Sitting on the banks of the Danube River, Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is the perfect spot to start or finish a luxurious European river cruise. Not only is the city infinitely romantic with gorgeous architecture, a beautiful castle, theatres and all things art, it’s a great place to explore at your own pace and take a minute to unwind.
Known as the “City of Baths” because of it’s numerous hot springs, visitors to Budapest can soak their ails away in the mineral waters of the public baths, said to have healing powers that will soothe sore bodies. The bathing culture dates back to Roman times and if you’ve had a busy few days walking and exploring on a river cruise, we think soaking tired feet in the hot baths might be just the ticket! On the other hand, if you’ve just stepped off a long flight, what better way to get into holiday mode?
Once you’ve enjoyed a good soak and are feeling rejuvenated, it’s time to hit the streets and see what Budapest has to offer. To get around, you might like to try the underground train system which is the oldest in Europe. It’s called the Millenium Underground as it opened on Budapest’s 1000th anniversary in 1896 and connects the city centre with City Park.
Now, no trip to Budapest is complete without seeing a couple of iconic sites. The Parliament Building sitting resplendent on the banks of the river (which you’ll often see in pictures of Budapest) covers an impressive 18,000 square metres, has 691 rooms, 20 kilometres of stairs and is the third largest Parliament building in the world. It’s an excellent example of Neo-Gothic architecture, with a touch of Renaissance and Baroque as well.
Buda Castle is also well worth a look. The castle has a fascinating history from the time of original construction between 1247-1265, with wings added, gone to ruin and reconstructed. It’s been the home of kings, destroyed in the great siege of 1686, rebuilt once more, operated as a nunnery and university, damaged by fire and destroyed once more during World War II. If only these walls could talk, what stories they would tell! Today, the castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum as well as the Castle Museum and is a must-do for any history lovers.
Next on the list is Heroe’s Square, home to the iconic monument depicting the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, said to have led the Hungarian people from central Asia to the Carpathian basin. Either side of the monument are art galleries.
In fact, Budapest is teeming with monuments and incredible architectural structures like the Dohany Street Synagogue, Fisherman’s Bastion, Hungarian State Opera House and St Stephen’s Basilica to name just some. You could spend several days exploring them all.
If you’re looking to relax a little more, take a trip out to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube. The island is 2.5 km long and you’ll find parkland, the dancing music fountain, medieval ruins and recreational facilities. You can hire pedal carts or golf carts so that you can explore the whole island.
For a spot of shopping, try the Great Market Hall – Budapest’s most famous marketplace. Many locals do their grocery shopping here as you’ll find locally grown fruit and veg, but you’ll also find souvenirs, lace and leather goods and all kinds of good finds! There’s also a food stall upstairs where you can try the local fare.
Finally, seeing this beautiful city by night is a must. Take a stroll on the Danube walkway to see the bridges and famous sites lit up with lights along the beautiful river and soak up the ambiance!
There are many river cruises either starting or finishing in Budapest, but one that has captured our attention particularly is the “Hungary to the Black Sea” aboard the RV William Wordsworth. We’ve got a great deal available with this river cruise with fully inclusive fly/cruise/stay package including shore excursions, sightseeing pre-cruise and bonus onboard drinks package from $7995pp. You can check out the details here or click here to request a call from one of our Ultimate Cruising