Many Budapest visitors (and even longtime residents) never realize that the city’s BKK public-transport company maintains a fine fleet of ferryboats that ply the Danube daily – and during summertime, these stalwart ships provide an ideally panoramic way to discover some splendid day-trip destinations within Hungary’s capital. Follow our easy directions to take an ultra-affordable urban cruise from central Budapest’s riverbanks to the pleasant parklands of Margaret Island, Kopaszi Dam, and Római Part.
BKK ferryboat basics
Almost anyone can enjoy a ride on Budapest’s public ferries, providing regular service up and down the Danube with popular line 12 stretching nearly the entire way between the city’s northern and southern borders. A single-ride ticket can be bought aboard from the crew and costs only 750 forints for adults and 550 forints for kids, although people with any unlimited-ride BKK transit pass – even just the 24-hour pass – are entitled to board the ferries for no extra cost on weekdays.
Several city-center ferryboat docks dot both riverbanks (including at Parliament, Vigadó Square, and Jaszai Mári Square in Pest, and Batthyány Square and the A38 Ship on the Buda side); these docks all have timetables posted. Passengers can catch ferries heading north or south from all central-Budapest docks, and line 12 provides frequent service to all of the destinations featured below. For the current ferry timetable click here, and for a comprehensive guide to Budapest’s public boat service, read this article.
Sure, it’s possible to reach Margaret Island from either Buda or Pest by walking down the park’s main access road beginning halfway across Margaret Bridge, or even taking bus 26 from Nyugati Square… but there’s something special about arriving here by boat, the primary way it was reached during the many centuries when Budapest had no bridges.
Beyond the sweeping views over Parliament and Buda Castle to enjoy on the short voyage from the city center, we also enjoy cruising here because the two Margaret Island (“Margitsziget”) docks are located toward the middle of the island – so instead of encountering huge crowds swarming the bridge entryway, ferry riders step directly into wide-open flower-lined fields just steps away from numerous open-air attractions.
Margaret Island’s centrally sited ferryboat docks makes it a breeze to score a prime picnic spot without having to lug your lunch all the way there. And during the Budapest Summer Festival, when alfresco performances fill the historic amphitheater beneath the Margaret Island Water Tower, these municipal ships provide an especially romantic way to attend a show – just make sure to catch a boat going to the “Margitsziget Szabadtéri Színpad és Víztorony” stop.
One of the city’s newest parks is sited directly on the Danube in south Buda, adding welcome swaths of greenery to a largely industrialized zone. While this grassy open space with its own bay is a fine urban getaway, it can be difficult to reach by bus or tram – but Kopaszi Dam also has its own BKK ferryboat dock (“Kopaszi-gát – BudaPart”) to ease access for all Budapest dwellers.
Kopaszi Dam is a nice alternative picnic place that is usually less crowded than Margaret Island or downtown parks. Actually, Kopaszi Dam visitors don’t need to bring food at all – several welcoming eateries operate here with diverse menu offers, well-stocked bars, and ample terrace seating, such as resort-style VakVarjú Beach Bistro, rustic Fruska, and kid-friendly Café Ponyvaregény.
Fans of fresh-air fitness will love Kopaszi Dam – the park features a rubberized running path, free street-workout machines, and other sports facilities. Meanwhile, children also enjoy action-packed fun on multiple playgrounds or when chasing the resident ducks. Furthermore, Kopaszi Dam is a lively venue for sports events and small-scale festivals.
On the north-Buda riverbank, Római Part is an unpretentious promenade of old-school snack bars and laid-back hangouts populated by lazing pensioners, beery bicyclists, fun-loving families, and hipsters escaping the concrete jungle. This is the site of Budapest’s northernmost ferryboat stop (“Rómaifürdő”), and city life feels far removed from this relaxing retreat.
There aren’t so many things to do in Római Part apart from feasting on fried fish, wandering between watering holes, and admiring the riparian scenery while chatting with friends… and that’s exactly the point of this place. However, the popular Fellini open-air pub sometimes hosts live music and outdoor movie screenings, providing a lovely low-cost date destination.
The Római Part ferryboat stop is close to another unique attraction: the family-friendly Római Bath is filled by a thermal spring once used by local settlers from ancient Rome (hence the area’s name), and welcomes visitors with outdoor pools, water slides, and a playground – thus a boat trip to Római Part can actually include plenty of activities for a full day of sunny fun.