My favorite city on the Danube is easily Budapest. Besides being the city I met my girlfriend in (10 years ago!), the bridges and architecture are the best on the river. It is also an incredibly walkable city. On my last visit I toured around with City Sightseeing’s Budapest Hop on hop off bus. Although it was a great way to cover a large area in a short period, Budapest on foot is the best way to experience Hungary’s capital city. Budapest was the final stop on my trip down the Danube with Viking Cruises and I was eager to see and show off what the accessible highlights are from the Viking Cruise port.
With our Viking cruise ship tightly tucked next to the Chain Bridge, we were in the perfect spot to explore Budapest from. To be honest, it was pretty tough to leave my private balcony with views like this. Can you blame me?
To cover as much of the city as possible (and to get me out the door) we started our day seeing Budapest on foot by tagging along on the included city tour excursion. Viking Cruises does a great job getting its guests out and about and makes the most out of each stop with free excursions and activities. In Budapest, this was a guided bus and walking tour. The bus tour took us past city highlights such as the Hungarian Opera House, Hero Square, and the Pest Synagogue (Europe’s largest) before dropping us on top Castle Hill for a guided walking tour.
Buda Castle was first built in the 14th century but, like the rest of the city, was heavily damaged during World War II. At that time it’s secret tunnels below served as a hospital. Postwar it served as a bomb shelter for the Soviet-controlled city. Today, the tunnels are open to tourists and offer a great view of life during Nazi and Soviet reign.
Above these tunnels is the castle and the beautifully tiled Matthias Church. Now if you’re taking a tour down the Danube with Viking cruises, You will probably be over churches by this point. I strongly recommend you do not skip Matthias Church. It’s unique tile work really makes it one of a kind and the colors inside and out are beautiful.
After touring the church our group started making its way back to the ship. We decided to continue our Budapest on foot tour by taking in the views before heading down the hill via the 146-year-old funicular. Note: Pay a couple euros for access to the upper viewing platform next to the Matthias Church for fewer selfie sticks in your postcard photos!
Budapest is known for its beautiful bridges. With 8 fascinating ones that cross the Danube, it is easy to see why. Sadly, several were destroyed by the fleeing Germans at the end of World War II. This includes the Chain Bridge, arguably the prettiest of the bunch. Thankfully it has been rebuilt to its original state. A walk across it is a must do while visiting the city. Really, you could spend a day crisscrossing Budapest on foot, exploring places like Margaret Island and Gellert Hill.
After a pit stop back at our Viking Cruise ship for lunch, our Budapest on foot tour concluded with a walk around the country’s parliament – one of Europe’s finest.
Perched on the Danube, the Hungarian parliament building is a stunner. Constructed from 40 million or so bricks, it is also the 3rd largest in Europe. Although tours inside are available, we chose to continue on by foot. In doing so we took in the beauty of the grounds, fountains, and sculptures that surround this masterpiece. We also made a stop at the Budapest Uprising exhibit. Located on the southeast corner of the parliament building, this underground museum does an excellent job sharing the story of Hungary’s uprising in 1956.
Down the Danube
Our Budapest on foot tour continued along the Danube promenade. The riverside path is worth a stroll to say the least. Be sure to stop at the Shoes on the Danube Bank art display. This installation tells the sad story and shares the memory of Hungarian Jewish men, women, and children that were executed and pushed into the Danube during WWII.
Great Hall Market
26 minutes and 3 bridges later we arrived at the Central Market Hall. Note: if the distance is too great for you, the city trams run the same route along the river and has stops near the Viking Cruise ship port and in front of the market. Hop on the #2!
Along with Riga’s Central Market, this historic building is one of my favorite markets in Europe. Don’t miss a visit to the top floor where locals dish out delicacies like goulash and lángos, a Hungarian flat bread topped with sour cream, cheese, and onions.
Post-market tour we made our way back to our Viking Cruise ship via Vaci Street. This pedestrian only street is lined with major brand name shops, cafés, and restaurants. Stop for a beer or coffee with a side of people watching out front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. A great way to spend an hour or afternoon!
Home Sweet Home
Seeing Budapest on foot from the Viking Cruise port is easily doable and highly recommended. It’s a great way to see the city at a slow and relaxing pace. Combining this route with the Viking Cruises included excursion, Budapest’s yellow streetcars, and metro system makes it easily achievable for less mobile guests too. Those looking to make more of their time in Budapest should consider taking a local cooking class or take in a show at the historic opera house. Either way, there is much to experience in this vibrant European capital city.
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This Budapest on foot tour was made possible thanks to Viking River Cruises. As always the experience, opinions, and 100’s of photos are my own.