The Danube Bend - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to The Danube Bend

The Danube Bend

The Danube is the second longest river in Europe after the Volga, flowing for 1,771 miles (2,857km) through nine different countries. Before reaching Budapest it is forced through a narrow twisting valley in the pretty Carpathian Basin, known as the Danube Bend, eight miles (13km) from Budapest. The cluster of towns on the bend offers an amazing collection of history, culture and architecture, particularly the small Baroque towns of Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom.

The Danube Bend is an extremely scenic area with green valleys and hills rising up from the river, picturesque little towns with market squares and commanding fortresses with sweeping views. Many visitors choose to do a boat cruise on the Danube from Budapest stopping at the little towns along the way. Because of its close proximity to the capital, many people on a holiday in Hungary choose to use Budapest as their base and take day trips into the Danube Bend. Combined with good facilities and easy accessibility, it is one of the more popular destinations in Hungary.

Information & Facts

Eating Out

Szentendre has a range of homely restaurants and the main square hosts a selection of cafés. Rab Ráby, on Kucsera Ferenc utca 1/a, with its quaint chequered tablecloths and a wonderful outdoor courtyard serves up traditional Hungarian fare, while Régimódi Vendéglõ, on Dumtsa Jenõ utca 2, specialises in fish and vegetarian fare.

Esztergom has a range of eateries popular with tourists. Pázmány Péter utca has a great selection including Padlizsán Restaurant where you can eat while gazing at Esztergom's castle. For beer and roast pork head to Csülök Csárda on Batthyány utca 9.

Getting Around

If walking along the cobbled streets in each of the Danube Bend's towns is not to your liking then another popular way to tour these small towns is by hiring a horse carriage in each. Esztergom has a quaint mini-train called the Narrow-Gauge railway that does town tours.

Hungarian (Magyar) is the official language, but German is widely spoken, especially in the areas close to the Austrian border. English is spoken in tourist areas and most hotels.

Even though Hungary is part of the EU it does not use the Euro; the official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Travellers cheques are not widely favoured. Credit cards most accepted in the country are AMEX, Diners Club, EnRoute, Euro/Mastercard, JCB and Visa, and these can be used to withdraw cash from banks and ATMs and to pay bills in hotels, restaurants and most shops. Banks usually open between 8am and 4pm on weekdays and some are open on Saturdays. ATMs and currency exchange machines are available in towns and cities throughout the country. It is advisable to retain exchange receipts for proof of legal currency exchange.

Esztergom combines history with a small-town riverside charm. One of Hungary's most historically important towns, it was the capital for over 250 years and the birthplace of their beloved first king and saint, Stephen, who was later crowned here in the 11th century. Today it remains the religious centre of the country with Hungary's largest church dominating the hill above the town next to the ruins of the medieval Royal Palace, now the Castle Museum. The colossal basilica was the first cathedral in the country and from where Roman Catholicism was introduced to the nation. It offers wonderful views from its enormous dome and contains a crypt and priceless treasury collection. Below is the pretty Watertown District with uneven cobbled streets winding up the hill towards Castle Hill and several interesting museums. Esztergom faces Slovakia across the Danube and there is an international ferry crossing here.

Szentendre, 'The Pearl of the Danube Bend', is a quaint old market town situated on the slopes of the Pilis range, with a charm and character of its own. Meandering cobbled lanes, little squares, red-tiled roofs, brightly painted houses, and awkwardly positioned Orthodox churches give it an artistically picturesque setting. Serbian refugees inhabited the town in medieval times and their style contributed to the charisma of the town's haphazard structure and Balkan flavour. Numerous Serbian churches add to the collection of historical buildings. In the 1900s the town became a favourite retreat for painters and sculptors and ever since it has been known for its art and artists, resulting in a wealth of museums and art collections scattered among the tourist souvenir and handicraft shops. Being close to Budapest, the town has become one of the hotspots of tourism, and summer weekends can get rather overcrowded.

Known as the 'City of Churches', Vác is a pretty Baroque town on the east bank of the Danube Bend. The cultural and commercial centre of the left side of the river, Vác is a popular tourist destination in Hungary, especially as a day trip from Budapest. The stunning cathedral, found by the first Hungarian King, St Stephen , is the most popular attraction in Vác, though there are many other sites to visit. A more macabre attraction is the Memento Mori Crypt, which houses naturally mummified corpses and is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Superbly situated on the abrupt loop of the Danube beneath steep hills, Visegrad was once a Roman stronghold on the border of the Roman Empire and the second home after Buda to Hungary's royalty in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Citadel sits high on the hill above the town with commanding views over the river bend and the position was of strategic importance to the Romans. On the banks of the river are the ruins of the magnificent palace, one of the finest ever built in Hungary, which is now the open air King Matthias Museum. Today the small, sparsely populated town has a pleasantly lethargic atmosphere that belies its past glory and importance and it makes a peaceful excursion from the crowds of the big city.

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