If you are Budapest-bound, especially if you have never been to this city before, plan to arrive via the river at night. Danube cruise ship passengers know to be out on deck when the Hungarian capital’s grand illuminated landmarks start to fill the scene, and the senses: the bristling domes of the Parliament building on the Pest side, the Castle atop its broad hill on the Buda side, and Chain Bridge guarded by stone lions connecting both halves of the city. It’s a symphony of architecture, light, and rippling reflection that a history of war, revolution, and occupation hasn’t silenced. Dinner cruises, some accompanied by Gypsy violinists, pair chicken paprikásh with the panorama.
Take a walking tour around the city just after sunset, when all of Budapest lights up like a Christmas tree. Stroll around the riverside promenade as the city buzzes with night-time revellers, or visit brightly lit heritage sites gleaming in the dark. The adventurous can sign up for the Legendary Vampires at Castle Court tour and discover the darker side of the city (city tours 1-3 hr; from €40/₹3,000; vampire tour www.mysteriumtours.com; 9 p.m. every Wed, Fri, Sun; 2 hr; €20/₹1,500).
Budapest has over 15 public thermal baths and numerous private spas. Many stay open late. Some, like the 16th-century Rudas Bath, are known for weekend spa parties. Soak in steaming waters or get a hammam treatment, while sipping a drink and listening to music. Try to book the glass-domed rooftop thermal bath that overlooks the Danube (www.bathsbudapest.com for baths in the city; www.rudasbaths.com, Rudas Baths’ Fri and Sat spa parties 10 p.m.- 4 a.m.; bath €15/₹1,115).
Budapest’s seventh district, near the Old Synagogue on the Pest side, has some of the city’s most unique night spots—ruin pubs. The Old Jewish Quarter has transformed into a hipster hangout, its lanes of ruined buildings now occupied by pubs with beer taps, quirky decor, and DJs spinning turntables. Standing alongside family-owned Jewish restaurants and bakeries, these quirky ruin pubs sport pop-coloured furniture, garden seating, pocket-friendly prices, and a palpable energy.
Come dusk, the Danube shimmers with the magical reflections of the city that sprawls along its banks. Take the road up Gellért Hill to one of the cafés and restaurants around the Citadel for a drink with a view. For something quieter, even contemplative, walk to the 19th-century decorative fortification of Fisherman’s Bastion to gaze out over the Pest side of the city (Fisherman’s Bastion entry free between 8 p.m.-9 a.m.; parts of Citadel open all night, entry free).
Appeared in the February 2017 issue as “Nights by the Danube”.