Flowing from the Black Forest in Bavaria through ten countries to the Black Sea the Danube is one of the most romantic rivers in Europe. Astride it sits the beautiful and historic city of Budapest, much of it floodlit at night! So how can you best get the flavour of this lovely city and its stunning riverscape?
Start your trip by taking the city’s No 2 tram, which drives all along the Danube embankment – offering some fabulous sightseeing. The embankment is a World Heritage Site.
Széchenvi Lánchíd or Chain Bridge is the most iconic of the city’s old bridges – you’ll recognise it from its wonderful lion statues. Like the city’s many other bridges, it links the two sides of the city, hilly Buda and downtown Pest. Climb up Buda’s Gellert Hill (Gellérthegy) to the Citadella for breathtaking views of the river and its bridges.
Then there’s Buda Castle (another World Heritage Site!) and the area around it with some fantastic museums and galleries. The 700-year old Royal Palace (Királyi palota) has some of the most magnificent views across the Danube. It houses the National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria).
There are also spectacular views from the terrace of Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya), with its unusual conical towers. Below it lies the Neo-Gothic Matthias Church (Mátyás templom), with its multicoloured tiled roof and gothic spire, where royalty was crowned!
On the Pest side of the river visit St Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest, which holds the 900-year old mummified right hand of the first king of Hungary, St Stephen.
Don’t miss Heroes’ Square (Hõsök tere), again a World Heritage Site, with its Millennium Monument and statues. It stands at the entrance to the city park (Városliget) – lovely to stroll through.
From the park, walk along Andrássy Avenue, a World Heritage Site for its unique architectural style. The wonderful old buildings include the Opera House. Peek into one of the internal courtyards and you might see original statues and fountains.
On the banks of the Danube, the Parliament is a massive, magnificent building with a distinctive red dome and spires. The interior is decorated with marble and gold – in the central domed hall the historic Hungarian Holy Crown is exhibited.
Did you know that there are over 170 natural caves lying below Budapest, created by the thermal springs that supply the city’s thermal baths? Keen cavers can take a guided tour to visit one of three that are open to the public: Castle Cave (Várbarlang), Pálvölgyi Cave and Szemlöhegyi Cave.
For something more relaxing, take a boat trip along the Danube, or have a picnic on Margaret Island (Margitsziget) between Margaret Bridge and Arpád Bridge, where there’s a beautiful park.