Budapest is the starting and ending point for many Danube river cruises, some sailing west to Passau, Nuremberg or beyond, or east to Bucharest. The ships generally stay in Budapest for a few days; a nice amount of time to explore the area.
Most river cruises include a lovely city tour, taking you to both sides of the city - the "Buda" side and the "Pest" side. The hilly Buda side is more quiet and mostly residential, but offers fantastic views of the city from the tops of the hills, especially from Fisherman's Bastion overlook. Most luxury hotels and other accommodations are on the Pest side (pronounced "pesht"), as are major landmarks, museums, shopping, restaurants, pubs and cafes.
The city tour stops is two spots where one can get off the bus. The first is in Heroes' Square, a monument built in 1896 celebrating the 1000th anniversary of Hungarians arriving in the Carpathian Basin. Heroes' Square is one of the most visited attractions in the city.
The second stop is Castle Hill, a World Heritage site, which dates back as far as the 13th century. One can spend an entire day exploring the area, but with limited time we only walked through the main attractions: Trinity Square, Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion, which offers spectacular views of the city.
Matthias Church is over 700 years old and is named after the Hungarian King Matthias. The church has a rich history, including becoming the city's main mosque during the Turkish occupation. The church also houses a museum. Both the church and the museum are free to the public.
Fisherman's Bastion is only about 100 years old. The fish market was nearby, and the bastion was built as a tribute to the fisherman who protected the area. The overlook is very popular, as it provides fantastic views of the city and the Danube. Note that a fee is charged to access the upper level.
The area has a number of cafes and souvenir shops, displaying a number of local crafts. Hungarian paprika is a big seller, however, if you have the time, wait to purchase this in a grocery store. It's a much better value.
Despite having only spent a few short hours in Budapest, I know I will be back to explore more of the city. Budapest is a beautiful and intriguing place. Lunch and a cold beverage under the Chain Bridge was especially nice way to end my cruise on the lovely Danube River.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder