While you could choose to whizz around Budapest on a bike or hop on one of its vintage yellow trams, it’d be a shame to skip setting sail down the city’s mighty river.
The Danube – which cuts across no fewer than nine countries – runs right through the heart of the handsome Hungarian capital and forms the boundary of its two sides: Buda and Pest. The former is the domain of Castle Hill and its numerous Renaissance monuments, while the latter is where you’ll discover Budapest’s downtown district, its shabby-chic ruin pubs and the iconic Hungarian Parliament Building.
Booking yourself onto a Budapest boat tour is, in our opinion, one of the best ways to see as much of both districts as possible! Loads of the city’s major sights are visible from the water, plus there’s myriad cruising options which go beyond just your basic sightseeing tour…
Budapest dinner cruises
If a slap-up meal with a stunning view sounds like your ideal date night, then you’ll love a Danube dinner cruise.
There are a few different operators who offer this kind of Budapest night cruise, but a good company to go for is Silverline. They serve up two courses of gourmet grub (that’s actually very tasty!) on candlelit tables as you glide past key sites lit up in lights like the Hungarian Parliament Building, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Elizabeth Chain Bridge.
You can also pay extra for various add-ons; get a dose of Hungarian culture with the traditional folklore and operetta show or watch nimble-fingered musicians go head-to-head during a dramatic piano battle.
If you’d prefer something more laidback, why not opt for Silverline’s no-frills pizza and beer Budapest boat cruise instead? Gorge on pizza heaped with your favourite toppings and then wash it all down with as many pints of beer as you can drink during a 75 minute tour.
Price: Silverline dinner cruises start at 13,800 HUF (£35) per person, while the booze and pizza cruise is 14,300 HUF (£26).
Budapest party cruises
Boat parties are a big hit with Budapest stag dos – but you don’t have to be celebrating your best mate’s nuptials to rave on the river.
Numerous companies throw bashes on the Danube, including Budapest Boat Party. Their rowdy cruises operate throughout the year and range from backpacker-friendly boat bar crawls to their signature Shipwrecked parties – we’re talking unlimited drinks, awesome DJs and lots of glitter (eco-friendly, of course). Visiting Budapest in a big group? It’s also possible to reserve an entire boat to yourselves.
For something a little lower key, a craft beer cruise with Budapest River Cruises might be a better match. You’ll get to taste five ales and lagers from Budapest’s top microbreweries, learn about the beer-making process from experts AND soak up the city’s sights. Not too shabby for 10,200 HUF (£26).
Price: Budapest Boat Party cruises start at 3500 HUF (£9) and go up to 12,300 HUF (£30) for the full shebang.
Budapest sightseeing cruises
Okay, so we said no boring sightseeing tours, but sometimes they’re the best way to see a city while sticking to a tight budget or time frame.
There’s an endless list of sightseeing Budapest boat tours, so we’ve narrowed it down to a couple which offer the perfect balance of price and substance. First up is Hop On Hop Off Budapest who offer one hour guided sightseeing river tours at various times throughout the day. Boats leave from the Pest side of the Elizabeth Bridge and do a loop around Margaret Island, with a pitstop on the island’s south shore. Tickets can be used twice (plus they’re also valid on Hop On Hop Off buses), so if you fancy jumping off for a stroll, you can pick up the tour exactly where you left off when the next boat sails by.
For those keen to do a Budapest night boat tour, Budapest Danube Cruise’s glass boats will keep you cosy while providing uninterrupted views across the water. Their sightseeing route also goes up and around Margaret Island, with guides sharing crazy stories about Budapest’s most iconic buildings and their former inhabitants.
Price: Hop On Hop Off boat cruises start at 8800 HUF (£22) for 24 hour boat and bus access, while the Budapest Danube Cruise night tour comes in at 6300 HUF (£16).
Long distance Danube cruises
The cream of the crop when it comes to boat trips in Budapest has to be ones which take you beyond the city limits.
If a multi-day tour down the Danube has been on your bucket list for ages, check out Viking River Cruises. They offer a range of eight-day Danube cruises which begin or end in beautiful Budapest and make pit stops at other lush cities in the region such as Vienna, Passau and Bratislava.
You’ll get all sorts included in your ticket, from guided tours in every destination you visit to plush suites and tasty meals onboard. Probably the best thing about Viking is that all their boats are small, meaning you’ll get a more personalised experience – always a good thing in our books.
Cost: Eight-day Viking River Cruises down the Danube start at £1595 per person.
Festive Budapest river cruises
Like many European cities, Budapest doesn’t lose any of its charm once winter arrives. The city nails the whole festive vibe with its Christmas markets and snowy scenery, plus there’s always the option of warming up with a mug of mulled wine in an atmospheric ruin pub…
Another thing that’s pretty big in Budapest during the winter are festive Danube cruises which can either take you to a range of cities famous for their Christmas markets or see you tucking into a seasonal feast as a guide points out famous Budapest landmarks.
If digging into a full-on Christmas dinner on the Danube is a dreamy prospect, Budapest River Cruises offer two hour night time river tours throughout December. The boats are always nicely decked out in fairy lights and tinsel, plus you’ll be able to sample both Hungarian and more mainstream festive dishes as you gaze out at floodlit heritage sites. For something less fancy, a mulled wine cruise lets you discover more about Budapest while sipping delicious mugs of hot spiced wine.
Price: A Christmas dinner cruise down the Danube starts at 23,000 HUF (£58), while the mulled wine option is just 9200 (£23).
Orbzii top-tip: Student exploring Eastern Europe’s epic cities? Almost all of Budapest’s river cruise companies offer great discounts if you can prove that you’re still studying.
Already picturing yourself gliding down the Danube with a drink/camera in hand? Make it a reality when you Dream, Plan and Book your Budapest getaway with Orbzii.