While thinking about the which place to write my next travel story, I sat down one rainy afternoon and with a nice pot of tea gathered a few of my albums; yes I do have the wonderful travel memories printed and arranged in albums. It is quite relaxing to sit back and flip through a proper album and not scroll through a phone or laptop.
As I started looking through them, I started recollecting the days of normal travel and how we all enjoyed travelling around the world freely. While we wait for such days to be back, we can also use the time now to reflect on places we have been, what we enjoyed and things that we have experienced.
I still haven’t been able to sit down and write about a lot of travel experiences, so I try to select a place as I flip through the albums and choose to write it as a story as I have seen and experienced. Hope you enjoy reading about this journey with me.
Though it is difficult to decide on a place from my travels to write about, this month I chose to write about a short break in the wonderful city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The previously separate towns of Buda, Obuda, and Pest were unified in 1873 and officially named as Budapest. Buda and Pest are on either side of the Danube River. The central part of Budapest along the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrassy Avenue are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
During my short trip, I enjoyed some of the sights of this beautiful city including the Hungarian Parliament, the Chain bridge, Buda Castle, a boat sightseeing tour and some of the museums.
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT (Országház)
The Hungarian Parliament, designed in Neo-Gothic style by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, is the third largest Parliament building in the world and opened in 1902. It is one of the most famous landscape in Budapest and main facade is best viewed from the Chain Bridge, the Buda side and also during sightseeing boat trips on the Danube.
To really experience the beauty of this masterpiece, a visit to the Parliament Building is a must. I visited the Parliament and took the guided tour which I would highly recommend. The tour includes visit to the Upper House, the Dome Hall, viewing the Hungarian royal crown and coronation regalia and also the grand staircase covered lined with red carpet.
BRIDGES ON THE DANUBE – There are seven bridges over the Danube. Among these the most famous and beautiful ones are the Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge and Liberty Bridge.
CHAIN BRIDGE (Széchenyi lánchíd)
The Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which opened in 1849, spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest. It is one of the famous sights of Budapest and the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. The Chain Bridge was designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clark on the invitation of Count Istvan Szechenyi. The bridge was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt in 1949.
The Chain Bridge is twinned with the Marlow Suspension Bridge in England, which was also designed by William Clark.
Towards the end of the Chain Bridge on the Buda side is the Zero Kilometre Stone, a 3 metre high limestone sculpture in the shape of a zero sign from which all road distances to Budapest are measured.
MARGARET BRIDGE (Margit híd)
Margaret Bridge is a unique bridge three-way bridge connecting Buda and Pest across the Danube. The bridge branches out in the middle to connect to Margaret Island at an angle of 165 degrees. Built between 1872 and 1876, it was the second permanent bridge after Szechenyi Chain Bridge. The unusual design was due to a sudden decision to create the extension of the bridge to connect to Margaret island.
LIBERTY BRIDGE (Szabadság híd)
The Liberty Bridge located at the southern end of Budapest city was built between 1894 and 1896 in art nouveau style. There are two public squares on each end of the bridge, the Gellert ter at the foot of Gellert Hill on one side and the Fovam ter on the other side which has the Great Market Hall. The Liberty Bridge is the shortest bridge in Budapest city centre.
MUSEUMS OF BUDAPEST – Budapest has many museums and each is housed in beautiful buildings, unique in its history and has wonderful collections. I browsed through some of these briefly during my visit. If you like museums, the more time you have, the more you can enjoy as with all museum visits.
THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (Szépművészeti Múzeum)
The Museum of Fine Arts in Heroes’ Square was built between 1900 and 1906 in an eclectic neoclassical style. It houses collection more than 100,000 pieces of international art, European art and some older masterpieces from the Buda Castle.
THE HUNGARIAN NATIONAL GALLERY (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria)
The Hungarian National Gallery located in Buda Castle was established in 1957 as the Hungarian national art museum. The museum’s collection include Hungarian art from the nineteenth and twentieth century Hungarian artists.
HUNGARIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum)
The Hungarian National Museum founded in 1802 is Hungary’s national museum for the history, art, and archaeology. The neo classical building was designed by Mihaly Pollack. Among the famous displays include the Seuso Treasure which is the hoard of silver objects from the Roman Empire. The museum also has the Byzantine enamel plaques from the 11th century, the Monomachus Crown with Emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe.
BUDAPEST HISTORY MUSEUM (Budapesti Toreneti Muzeum)
Budapest History Museum, also called the Castle Museum is part of the wing of the former royal palace. Within the medieval palace’s Gothic Hall the museum’s collection include exclusive treasures like the Anjou silk tapestry and many Gothic statues and other exhibits.
BUDA CASTLE (Budavári Palota)
Buda Castle on the southern tip of Castle Hill, is the palace complex including the castle of the Hungarian kings. The massive Baroque palace was first completed in 1265 and expanded to its present size between 1749 and 1769. Buda castle complex was previously known was the Royal Palace of the Royal Castle.
The complex includes medieval Baroque and Neoclassical houses, churches, public buildings and monuments. The castle also houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The beautiful Church of Our Lady Church (Matthias Church) at Buda Castle has Gothic style windows and beautifully decorated walls. It was the venue of the coronation of the last two Hungarian Kings.
Buda Castle was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
BUDA CASTLE FUNICULAR
To enjoy a spectacular view of the Danube as you go up Castle Hill, it is best to take a ride on the Buda Castle Funicular. Visitors can take the funicular from Clark Adam Square up to Buda Castle or the other way round.
VOROSMARTY SQUARE (Vörösmarty tér)
Vorosmarty Square is a public square in the Budapest city centre at the northern end of Vaci utca. The square is named after poet Mihaly Vorosmarty whose statue is at the centre of the square. Behind the statue is a park and a fountain surrounded by lion sculptures.
At the north end of Vorosmarty square is the entrance to Budapest Metro’s M1 yellow line. The square has many offices and business establishments as well as the British Embassy.
At the north end also stands the famous Cafe Gerbeaud, one of the greatest traditional coffeehouses in Europe. It opened in 1858. The decor of the place is classical and you must look up to admire the design of the ceiling and the chandeliers. Sitting underneath I remember enjoying a coffee and apple dessert in the cafe and can still recollect it, as it was too delicious.
Vorosmarty square is known for its markets, specially during Easter and Christmas times. I visited Budapest during Easter time and the square of was full with stalls selling local handicrafts, produces and delicacies.
HEROES’ SQUARE (Hősök tere)
Heroes’ Square at the end of Andrassy Avenue is one of the major squares in Budapest. It is famous for the iconic Millennium Monument, a 36 metre column with Archangel Gabriel on its top. On either sides in the shape of a semi-circle are the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other famous Hungarian leaders created by sculptor Gyorgy Zala. There is also a Memorial Stone of Heroes.
The square lies between two famous museums. If you look straight ahead towards the Monument, on the right is the Palace of Arts and on the left is the Museum of Fine Arts.
Andrassy Avenue is the most famous avenue of Budapest and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a 2310 metre boulevard lined with architecturally beautiful buildings, elegant shops and gardens. It widens as it moves from the city centre towards the city park. Under the Andrassy Avenue runs Europe’s second oldest underground, Budapest Metro.
SPAS OF BUDAPEST
One of the main reasons the Romans first colonised the west side of the Danube is to enjoy the geothermal springs of this area. Roman bath ruins can still be seen in parts of Budapest. The later baths were constructed during the Turkish period and they were used for bathing as well as for their medicinal benefits.
Budapest has around 80 geothermal springs spread throughout the city. Budapest became famous as a Spa city in the 1920s and in 1934 was officially named the International Spa City. The city has more thermal springs than any other cities in the world. There are also lidos which are open during the summer months.
SZECHENYI MEDICINAL BATHS (Széchenyi gyógyfürdő)
The Szechenyi Medicinal Baths in the Pest side of the city are the largest medicinal baths in Europe. The indoor baths date back from 1913. Built in modern Renaissance style, it displays a sense of grandeur of the old days. The Baths’ water is supplied by two thermal springs, whose temperatures are 74°C (165°F) and 77°C (171°F). There are 21 pools in Szechenyi Baths. The outdoor pools are open all year round. Wellness services and traditional medical treatments are provided here.
The other famous baths in Budapest are the Kiraly Baths, Rudas Baths, Gellert Baths and Lukacs Baths. Each of these dates back from the Turkish period.
SIGHTSEEING BOAT CRUISE
There are quite a few sightseeing boar tours on the Danube and it is a nice experience to enjoy the Buda and Pest sides from the boat. Most tour boats offer an optional stop at Margaret Island, which in itself is a beautiful place to explore.
MARGARET ISLAND (Margit-sziget)
Margaret Island is a 2.5 km long, 500 metres wide island in the middle of the Danube in Budapest between the Margaret Bridge and the Arpad Bridge. The island is covered in beautiful landscape and is popular with locals and tourists alike. There are some medieval ruins within the island, a Japanese garden, the Centennial Memorial of 1973, a mini zoo, a Music Well and a Musical Fountain.
The one sight in the island which can also be seen from the sightseeing tour boats is the octagonal Water Tower built in 1911 in Art Nouveau style, which now functions as a lookout tower.
Budapest Tram network running around 174 kms since 1866 is one of largest tram networks in the world. It has 38 lines and the Budapest cog-wheel Railway. After the Bus network, trams are the next important transit system in the city.
Budapest tram system runs the world’s longest 9-sectioned articulated trams and are a relaxing way to travel and enjoy some sightseeing.
BUDAPEST METRO (Budapesti metró)
Budapest Metro is the oldest underground railway system in continental Europe, and is only pre-dated by the London Underground. Budapest’s iconic Line 1 (M1) was completed in 1896.
The M1 line became an IEEE Milestone due to the new innovations in its era like bidirectional tram cars, electric lighting in the subway stations and tram cars and an overhead wire structure for power. Since 2002, the M1 line has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Budapest Nyugati (western) railway station on the Pest side of Budapest is accessible by the 4 and 6 tramline and the M3 metro line. Nyugati was built by the Eiffel Company and opened in 1877. Lonely Planet mentions that the McDonald’s inside the station is the “world’s most elegant McDonald’s”. Some scenes from Tom Hanks’ film ‘The Terminal’ was shot in Nyugati station.
Budapest Keleti (eastern) railway station is the main international and inter-city railway terminal. The station building designed in eclectic style was constructed between 1881 and 1884. On the main facade can be seen two statues of James Watt and George Stephenson. Metro lines M2 and M4 are accessible from Keleti.
Budapest Deli (southern) railway station is located in Buda side and accessible by Metro line M2.
CENTRAL MARKET HALL (Nagyvásárcsarnok)
Located at the end of the famous pedestrian shopping street Vaci utca on the Pest side of the Liberty bridge at Fovam square is the Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall. This is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It opened in February 1897 and was the idea of the first mayor of Budapest, Karoly Kamermayer.
From the city famous for its Spa treatments, something to bring back home would be Omorovicza skincare items. The journey started from the Omorovicza family’s thermal bath in the 1800s. Their products are said to have the curative powers like the thermal waters of Budapest Spas.
I had a wonderful time at Budapest and would love to travel back to this great city some day again as I was there for a short time and there are lots of sights to see and things to experience on both side of the Danube from the Buda hills to the Pest side. As I was having my dinner on the last evening enjoying the sunset view of the Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge and then from my hotel window watched the beauty of a lit up Buda Castle with it’s reflection on the Danube, I captured those in my memories to relive in times like this.
- Budapest Airport is around 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the city centre. Public transport is available to reach the city centre.
- Fotaxi is the Airport’s official Taxi partner and can be booked online in advance.
- Budapest Card which allows free public transit and discounts for several museums, restaurants and sightseeing boat tours. Cards are available for 24-, 48- or 72-hour durations
- It is best to book your Spa treatments before hand as most slots gets filled up by locals as well as tourists.
- Buda Castle Funicular is open from 07:30 to 22:00. With the Budapest Card, the funicular is free in both directions.
- Parliament Entry tickets can be bought online and it is recommenced to do so as it is very popular and tickets get sold out fast.
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