The Danube is the soul of Budapest and the city's landmark. This river separates the capital of Hungary in two: Buda and Pest, and the most emblematic buildings are distributed along its banks making each bridge a viewpoint.
Sail on the Danube on board a cruise ship
Take a tour from the water, coast along the different stops and enjoy a different kind of sightseeing experience. You'll have an audio guide, WiFi on board and all you'll have to worry about is taking lots of photos.
For around 15 euros you have the opportunity to take a cruise on the Danube for more than 70 minutes, in which you will have plenty of time to take pictures of the panoramic views from the boat, to enjoy the experience itself and to learn interesting facts and stories about the different monuments and places of interest in Budapest that you will see during the tour.
Recommended if... you want to sail on the Danube but you don't want to spend a lot on the experience.
Enjoy a dinner and a show while sailing on the Danube
Experience an unforgettable evening on board a cruise that includes dinner and a traditional music and dance show. Admire the breathtaking beauty of Budapest's iconic monuments from the water.
If you are interested in seeing a Hungarian dance show during your visit to Budapest, this tour incorporates a regional show and a dinner cruise on the Danube.
You will be able to marvel at all the attractions and the most emblematic buildings of the city such as the Chain Bridge or the Buda Castle.
Recommended if... you want to have a different experience but make the most of the local attractions.
Danube cruise options
There are different day and night cruises on the Danube River in the city. The price depends on the extras included, as there are cruises that include a show, dinner, etc. I'll tell you about the best ones so you can choose yours:
During this Danube cruise you are entitled to enjoy free WIFI connection and choose another drink (glass of champagne, wine, beer, soda or mineral water). There are various timetables available, the tour is available in both winter and summer as the boat has a deck that is retracted in fine weather.
The boat has audio commentary in 30 languages which you can access individually with helmets to learn more about some of the points on the tour such as:
The Hungarian Parliament
The largest monument in Budapest with spectacular lighting and a total of 691 rooms. If you are impressed by it from the boat, be sure to make time during your visit to see the interior where you will find statues of kings, rooms adorned with frescoes and gold leaf, the Hungarian crown presiding over the lobby, a 96-metre dome and a spectacular Congress Hall.
Also known as the Royal Palace. It was once the residence of the kings of Hungary, but today it houses the Hungarian National Gallery or the Budapest History Museum as well as a huge library.
One of the most modern bridges in the city, it is dedicated to the famous Empress Sissi, Queen of Hungary. The woman who became a legend won the hearts of the Hungarian people and always held a special place in Budapest, which she considered her second homeland.
The Chain Bridge
One of the most famous bridges in the city both for its illumination at night and for its views during the day. It is the oldest bridge in the city and for a long time nobles and commoners had to pay a toll to cross it.
A small island in the middle of the Danube River with beautiful parks, a Japanese garden, medieval ruins and a musical fountain. The boat has a stop there so you can get off, walk around the island for an hour and a half before completing the tour.
Budapest cruise with dinner and live music
This is a cost-saving option if you intend to enjoy both experiences. The Danube Dinner Cruise experience includes the transfer to and from the hotel, as well as transfers between the different points along the route.
The first stop is the Danube Palace or the House of Hungarian Heritage where the Hungarian music and dance show is performed by one of two folklore groups (depending on the season): Danube Folk Ensemble or Rajkó Folk Ensemble and Orchestra.
The cruise route
- Buda Castle
- Chain Bridge
- Gellert Baths
- Mount Gellert
- Clark Adam ter
Halfway through the cruise you can also enjoy a dinner consisting of three hot dishes and a choice of two drinks. The dishes you will taste on this cruise are typical Hungarian dishes. You will be able to choose between some of them:
- Goulash soup
- Cream of vegetable soup
- Traditional style chicken thighs
- Roast chicken breast with cheese and basil sauce
- Spiced pork ribs with thyme and mustard sauce
- Grilled Polenta with Feta Cheese
- Homemade spinach fritters with mustard and mushroom sauce
- Homemade strudel
Pizza cruise with open bar in Budapest
This option is available from around 34 euros per person and has the added attraction of being able to enjoy a cruise along the Danube with pizza and an open bar for around 70 minutes. It is a perfect plan if you want to spend a pleasant time without obsessing about taking pictures of the monuments, otherwise you will miss the experience of dinner with pizzas and beers.
Ideal for a group of friends or family and share a pleasant moment while you get to know the city and relax while sailing.
- Elizabeth Bridge
- Budapest Parliament
- Buda Castle
- Chain Bridge
- Margaret Bridge
- Budapest National Theatre
- Palace of Arts
- Freedom Bridge
Danube Night Cruise
This is a highly recommended option for a night cruise on the Danube, as it is great value for money and will take you no more than 1 hour to do.
You can admire the illuminated monuments at night, relax on the Danube and have a complimentary drink such as wine, beer, champagne or soft drinks.
The excursions depart between 18:00 and 22:00 and the boat has free WiFi, so all you have to do is enjoy yourself and take pictures.
Tips for a Danube Cruise
River cruising in Budapest is such a widespread activity that you will find many companies offering it. Always make sure you book this experience with a reliable company and bear in mind the average prices: a Danube cruise is not a luxury activity and you can do it for around 20 euros on average. However, if it includes services such as an open bar or a party, the price increases considerably.
Make sure that the boat has panoramic views and that you can enjoy them regardless of the weather. Although cruises are available at any time of the year, I don't recommend doing it in winter at night as the low temperatures could ruin the experience and prevent you from enjoying the scenery.
As a personal tip, don't get hung up on taking photos during the tour; you will have plenty of time during your trip to take them and if the cruise includes a guide or host you can even ask them about the best viewpoints in the city. The Danube cruise is all about enjoying the views and the experience of cruising along the river while enjoying dinner or live music - don't treat it as a tourist rush.
Finally, if the cruise passes Margaret Island in the middle of the river and you have a chance to get off , definitely do so and then continue the cruise on the next boat. This island has no great historical monuments, but it does have some very charming spots that will give you more than one surprise.
If you are interested in a cruise on the Danube, you will also be interested in
The city by night vs. by day
A boat tour is a good way to get an idea of the sights of the city and its main sights, but it is not a way to visit them. I mean, if you book a night cruise you're sure to be impressed by the view of the illuminated Parliament and it's sure to be one of the best memories of your trip, but are you really going to miss the chance to come back the next day to see it up close and visit the interior?
It's a similar story with the Chain Bridge; no doubt you'll get a unique perspective of it from the river, but are you going to give up walking across it during your visit to Budapest just because you've "seen it before"? Rather, take this tour as an appetizer of what the city has to offer and then visit as many of the sights as you can from a different perspective.
A guided walking tour
Walking is the best way to get around any city because a place is not made up of the monuments that appear on a map, but of the narrow streets that link them and the establishments you come across on the way to them. The true essence of the city is discovered on foot and with a guided walking tour you will also have the opportunity to learn about the legends and stories surrounding those statues and palaces you focus on with your camera.
For me, a guided walking tour is one of the best experiences you can have in any city; if you want to find out more about the options available you can check this other article: 16 Best Day Trips and Tours from Budapest.
Tourist bus ride
A ride on the sightseeing bus. From the Danube you will see all the city's monuments located on the banks of the river, but there are others that are just as significant and are in the interior of the city. The sightseeing bus is a great way to shorten distances and get a different perspective of Budapest. There are many different options and it's worth considering, which is why I've written this other guide to the city's sights. Budapest Hop on Hop off Bus Tours which may be of interest to you.