A lot of popular river cruises that travel throughout Europe start or stop at Budapest, capital of Hungary in Eastern Europe. If you decide to go on one of these lovely cruises, I suggest you spend a few extra days in beautiful Budapest. I did, and I am incredibly glad I did.
Budapest, pronounced ‘Buda-pesht’ is situated on the River Danube which separates Buda, the hilly old part of the city from Pest, the flat newer area. The city was originally two separate towns, Obuda and Pest and were unified in 1873. I found it an incredibly charming city. Everyone talks of other European cities – such as Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam as the must-go-to places but when I arrived in Budapest I thought, ‘Why have I never heard anyone raving about this place?” It is positively beautiful.
My friend and I stayed at a lovely hotel, art’Otel which is situated at the base of well-known Castle Hill and diagonally opposite the Parliament Buildings which at night are spectacularly lit up in golden light, making a glorious reflection in the Danube. From our window we could gaze at the Parliament or watch pedestrians walking in the street which edged the river, and see the yellow trams, which along with a subway provide the public transport in Budapest. The hotel is approximately 200 meters from Chain Bridge, Budapest’s first permanent bridge that crossed the Danube and was built in 1849.
Just near the start of Chain Bridge is a funicular up the hill to the old town part of Buda. There are also little semi-open buses that take approximately 12 passengers up to and around this area. Once you have paid your ticket you can hop off and get back on any of these buses at any time. This was the method of transport we chose. Off we went, the bus winding its way up the hill. At the top we visited Trinity Square and the historic 13th century Mattias Church with its spire reaching to the Heavens. We gazed at the lower parts of Budapest and the river from the open turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion. We wandered in little cobble-stone streets and bought gifts for family and friends from quaint shops. I loved it all.
Another day we went on a bus tour which included visiting Pest, the newer part of Budapest. Here we saw Heroes Square with its famous stature complex – with statutes of important Hungarian National leaders. We passed through streets where the well-to-do once lived and then an area where Jewish people resided before World War II. We also passed what is known as the Great Market, opened in 1897 where wine, souvenirs, and food such as salami and spices are sold. We never got to visit this famous market, but it’s on the list for next time.
The creative composer and pianist, Franz Liszt, although German born, spent time in beautiful Budapest. He conducted an orchestra as a fundraiser of flood victims of Budapest and some of his wonderful compositions are based on Hungarian folk music. The Franz Liszt Academy of Music is situated in Budapest.
Another famous person connected to Budapest is Harry Houdini, the world re-known illusionist and stunt performer. He was born in Budapest to Jewish parents.
Budapest doesn’t have quite the tourist rush of some other European cities. This along with it’s fascinating history and artistic culture adds to its charm.