BUDAPEST - Eastern European Gem - Trip Report
Two Magyar cities conjoined. Budapest is a combination of Buda on the west side of the Danube and Pest on the east side. This exotic city is the capital of Hungary and it proudly maintains its Magyar ethnic and cultural heritage.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge: From Pest we headed to Buda, crossing the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge from which there are nice city views of Buda.
The Citadel and Buda Castle. Once across the bridge we climbed up to the Citadel located on Castle Hill at the top of Buda. Many interesting structures are contained in these fortified walls of the Citadel.
The Buda Castle. Here is a night-time view of the Bud Castle atop the Citadel with the Szecheny Chain Bridge in front of it, as seen from the rooftop bar at the Aria Hotel in Pest.
Matthias Church. The most impressive edifice in the Citadel is Matthias Church dating back to 1269. Originally built in a Baroque style, it was redesigned as a mosque in the 16th century, then restored as a Catholic church in the 17th century. It has been the site of many coronations and royal marriages over the centuries. It’s design and decoration is jaw dropping with its dazzling tile roof (shown above) and equally dazzling interior.
Fisherman’s Bastion. The Fisherman’s Bastion, next to the Matthias Church, looks out over the Danube and Pest.
Around the Citadel. The Citadel is a pretty place to walk around, with museums, the National Art Gallery, consulates, plazas, colorful buildings, and great views.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral. On the Pest side we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral. While not as dazzling as the Matthias Church, it provided a wonderful evening of classical music. Starting with a majestic Bach fugue on the cathedral’s massive pipe organ, and moving on to works performed by the violinist, trumpeter, and opera singers - all accompanied by the organist. The acoustics were amazing.
The Opera House. We also visited the eye-popping Hungarian State Opera House in Pest. Built in the 18th century to rival and outshine the opera house in the Imperial Capital of Vienna. Emperor Franz was angered but his wife loved it so much she became a regular attendee with her own dedicated box overlooking the stage.
The Parliament. The Parliament building dominates Pest. It is the third largest parliament building in the world. This magnificent structure features Neo-Gothic architecture (although displaying Renaissance and Baroque aspects too).
Restaurants. We loved the restaurants in Budapest. From elegant to full of character, all with great food. And not expensive. Here is the traditional Hungarian restaurant we dined at on our first night (left), and the Italian restaurant we dined at on a later evening.
Streets of Pest. Just walking around Pest was enjoyable with its interesting streets, neighborhoods and architecture. The city at night is particularly charming.
Public Baths. We visited the highly popular Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, a public bath in City Park. Beautiful structure and great pools, saunas, and spa treatments.
Vajdahunyad Castle. Also in City Park is this eye-catching old castle. The castle contains parts of buildings from various time periods, and thus it displays different architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The castle contains a statue of Béla Lugosi, the famous Hungarian-American actor who portrayed Count Dracula in the original 1931 film.
Covered Market. The covered market in Budapest is a cut above the other covered markets we have been in around the world. Large, open, bright, with interesting architectural details.
Szimplakest. One of our favorite spots was the Szimpla bar (“kest” means “bar”). This is one of the “ruin bars” that opened after WWII in the ruins of bombed buildings and over the years this one has become a large quirky fun place for food and drink.