Danube River Facts

From the Black Forest to the Black Sea

The longest river within today's European Union – and second-longest on the continent – the Danube originates in Germany’s Black Forest, and flows southeast through Central and Eastern Europe into the Black Sea. Strategically important as a means of transport and trade since the dawn of history, the river served for centuries as the northern frontier for much of the Roman Empire. A preferred route of travel by rulers since ancient times, the Danube has long been called “the river of kings.”

Danube Key Facts & Figures

Length: Approximately 1,785 miles / 2,872 kilometers
Source: Donaueschingen, Germany, in the Black Forest
Mouth: In the Danube Delta of Romania, at the Black Sea
Oldest Trade Routes:
Ancient Greeks navigated up the Danube from the Black Sea, as far as the Iron Gate. Later, river transport was developed by the Romans; many cities along the Danube began as Roman military outposts. In medieval times, goods were moved either by boat or barge, or along its banks, fostering development of the Habsburg and Hungarian empires.
The Danube flows through ten modern-day European nations: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Danube Region:
  • Historic Centre of Salzburg; Schönbrunn Palace
  • Wachau Cultural Landscape
  • Historic Centre of Vienna
Czech Republic:
  • Historic Centre of Cesky Krumlov
  • Historic Centre of Prague
  • Old Town of Regensburg
  • Budapest / Danube Banks;
  • Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)
  • Danube Delta
  • Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania
Locks Along the Danube: 16
Key Cities Along or Near the Danube:
The Danube flows directly through many significant European cities, including four national capitals – Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary) and Belgrade (Serbia); other key cities are located nearby.

A brief history of the Danube

Early Civilizations Along the Danube
Some of the earliest human cultures on Earth were sited in the Danube basin, including such Neolithic peoples as the Linear Pottery and Vinča cultures. By the first millennium BC, ancient Greeks explored and traded along the lower Danube as far as the Iron Gate.
Roman Empire
Under Julius Caesar, Rome expanded its reach along the Danube (Davinius); Roman ships patrolled its waters, and settlements grew out of Roman military posts – Aquincum (Budapest), Singidunum (Belgrade), Sexantaprista (Ruse), and Vindobona (Vienna).
Medieval Period
After the fall of the Roman Empire, castles and fortresses were built along the Danube by Charlemagne (Werfenstein, 9th century) and other rulers throughout the Middle Ages, as various kingdoms merged into Austria’s Habsburg Empire by the 14th century.
Imperial Period
Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the Ottoman Turks struggled with the Hungarian and later Austrian (Habsburg) Empires for control of the Danube; the river formed the Ottoman Empire's northern border for centuries.
20th Century
With the breakup of both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires after World War I, the upheaval of World War II, the Cold War, the Balkan wars and the formation of the European Union, the Danube region saw many changes across the decades.
Geopolitical & Economic Importance Today
Today, with its borders generally settled, the Danube is an important transport route for the whole of Europe, and is designated as "Corridor VII" of the European Union. Since the opening of the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal and the Danube-Black Sea Canal, the Danube links the North Sea and western Europe with the ports of the Black Sea.
Source: CCI Ulm