The Danube and Budapest

Whether you come to Budapest for a weekend or live here for years, you have to make time for a Danube river cruise . Even locals catch their breath when crossing one of the elegant bridges spanning between Buda and Pest, but to get the full effect of this amazing cityscape, you have to board a boat.

Until 1873 Buda and Pest were two separate towns, and the two banks of the river still have distinctively different characters. Both banks of the river are UNESCO World Heritage sites from Margit Bridge in the north to Szabadság Bridge in the south, an area which includes Buda Castle, the Citadel and Parliament and you can see all of them from a unique angle from the river. Passenger shipping on the Danube is almost as old as the city, launched in the 1880s. Today you have a confusing number of choices of classic or out-of-the-ordinary sightseeing tours. Legenda river boats are in effect "glass bubbles," protecting passengers from the elements, while giving a 360° view of the city. Legenda also offers Candlelit dinner cruises with live music, which are simply magical: even if you have seen it during the day, Budapest lit up at night is worth a second trip. For something a bit different, try RiverRide, an amphibious bus that turns into a boat on the Danube. If you're looking for something more intimate, rent a Dunarama water taxi or water limousine for personalised sightseeing or a special event. If you are on a budget, or just looking to get from A to B in a more exciting way, Transport for Budapest (BKK) has four public transport boat routes on the Danube, which you can use with a ticket that only costs a few hundred forints more than a regular bus ticket. The routes cover most of Budapest, calling at several stops, including Kopaszi Dam, A38, Szent Gellért Square, Petőfi Square, Jászai Mari Square.

The Danube of course doesn't begin and end in Budapest. It is an international shipping lane, a wonderful gateway to the countryside to the north and even beyond our borders. MAHART PassNave, the national passenger shipping company has a wide range of boat trips on offer. Discover the Danube bend on a classic river boat to the picturesque towns of Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom. Significantly faster Hydrofoil boats travel regularly to Visegrád, Esztergom, Vienna and Bratislava and are also available to rent for private functions Viking Cruise ships are a familiar sight mooring near Chain Bridge. Viking has really taken the luxurious experience of an ocean cruise and applied it to river journeys that either begin or end in Budapest (Amsterdam-Budapest, Bucharest-Budapest, Budapest-Nuremberg, Passau-Budapest). Explore one of Europe's most beautiful waterways and the quaint villages and grand cities that grew up along it.