In the course of the 19th century, what had been a dangerous and unpredictable journey on the Danube began to attract the interest of tourists and was commercially marketed. Regularity, comfort and reliability made steamboats attractive as a new means of transport.
In 1829, the DDSG (Erste k. k. privilegierte Donau-Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft) was founded and began operating scheduled services the following year. It expanded enormously, and operated its own shipyards in Óbuda and Korneuburg and mines in Pécs for the coal needed for steam engines. By 1880, the DDSG was the largest inland shipping company in the world, with a fleet of over 200 steam ships and about 1,000 barges.
To meet the needs of steam navigation, obstacles to shipping were removed, the neuralgic spots in the Strudengau and the Iron Gate made more easily navigable and other major regulatory measures implemented.
The Danube provided work and a livelihood to many people: to boatmen, ferrymen and fishermen, through boat and bridge construction, as a source of water and the production of energy, and through tourism.
In the summer 1917, during World War I, when the Axis powers controlled almost the entire Danube region, Otto Protzen - a German rower, author and artist - set off on a Danube trip in a homemade boat. His book about this trip published in 1922 initiated water sports development on the Danube.
In the 20th century, the river acquired an important role in leisure and adventure activities. River cruises, cycle paths, nature parks and local recreation areas were established which continue today to contribute to the allure of the Danube.