A Ferry Through Budapest’s History

Author’s Note: Here’s another that I started a long time ago, but never finished. The good news is that the city’s back to normal. The bad news is that this ferry is history, yet again.

What’s the difference between a free sightseeing boat and a major disruption to your daily life? Nothing, if you’re a tourist. Or, if you’re a certain commuter, everything!

There’s a busy metro station sitting beneath the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest. It’s a very easy way for many office workers to quickly go from remote areas of the city to their desks.

But, guess what, it was closed for a while! They were doing some sort of reconstruction, so they shuttered the station for a series of months. It was probably pretty inconvenient if that’s the stop you liked to use every morning and evening.

Fortunately, they came up with a solution.

The Parliament Building sits right on the bank of the Danube, and it’s a key feature of the skyline. So, the local transport service decided to have a ferry go right across the river to the next metro station. It left every 15 minutes, and it quickly puttered to the other shore. It was free with a valid public transit pass, or just the price of a normal metro ticket.

Dinner cruises are a common site on the Danube, but not commuters.

I can’t imagine that there are a ton of people who found it beneficial (it was significantly slower than the train), but it’s probably really great for a select few.

None of that matters, though, because I loved it!

It was basically a free sightseeing boat. You could take it at sunset, and you had an amazing view of the illuminated Parliament Building, plus the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, and all the other bits of beauty in this river city.

Then, there was the historical aspect.

Budapest used to just be Buda and Pest (and Óbuda – who somehow got the cheap end of the naming deal) until 1873 when they united into the city we know today. Not coincidentally, this followed the building of the first bridge 1849. That was an event which changed the foundations of life in the area.

Before the bridges, the only way to cross the river was on a ferry boat. This made it fairly frustrating at best, and up to impossible during bad weather. Needless to say, everyone except the ferry boat operators were pretty excited about the change.

The Chain Bridge changed everything!

If you’re someone like me who loves history, you tend to find your mind wandering to a place where you could float across the river. There are plenty of dinner cruises that go up and down, but that’s not the same. And it’s really convenient to take the metro underneath the river, but it’s far less scenic.

I really enjoyed the brief little journey we took over the darkening river. There was a dense cold in the winter night, but there were plenty of birds floating in the water, and they scattered as our brave captain plowed through at full speed.

Once the project was finished, the boat joined its ancestors. The public transport headed back underground.

My apologies to all the inconvenienced commuters, but I found that boat to be pretty awesome.

You'll still get views from boats, just not the same one.

 Hungarian Word of the Day:


This is pronounced like the English word “comb” with a “p” at the end, and it means “ferry.” It’s nice when I come across a Hungarian word that isn’t so tough to say!