Our final destination on the Emerald Sky cruise ship was Budapest, as the sun shone and we sailed into our mooring position, a brilliant position opposite the the magnificent Parliament Building. This is the site that you see on any postcards showing Budapest and it doesn’t disappoint, a fitting end to a wonderful tour.
The Emerald Waterways coaches and guides met us on the quay side and took us on a very comprehensive tour of Buda and Pest, (pronounced Pesht), which are joined together by nine bridges that link this exciting diverse city. The two contrasting ‘cities’ were joined to make Hungary’s capital in 1873.
Buda’s hills provide a wonderful riverside setting for historic buildings, these include Castle Palace which now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and National Library, and the surrounding Castle Quarter is a warren of lanes leading to The Gothic Church of St Matthias and the Fishermen’s Bastion with wonderful panoramic views of the Danube – which isn’t Blue!
If you are an independent traveler the cable car will take you up from the riverside to the Fishermen’s Bastion, but our guide said that in the summer months the queues for the cable car are long, so walking up is an option and quicker. The tour continued to the Liberation Statue or Freedom Statue on Gellert Hill. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom and prosperity of Hungary.
We then went over the River Danube on the Chain Bridge to visit the bustling wide boulevards of Pest with its shops and department stores; you can literally’ shop till you drop’. Andrassy ut is Budapest’s most impressive boulevard and offers an unbroken chain of monumental buildings and is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace on foot. It ends at Hero’s Square with its enormous Millennium Monument. Behind the Monument is the tourist information office and toilets, rather necessary in this busy city whilst touring, but please be prepared take 50 cent coins for the toilets throughout this journey as everywhere charges to literally ‘ pay as you go’. At the side of the information office is the entrance to the City Park, a boating lake in the Summer and at the time of our visit it had been transformed into an amazing skating ring, a wonderful sight adding to the Christmas theme that had been running throughout our trip.
The city is full of historic sights, the grandeur of St Stephen’s Basilica is magnificent, and of course the wonderful Parliament Building. Budapest holds the title “City of Spas”. There are 118 springs in Budapest providing over 70 million litres of thermal water a day with the temperature of between 21 and 78 Celsius. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit one, but be prepared and check before you decide to go. There are separate sessions for women and men, as well as mixed sessions, so this may not fit in with your schedule.
Our Emerald Cruise had finished but one last trip was planned, and during the evening after dinner a short cruise was arranged to see Budapest by night. The ship cruised up the Danube and back, under the bridges and past the buildings that were lit up to show off this beautiful city, as we drank our hot Gluhwein and we raised our glasses with our many new friends and acquaintances, a fitting end to this magical Christmas journey.
RiverRide is a special sightseeing tour on which you can see the sights of Budapest from a comfortable seat, first along its busy streets, and then, from one second to the next – to the gasps of some of your fellow travellers – you splash into the lapping water of the river. Budapest without the Danube would not be Budapest, and whoever tries it once will never forget the magic of admiring the view while being gently rocked on the rippling waves. But taking everything in from the deck of a luxury coach makes the experience even more special. After the watery adventure, climbing back to the rivershore, you’ll find yourself once again in the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.We start the tour from the Chain Bridge, pass by the Parliament and take the Margaret Bridge to drive over to the Buda side. We stop in the Castle District and during a short walk we show you the main attractions of the area. We walk to Matthias Church and to the Fishermen’s Bastion (from where you can enjoy the beautiful panorama).
Next, we drive to the Gellert Hill (Citadel) and show you the most spectacular view of Budapest. We then take you over the Elisabeth Bridge to Pest and show you the famous Central Market Hall and the largest Synagogue of Europe, after which we drive to the City Park. We pass by Europe’s largest thermal spa, the Budapest Zoo and the Amusement Park, then stop at the Heroes’ Square (with statues of the most famous Hungarian kings and dukes).
We then take the Andrassy Avenue to downtown Pest, pass by the Opera House and the St Stephen’s Basilica. During the tour we offer a brief overview of the last 1000 years of Hungarian history. The Tour ends in the city-centre.
Glynis Sullivan travelled with Emerald Waterways. Read more information
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 1: What’s On Board
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 2: Cologne
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 3: Salzburg
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 4: Vienna
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 6: The perfect Christmas River Cruise