Esztergom, poised at a bend in the Danube that forms the border between Hungary and Slovakia, is a must-do stop on any Danube River cruise. The city was the capital of Hungary from the 10th until the mid-13th century when the king moved the royal seat 29 miles upriver to Buda, a hill town across the river from Pest. Esztergom, however, remains the seat of the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, and its massive basilica is the largest in the country. The site on which the basilica sits is a glorious vantage point that looks down the Danube and over the bridge to Slovakia.
What We Love
Vizivaros: This is the town center (its name means Watertown) where you'll find a fine square with an impressive town hall and splendid 18th- and 19th-century mansions.
Keresztény (Christian) Museum: Housed in the Neo-Renaissance-style Primate's Palace, this museum near the town center has the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary. Works date back to the 13th century and the collection includes Hungarian artists as well as Italian, Dutch, and German.
Best Known For
Esztergom Basilica: Consecrated in 1856, the neoclassical basilica has a central dome rising 234 feet and two smaller flanking domes, while the altar has the largest oil painting in the world executed on a single piece of canvas and depicts the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The basilica’s crypt, where archbishops are buried, is built in the Old Egyptian style. Also worth a look is the red marble Bakócz chapel. Built in the early 16th century in Renaissance style, it was at one point dismantled, moved, and attached to the new basilica.
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Who It's Best For
Church Architecture Aficionados: Esztergom's elaborate basilica will wow anyone with even a passing interest in architecture, let alone true fans. The city's other churches also map the Roman Catholic history of Hungary.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Be Prepared to Go Uphill: It is a bit of a climb up to the basilica, but the reward is both architectural treasures and a glorious view of the Danube.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.