Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has a history of more than a thousand years. It came into being at the end of the 19th century when the three cities Pest, Buda and Óbuda merged.
Apart for being known for its thermal baths, there are also plenty of other attractions such as the expansive Buda Castle, the majestic Charles Bridge, the Jewish quarters, the Fisherman’s Bastion and of course the Danube river.
We arrived at Budapest Keleti train station in the late afternoon (after a two and a half hours train journey from Vienna). After locating our pre-booked taxi (advisable as hailing a taxi from the railway station or anywhere is not recommended) and a mere 20 minutes journey later, we arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Palazzo Zichy. Our hotel is opposite a small square where the statute of Vichy (probably some important historical figure in Hungary) occupies center stage and it is close to most of the attractions in Budapest.
Statute of Zichy in the square in front of our hotel
The morning breakfast (included in the price) is served downstairs in the basement. There is a wide selection of foods, and most people would find something to their tastes. After a hearty breakfast, we set out to walk to the Central Market and then to the Danube river to start our day’s tour of the city.
Central Market Hall – Budapest’s huge Central Market Hall, also known as the Great Market Hall, is the city’s largest indoor market. The beautiful historic structure consists of three stories, attracts both local shoppers and tourists. On the upper floor, beautiful Hungarian arts and crafts are the most common fare.
The Danube Promenade – a popular esplanade on the embankment of the Danube on the Pest side is just a 10 minutes walk from the Central Market Hall. The promenade is lined with large hotels but there are also some interesting sights including the ‘Little Princess’ statue. The promenade is situated between the famous Chain Bridge to the north and the more modern Elisabeth Bridge in the southern end.
A walk along the promenade will give you beautiful views over the Danube towards the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.
While walking along the promenade, we met this two young Hungarian guys and we got into a friendly encounter with them as they were trying to sell us the tickets for the Hop On Hop Off buses. Eventually, we struck a deal: they charged us the prices for a one day ticket but allow us to use the tickets for two days.
If you are in Budapest, I would recommend that you get a ticket for this Hop On Hop Off buses as in addition to the two different routes its buses travel throughout Budapest, it also gives you unlimited cruises on the Danube river. Just get off the buses wherever you want and then hop back on when the next bus comes along and after about two trips on these buses, you will be quite familiar with the city and then you can revisit the places that you like at your leisure.
Also, by cruising the Danube river, you can take in all the wonderful sights on both banks of the river and this includes the Buda Castle, the Parliament building and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Buda Castle – The imposing Buda Castle overlooks the city from its elevated position atop Várhegy (Castle Hill), rising forty-eight meters above the Danube. The Buda Castle’s more than three hundred meter long facade facing the Danube is really impressive.
The palace consists of a number of wings arranged around the Lion Courtyard. The courtyard is bordered by the National Library and two museums, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Chain Bridge – The Chain Bridge is one of Budapest’s most famous landmarks. The magnificent suspension bridge spans the river Danube to connect Pest with Buda.
The beautiful bridge towers are decorated with the Hungarian coat of arms. Imposing stone lions guard the bridge on either side.
Parliament Building – Hungary’s Parliament Building is situated at Pest’s riverbank. Built at a time when Hungary was still under Austrian influence, the magnificent structure is a symbol of Hungary’s independence.
The cruise ends at St Margaret’s Island but, if you do not wish to disembark, you can take the cruise back to the staring point in the promenade. Following are landmarks which can be seen on both banks of the river.
Margaret Island – is a pedestrian only recreational island in the middle of the Danube river. The island is very popular with tourists and residents alike, especially during weekends.
Budapest is not only about the river Danube. Within the city, there are also many beautiful and interesting landmarks.
St Stephen’s Church – took about fifty years to complete and is Budapest’s largest church. It is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. His right hand, the country’s most important relic, is enshrined in one of the church’s chapels.
Budapest’s Great Synagogue – is one of the largest jewish synagogues in the world. Although moorish in style with two tall towers, Byzantine, Gothic, and Romantic elements are also present in the architecture of the synagogue.
Hero’s Square – is a square dedicated to the honor and memory of the great leaders in Hungary’s history. It is flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art and situated at the entrance to the City Park.
We were in Budapest for only three days, not sufficient to view all the interesting sights of Budapest. Some of the sights that we missed were the Matthias Church, one of Budapest’s most famous church as many of Hungary’s kings were coronated here and the State Opera House.
Budapest is such a beautiful city and I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit the city again some time in the near future.