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January 13th 2015
Published: January 13th 2015
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We had a good deal to Budapest, that included flights, 3 nights at Hotel Gold, 48hr hop on hop off bus (Big Bus Tours 7000 HUF per adult) that also included a 2hr boat trip on the Danube and an hours night bus tour. We weren’t expecting too much but were pleasantly surprised!

We had arranged transfers through the Hotel Gold (8500 HUF or 30 euros) who were duly at the airport with a board and a 30 minute taxi drive, took us over the Elizabeth bridge onto the Buda side of the river and to our hotel at the top of the hill! It was quite a luxurious (for us!!) lovely room, double sized shower, flat screen tv sunk into the wall – all very pleasant – even the Italian restaurant underneath did superb food! Breakfast was the usual but a good choice of cereals, sunflower seeds, dates, yoghurts, meats, cheeses, scrambled egg etc. Very helpful, pleasant staff and apart from the fact it was a 10 minute walk past the Citadella down to the Elizabeth Bridge and the centre it was perfect!

The best time to go to the Citadella was the evening because of the fantastic views over all of the city. I’m sure if it was summertime it would be lovely to stroll around the parkland of Gellert Hill, but as the temperature was about 1C, it was just too cold!

We caught the Big Bus from Stop 8 by the Chain Bridge and nearly completed a circuit of the City, getting off at Heroes Square the end of Andrassy Avenue, which is a straight 2km leafy elegant thoroughfare , emulating Paris’ Champs Elysees, with Europe’s oldest underground railway running underneath! The forecasted rain and sleet for the day had so far held off ,but we did have a shower as we got off the bus, so headed for a café for some delicious goulash soup. Watched the skaters on the largest outside skating ice rink in Europe, with the backdrop of the fairytale Vajdahunyad Castle that is now a museum! Impressive building though!

We had decided to go to Szechenyi Baths (built 1909) in the City Park as it was one of the largest Spa complexes in Europe and the first Baths to be built in Pest and the second deepest well in Budapest, the water being sourced from a depth of 1246 metres at 76C. Paid our entrance of 4700 HUF that included a secure cabin to change in, and entry to about 14 different indoor pools at various temperatures, and three outdoor pools! Deliciously hot and very pleasant despite the cold outside temperature although it didn’t snow as was forecast! Only downside was we hadn’t taken towels and they wanted 4900HUF (nearly £12.00!!!) to rent one towel! (tip – bring your own ).

The highlight of the day was the boat trip that we boarded a dusk, about 4.15pm! Whereas throughout the day the city appears grey and quite colourless, as the evening falls and the lights come on, the whole place is transformed! All the bridges and old buildings and palaces are spectacularly lit and the Parliament building, Hungarys largest building, is quite magnificent in all its illuminated splendour!!

The 2nd day we walked from the hotel to the Church in the Cave, near the Hotel Gellert. Entrance fee paid, propaganda film watched , it actually was quite an interesting place to visit! Literally a church in a series of small caves!! (Choral music to the film was “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol……unless they got the melody from an obscure Hungarian hymn ?)

Quick peer in the baths lobby of the Hotel Gellert (another hot pool complex) and a walk across Freedom Bridge to the large indoor market followed by a walk around the downtown streets and across the Chain Bridge. The Chain Bridge was the first permenant link between Buda and Pest over the Danube, and at both sides there are a pair of lions! Apparently the person who sculpted these lions and thought they were perfect. He apparently jumped into the Danube after the unveiling ceremony were unveiled, when someone shouted out that the lions had no tongues!! We then caught the Hop On, Hop Off bus to the top of the hill to visit St Matthias Church, the Castle area and the Fishermans Bastillion! We were very lucky as the sun made a brief appearance and transformed the photos!!

Had a walk around the Castle area, decided not to go into the Hospital in the Rocks ( quite pricy at £9.00 each?) and over to the large Royal Palace, watched the changing of the guards, had a peer at the old steam funicular railway before waiting for the bus to take us back to St Stephens Basilica.

Definitely worth a visit, spectacularly gloomy interior, laced with a lot of gold! The Christmas trees were still lit up on the alter (should have been down by now??) but it did cheer the place up a bit! St Stephens is 96 metres high (the same as the Parliament Building! – this commemorates the year the Magyors settled in Hungary - 896) Walked out to the Chapel at the back to see St Stephens Hand – this is one well travelled hand!! King Stephen died on 15th Aug 1038 and his hand had been kept in Transylvania, then Dubrovnik, Vienna and to Buda in 1771. From here, in 1944, it was taken to the West before returning to Budapest in August 1945.

Anyway, to see the hand you have to pay 200 HUF to light it up……..its quite small!!! Paid a small fee to get up to the Bell Tower – we cheated and took the lift instead of the 396 steps!! Good views all around but nothing different!!

We also wanted to see the ‘shoe sculpture’ which we thought was by the Parliament Building! It is a permanent memorial to a group of Jew who were shot and forced by the ‘Arrow Cross Party’ to jump into the Danube to their death, leaving their shoes on the riverbank. Quite moving – glad we saw it.

After a quick break for coconut, white hot chocolate with cream (scrummy!!!) and a cherry brownie, had a wander around the shopping centre until it was time to board the Big Bus Night Tour at 19.00pm! It didn’t add to our experience at all but if you haven’t done the boat trip I suppose it would be worth it!

We had been recommended a restaurant by my son and his partner, Rose Restaurant, in the Jewish quarter, so after we got off the bus we had a wander through the old back streets past Europes’ largest Synagogue until we found it! Rewarded with a lively meal, accompanied by a duet who were willing to play anything we requested!! Chris was persuaded to buy the cd if you wish to hear it!!!! I’m sure it was the plum palenco that helped persuade him!!!

A taxi ride (1780 HUF) back to the hotel ended our Budapest weekend! We have to be up early tomorrow to get the 10.50am flight back to the UK

Additional photos below
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21st January 2015

Great write up
I am glad you enjoyed Budapest, it seems that you had a lovely time and got to see nearly everything that is important. Loved your detailed write up, and beautiful pictures. Andrea
6th December 2015

Looks like a fantastic trip!

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