The day started off not quite as I might have expected. I knew that I was booked for a tour of Budapest, Hungary, but a lack of information caused me almost to miss it. The departure time was listed as 7.15 am with a request to be prepared half an hour prior. It turns out that the pickup was closer to 6.15 am, and I was not quite ready without breakfast. Even still I made it downstairs and grabbed something for breakfast in about four minutes.
Vienna To Budapest
Budapest is located a little over 200km from Vienna as the crow flies or around 243km by road. The drive takes around 2.5 – 3 hours and crosses the border between Austria and Hungary. The first hour of the drive is on the Austrian side of the border, and even though you can still identify the border, there is no need to stop. The result of the more open border policy within the European Union.
Although the countryside is rather beautiful with many sprawling green fields, it is also a little featureless. That is except for the vast number of wind turbines. You start seeing them not far from Vienna, and they dot the countryside for a significant portion of the drive. I would guess until around 60-70 km from Budapest. So I made use of the time to complete writing my post for St Stephen’s Cathedral and started on this post.
The bus arrived in Budapest just before 10.30 am. The arrival into the city is the first part of the description of the city, as the tour guide describes it is, in fact, two cities, Buda and Pest. The arrival from the west brings us in on the Buda side, before crossing one of ten bridges to the Pest side of the Danube River.
Today though the two cities are not referred to individually. In 1873 the two names were joined to form the name we know the city as today Budapest. I suppose it is a little interesting fact for the tour, to get started.
The first stop for the tour was a short photo stop at Heroes Square, which is located in City Park. The construction of the monument was started in 1896 and coincided with the millenary celebrations in Budapest. The dedication of the monument is to the seven tribes that founded Hungary.
Also in City Park is a rather impressive looking castle by the name of Vaydahunyad Castle, also built for the Millennia Celebrations in 1896. The building is a little unique in the number of architectural styles used in the one building. It may not be obvious, but there is a total of 21 different styles in this building.
In front of Vaydahunyad Castle is a large man-made lake, which is currently empty. It is used for two different purposes depending on the season. In the winter the lake is frozen over for ice skating, while in the summer you can rent small boats on the lake. It is currently between seasons at the moment.
Lunch In Budapest
The next stop I was very much looking forward to, which was lunch. The tour included lunch, but we had to cross back to the other side of the Danube, on the Buda side as the tour guide referred to it. The restaurant was named Rivalda Cafe & Restaurant. The meal was a Hungarian style 3-course lunch, starting with Goulash, with Paprika Chicken for a main and Chocolate Biscuit style dessert.
Budapest Walking Tour
The next part of the tour was with a local guide for a short walking tour around some landmarks. There was a little history of the Buda Castle District. Including landmarks such as The Royal Palace, Presidents Residence, Màtyàs Church (Mattias Church) and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Also from this location, there is a great view across the Danube River. One of the main buildings that stand out is the Parliament Building on the opposite Bank.
From here it was back on the bus and another time across the Danube River. Where there was a short driving tour to point out a number rather impressive buildings. However, for me, the point I was looking forward to was the free time that followed.
St Stephan’s Basilica
The first spot I visited was St Stephan’s Basilica, partially because this is where the tour guide left us. But also because I do very much enjoy visiting large churches. St Stephan’s Basilica was named after the most important Kind of Hungary. Although it does share the same name as the Cathedral in Vienna, there is not link for the naming.
The interior of the Basilica is beautiful. There is so much detail in the ornate decoration, and every surface is made of marble. It never ceases to surprise me just how much detail some of these craftsmen get into these churches.
Dohany Street Synagogue
One of the things I love about exploring a city without much planning is the places that you can discover. It was not until I walked close and realised it was possible to visit that I found myself visiting one of the world’s largest Synagogues. I believe it may be the first Synagogue that I have ever visited.
The Synagogue is mentioned as one of the largest in the world with a capacity of almost 3,000. There is seating for 1492 in the male gallery and 1472 in the female gallery. Inside the building is a lot more ornately decorated than most other Synagogues and honestly it does look very impressive.
In the open area behind the Synagogue building is a memorial to the Holocaust. Each leave on this metal tree holds the name of a person.
Returning To Vienna
The day exploring Budapest has been great and very much enjoyed the time here. Thankfully the bus is quite comfortable as the return journey to Vienna is just like this morning another 3 hours.
While I did find it enjoyable and there is still a lot more to see in the area, I am not sure if I would return or not to stay in the city. I just seemed to get a little bit of a different feeling about the city to other cities I have visited. I am not sure if that is a result of arriving through the tour and not having to navigate the airport and hotels. But time will tell if I am in the area it may be a spot that I will return.