The Danube is the soul of Budapest and the reference point to locate in the city. This river separates in two the capital of Hungary: Buda and Pest, and the most emblematic buildings are distributed on its banks making each bridge a viewpoint.
Sail on the Danube aboard a cruise ship
Travel from the water, coast the different stops and live a different sightseeing experience. You will have an audio guide, WiFi on board and you will only have to worry about taking lots of pictures.
For about 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 of the different monuments and sights of Budapest that you will see during the tour.
Recommended if... you want to sail on the Danube but do not want to spend a lot on the experience.
Enjoy a dinner and a show while sailing on the Danube.
Experience an unforgettable evening aboard 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 live a different experience but making the most of the local attractions.
Danube cruise options
In the city there are different cruises to cruise the Danube River during the day or at night. The price depends on the extras included, as there are rides that include a show, dinner, etc. I tell you about the best ones so you can choose yours:
During this Danube cruise you will be entitled to enjoy free WIFI connection and choose another drink (glass of champagne, wine, beer, soda or mineral water). There are several schedules available, the tour is available in both winter and summer as the boat has a deck that is retracted in good weather.
The boat has audio commentary in 30 languages that you can access individually with helmets to learn more about some of the points of the tour such as:
The Hungarian Parliament
The largest monument in Budapest with a spectacular lighting and a total of 691 rooms. If you are impressed from the boat, be sure to book a time during your visit to see the interior where you will find statues of kings, rooms adorned with frescoes and gold leaf, the crown of Hungary presiding over the lobby, a dome of 96 meters or a spectacular Congress Hall.
Also known as the Royal Palace. Formerly the residence of the kings of Hungary, but today houses the Hungarian National Gallery or the Museum of History of Budapest and a huge library.
It is one of the most modern bridges in the city and is dedicated to the famous Empress Sissi, Queen of Hungary. The woman who became a legend managed to win the heart of the Hungarian people and always had a special place in Budapest, which she considered her second homeland.
The Chain Bridge
One of the most famous 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.
It is a small island located in the middle of the Danube River with beautiful parks, a Japanese garden, medieval ruins or 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 cruise experience with music and dinner includes the transfer to and from the hotel, as well as transfers between the different points of the tour.
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 folk groups (depending on the season): Danube Folk Ensemble or Rajkó Folk Ensemble and Orchestra.
The cruise itinerary
- 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 two drinks of your choice. The dishes you will taste on this cruise are typical of Hungarian gastronomy. You will be able to choose from some of them:
- Goulash soups
- Vegetable cream soup
- Traditional style chicken thighs
- Roasted 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
Cruise with pizza and open bar in Budapest
This option is available from a price of about 34 euros per person and has the incentive to enjoy a tour of the Danube with pizza and open bar for about 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 pizza and beer.
Ideal for a group of friends or family and share a pleasant moment while you know the city and relax while sailing.
- Elizabeth Bridge
- Parliament of Budapest
- Buda Castle
- Chain Bridge
- Margaret Bridge
- Budapest National Theater
- Palace of Arts
- Freedom Bridge
Danube Night Cruise
This is a highly recommended option for a night cruise on the Danube, as it is very good value for money and will take you no more than 1 hour to do.
You can admire the illuminated monuments at night, relax while sailing 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 service, so you will only have to enjoy and take pictures.
Tips for a cruise on the Danube River
The Budapest river cruise is such a widespread activity that you will find many companies offering it. Always make sure to hire this experience with a reliable company and keep in mind the average prices: a cruise on the Danube is not a luxury activity and you can do it for about 20 euros on average. However, if you include services such as open bar or 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 do not recommend doing it in winter at night as the low temperatures could ruin the experience and not allow you to enjoy the scenery.
As a personal tip, don't obsess about taking pictures 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 the river while enjoying dinner or live music; don't take it as a tourist rush.
Finally, if the cruise passes by Margaret Island located in the middle of the river and you have a chance to get off do so without hesitation and then continue the cruise on the next boat. This island does not have great historical monuments, but it does have charming corners 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 serves to get an idea of the sights of the city and its main points of interest, but it is not a way to visit them. I mean, if you book a night cruise, the view of the illuminated Parliament is sure to impress you and will stay with you as one of the best memories of the trip, but are you really going to miss the opportunity to come back the next day to see it up close and visit its interior?
Something similar happens with the Chain Bridge; no doubt from the river you will get a unique perspective of it, but are you going to stop walking across it during your visit to Budapest just because "you have already seen it"? Rather take this tour as an appetizer of all that 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 tour any city because a place is not made up of the monuments that appear on a map, but of the narrow streets that connect them and the establishments that you come across on your way to them. The true essence of the city is discovered by walking 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 tour is one of the best experiences you can have in any city; if you want to learn about the available options you can check this other article: 16 Best Day Trips and Tours from Budapest.
Tourist bus ride
A ride on the tourist bus. From the Danube you will see all the monuments of the city 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 tourist bus is an ideal way to shorten distances and have a different perspective of Budapest. There are many different options and it is worth to take them into account, that is why I have written this other guide about Budapest Hop on Hop off Bus Tours that may interest you.