I feel the best when I am surrounded by bodies of water. Lakes, rivers and beaches make me happy.
This has to do a lot with me being raised in Puerto Rico. Most of our outings were related to water. Think tropical rainforests full of waterfalls, fishing excursions to thunderous rivers and lazy days in front of turquoise colored waters.
In order to continue my water related adventures, I decided to book an excursion around the Danube Bend when I visited Budapest.
The Danube has its origins in Germany’s Black Forest. For hundreds of miles, it moves from west to east. Close to the border of Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, the river takes a sharp turn and starts to flow north to south. The area‘s towns and resorts constitute a beloved recreational destination for Hungarians.
Here are some of the towns and sights that can be discovered on a daytrip from Budapest.
Esztergom is a place that occupies a special place in the heart of Hungarians. In 960, the ruling Hungarian prince, Geza, choose the area to build his residence. From there, he started to send peace messages to the Holy Roman Emperor. Later, his son Vajk, converted to Christianism, baptized and asked the Pope to crown him King of Hungary.
The crowning ceremony took place in Esztergom and Vajk became Stephen of Hungary (later St. Stephen), the first king of the newly recognized nation (in political terms).
The crown jewel of the city is the Basilica, the largest church in Hungary and seat of the Roman Catholic Church in the country.
Our guides started by driving us to the town of Sturovo in Slovakia in order to appreciate the Basilica from the other side of the Danube.
By crossing the Marie Valerie Bridge, we were back in Hungary and ready to take a closer look at the Basilica.
Once in front of the building, you realize how humongous it is. It is 118 m (387 ft) long and 49 m (160 ft wide and has an inner are of 5,600 m2. The dome height is 71.5 m (234 ft). I felt like an ant when looking at the columns in the front.
We were not able to linger inside since mass was taking place. I stood for a few moments observing the ceremony.
In the panorama room, we had time to enjoy a cup of coffee while contemplating gorgeous views of the Danube. Next to this room, there is an exhibition with details of how the Basilica was built. There is a model showing the original plans for the construction (most of them never became a reality).
Then, it was time to take a look of our surroundings from the terrace. Once again, I fell in love with the river, its bridges and red roof towns. Just take a look at these views!
And, of course, there is a statue commemoration the pivotal moment in Hungarian history, the coronation of St. Stephen.
We were given some time to walk around a medieval fair that was taking place in the Basilica grounds. We were able to observe “fights” between Hungarians and Turks, kids riding horses and artisans selling regional products.
The small town of Visegrad is another popular stop in the Danube Bend area. Lunch was the main reason for our stop in here.
I ate a little bit faster than the rest of the group and was able to take a look at King Matthias Palace, the Danube and several streets in the town.
With our full bellies, we ascended to the Visegrad Fortress. It is from here that you can appreciate the notorious Danube Bend. I was lost for words when I found myself in front of this view. The more I discovered about the area, the more I want to go back and explore on my own.
Our last stop of the day was Szentendre. This town is known for its Serbian and Dalmatian influence. Once the Ottomans were expelled from Hungary, Serbs were invited to immigrate to Habsburg lands (since they fought on the Christian side during the war, Hungary ended being part of the empire after the Austro-Turkish War). It is estimated 37,000 families immigrated and many settled in Szentendre.
Today, the town is unique because it is considered an arts haven. More than two hundred fine and applied artists, authors, poets, musicians and actors live in the city.
In here, we were given time to walk the streets and discover at our own pace. We got swoon by the beauty of Szentendre in a matter of minutes. The buildings are colorful, art is everywhere and delicious gastronomic offerings abound. You can read an entire post dedicated to the town in here.
Back to Budapest by Boat
It was time to go back to Budapest but we were going to do it by boat. The one hour ride took us through some towns, numerous bridges and local swimming spots. Seems like Hungarians know how to live the good life!
Once we were close to the capital, the boat traffic increased and we knew our beautiful day was coming to an end.
Before going back to shore, we were given one last gift. Once the boat passed Margaret Island we started to get glimpses of the Parliament building glowing below the setting sun. The boat stopped in front of the structure for several moments. Ah, what a way to end up a day immersed in Hungarian history and culture!
- This trip (or a similar one) is recommended to those who want to take a deeper look into Hungary (outside Budapest).
- If you are interested in doing a similar excursion, consider booking with a company that focuses on small groups.
- The price of this excursion varies depending on what is included and what places are visited. Make sure you read a detailed description of what is done during the day.
- All towns in the Danube Bend area can be accessed by train or boat. Therefore, it is possible to visit independently. This option will give you more flexibility to explore each town.
Have you visited the Danube Bend area?
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