Named the Best Cruise Destination of 2017, Budapest is split into two sides: Buda on the west of the Danube River and Pest on the east. As the capital city of Hungary, Budapest is known for its Art Nouveau architecture, Jewish heritage, folk culture and much, much more.
While on a European river cruise you’ll have the opportunity to discover Budapest in all its glory. Here are a few things for you to do while in port:
Take a tour of the Parliament Building
Known as one of the most beautiful government buildings in the world, Budapest’s Parliament Building attracts nearly 700,000 visitors each year. Situated on the UNESCO listed banks of the Danube River, the structure was built during Budapest’s golden era when the city was a capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With 691 rooms and over 20 kilometres of stairs, the building is still a functioning law-making body but is open to public at certain designated times and you can take a 45-minute guided tour to discover more.
Climb to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica
The jewel in Budapest’s crown, St. Stephen’s Basilica takes pride of place in the city centre. Named after Stephen, the first king of Hungary who ruled between 975 and 1038, the basilica was completed in 1904 after 54 years of construction. Perhaps the star feature of the church is the 96-metre-high dome, which is lined with ornate religious reliefs, gold detailing and kaleidoscopic cupolas.
As the largest church in Budapest, it holds up to 8,500 people and regularly hosts classical music and organ concerts. Situated to the left of the main altar is the mummified right hand of the patron saint of the church. Entry to the church is by donation and once inside you can climb to the top to be greeted with a breathtaking panoramic view of Budapest.
Relax at a thermal bath
More than 118 natural thermal springs deliver 70 million litres of therapeutic waters to the city of Budapest each day – it’s no wonder bathing is such a popular pastime for locals! The culture of bathing first rose to popularity with the Romans who enjoyed soaking in mineral-rich hot water. Budapest is aptly nicknamed the city of spa’s and bathing in a thermal spa is the perfect way to relax after a long day of exploring the city.
Though there are plenty of baths to choose from, our favourite is Széchenyi – a sprawling Neo-baroque building home to indoor and outdoor pools as well as a sauna and steam rooms. The water here is warm year-round with cooler days still sitting at 27 degrees Celsius. To avoid crowds either head here early in the morning or book a guided tour to skip all the queues.
Grab a drink at a ruin bar
Ruin bars are one of the most unique and quirky things to do in Budapest. The concept started when creatively minded locals set up bars inside derelict, pre-war buildings. Today, the unconventional hangout spots are the highlight of Budapest’s nightlife.
The majority of Budapest’s ruin pubs and bars can be found in the trendy Jewish Quarter. Our favourite of all is Szimpla Kert, which was the first ruin bar to be established. It’s a derelict maze of bizarrely decorated rooms and hidden outdoor nooks with farmer and flea markets during the day and live music or film screenings at night. Each bar has its own unique style, so it’s worth visiting a few on a ruin bar tour to get a real feel for their differences.
Walk across Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is Budapest’s most famous bridge. Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clark, the cast iron structure opened in 1849 and was the very first permanent bridge constructed across the river. Linking Buda to Pest, the bridge connects Széchenyi Square in front of Gresham Palace to Adam Clark Square below the Castle Hill Funicular. It symbolises bringing people together and takes around 15 minutes to stroll across.
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