Travel is not always fun, in fact sometimes it can be quite unfortunate. It’s easy to focus on the good because, thankfully, mostly travel is awesome. Most people when travelling dream of nirvana, paradise, leisure. After all these years of travelling I can certainly affirm that most of our journeys have been trouble free and I have felt both thrilled and entertained. But sadly this statement of mine was about change on a recent trip to Budapest. Only having a day to explore the city I had booked tickets on an early train from Vienna. 30 minutes before arriving into Budapest we suddenly heard an announcement ”Dear passengers, there has been a bomb found in the main train station and all trains being directed to nearby outskirts stations”. It suddenly felt like hell had broken loose!!!! People were speaking in Hungarian and when you went to ask anything they snapped and spoke no English. Finally we got down in some godforsaken station, luckily we finally found somebody who spoke a little English and with the help of our iphones we finally located the main train station where we were supposed to get to. Finally after a series of bus and train journeys we reached the city center where half of the day was already gone and we were already half dead. None the less the show must go on… and therefore we started with our sightseeing. On a different note it was just some silly person who had left their bag unattended in the station spoiling our day 😦 😦
In the first few glances Budapest looked like a cosmopolitan city of unexpected elegance which was both charming and rewarding. Spreading across the banks of the Danube River, the city is really a combination of two towns into one city. The west side is stately Buda, with its Castle Hill and remnants of Hungary’s days of grandeur. On the eastern side across the river is Pest, with prickly-spired buildings and the commercial town center.
Although a modern European city we felt that the city had been influenced by many different countries and periods in history. The Romans, Magyars, Turks, Austrians, and Soviets have all left their mark on Budapest, helping shape it into the city that it is today. Since we had only 6 hours left, we started our sightseeing with the Buda Castle on Castle hill. Castle Hill has so much to see but the main highlights are the Royal Palace, Matthias Fountain, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. From Fisherman’s Bastion you’ll be able to see sprawling views of the city.
Buda Castle was home to Hungarian kings since 1265. Currently the oldest part of the castle, which is still remaining was built in the 14th century and has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. One way to reach the Buda Castle from the Chain Bridge is to take the Funicular Railway cable car. Alternatively you can enjoy views of the city while going up the tram or also opt for a Hop on Hop off tour (which we did).
Next we walked towards the Matthias Church. It was built as Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century but fell in the hands of Turks and was converted into a mosque. Finally towards the end of the 19th Century a major reconstruction took place and the building regained much of its former splendour. For me I enjoyed the Fisherman’s Bastion the most. Though it looked a bit a like a giant sand castle the unique neo gothic style structure is something which can’t be found anywhere else in the city. Its round turrets and spiral columns made me imagine of Disney stories (I know I have wild imagination 🙂 ). As per the story goes it was created on the spot where a guild of fishermen defended the city from invasion during the Middle Ages. From here we got magnificent views of the Danube, Margaret Island, Pest to the east and the Gellért Hill.
We then descended and crossed over to the Pest side of the city. When walking along the Danube river promenade, the view of the Chain Bridge in Budapest is remarkable, from both sides of the river. The Chain Bridge is the first permanent stone bridge that connects Buda and Pest and actually is an important landmark of the Hungarian capital. Opened in 1849, it’s historically important as the oldest bridge joining Buda to Pest, and the twisted chain cables holding up this suspension bridge are rather unusual. However it’s the views on both sides that make it significant.
Next we walked towards the Hungarian Parliament Building. Although we didn’t get the time to go insideLthe view from outside was simply magnificent. The Parliament Building is a superb example of the Neo Gothic architecture although it displays Renaissance and Baroque characters too and is just over 100 years old. It is the third largest parliament building in the world and the same height as St Stephen’s Basilica. The Parliament building tour is a very popular activity and time slots do fill up fast so it is very important to plan and reserve in advance.
Having taken some nice shots we walked towards St Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is the largest church in Budapest and can hold up to 8500 people. Although in architectural terms it is a cathedral it was given the tile of ‘basilica minor’ in 1931.
We then started walking on the Andrássy Avenue. Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard dating back to 1872 and is often compared to Champs-Élysées in Paris. It is lined with luxury boutiques and old mansions (many of which have seen better days). Hungary’s opera house is located along this avenue, as is the House of Terror museum. And finally at the end of Andrassy Avenue was the Heroes Square. It was created in 1896 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest and foundation of the Hungarian state. Heroes Square is dominated by the Millennium Monument. Its centrepiece is a column topped by Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown. Behind that are two curved colonnades featuring statues of important people in Hungarian history.
There are a few things we missed out on our trip that I would like to see if we visited Budapest again. It was on my list to see the Shoes on the Danube memorial, the Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park and also the Széchenyi Spa. If things had gone according to the plan may be we would have managed a bit more but hey!!! It’s sometimes more fun if things go out of plan. Nonetheless we found Budapest, to be a city of both nuance and paradox, which has survived its turbulent history beautifully. The city has lots to offer and if you are going there make sure you spend at least 2 to 3 days.
Have you been to Budapest, share your views with us below…