Hungarian Artists and the Danube

Aurel Bernath Fisher boats on the Danube (
Aurel Bernath Fisher boats on the Danube (

The Danube has always been inspirational for various artists along Europe. There are countless paintings, drawings, poems, and even songs about the River Danube.

Danube in Music

Just think about the Blue Danube Waltz from Johann Strauss, it is probably the most known waltz worldwide. Among other brilliant composers’ work, Strauss can also be enjoyed on the regular Budapest Gala Concerts.

Some of the most known Hungarian folk songs are “Szeles a Duna”  (The Danube is wide).

Paintings of the Danube

Dozens of Hungarian painters were inspired by the Danube and its surroundings, especially Istvan Szonyi who painted some well-known masterpieces in the “posztnagybanyai” style which was the Hungarian postimpressionism.

Grey Danube by Szonyi Istvan, 1935 (
Grey Danube by Szonyi Istvan, 1935 (

Janos Vaszary painted unique and colorful pictures of the Danube Promenade and the lively Budapest. His main influences were French and he became a popular painter in his era. Today’s artists are still inspired by the Danube and Budapest, we can find several paintings and photographs for sale about the picturesque sights of the Hungarian capital. They could make nice souvenirs.

The Hungarian National Gallery in the Buda Castle offers a great selection of fine arts from the best Hungarian artists.

Danube in Contemporary Arts

Tamas Kanya Driftwood Art by travelzona
Tamas Kanya Driftwood Art by travelzona

The Danube surroundings are still popular places for artists like Tamas Kanya who makes his creations from Romai Part to Szentendre. He creates statues and stone arts from items found on the riverside, driftwood, stones, sand, leaves, etc.

Have a walk on a sunny day by the river, and with some luck, you can meet him or his creations.

Enjoy the wonderful riverside attractions of the city from a Budapest River Cruise.


Budapest Danube River Water Levels

Just like any other river, cruising in Budapest on the Danube is also highly influenced by the water level. In general, low water level occurs at the end of a hot summer and high water levels happen in the spring months when all the snow is melting in the mountain and rivers are carrying the extra water to the Danube.

The water levels are generally unpredictable, but fortunately, Hungary’s biggest river has usually a moderated water level changes, just ideal for cruising.

High water level


Since the Danube water level is regulated, floods are extremely rare, however, if the water level grows extremely high, it can prevent cruises get under the bridges and make cruising impossible. Since the water level grows relatively slow, it is predictable in a few days or weeks in advance.

Low water level

Too low water level can also lead to problems if the Danube is not deep enough to cruise, water transportation might be blocked by the authorities. In August 2018, the water level hit the records in Budapest, the low water bought several lost and forgotten things to the surface like shipwrecks, world war wrecks and even silver and gold coins near Erd, Hungary.

Budapest River Cruises are however very reliable, as the water level in Budapest is usually steady and optimal for cruising.

Icy River Danube in Budapest Hungary

Frozen Danube Budapest Winter 1963
Frozen Danube Budapest Winter 1963

Although ice-floats appear on the Danube every year, those times when the river froze completely and people were able to cross the thick ice plate on foot are gone. Since the river is regulated and the riverbed is deeper it’s less likely to happen again. Enjoy the riverside attractions from the comfortable Budapest River Cruises, you can cruise on the Danube at day or at night.

The frozen river was known for Hungarians from the history, Corvin Matthias was coronated on the Danube Ice, there were important battles, the thick ice has helped armies to cross the river and spare time and effort.

The ice floats were threatening for the riverside settlements and towns as the massive ice could cause serious damages. One of the most known disasters was the Great Flood in 1838 when several people died and more than 50.000 became homeless.
Nowadays the icy river means a rare attraction, oftentimes photographed but it does not mean danger for Budapest any longer. The winter of 1963 was the last time when the Danube in Budapest was completely frozen.

The Great Danube Flood 1838

If we are walking around Budapest we can spot some markings and placards on buildings with dates and water levels from the Danube floods.

1838 Danube Flood in Budapest
1838 Danube Flood in Budapest
In March 1838 a devastating natural disaster occurred when the Danube flooded and the entire Pest side was under meters of water. The flood killed many Hungarians and more than 50,000 were left homeless.
The icy river broke the weirs and ran over the embankments in the evening hours.

Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary assigned Janos Lonyay to be the royal flood commissioner and they had to start the mission right away. They distributed maps for free marking the borders of the flooded areas. Many citizens found shelter in the City Park that was outside the borders or in the chapel that stood on a small hill which later became St. Stephan’s Basilica. The saved people felt so grateful afterwards that they have started collecting donations for a large Basilica. This is how the largest church of Budapest is connected to the flood in 1838.

Relief of Miklos Wesselenyi photo by Babak Fakhamzadeh
Relief of Miklos Wesselenyi – photo by Babak Fakhamzadeh
Baron Miklos Wesselenyi, the “Boatman of the Flood” documented the happenings in his private diary.
He was watching the ice debacle with some locals and they thought that it was over around 5pm. He went to a theater and the play was not over when the water was already in the city, the water level growing very rapidly. The bells began to toll, and people in Pest had to leave everything behind immediately,and  climb on roofs or higher spots in order to survive the icy water.
Baron Wesselenyi, acted heroically and rescued a lot of citizens with his boat, collected survivals from the collapsed houses and took them to safe and dry places like floors and attics of the stronger houses.
Some other noblesses did not act helpful at all, for example, Baron Csekonics, who tried to save his horses, instead of saving people, or some other aristocrats such as Albert Pronay, who smoked his pipe and watched the tragedy from his house instead of taking part in the rescue.
Plans to control the river and the construction of a new river embankment were immediately launched to avoid a tragedy reoccur ever again.