Cruising the Danube? Stay in Budapest an extra few days before or after your sailing - two or three on either end should do the trick. Most of the city has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so wherever you wander, you’re guaranteed an incredible introduction to the city’s art, culture, architecture and history. Actually composed of three unified cities (Buda and Obuda on the Danube River’s west bank and Pest on the east bank), Budapest is a heady blend of contemporary and historic styles, with a range of activities for every interest, from thermal spas to world-class museums. To whet your appetite for exploration, here’s the very best of Budapest!
To be fair, the best view you will get of the Hungarian Parliament Building is from the deck of your river-cruising vessel, but if you have time, take the opportunity to get an interior tour, too. Built in the Gothic Revival style and one of Hungary’s largest buildings, the impressive structure contains countless parliamentary offices, some of which you can see on the guided tour (available in different languages).
Gellert Bath and Spa Centre
Budapest is known for its thermal spas (particularly delightful in the colder months). Don’t miss this famous one, an Art Nouveau-style complex originally built between 1912 and 1918. After sustaining World War II damage, the entire spa was carefully renovated to be returned to its former glory. Today, you can visit any day of the week to enjoy the bubbling pools, open-air pool/wave pool, Finnish sauna and plunge pools.
At the end of Andrassy Avenue, Heroes’ Square represents the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, said to have led the Hungarians from central Asia to the Carpathian Basin. Look closely at the top of the central pillar, where you’ll see the monument of Archangel Gabriel, holding the Hungarian crown. If you have time, pop into the art galleries that sit on either side of the square.
Stroll along the majestic river you are about to sail (or have just sailed). The Danube promenade stretches from the Elizabeth Bridge to the Chain Bridge. On the Buda side of the river, you’ll glimpse Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Along the promenade side, pop into various restaurants and cafes, visit Szechenyi Istvan Square and take a few Insta-worthy snapshots of the Little Princess sculpture.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the base of the St. Stephen’s Basilica Dome. Not a fan of heights? Tour the main level of this important religious building, where it is said you can see the right hand of Stephen, the first king of Hungary, in the reliquary. During the summer months, classical music and organ concerts are often held inside and on the square outside.
Hungarian State Opera House
If you’re an opera fan, splurge on a ticket to a show at this impressive, 1,200-seat auditorium. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph in Neo-Renaissance style, the 1884 building is considered to be one of the best spaces in the world for operatic performances. No time for a show? Take a short, guided tour during the day. Notice the statues of composers Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt outside.
Don’t miss the chance to really experience Budapest before or after your Danube River cruise. Let’s chat about where to stay and what to do.