Budapest

Budapest

Budapest is a true gem of Eastern Europe.  It came into existance when two cities on either side of the Danube River (Buda, on the west shore and Pest on the East Shore) came together as one.  The melding of these two cities, creates a spectacular setting.  The capital of Hungary, Budapest is a city with two distinct parts.  The west shore is perched on the hilltops with the Castle District of Buda towering over the Danube.  Pest is a more lowland area with many historic buildings spread around the city.  This is a must visit city on your European vacation and it is easy on the budget.

Things you MUST see/do:

Parliament Buildings – The Parliament Buildings are the iconic focal point of the city.  Located right on the shore of the Danube, this Gothic Revival building was built in the late 1800’s.  The buildings contain many elaborate details on the outside of the building.  It is definitely worthwhile to take a tour through the inside of the building and see the intricate design throughout the entire structure.  Since only a small portion of the building is still used by the Hungarian government, you can get an extensive tour of the complex.  Also, it is the current location of the Hungarian crown jewels.  If parliament is currently in session, you can sit in and watch it in process.  It is an enjoyable visit, but get there early to avoid lines.

The Castle District –Perched at the top of a hill on the banks of the Danube in Buda, Castle District is the most historic section of Buda.  Located in the center of the square at the top of the hill is St. Mattias’ Church (or the Church of Our Lady).  The church was originally built in the 13th century and the name comes from King Mattias, who is credited with bringing Buda together in a time of great unrest.  The church has been reconstructed many times over the centuries, however, in the 19th century the church was restored to what is believed to be the original plans.  There are many neat little buildings surrounding the church that used to be houses of the villagers.  Many of them currently contain quaint little shops and cafes.  Beside St. Matthius Church toward the Danube is the Fisherman’s Bastion.  This mainly decorative piece is a good place to get some views of the rest of the city.  We would recommend you get the full Fisherman’s  Bastion experience and walk down the structure to the bottom of the hill.  From the bottom of the hill you get a wonderful viewpoint back up to the Bastion.

The Chain Bridge –The first bridge to be built across the Danube River in Budapest, the Chain Bridge is an central part of Budapest’s history.  It is a suspension bridge that has a interesting style for its cables and beautiful towers.  Be sure to get a close look to see the lion statues that mark the start to the bridge.

St. Stephen’s Basilica – The Church is named after the first King of Hungary.  Although not officially part of the church, Stephen I was given sainthood as he was so influential in bringing Hungary together as one nation.  The outside of the building is in the Neo-classical form.  It is a beautiful structure located in a nice open square, allowing for some great pictures.  It is free to enter and the interior is worth seeing.  It is very elaborately painted and decorated throughout the building.  Make sure not to miss the right hand of St. Stephen that is housed in the church.

Szechenyi Baths and Pools –Unfortunately, we did not have time in our visit to Budapest to experience the Hungarian (Turkish style) baths.  However, we were informed by many of our travel mates that they were a good place to go.  The baths are naturally heated thermal baths in the city of Budapest.  The area has been turned into a spa.  You pay for the entire day and enjoy the whole complex (baths, pools, steam and sauna rooms and there is more spa services available).

Heroes Square – Heroes square is a nice open square in the center of Budapest.  The square contains monuments meant as dedications to people who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country.  The monuments include a rectangular cenotaph (called the Monument of National Heroes) at the front of the square.  Behind that is the Millenial Column to honour the chieftains who first settled in the area now known as Hungary.  In the back in two quarter circles is the Millenium Monument, which contains the statues of many of Hungary’s most influential people (including King Stephen I, and King Matthius).  The three monuments together make a very picturesque and emotional setting.

Budapest City Park – The park is located a short walk from Heroes Square.  It contains a large area of green space and would be a good location for some relaxing, if there is time in the itinerary.  The park also contains Vajdahunyad Castle, which is almost like a small village to itself.  It is a nice place to visit and take a stroll through the castle.

Travels4Couples highly recommended EXPERIENCES:

Go up Gellert Hill –Located on the edge of the city, Gellert Hill is a great place to go to get amazing views over the city!  It is some of the best city views that exist in all of Europe.  This is one of the few places to get a view of the entire city(both Buda and Pest).  There are a couple of interesting monuments at the top of Gellert Hill to check out as well.

Visit the Labyrinth of Caves under Buda –Underneath the Castle District is a series of caves and tunnels that have been used over many centuries known as the Labyrinth.  The caves also contain some very fascinating paintings and carved artwork that have been added to the stone over many years.  It creates a very interesting and entertaining experience!  If you happen to be going in the summer when the temperature in Hungary can be quite high, the labyrinth can provide some great relief from the heat as it remains quite cool.  A definite must.

Ride the Funicular up to the Castle District –The best way to get up to the Castle District is by a historic funicular.  The funicular does not take you up to the main square of Castle District, but it gets you within a short walk of it.  It is a great way to make your way up the mountain because you get some great views over the city as you sit facing down toward the city of Budapest and the other alternative is climbing stairs.  We suggest that you take the funicular up to Castle District, look at all the sights to see around the area (the Labyrinth, St. Matthius Church, etc.) and then travel back down the hill on the Fisherman’s Bastion staircase.

Go to the outdoor Night Club “Rio” – The Rio nightclub is located right on the banks of the Danube River.  It is one of the few entirely outdoor nightclubs in Europe.  Due to the location, you can get some spectacular views of the city and river at night.  It is a very unique setting for a nightclub if you are interested in the nightlife.

Travels4Couples #1 ROMANTIC thing to do in Budapest:

Go on a dinner cruise up the Danube – There are many options of cruises that begin on one side of the city and cruise along the Danube past the city and then turn around and return to the starting point.  It is best to try and take a dinner cruise (leaving later in the evening), as you can cruise in one direction past the city in the daylight and see all the wonderful buildings Budapest has to offer.  The benefit of the later return trip is that it will be done after sunset and the buildings will be lit up.  It is a very romantic setting to see the city illuminated at night under the stars.