a train crossing a bridge over water

24 Hours in Budapest

Divided by the majestic Danube, the city of Budapest is one of the great river-cruise destinations - the first or final call on a tour of some of Europe's most historic cities. Indeed, few rivers take in riches like the Danube.

The Hungarian capital, which comprises the once-divided regions of Buda to the west and Pest to the east, remains a dual city defined by its great waterway - many of its most famous sites lined up alongside it. Guests on Emerald Cruises, when moored opposite the neo-Gothic turrets and arches of the Hungarian Parliament have the elevated Bud Palace, once home to the kings of the Ottoman and Habsburg dynasties, and the beautiful, lush green Margaret Island already in view.

It's a city worth getting up early and staying out late for: deciding between its cafés, bars and architectural delights, while learning of its fascinating past, is a difficult but not impossible task - here's how you could do it!

9am: Familiarise yourself with Budapest with a stroll along the picturesque danube. The architecture that lines its banks tell much about of city's storied past and blend of cultures. The Hungarian Parliament, a Gothic revivalist matserpiece completed in 1904, is a great first stop. Forty-five minute tours take in the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

10.30am: Head across the iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge and south to the Buda Hills to find the Buda Palace, a stunning blend of medieval Gothic and Baroque elements, once home to some of Europe's most powerful dynasties. The Castle Hill funicular carriage, which dates back to 1870, will get you up there if you don't fancy the walk!

Budapest Bridge

12pm: The Gellert Hill offers spectacular views of the river and both the Pest and Buda sides of the city, while the 19th-century Citadella fortress at its speak is worth the walk. At the bottom are the Gellert Baths, one of Budapest's many spectacular thermal spas inspired by Turkish leisure and, in this case, built in a Secession style.

2pm: By now you will probably be a little peckish! There is the opulent Onyx, the city's second Michelin-star restaurant after Costes, which blends traditional Hungarian fare with inventive culinary techniques and is a 20-minute walk from Gellert. The lunch menu, at three-courses for €30, is remarkably cheap for its standard

Traditional Hungarian Stew

4pm: Take the M line down to Heroes Square, the magnificent statue complex featuring the Seven Cheiftains of the Magyars, next to City Park and the Museum of Fine Art. The stunning Szechenyi spa inside the park is the largest medicinal bath in all of Europe.

5pm: Head down Andrássy Avenue, specked with cafes, boutiques and the Renaissance-style State Opera House, and take in the sobering House of Terror, which commemorates the victims of Nazi and Souviet oppression in Hungary.

Budapest River View

8pm: For those looking to experience something a little different in the evening is Szimpla Kert, one of Budapest's famous 'ruined bars'. Housed in a formerly disused building, it has a ramshackle appeal that is quite unique. it's off the beaten track but is friendly, fun and something you'll remember.