Budapest, Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if not the world. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who’s ever visited and I’m sure they’ll agree. The duality of Budapest becomes apparent as daytime changes into night and the city’s monuments and bridges are lit up brightly like Times Square. On the last night of my Romantic Danube river cruise on Viking Atla, the captain invited all passengers to sit out on the deck at 10 pm to enjoy an evening cruise with commentary about the city. Here are five reasons why tourists love cruising the Danube at night in Budapest.
1. The Best Views of Budapest
While I certainly enjoyed Budapest during the day, the view while cruising along on the Danube at night was magnificent. Considering the banks of the Danube, Castle Hill, Gellért Hill, and several other landmarks in Budapest are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it should come as no surprise how epic the view is.
I was “oohing” and “aaah-ing” so much during the cruise that I know I missed some of what the captain was saying about the various sights along the way, but that never took away from the view or the experience. Views like this can’t be seen anywhere else but from on the Danube itself.
TSG Tip: Look for Liberty Statue (Szabadság Szobor) perched up high atop Gellért Hill. Nearly impossible to photograph with your cell phone but if you can capture it, it’s a picture worth taking.
2. Budapest Comes Alive at Night with Lights and Color
With Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other, the entire city and the banks of the Danube are bathed under a kaleidoscope of colors.
You’ll see pale whites to bright yellows and oranges and even the pinks, greens, and blues of the Palace of Arts.
At night the colors appear to multiply because of the reflection off the Danube.
Whether you’re a pontist (anyone who enjoys working with or visiting/photographing bridges of any kind) or not, you’ll love the bridges of Budapest. One of the bridges we sailed under was Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd), the third newest bridge in Budapest that connects downtown Pest with Gellért Hill.
Located on the narrowest part of the Danube at 951′ across, Elizabeth Bridge has a total length of 1,242′. This modern suspension bridge might remind you of other bridges like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York, for example.
Other bridges we spotted include the shortest bridge in Budapest, Liberty Bridge, as well as its most famous bridge, Chain Bridge.
4. There’s More Than One Way to Cruise Down the Danube
While I was able to enjoy cruising the Danube at night in Budapest while onboard Viking Atla, don’t worry about missing the view if you’re not on a river cruise. Options available to choose from include riverboat, sightseeing cruises, scheduled boat and ferry service, Danube Bend cruises, or even hydrofoil. Probably the most popular choice is with one of the many companies that offer both day and night sightseeing cruises on the Danube. Some offer buffet meals, authentic Hungarian dishes, beverages, and/or pre-recorded commentary available in a variety of languages.What happens in Budapest, stays in Budapest.Click To Tweet
As we sailed along the Danube, we noticed many of the sightseeing boats sailing along with us. Some of these boats were more party centric than others and on one boat the passengers on board looked like they were having a really good time. As I peered into the boat using my camera’s zoom lens, I could see it was some kind of a bachelor party with partially dressed women dancing around and straddling a man in a chair. Yeah I was right — they were definitely having an exceptional time! What happens in Budapest, stays in Budapest.
You often hear me saying how fortunate I am to be able to travel the world as often as I do. When I travel and see breathtaking man-made structures and natural attractions, like the Sydney Opera House or the Grand Canyon, I feel like I’ve hit the lottery. Cruising down the Danube and seeing Parliament all lit up at night was definitely one of those times.
As the Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház) glows bright like a flame with its orange reflection dancing in the Danube, you might start to question whether or not what you’re seeing is real. Is it real? Is it fake? But then your brain interrupts to chime in, “Snap out of it! You know it’s real!” and you return to taking in the view of Parliament in complete and total amazement. Hands down this was my favorite part of the entire nighttime cruise in Budapest.
TSG Tip: After I returned home I noticed a huge disparity in picture quality depending on what camera I used. The first image of Parliament at the top of this post was taken with my iPhone 6 plus while the latter pics were taken with my Nikon. They may be different in color and quality, but I’m glad I had both from which to choose pictures.
If you’re planning a trip to Hungary and you’d like to experience cruising the Danube at night in Budapest, pack a jacket, a good camera, and prepare yourself for some of the best sights of your life and an experience you’ll always remember.
I was a guest of Viking River Cruises for this cruise, but as always — all opinions and photographs are my own. Want to see the rest of my Romantic Danube river cruise posts? Click here. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Travel Shop Girl website while you’re here, too.