The light and water are the essence of Budapest. There is of course the mighty Danube, the spas and dozens of mineral springs pushing through the ground, but the city is also full of fountains, water sculptures and cascading waterfalls. They create a surreal cityscape, especially when on warm summer evenings the splendor of illuminated buildings and lit-up bridges is mirrored in the Danube.
One of the finest Hungarian experiences is a night time cruise on the Danube River, when the banks are covered with millions of lights spilling over the hills. Gliding on the smooth water with a glass of champagne and a cashmere blanket if the night turns chilly, you'll be mesmerized by this glittering fairytale scene. It surpasses most expectations: there are the golden and white lights of the Danube bridges, the glowing Hungarian Parliament reflected in the river, the illuminated Buda Castle looking down to the water and the twinkling lights of the ships cruising by.
The neighborhood around the Buda Castle is named Watertown for its many baths, waterfalls and springs. "Taking the waters" is a signature Budapest experience. Hungarians meet and socialize in one of the steamy thermal baths and opulent spas scattered throughout the city. It is especially memorable in the evenings, when the brightness of stars competes with the light of the gas lights reflected in the outdoor pools.
As you travel through the Hungarian countryside, the impossible quality of light is apparent everywhere; it's easy to fall under the hypnotic spell of Hungary.