charming narrow streets.
  • The iconic Hohensalzburg Fortress looms high above the city, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.
  • Salzburg has an interesting history; it did not belong to Austria until the 19th Century, so they have a very different background and personality and are proud of it.
  • Salzburg exudes a refined and sophisticated vibe within a rich cultural heritage. If you have a passion for music, history, and classical architecture, Salzburg might be the ideal choice.
  • You can immerse yourself in the musical legacy of Mozart by visiting his birthplace or attending a classical concert. The city resonates with the sounds of classical music, creating an atmosphere that is truly magical.
  • The city is home to world-renowned music festivals such as the Salzburg Festival, where opera, classical music, and theater performances captivate audiences from around the globe.
  • You can relive the iconic moments from the beloved film “The Sound of Music” exploring filming locations and the picturesque landscapes surrounding the city. (See this Sound of Music tour here if not traveling to Salzburg on a cruise.)

You may like this private tour of Salzburg if not visiting with a cruise.

About Our Salzburg Day Trip Experience

Mom and daughter standing on steps near a gate in Salzburg, Austria
The Do Rei Me Steps

Kalyra joined me for this all day excursion to Salzburg, Austria. Our local tour guide Maria from Salzburg joined us in Linz for the 75-minute bus ride to Salzburg. On the drive, she shared a lot about the history and culture of this town in the Austrian alps.

Of course, she spoke a lot about the Sound of Music and the true story of the Von Trapp Family. Surprisingly, not many Austrians, especially those from Salzburg, have seen the Sound of Music.

After the war, Austrians wanted to move on and forget about what happened. They did not want to be reminded and see Nazis once again marching across their Residenzplatz Square.

Once we arrived in Salzburg, Maria took us on a walking tour through the city pausing to visit a few historical locations:

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

palace and gardens

A must-see attraction in Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, where you can follow in the footsteps of Maria and the Von Trapp family.

The palace was originally built by the bishop Wolf Dietrich for his beloved mistress (and he also had 16 children!). We did not visit the palace on our tour, but wandered through the meticulously manicured Baroque gardens adorned with vibrant flowers, fountains, and statues.

the pegasus fountain in salzburg
Pegasus Fountain

Maria pointed out several areas used in the filming of the Sound Of Music including Pegasus Fountain in front of the palace Maria and the children danced around, and the steps in front of the Rose Hill where they sang Do-Rei-Me. I decided to embarrass my teen daughter, Kalyra, by doing the same thing!

Bridge Crossing into Salzburg Old Town – Altstadt

Girl looking over a river from a bridge

The rest of the tour is in beautifully persevered Altstadt, or Old Town of Salzburg, which was registered on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997.

The Old Town is filled with narrow, cobblestone streets that merge into famous squares dotted with historic buildings from the Middle Ages, Romanesque, Baroque and Renaissance periods. Perched high above, overlooking the town and the meandering Salzach River is the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

view of fortress on hill surrounded by old town
Hohensalzburg Fortress

We paused on the pedestrian bridge crossing the Salzach River to admire the views, the cyclists on the river path, and to learn more abut the Altstadt. The bridge is laden down with Lovers Locks, if that phenomenon interests you at all?

Stroll Getreidgasse

street in old town salzburg lined with stores and church at theend
Getreidgasse

We had a short stroll down Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s most famous commercial avenue running through the Altstadt. This cobbled thoroughfare is lined with upscale emporiums, kitschy souvenir stands, and charming bistros housed in historical buildings adored with wrought-iron guild symbols. Hidden alleys beckon with peaceful courtyards, arched corridors, and eateries.

It’s a favored place for cruisers to explore more during their free time after the walking tour. Our guide told us the best strudel can be found at Restaurant Meissl & Schadn Salzburg.

Note: We visited on a Sunday, and in Austria Sundays are QUIET days with most things closed. The street is usually much busier (good or bad, you decide) and filled with street musicians adding to the city’s enchanting ambiance.

Mozart’s House

yellow exterior of mozarts house of birth salzburg

Salzburg is renowned as the birthplace of the legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He spent the early years of his life in Salzburg before being kicked out for his unrefined behavior, when he then moved to Vienna.

We stopped outside his birthplace, a charming yellow building that now serves as a museum showcasing his life and musical genius. We just viewed from the outside and learned more about his geniuses and rebellious personality (which I loved) and his premature death (the bloodletting moves of his time!). You may wish to visit the exhibits inside during your free time.

St Peter’s Abbey & Salzburg Cathedral

steeple of st peter's abbey
St Peter’s Abbey

Maria then guided us past the most beloved Festival Hall, where locals frequently visit for concerts, to St. Peter’s Abbey, which was founded in the 7th century and is considered the oldest monastery still in existence in the German-speaking world.

We then stopped in front of the Salzburg Cathedral which was mostly covered by a 300-seat platform in the Cathedral Square installed for the annual Salzburg Festival. The front facade of the cathedral with its elegant bulbous copper dome and imposing twin spires serves as a magnificent backdrop for the renowned Jedermann theater. 

exterior of salzburg cathedral
St PEter’s Catherdral

The Christmas Markets held here are a major attraction, drawing crowds of visitors each year. Mozart was baptized here and later performed some of his most iconic pieces for the congregation.

ResidenzPlatz (Residence Square)

salzburg Cathedral with fountain in front
Salzburg Cathedral on Residence Square

Next to the Cathedral is Residenzplatz, where we ended our walking tour with Maria. It’s a famous Baroque style city square is in front of the residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg, and was designed in the late 16th century. It has been a central point for various events and festivities over the years.

The centerpiece of Residenzplatz is the Residenzbrunnen, a large baroque fountain built in 1661 by Tommaso di Garona. The fountain features a stunning horse-driven chariot with four horses, and statues representing various Greek mythological figures.

fountain and building in Residence square

Residenzplatz offers excellent views of Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom), St. Peter’s Abbey, and the surrounding mountains. The square is often used for cultural events, markets, and concerts. Near here is also a statue of Mozart.

girl looking at statue of mozart in square in salzburg

You may recognize Residenzplats as the place where Maria sang “I have confidence.” in the Sound of Music.

Free Time in Salzburg

colorful buildings with al fresco dining area in square
Residence square

After our walking tour, we had 90 minutes free time to explore what interested us in Salzburg.

Unfortunately, as soon as our city highlights tour had finished, the rain came pouring down and did not let up. It meant our plans to visit the fortress and wander around the town were squashed.

Kalyra and I hunkered down for a delicious sausage plate lunch in a small cafe and then ran to Cafe Tomaselli (frequently visited by Mozart) for strudel and coffee.

cafe with seating outside under shady trees
Cafe Tomaselli

It did dampen our experience in Salzburg, which is one reason I felt a little underwhelmed by it. I think I may have preferred Ceský Krumlov.

If the sky is clear, I recommend you visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress, an iconic symbol of Salzburg’s medieval past and an impressive sight to behold. Hike or hop on a funicular to reach its towering walls. Once inside, explore its ancient chambers, marvel at the panoramic views of the city below, and delve into the fascinating history that lies within its walls. (Get admission ticket here)

Don’t miss trying the original Mozart Balls at Konditorei Fürst. They still hand make the round Mozartkugeln, which is made from marzipan, nougat, and pistachio, covered in chocolate. Fürst wraps the original Mozart chocolate in blue and silver tinfoil. (There are many fakes in the city!) Kalyra and I somehow missed this!

Mondsee (Mond Lake)

woman sittong on bench looking at mond lake views
Mond LAke

The dampened mood picked up once the skies cleared and we headed to our next destination on our Salzburg day trip – Mondsee, which means Mond Lake. This stunning alpine lake popular for holiday makers is only 30-minutes outside of Salzburg.

The Mondsee region as a place where the mountains meet the water, and the town is a centre both for watersports and for walking trails. There is a flat but very scenic 25 kilometres bike trail around the lake shore (use an e-bike to make it even easier!).

girl sitting on bench looking at view of lake

Our short visit here was delightful, and I’d be happy to return to soak up its relaxed charm and natural beauty.

We walked through the town with its beautiful row of colorful buildings and restaurants to visit the Basilika St. Michael.

This is a Basilica Minor, a rare title given by a pope for its beauty – and it was! Basilika St. Michael is the church Maria got married in the Sound of Music.

people walking across black and white tiled path to yellow basilica
Basilika St. Michael
aisle in church leading to altar
Where Maria married

We had a little free time to explore. Kalyra and I finished off a good day together with a bowl of Austrian ice cream – it was as good as the long lines indicated – and a walk down to the lake.

Option 2: Ceský Krumlov, Czech Republic

view overlooking old town of cesky krumlov

Ceský Krumlov is a small, picturesque town with well-preserved medieval architecture and an enchanting atmosphere.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, is often overshadowed by the cultural prowess of Salzburg, however, it holds its own unique appeal that is worth exploring.

As you wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll be captivated by the colorful Renaissance and Baroque buildings that line the Vltava River, creating a postcard-perfect scenery at every turn.

What makes Cesky Krumlov unique is that it’s surrounded by the Vltava River, creating a barrier between the old town in the center and the suburban areas outside. It’s worth going to the top of the round belltower for views of this unique landscape.

Why choose Ceský Krumlov on your Danube River Trip?

Young girl on a tour of a city with pretty houses in the backdrop

Here are some reasons why you may choose Cesky Krumlov over Salzburg:

  • Cesky is a medieval town that boasts a well-preserved castle complex with a unique mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural elements. If you haven’t seen many medieval towns in Europe, this is certainly a good example of one.
  • This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its well-preserved historical center with maze-like streets, colorful facades, stunning castle, and the meandering Vltava River that adds to its enchanting fairy-tale allure.
  • Ceský Krumlov offers a more intimate and bohemian atmosphere compared to Salzburg. Its smaller size and less crowded streets give it a sense of tranquility, allowing visitors to wander through its cobblestone alleys, discover hidden courtyards, and stumble upon charming artisan shops.
  • Although growing in popularity, Ceský Krumlov still maintains a more relaxed and laid-back ambiance. It offers a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of larger tourist destinations and immerse oneself in a more authentic and less crowded experience. Salzurg tends to attract larger crowds and higher prices.
  • It’s a chance to visit another country on your Danube River cruise. This was one reason, our youngest, Savannah chose to go here with Craig. (She loves country counting!)

Our Day Trip to Ceský Krumlov Experience

view of cesky krumlov by the river

Craig is going to take over now to share his day trip to Ceský Krumlov with Savannah.

I first heard of Cesky Krumlov 25 years ago from a friend who said if you can’t get to Prague, a great alternative on a smaller scale is Cesky, so I was excited when I noticed Cesky Krumlov as an option on our cruise itinerary.

Savannah liked the sound of it, and wanted to add another country to her growing list (now at 19).

Our day started with a 90-minute bus ride while our guide shared fascinating commentary as we admired the scenery.

Upon arrival at Cesky, we enjoyed a 90-minute guided walking tour with a local expert who shared interesting historical facts and stories as we wandered the cobblestone streets and across bridges taking in the town’s architecture and top attractions. Below are some of the top attractions we visited there.

Cesky Krumlov Castle

castle on top of hill and people standing underneath

The magnificent Cesky Krumlov Castle dominates the town’s skyline and was once the home to the Rosenberg dynasty for 300 years beginning in the early 1300’s. It’s the second largest in the Czech Republic and is a true architectural masterpiece, featuring Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements.

Dad and daughter overlooking the medieval city of Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic
Views from castle

You can take a guided tour to discover the fascinating history behind its walls, explore the vast courtyards, and enjoy panoramic views of the town from the castle tower. During our free time, Savannah and I climbed the steps to the top of the castle tower (small fee) for fantastic views out over the city.

The Vltava River

City buildings and river in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Vltava River

The Vltava River gracefully winds its way around Český Krumlov, providing a scenic backdrop The lush greenery and serene ambiance provide the perfect backdrop for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Consider a relaxing stroll along the riverbanks or even a gentle rafting experience. Savannah and I both agreed that would have been a fun adventure.

Wander the Old Medieval Town

Group of people on a city tour
old Town

We crossed the Lavka pod Zamkem, a picturesque wooden bridge connecting the castle grounds and the historic city square.

Wandering through the cobbled streets of the historical center is like stepping into a fairy tale. The narrow alleyways are lined with colorful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, housing charming shops, cafes, and art galleries. Every corner reveals a new architectural delight, making it a delight for history and architecture enthusiasts.

People sitting at a cafe by a river

Our guide pointed out recommended foods to try and places to eat and drink, which Savannah and I followed with the two hours of free tome we had to explore on our own. What I love about Avalon Waterways is the ample free time we got to pursue our own interests.

We relaxed and recharged over a coffee and sweet treat at a local cafe, and for lunch we ate at Papa’s, which had a wonderful view of the river from the outdoor terrace. I went with the local suggestion of Confit duck leg, red cabbage, and dumplings and thoroughly enjoyed it, washed down with a local beer. While Savannah kept it safe and simple and ordered a pizza!

We then stretched our legs and took in some more stores and cobblestone streets, before finishing off with a local ice cream, Trdelnik, in a cinnamon coated cone that Savannah devoured.

Option 3: Explore Passau Germany + A Scenic Sail

Mon and daughter having coffee in a cafe
Kalyra and I enjoying coffee time in Passau

A popular stopover on the Danube River Cruise is Passau, Germany, a charming and picturesque town located at the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, Inn, and Ilz.

The town is often referred to as the “City of Three Rivers” (Dreiflüssestadt) because of this.

If you choose to remain with the river cruise ship in Passau, instead of taking the optional day trips these are the included experiences you can have. Our family split up, so we can give you insight into both excursion choices.

Why choose Passau on your Danube River Trip

Overlooking a city and river and bridges

Here is why you might want to stay in Passau instead of visiting Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov:

  • Passau’s location at the meeting point of three rivers is visually stunning.
  • Passau boasts a well-preserved medieval Old Town with narrow winding streets, colorful buildings, and historic architecture.
  • You can experience Bavarian life exploring the variety of shops, boutiques, and cafes.
  • It is much smaller than Salzburg and Český Krumlov, which means you’ll have a more relaxed experience.
  • As you’re boat is docked at Passau, you will have no time taken up traveling to the destination.
  • You can eat on the boat if you like, rather than spending money eating out. (we had a fantastic grill out on the Sky Deck!)
  • The Passau guided tours are included in your Danube River cruise so won’t cost extra money
  • You’ll get to experience the stunning scenic sail to Linz and enjoy the boats facilities while you do.

Guided City Walk

Kalyra and I joined Maria, a local from Passau who guided our small group through the cobblestone streets of this small hilly town.

We were quite enamored with the cute Art Alley with its brightly painted rainbow stones leading to the various art studios. Maria shared history of the town along the way including the great fire of 1662 and the town’s constant flooding, with the last big one in June 2013. We stopped to look at the high flood marks that went way above our heads.

Row of colorful buildings on a rivers edge

We learned more about the Church’s control for power during the Middle Ages, the Royal family including beloved Princess Sissy who stayed here – we would go on to hear a lot about her in Vienna and Budapest. We also learned more about Bavarian culture, life today in Passau including schools and coffee culture and interesting facts, like Germans can drink beer at 16!

Like Regensburg (where we visited the day before), Passau was filled with pastel-colored buildings, alleyways, and large squares. My favorite view was this one looking back on what they call the Mother Church at the end of a hilly street lined with cafes.

Cobblestone street with colorful buildings
The Mother Church

All roads in Passau lead to St Stephen’s Cathedral, home of the 5th largest organ in the world and the largest Catholic church organ. It has 17,974 pipes, with the biggest at 36ft. The other claim to fame is that Arnold Schwarzenegger once played it. News from Maria is that Vienna copied their St Stephen’s Cathedral from them. Although they do look quite different!

Girls standing in front of a cathedral
St Stephen’s Cathedral

We had free time after, so Kalyra and I wandered around a few more cobblestone streets and stopped for a coffee and an affogato (hers for the first time!) 

I’ll let Craig share his adventure activity in Passau experience. I was very jealous seeing his photos! 

Passau Hike

Girl taking photos of a city and river below

One thing we loved on our Avalon Waterways Cruise is the included adventure activities that usually involve exploring the destination hiking or biking with the adventure host.

I love morning hikes and cities with rivers flowing through them so was easily inspired to get my steps in and get a panoramic view of the old town and the three-rivers from above, with our ultimate target being the Veste Oberhaus, a hilltop fortress dating to 1219.

Girl and two men walking a path in the forest

Hristo, our enthusiastic adventure guide, gathered our group of about 15 eager passengers including young Savannah who was up for a walk with dad, then we headed off along the pedestrian pathway that straddles the river, then across the Schanzlbrücke bridge that spans both sides of the Danube.

Here we paused for our first of many photos with an elevated view of the river and views back towards our Avalon Visionary cruise ship and the old town.

Once on the northern side of the river, we started our climb up the steps through the forest passing some residential buildings and the higher we went the more the views started to open up.

Dad and daughter taking a photo together with a city backdrop below

The path up was a combination of concrete steps with a handrail and then natural surface, and Hristo was respectful of everyone’s physical ability, with plenty of stops for drink breaks and walking at a pace so we all stayed together and he could share his commentary of the area as we progressed.

Reaching a certain elevation, we then headed east on more of level trail parallel to the Danube below towards the fortress, with points along the way offering views above the treetops of the Passau below.

Arriving at the Veste Oberhaus fortress was a time for a bathroom break, then a brief walk through the grounds taking in some of the displays and Hristo sharing more commentary of the history of the fortress.

The fortress was built in 1219 by Ulrich II, the first prince-bishop of Passau. The intention was to express the military strength of the bishopric and support the bishop’s status as an elector of the Holy Roman Empire, granted in 1217, and also to protect against both external enemies and internal threats.

It is currently the site of a museum, a youth hostel, and a restaurant, as well as an open-air theatre dating to 1934.

Four people standing against a fence with elevated view of a city

The views from here of old town Passau and the three rivers is spectacular, a view worth seeing and worth the climb! Savannah was reveling in the adventure, chatting with the other passengers, and taking her own photos

The Ilz is dark in color because it travels through the marshland of the Bavarian forest while the Ilz is green because of the glacial melt water from its source at St Moritz, Switzerland and you can get a good view of these two colors meeting from the castle on the hilltops above.

Girl overlooking a city from high on a hill

The walk back down was gentle, and we crossed back over the Danube this time crossing the Prinzregent-Luitpoldbrücke bridge. Once back on the city side of the river, we walked around to the point where the three rivers converge for more photos, and then strolled through the cobblestone streets of the city center taking in the beautiful architecture of the buildings, and a morning market.

Scenic Sail from Passau to Linz

Man and a woman looking back over a river and city from a cruise ship
Leaving Passau for our scenic sail

Those who choose to stay in Passau with the boat will enjoy a scenic sail to the next port on the itinerary, Linz in Austria. Those who tae the optional day trip to either Salzburg or Český Krumlov will return to the boat at Linz.

It was gorgeous sailing away from Passau as we got to see the three rivers converging from behind the boat. The river then turned green for most of the afternoon.

It was spectacular sitting up the front of the boat with an expansive one-eighty-degree view of the gently sloping tree-covered mountains and river in front of us.s.

Houses and a church along a river bank

Cruise Director, Csaba shared commentary along the way to help us learn more about the river. And one time, he had us all lined up at the edge of the boat to throw coins at a statue on a small island as we came out of a lock for good luck! It was loads of fun and only one of us on the ship hit the target for luck.

I loved how the smaller nature of the river cruise gave us the opportunity to do things like this as if we became a group of friends, not just separate passengers.

Lady sitting on couch on a river cruise
Taking in the views from the top deck

We also used this time to enjoy the lounge chairs on the top deck and play a game of giant draughts/checkers together. It was a good bonding time and allowed me to teach Savannah a few strategic moves.

Which is Better: Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov?

Young girl standing in a city square

Salzburg and Cesky Krumlov are both beautiful destinations with their own unique charms and merits. While Salzburg is renowned for its stunning architecture, rich classical history, and has many attractions and places to visit, Cesky Krumlov also boasts unique architecture and a laid-back charm.

We would say that Salzburg has a bit more to do, but Cesky Krumlov has a fairytale-like atmosphere that’s hard to compete with.

Ultimately, the choice between Salzburg and Cesky Krumlov depends on your personal preferences. Those seeking a mix of culture, music, and historical landmarks may prefer Salzburg, while travelers looking for a more intimate, relaxing, and charming experience may opt for Cesky Krumlov.

people dining outside colorful buildings
Mondsee

If we followed the original Avalon Waterways itinerary, I would have chosen to remain in Passau, as I really wanted to experience the scenic sail. I felt the river cruise experience for me was about the sailing journey, so I did not want to miss it, especially since the day trip excursions were a good 60-90 minute drive away.

As our itinerary changed and we did not miss the scenic sail, I was happy to go to Salzburg.

If I was following the original itinerary, now I’ve experienced it, I would still choose Option 3: Passau and scenic sail over the day trip to Salzburg.

Group of people taking photos overlooking a city below
Passau – the City of Three Rivers

It’s also important to note, there is a second scenic sail on the cruise through the Wachau Valley, which is better than the one between Passau and Linz. However, I still would have preferred to stay with the ship to see them both.

Craig also says he probably would have stayed in Passau to see the scenic sail. However, he’s not 100% sure as he loved the Wachau Valley scenic sail more and is unsure whether that would have been enough for him. It’s a hard choice!

If I was to do it again, with the itinerary as we experienced it (i.e. day trips leaving from Linz) I may have chosen Ceský Krumlov instead. But, it’s a hard call, as you can’t control weather, and I may have enjoyed Salzburg more if it were clearer skies.

Final Thoughts

Girl walking across a bridge

We hope you found our blog post helpful in deciding between Salzburg, Ceský Krumlov, or possibly Passau, for your Danube River exploration. All three cities offer their own unique charm and attractions, and hopefully this post has helped you align with what resonates most with you.

Whether you are drawn to Salzburg’s rich musical history and stunning architecture, Ceský Krumlov’s picturesque streets and medieval charm, or Passau’s Bavarian charm and natural beauty you can’t go wrong with any destination.

Whichever city you choose, we are certain that you will have an unforgettable experience exploring the Danube River and its surrounding beauty on your river cruise. Safe travels and enjoy your journey!

You can read more about our Avalon river cruise in the following posts: A Teen & Tween Perspective of Cruising the Danube River with Avalon Waterways, why we think European river cruising is great for families, what we loved about our Avalon Waterways river cruise, and our 8-Day Danube River Cruise Itinerary.

See our river cruise experience in our video:

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We’ve secured an exclusive yTravel discount: Save $100 per person on select 2024 Globus and Avalon Waterway Vacations. Use the code: YTRAVEL when booking online at the Globus, Cosmos, and Avalon Waterways websites, by calling Globus and Avalon Waterways directly, or booking with a preferred Travel Advisor. Terms & Conditions.

If you have any questions leave them in the comments below or if you have visited any of these three cities leave a comment as to which one you’d recommend visiting and why.

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