For those who don't want to get too touristy by taking a sightseeing tour, I can recommend taking a boat trip with the Duna Legenda boat company. Their price includes a Margaret Island tour (on certain departures), 2 drinks where one is their Duna cocktail and the other one you can choose from wine, soft drinks and juice and audio guides in 30 languages. Besides the sights, what I liked the most was how the story of the sights is narrated - in the form of a lovers' story between a man, Buda, and a woman, Pest. Different and entertaining.
You can book your cruise online.
One of the most exiting things to do in Budapest is the cruise over the Danube River. I suggest to do it in the evening, where you can see all the monuments of Budapest full of light with their reflection on the river. A very great experience.
There are several companies offering Danube cruised, but after doing some research I decided to book with Legenda, and I was not disappointed! This tour features a documentary available in several languages that tells you the history of Budapest through captivating legends. As interesting as they were, however, I must admit that I spent most of the cruise paying more attention to the incredible view of the city at night and taking countless pictures. The cruise took us beyond Liberty Bridge and then down to Margaret Bridge so we got to see the Gellert Hotel, Buda Castle, the Chain Bridge and Parliament all lit up :o) We decided to sit on the upper deck so we could have a clean view - there were plastic screens around the lower deck. We were offered glass of wine at the beginning of the cruise, which was a much appreciated touch. The one-hour long tour costs 5300 forints and we bought out ticket during the day - they sell them on the Danube Promenade, just look the Legenda booth. It was money well spent!
In case you would like to leave the city for a day, then it's worth going on a day trip on the Danube by boat. It is a really relaxing way to travel, and you can get to Hungary's nicest areas this way.
The two nearer destinations available by boat are Szentendre (1.5 hrs) and Visegrád (2.5 hrs).
Szentendre is a small town near Budapest with a nice, but usually crowded centre. It's a great destination if you like strolling in cobblestone streets, visiting old churches, shopping souvenirs and eating cakes and ice-cream.
Others attractions here include a bunch of art museums and galleries, a public transportation museum (next to the station of the suburban railway - HEV) and the Skanzen, which is an open air museum displaying typical Hungarian houses (out of town, take local bus to get there).
Visegrád is a good option if you like trekking, as visiting the Upper Castle (Fellegvar) requires a steep climb uphill. However, there are amazing views from the castle over the Danube, so it's worth the effort.
Other attractions here include a bob track (open all year round) and a lookout tower close to castle on top of the hill, and ruins of an old royal palace downhill near the river.
Esztergom (4 hrs) is further away along the Danube, so you will only have about 3 hrs to spend there before the boat is leaving back to Budapest. However, this time is still enough to visit its Basilica and the surrounding area. Why it might also be worth taking the longer trip to Esztergom is that the section between Visegrád and Esztergom is one of the nicest areas in Hungary, the "Danube Bend".
If you would like to spend less time travelling and extend your stay in Esztergom with a few extra hours, you have two further options:
1. Take a hydrofoil instead of a standard riverboat. It is much faster, but you will only be able to enjoy the views from indoors (while riverboats also have outdoor seating).
2. Go there by train and then come back by boat (or vice versa), as trains are faster and leave at least once every hour. Furthermore, the route of the train is quite scenic as well...
Boats to Esztergom leave from the piers near Vigadó tér, while the trains depart from Nyugati station.
This was a siper way to relax and see the sites.
There are several cruise lines to choose from . Make sure you pick one with an open top area , for better viewing. It was a wonderful one hour cruise , with multi lang headphones to explain what you ar seeing. Great sites and information. It cost 2990 FT ( about $20.00)
We chose the Mahart PassNave
Definitely a must do...I went on a night cruise, it was beautiful. You can see all must-see buildings situated by Danube. Be careful...there are lots of different companies and prices are different,so ask around, you can get the same thing for two times cheaper price.
We had chosen to make a night cruise to Danube and as far as I'm concerned it was really worth trying. We saw the city ligthed and all the basic monuments, Citadella and the Statue of Liberty, Gellert monument, the Castle, the old city and the Mattyas Church, the Parliament. We chose Legenda Cruise for our cruise. It's a beautiful ship, with helpful stuff. They offered us 2 drinks during the cruise and the only problem is that the guide has a problem so some people couldn't hear anything and the others could hear only English and French. However I really like the cruise and the view of the city.
There are also plenty of cruises to choose (cheap, average, expensive). You could also make a 3-hours cruise and taste different hungarian wines.
It's definetelly a thing to do in Budapest.
I always thought that boat trips are mostly tourist traps. But in Budapest, it is not. This city has the most beautiful illumination in Europe. The most important and beautiful buildings are situated near Danube, so a boat trip at night is the best way to see most of them.
It is a pleasure to slip over this old river in a darkened, covered and heated boat, listening to a nice voice which tells the stories about Budapest. Seeing the bridges from the boat was amazing, too.
These boats have audio guides in several languages and oddly Turkish is one of them. It was recorded by two Turkish who was living in Hungary. I’m not sure whether all the guides were the same but in Turkish audio guide, Danube’s story was told by Danube itself. The context was very catchy and listening to Danube was exciting.
It is not very common to see Turkish as an option in a foreign country, but Hungary has an exceptional connection to Turkey. Our languages has many words in common, we have a history lived together binding us and we came from the same place (Central Asia) to where we are settled now. We even have folk songs about Danube in our language, but we name it “Tuna”.
We were hypnotized by the smooth voice of the audio guide, warm place, beauty of Danube… Then the waitress started to serve beverages. I drank champagne to the beauty of Budapest that night.
Cruise on the Danube is a must for every tourist in Budapest.
The view is beautiful during day and night - You will see the bridges , luxurious hotels , churches , Buda castle and buda hill , the parliament.
There are a lot of cruise offers - only around Budapest or to the Danube bend - from the hotels you will get a very expensive offer (can be 16000 Forint) while you will find local cruises in very cheap prices (2000 forint to the Danube bend).
The cruise to the Danube bend and Visegrad on Maharat Passnave cost me 2000 Forint while the hotel and the tourist company wanted 16000.
At dusk, many of the buildings along the Danube are illuminated, the Chain Bridge included. It brings romance to an otherwise ordinary boat ride. The Budavar, the Parliament, etc. looked more mysteriously appealing as they glow in the dark.
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