Sunday, 14 January 2018

2 days in blooming Budapest

Greetings! Last November, my sister and I took an 8-day escorted tour to Central Europe. I wrote about our itinerary here. I'm now writing four individual posts on Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague. This post is the first of four. I hope you enjoy my trip highlights and the pictures as much as we've enjoyed our trip.

DAY 1, Saturday November 11- Depart for Hungary
  • Overnight seven-hour flight from Toronto to London. Arrived on time the next day.
  • Layover was two hours long at London Heathrow airport, just enough time to transfer from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5. The transfer took ninety minutes door to door, including a ten-minute shuttle bus ride.
  • Two-hour flight from London to Budapest. Arrived in Budapest around mid-day local time. So exciting!
DAY 2, Sunday November 12 - Arrive in Budapest
First impression at the baggage claim area of Budapest airport (BUD): A clean, simple, and modern terminal. Budapest is the embarkation of the popular Danube river cruise.

Below is a view of Budapest at night, outside our hotel. Note the tram, bus, bikes, and snow flake light displays as we were there about six weeks before Christmas. There is also a Metro (subway) entrance close by. Budapest has a well-established public transit system. 

In the evening, we met Michael, our tour manager, and nineteen fellow travellers (one from Australia and eighteen from the USA) at one of the restaurants in the hotel for our orientation meeting. Our group seemed friendly and courteous. We looked forward to having a fun week with them. We enjoyed a Welcome drink (champagne for me!) and a three-course dinner. My first dessert on the trip was a crème brulée served with three scrumptious cookies. 

DAY 3, Monday November 13 - Budapest City Tour, Great Market Hall, and Gellért Thermal Baths
We had a great buffet breakfast in the hotel, with plenty of hot and cold choices but the most unique is the delicious Hungarian goulash soup.

Next, we boarded our modern coach to take the morning city tour of Budapest. Budapest is the capital city of Hungary that straddles the Danube river, with the Buda Hills to the west and Pest to the east. We began in Pest and continued up the majestic Andrassy Boulevard toward Heroes' Square. This is Pest's greatest boulevard. It is lined with trees, museums, restaurants, and beautiful apartment buildings. It is a reminder that this city was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Heroes' Square was created for the millennium in 1896, which celebrates the arrival of the Magyar tribes in the Carpathian Basin in 896. The statues represent the chronology of some 1,000 years of Hungarian history.

Heroes' Square, Budapest
Leaving Heroes' Square, we passed by the Great Market Hall before crossing the Danube to the Buda Hills. Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, consists of two parts: the Royal Palace itself and the so-called Castle District. Most of this area is a reconstructed medieval city. The original castle was destroyed in World War II and replaced with the current Buda Castle. This is an interesting area for walking and wandering. There, we saw the Buda Castle and Matthias church.

Buda Castle, Budapest
Matthias church, Budapest

We continued to the Fisherman's Bastion for fantastic panoramic views of the city, including the Hungarian Parliament and impressive St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest church in Budapest.

Fisherman's Bastion
Hungarian Parliament seen from Fisherman's Bastion
St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

Budapest's exquisite Parliament building is the second largest in Europe after England's Westminster. The main facade faces the Danube. Designed by Imre Steindl and completed in 1902, the building mixes neo-Gothic style with a neo-Renaissance dome reaching 96m (315 ft), significant as the country's millennium was 1896 and the conquest of the kingdom of Hungary was 896. Unfortunately, we were unable to go inside for a guided tour as Hungarian Parliament was in session that day.  

Hungarian Parliament building
Afternoon was at leisure, so my sister and I decided to walk to the historic Great Market Hall with its over 100 market stalls and endless choices of regional products. It was fun to browse what was on sale. 

Great Market Hall, Budapest
Hungarian paprika
Hungarian salami
On our walk to and from the Great Market Hall, we admired the architecture in our surroundings. We reminded ourselves to always look up since so many interesting features on buildings are not at eye level. 

Great Market Hall at night
After an active touring day, nothing could be better than a soak in a thermal. We had passed by Széchenyi Baths, one of the largest spa complexes in Europe and the first thermal bath on the Pest side, however, the Gellért Baths are within walking distance from where we stayed. It is a big building, attached to a hotel. We spent about two hours soaking and relaxing at Gellért thermal baths. Below is Gellért layout to give you an idea of the inside. 

Gellért layout
We crossed the Széchenyi Bridge or the Chain Bridge which is the first permanent crossing to link Buda and Pest. Designed by William Tierney Clark, an Englishman, the bridge was also one of the largest suspension bridges of its time when it opened in 1849.

Chain Bridge, Budapest

In the evening, we walked to a local restaurant and enjoyed dinner before returning to our room to rest for the night. Sleep came easily thanks to the fresh air from our walk, the relaxing thermal baths, dinner with wine, and dessert.

Our stay in Budapest was brief, however, we both felt that we had an excellent introduction to the city and the Hungarian culture. As we wandered through the city, I reminded myself of two facts: Much of Budapest was bombed during World War II, and the Communist regime only ended in 1989. In a relatively short time, the city has made tremendous strides and it seems to be blooming. I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit Budapest with my sister. I'd highly recommend Budapest to other travellers.


  1. Your photos are gorgeous, I didn't know that Budapest had such beautiful architecture! And I'm surprised that there were so many Americans on your tour. I thought there might have been a few more Europeans on there. #LifeThisWeek

    1. Thank you AA in SF for visiting and commenting. Budapest has many beautiful buildings. I only included few of them here. The tour we took is with an American-based company hence the majority of the group was from various states in the USA.

  2. It is a part of Europe I would love to visit Natalie and probably on one of the river cruises. Your photos are great and I just love European history and the old buildings I could wander for hours.

    1. I'd love to return to Central Europe on a river cruise, too. Europe is a big draw for me as it has so much to offer, the countries are close together, and there are non-stop flights from my city. Thank you, Sue, for stopping by.

  3. Thank you for this window into Budapest. To be honest, it was nothing like what I had in my mind. One day, I'll be there. I'm planning to visit more of Europe in coming years.

    SSG xxx

    1. My pleasure, SSG. I hope my post gave you an even better view of Budapest than what you had in mind. Thank you for dropping by.

  4. I've never given much thought to Budapest as a travel destination, but the architecture is stunning. The Great Market Hall looks like a large version of St. Lawrence Market.

    1. Yes, Karen, the Great Market Hall and St Lawrence Market have similarities although the exterior of the Great Market Hall looks so much nicer to me. Budapest has become a popular travel destination, especially with the Danube river cruise.

  5. I greatly enjoyed taking this (virtual) tour with you, Natalie. I look forward to (virtually) tagging along on your Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague trips as well!

    1. Glad to share my travels with you, Donna. Thank you for dropping by.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing such a great tour of a very historic place. The thing with living in Australia is...distance for easy travel AND the fact that whilst we have an amazing pre-colonial past to delve into we remain, compared to Europe a very young country.
    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 3/52. Next week's optional prompt is "What is Kindness?"

    1. My pleasure to share this, Denyse. Thank you for dropping by and the link up.

  7. It's gorgeous! And I think you're right, a perfect introduction to the city. Beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Melissa, for your comment. I enjoyed Budapest very much.