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Cruises to Budapest

Budapest (Photo:TTstudio/Shutterstock)
Budapest (Photo:TTstudio/Shutterstock)

About Budapest

Divided by the Danube River, the Hungarian capital of Budapest -- known as the "Pearl of the Danube"-- is a city of two distinct halves.

The hilly Buda side is topped by the impressive Royal Palace, home to several museums and charming cobbled streets lined with shops and houses that date to medieval times. On the busier Pest bank, there are grand sights like the parliament building, opera house and statue-lined Heroes' Square, plus fantastic shopping streets, such as Andrassy Avenue, Budapest's grand central boulevard.

Several bridges cross the river, but the best one to use is the historic Chain Bridge, which is the oldest. The great thing about Budapest, a mainstay on most Danube River cruise itineraries, is it's compact, so you can pack plenty into a short break. The majority of sights are within walking distance or easily reached on the efficient tram and underground network.

Coffee shops are a big thing. At one time, there were more than 400 in Budapest, so take time out to join locals for a caffeine boost and a slice of yummy cream cake. Budapest is also the world's only capital city to boast more than 80 active thermal springs and wells; soaking in the warm, mineral-rich waters is an authentic experience. Szechenyi is the largest, with indoor and outdoor pools, and Gellert is famous for its opulent -- and mostly original -- architecture. Many river cruise operators offer trips to the baths as an excursion option.

Budapest's history dates to the third century, when Celtic warriors occupied the area. Study the place a bit, and you'll find yourself wondering: Who didn't invade the city? The Romans, Magyars, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, Austrians, Germans and Soviets have all played starring roles in Budapest's longstanding municipal drama. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries -- part of the reason for its eclectic architecture, which includes everything from neo-Classical to Stalinist utilitarian. Its current skyline reflects the building programs and styles of the turn of the 20th century. As Claudio Magris wrote in his travel memoir, "Danube," "Budapest is the loveliest city on the Danube. It has a crafty way of being its own stage-set."

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DAY 1: Budapest

7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
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Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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DAY 1: Amsterdam

14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Amsterdam
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Kinderdijk, Cologne ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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DAY 1: Passau

7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Passau
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Linz, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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DAY 1: Budapest

14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Budapest
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Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
AmaWaterways
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
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Vienna, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
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Vienna, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Amsterdam
Visiting:
Kinderdijk, Cologne ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Budapest
Visiting:
Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Amsterdam
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Kinderdijk, Cologne ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
AmaWaterways
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Amsterdam
Visiting:
Kinderdijk, Cologne ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Passau
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Linz, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
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Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Budapest
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Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Vienna, Emmersdorf ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
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Vienna, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
AmaWaterways
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
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Cruise Line:
AmaWaterways
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Amsterdam
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Kinderdijk, Cologne ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Budapest
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Vienna, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
APT
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

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Budapest
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Vienna, Durnstein ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Budapest

Leaving:
Budapest
Visiting:
Bratislava, Vienna ...
see more
Cruise Line:
Viking River Cruises
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Why go to Budapest?

Pros:

The city is well-known for its "Ruins Bars," derelict buildings turned trendy watering holes

Cons:

Pickpocketing and bicycle theft can happen, especially with tourists

Bottom Line:

Old World charm meets a bustling, modern vibe in Hungary's capital city

Budapest Cruise Port Facilities?

Ships dock on both sides of the Danube, right in the center of town, which means a good many of Budapest's highlights are walkable from the riverbanks.

If you're moored on the Buda side, you are closest to the Castle District, and you can follow a zig-zag path up to the top or take the for-fee funicular, which is the fun (and easy) way to get there. Or stroll along the bank to the ornate Gellert Baths, one of the city's thermal spas, which are open to the public. From moorings on the Buda bank, you need to walk across the nearest bridge -- usually the Chain Bridge -- to reach the attractions of Pest.

The Pest side is closest to the upscale shops of Andrassy Avenue, the parliament and St. Stephen's Basilica, and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants with outside terraces lining the waterfront. Also nearby is the Tourist Information Center in Deak Square.

Good to Know?

Budapest is generally safe, particularly in the main tourist areas, but as you would in any large city, beware of pickpockets, and keep your belongings safe. Avoid unmarked taxis or those with only a taxi sign on the roof, as these will be unlicensed, and drivers can rip off tourists. Do not buy vouchers for Szechenyi thermal baths from street hawkers; they will be fake.

Getting Around?

On Foot: One of the best things about Budapest is that it is walkable, with a compact city center. Many of the main sights are within a 20-minute walk of the docking area. Biking is also a great option, as Budapest has well-marked bike lanes both in the city and along the Danube River.

By Metro: The Budapest underground system is a tourist attraction in its own right. Built between 1894 and 1896, the M1 or yellow line was the second in the world after London and still has some original tile work. The M1 line is near ground level, and there are no elevators -- just a short flight of stairs to each station. Three lines serve all the major tourist destinations. The Metro is clean, safe and fast, with regular services running every two to 10 minutes. Individual tickets or books of tickets are available from manned booths at each station (denoted by large M signs). Tickets are also valid for use on trams and buses (although the latter is more complicated to work out and not advised when the Metro and tram system are much easier). Validate your ticket in the orange boxes at Metro entrances before travel, as inspectors carry out spot checks and fine passengers who do not have correctly stamped tickets. Maps of the lines are available from tourist offices and hotels. Signs above the track show the direction of travel, but if you go the wrong way, simply get out at the next stop and cross over to the other side.

By Tram: If you have a map, it's also relatively easy to get around on the city's extensive tram network and enjoy a spot of sightseeing as the trams rattle through the streets. Tickets are available from coin-operated machines next to the stops and must be purchased before travel. The machines don't dispense change. They must be validated on another machine. One of the most scenic routes is number 2, which runs along the side of the Danube. Routes 47 and 49 are the two main lines connecting Buda with Pest.

Tip: Buy a Budapest Card from the Tourist Information Office. Available for 24 hours to 72 hours, they provide free public transport; a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour; and discounted admission to selected museums and attractions.

By Taxi: Budapest's licensed taxis are bright yellow and easy to spot. They have a set tariff, and fares are show on the sides of the doors. It's worth noting the telephone number, as ordering a cab by phone is cheaper than hailing one in the street, albeit fares are still relatively inexpensive in comparison with those in other European cities. Firms include Fototaxi, which is also the official transport partner of Budapest Airport. (+36 1 222 2222)

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 but has not adopted the euro. The currency is the Hungarian forint, denominated in coins and notes. Check online for the latest exchange rates.

ATMs, readily available throughout the city, tend to be the least expensive way to obtain local currency. Generally, banks are open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. As in any city, there are currency exchange offices that charge a commission. Many souvenir shops and street stalls accept euros, but check first and expect to get any change in forints. All major credit cards are accepted at larger, tourist-friendly shops. Carry cash for cabs and smaller retailers.

Language?

The official language Hungarian. It's a tough language to master, and it has more links with Finnish than the languages spoken in the countries that surround it. But a few basic words go a long way: "Hi" is szia (si-ah). "Excuse me" is bocsanat (bo-chaa-naht). "Good morning" is jo reggelt (yoh regh-ghelt). English is widely spoken in hotels, shops, restaurants and all the major tourist attractions. The youth in Hungary are likely to speak English, but many older residents don't.

Impress locals by pronouncing Budapest the "right way", with the "pest" part pronounced "pesht."


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2017 Top-Rated European River Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated European River Destinations

Budapest Cruise Reviews

MD101112
Sail Date: Dec 2019
We had already been in Budapest for 2 days, but really enjoyed this quick overview. The guide was very knowledgeable and patient with the group.... Read More
kck2685
Sail Date: Nov 2019
Budapest was incredible! We couldn't believe how easy it was to get around the city and how easy it was to get by knowing no Hungarian. The restaurants we visited were great and the wines were incredible.... Read More
Scenic Jasper
Light03
Sail Date: Jul 2019
Love Budapest - so much to see. It was easy to take public transport and walk around.... Read More
Miss Merla
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Budapest is a very beautiful city and I would highly recommend spending more time that 1 day there. There is so much more we wanted to see but not enough time.... Read More
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