Danube Cycle Path - Györ to Budapest

Day 4 - Györ to Komarno (56 km)

For the first time on our cycling trip, we were greeted by blue skies and we were keen to get an early start for this leg across the reaches of the Hungarian plain and back into Slovakia. It was not to be - due to a combination of uninformative abbreviated directions in our map book, poor road signage and a vector map on my GPS that wouldn't "vectorise", we were riding blind in Györ and missed a critical turn. This obliged us to do a circular route in the industrial area of this city to get back on track - not an auspicious start.

Once clear of the town, however, we cruised along quickly, following the route of Eurovelo 6 to skirt the near-by village of Györszentivan. The sun was shining brightly, but the wind was pleasantly cool. Crossing the railway track, we found ourselves on a short section of rough, bone-jarring stony road which led us beneath shady trees to the even smaller and quieter village of Nagyhegy. Riding over a large and noisy autoroute and on through neighbouring Solohegy, we arrived at a relatively busy sealed road. This was our route into Bony - our morning pit-stop.

On Eurovelo 6 between Györszentivan and Nagyhegy

Wind turbines in the "Hungarian highlands"

The church at Bony

Not long after Bony, the cycle route left this main road to climb steadily up a quiet country road into the "Hungarian highlands" - probably only 100m higher than the surrounding flatlands, but covered with big turbines turning sedately in the wind. Unfortunately it was a north-westerly wind and we were now heading north-west, which made for even more work than the "big climb". Fortunately, it was only for 6 km, as we turned eastwards just before the next village of Nagyszentjanos.

The outskirts of Nagyszentjanos

Dirt track between the railway and the crops .....

.... and still not a bend in sight

It was another change of pace - the wind was now at our backs, but our pace slowed considerably as we found ourselves pedalling along an uneven dirt farm track between the railway line and large swathes of corn and stubble fields - the monotony of the landscape broken by the passage of a rapid train or two roaring down the track to Komarom. We were heading there too, but would clearly be taking a lot longer.

Our speed picked up, as the farm track morphed to a narrow sealed (though crumbling in places) laneway that made a straight bee-line eastwards. With a better surface, shady road-side trees, and a wind at our backs, it become easy to slip into that automaton zenlike state of riding as the kilometres ticked by - oops! clunk! I regretted not reading that well-known novel "Zen and the Art of Avoiding Potholes".

Lunch stop in the park at Acs, before ....

.... a final pedal through forest ....

.... and field

The road brought us to Acs (so good to be able to write an Hungarian town's name without triple checking on the spelling). Here we had lunch in the park before the final push to Komarom, the last town in Hungary. The first section is described in the guide book as impassable in wet weather. Luckily for us it wasn't wet and the route became an enjoyable pedal along a meandering dirt track through field and forest.

A bit of colour in Acs

Crossing the Friendship Brdge between Hungary and Slovakia

Riverside view of Komarno

A detour past a new industrial park under construction led us to the final run into Komarom, ending up back on bike paths as we rode towards the river. Then, there it was - the mighty Danube, now a very wide and industrial looking waterway. Riding on to the Friendship Bridge, which links the twin towns of Komarom and Komarno, we crossed the river, leaving Hungary and entering Slovakia once again (out with the Forints and back with the Euros).

Church spire, Komarno

Klapju Square in Komarno

The European Palace

After a short episode of misdirection to book-end our day of cycling with an unnecessary kilometre or two, we found our hotel and checked in. The afternoon temperatures had risen quite a bit and for the first time, we ended our ride in a sweat. All the better reason to enjoy a nice cold Slovakian beer before exploring the historic centre of Komarno - after a nice cold shower, that is.

Day 5 - Komarno to Esztergom (57 km)

Leaving Komarno was a breeze compared to leaving Györ - we cruised quickly along the waterfront road, sweeping around to cross a bridge over the Vah, a tributary of the Danube, and join the Eurovelo 6 cycle path on its levee-bank route along the great river. For the first time in several days, we were pedaling alongside the river - on its northern Slovakian bank, in fact. The levee was green and flower-speckled, but it was a shame that water views were limited to a few glimpses between the dense grove of trees lining the banks.

The Kelemantia site

The Vah River flowing into the Danube

The wind at our backs and the smooth asphalt surface on the levee saw us making good speed. Apart from a quick stop to admire the ruins of a Roman fort called Kelemantia, or take the odd photo of the storks feeding in the newly ploughed fields, we reached the little village of Radvan nad Dunajom. Here at last, we could get off the bikes and walk down to the river's edge.

Slovakian village on the Danube flats

Roman ruins of Kelemantia fort

Levee-bank cycle path across the flood plain

The route though the town had left the cycle path and for a brief period followed the main road, before again heading towards the river, this time to follow a narrow road beneath the riverside forest - water views through the tree-trunks and shade on a warm day - we were enjoying the ride much more today.

Glimpse of the Danube through the trees

At last an expansive view of the river

A curious set of flowerpots

Path along the levee-bank at Kravany

The map route once again rejoined the road, but offered an alternative, via a gravel-topped levee bank closer to the river, a short ride along a crumbling concrete farm road between crops of drooping sunflowers and tassle-topped corn. We took the alternative, a pleasant if warm ride, as the full sun was starting to stimulate our sweat glands. The country here was as flat as the plains of yesterday, but in the background a small mountain range rose hazy-blue. It is interesting how much difference that little bit of geographic relief can make to enjoyment of the landscape.

Clycling beneath the flatland forest .....

.... past village gardens ....

.... and reed-lined canals

The dog who joined us for lunch

Nearby on a very low hill above the floodplain, we spotted the village of Obid - the first place with a shop since leaving Komarno.

It was a good place to stop for lunch and an ice-cold drink, a visit from a friendly village dog and a chat with a Frenchman who had travelled the entire length of the Danube to here on a scooter (leg-powered not motor).

Our French fellow-voyager on his scooter

The church of Obid across the sunflowers

Recently mown grass near Sturovo

From Obid, the route led us through more farmland, along a lane lined with plum trees, heavy with small yellow fruit (yum!), and one last short stretch of main road to reach the town of Sturovo. This time it was the last town in Slovakia, so we put away the Euros and brought out the Forints again, before heading on to the pale green metal bridge that crossed in to Hungary. However, we had to stop on the bridge to take in the superb spectacle of Esztergomy Basilica perched high on its rocky hilltop, imposing over the river and surrounds. It reminded us of our ride from Passau to Vienna, several years ago, and which is the gold standard of Danube cycling.

The bridge from Slovakia to Hungary

Esztergom Basilica and the Royal Castle

Exterior of the basilica .....

Entering Hungary and the town of Esztergom, we checked in to our pleasant hotel and wandered down to a little restaurant for a cold beer on a deck overlooking the Danube (again, a reminder of the earlier trip). The late afternoon was set aside for a wander up the hill to explore the Basilica, the neighbouring restored Royal Castle and take in the magnificent views of the river below from their balcony.

..... andthe interior

View over the Danube flats from the basilica

Looking down on the historic buildings of Esztergom from the Royal Castle

Finishing off with dinner beneath the huge brick vaults of the cellar restaurant beneath the Basilica was a good way to end a very enjoyable day. It was good to be on the river again, as the two days of crossing the flat and somewhat monotonous floodplains of North-western Hungary had left us feeling a little jaded.

Day 6 - Esztergom to Budapest (60 km ride - 21 km by boat)

It was the perfect day for our last day of cycling - blue skies and cool morning. Leaving our hotel, we coasted down to the river-side bike-path and turned north - an unusual direction, but the rocky rampart on which Esztergom Basilica was built had forced the river to change course. Not for long, however, as the steep-sided Slovakian mountains again pushed it eastwards in a giant S-bend. The landscape was much more diverse and interesting.

Looking westwards to our route out of Esztergom

The Slovakina hills that turned the Danube south

Waiting for the ferry

For the first time too, we were on dead-line, as we had a ferry to catch at 8.50 am. Today, we were going to be switching from side to side as we followed the river down between the rows of hills that guide it. After a very pleasant ride on the cycle path, and a short section on the road, we reached the ferry terminus. Ten minutes later, the ferry from Szob arrived to take us and the growing peloton of cyclists 600m across to the far side (it is a big river here). The Slovakian border had left the river just before Szob and, from here, both sides of the Danube were Hungarian.

First ferry crossing

Finally, some decent mountains

Can you spot the ruins of Visegrad Castle

From Szob, the cycle path followed a shady route along the river's edge, rounding a large promontory that forced the Danube into a horse-shoe bend, as it passed through the little villages of Zebegeny and Nagymaros. Across the river, the ruins of Visegrad Castle looked down from their hill-top perch - idyllic Danube scenery.

Beyond the hills of Visegrad, the land on the far bank began to flatten out, and the hills on our side forced the Danube into long-curving bend that took it southwards, splitting into two channels as it did so. We were now riding through an area of fallow fields and orchards that sloped gently back from the water. After a brief pit-stop at Veroce, we pushed on to the larger town of Vac.

The river flats and Kismaros village

Vac is famed for its many baroque buildings, so we took time out to explore its old town and have our lunch in the impressive and quiet surrounds of Marcius 15 Square.

A side street in Vac

One last ride on a tiny ferry

A row of old terrace houses in Vac

Some classic baroque architecture

Marcius 15 Square in Vac

Ferry terminal at Vac

Vac was also the ferry terminal for our next river crossing - on to Szentendre Island, formed by the two branches of the river. It was probably the least inspiring part of the day, as we crossed the flat landscape of cornfields and sunflowers on a relatively busy local road.

Farmlands on Szentendre Island

Passing the villages of Tahitotfalu and Szigetmonostor, we realised that we had missed the turn-off for the car ferry that crossed the second channel of the river to its western bank. However, a sign pointed us onwards to a smaller passenger ferry, where we were able to load ourselves and our bikes for the short crossing, directly on to the corso at Szentendre town.

The bulk of our day's cycling was over, as this was the place we would catch a cruise boast for the 20 km river trip into Budapest. While waiting, we sat at an outdoor cafe on the corso, watching the world go by while enjoying a cold beer and the fair Nello's new favourite tipple, Aperolspritzer.

The buildings of Szentendre

A final Danube riverscape

Our long Danube cruise boat docked and we all boarded for a pleasant trip down the river and a spectacular entry into Budapest with its magnificent riverside Parliament building in Pest.

The ferry terminus was just opposite in Buda - we disembarked and the fair Nello and I joined a convoy of cyclists heading to the same hotel along the narrow and crowded mixed bike-pedestrian path that followed the river past ornate bridges and beautiful buildings. We could but glimpse these, as riding through Budapest in peak hour requires concentration.

The river boat arrives to take us into Budapest

The magnificent Hungarian Parliament building

Buda Castle from the river

Entering Budapest by river

Buda sky-line

Thus our Danube Cycling Tour Mark 2 was over. We had booked a small apartment in Buda for the next two nights. It was going to be good not to have to pack up next morning, have a bit of a sleep in and then go out and explore this must-see city.

Exploring Budapest in 8 hours

When you only have a day to explore a city as large as Budapest, you have to be fairly selective. Hence the first thing we did was to stroll from our studio apartment in Buda over the impressive Szabadság Híd (Liberty Bridge) with its 19th century green metal spans shining in the sunlight. On reaching the east bank and Pest, we caught one of the hop-on hop-off buses that head to Varosliget Park, with its concentration of historic buildings and open parklands.

Getting off at Heroe's Square with its colonnades, classic sculptures and crowds of tourist taking selfies, we wandered around to visit the various points of interest .... the highlights being fairytale Vajdahunyad Castle and the enormous Széchenyi Thermal Baths. By now the sun had disappeared and grey clouds began to invade the sky.

The 19th century Szabadság Híd (Liberty Bridge)

Heroes Square

TThe Budapest ice rink (a lake in summer)

Entry to Vajdahunyad Castle

Chapel in the castle grounds


Interior of the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Vajdahunyad Castle and its pond

It was time to check out another part of the city, so we reboarded the hop-on hop-off bus and drove slowly through the crowded streets of central Pest, before crossing the Danube once again to disembark in Buda. Our destination, World Heritage listed 18th century Buda Castle and its environs perched on a hill top high above the river.

Pest cityscape


The walls of Buda Castle

View across the river from Fishermens' Bastion

Buda Castle perched on its hilltop

13th century Matthias Church

The rain had set in to a pattern of passing showers, as we climbed up the hill to the perimeter of the castle to explore but a little of its vast grounds. Leaving via the far exit, we also visited other tourist must-sees, such as the walls of Fishermen's Bastion and Matthias Church, complete in 1269, with its enormous spire reaching skywards.

View down river from the castle wall

The rear of Matthias Church

Wet day in Budapest

Palace guard (for my horse-mad grand-daughter)

Taking the view from the Fishermen's Bastion

As the rain set in, we caught the hop-on bus from Buda Castle to Gellert Hill, the high point in Buda with its superb panorama over Pest and the Danube. It was a fitting end to our tour and we were a bit "citied out". There was nothing like a nice stroll in the damp air down the forested southern slope of the hill to re-enter the streets of Buda, find our apartment and brew a nice hot coffee.

An early night was in order, as next day, we would be heading north - time to trade in our bikes for hiking boots and some walking in the High Tatras.