Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg | Part One

Three cities, two countries, one weekend.

On October 7-9, I took a whirlwind trip through Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg. This post will focus on day one: Budapest. 

The Hungarian Parliament building, overlooking the Danube River at night.
The Hungarian Parliament building, overlooking the Danube River at night.

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the worlds prettiest cities. With over 1.7 million citizens and 200+ museums, fairs, festivals, and other attractions – it’s a world-class cultural hub, too.

We started our day in Budapest with a tour from a local guide, who showed us some of the major sites and told us about some of the city’s history. Who knew that it used to be three cities? It gets its current name from two of these cities – “Buda” and “Pest.” They used to be separated by the Danube, but now the river just runs straight through the city. Here are some of the sights we encountered on our walk:

Budapest
The Dohány Utcai Zsinagóga (or, Dohány Street Synagogue) was completed in 1859. It is the largest synagogue in Europe, and second in the world only to the Belz Great Synagogue in Jeruselem. It’s a classic example of Moorish Revival style architecture.
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Gotta love that Eastern European architecture!
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One of the two Klotild Palaces leading to the Elizabeth Bridge.
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The Inner City Parish Church, built on the site of the oldest church in Pest.
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Europe’s second-largest river, the Danube. It once served as the border between Buda and Pest, but now it runs right through it.
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Part of the Várbazár, or, Castle Garden Bazaar, near the entrance to Buda Castle.
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The morning sun shines through the Várbazár’s architecture.
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We could see a touch of fall color in the trees of the castle gardens. At 55 degrees, it felt like fall, too!
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From the garden, we had the option to take the stairs or an escalator to the bottom of the castle.
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Couldn’t leave the garden without taking a photo of one of the flowers!
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Travel buddies overlooking the city from Buda Castle!
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Just one part of the massive Buda Castle. Construction was first completed in 1265, but of course, this sprawling palace has been renovated and added to many, many, times since then.
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Pretty decorative details in a square near the palace. As we walked by, we saw a film crew working in the square.
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The Széchenyi Lánchíd, or, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, from the top of the Budavári Sikló (Budapest Castle Hill Funicular). When the bridge was finished in 1849. it was one of the largest in the world. It was also the first permanent bridge in Hungary – though most of it was rebuilt after being destroyed in WWII during the Seige of Budapest.
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Szent István Bazilika – St. Stephen’s Basilica is the third largest church in all of Hungary, and is named after the country’s first king.

The Hungarian Royal State Opera House, a good example of neo-Renaissance Hungarian architecture. Construction was completed in 1884. Nowadays, the building houses over 50 shows a year, plus the annual Hungarian Opera Ball.

Having worked up quite an appetite (we walked at least six miles during that trip!) it was finally time for lunch. Our guide took us to a street lined with restaurants, shops, and other cultural hot-spots. There were craftsmen selling their products all along the sides, and people from all over the world strolled along, enjoying the lively atmosphere so characteristic of Budapest. The street was closed to cars, so it was safe to simply walk through. It was truly incredible to be a part of that scene.

Lunchtime marked the end of our walking tour, so we said goodbye to our guide and chose a restaurant. I’m definitely *not* sick of Italian food yet, but I was still really excited to try something different. We sought out a place that looked authentically Hungarian, and ordered the most traditional foods we saw. I got chicken paprikash with dumplings – a dish I definitely intend to remake when I return home in December. That, plus the hot black tea on such a chilly day, made for an unforgettable lunch experience.

Trying to explain how good this was would simply not do it justice.
Trying to explain how good this was would simply not do it justice.

As if the day could get even more perfect – our weekend guides had a surprise for us. We were going to Budapest’s famous natural thermal baths. The trip was optional, and my friends and I decided at the last minute that we wanted to go. And we were so glad that we did.

The Széchenyi Fürdő - Széchenyi Bath. It's pools are filled with natural thermal water, thought to have certain medicinal properties.
The Széchenyi Fürdő, or Széchenyi Thermal Bath. It’s pools are filled with natural thermal water, thought to have certain medicinal properties.

We left as it was beginning to get dark, perfect timing to walk around the brightly-lit city. They say that the city takes on a whole new character once the sun goes down, but it was hard to imagine what that might be until I actually saw it for myself. We stopped for dinner (yet another great Hungarian dish, a salmon steak with traditionally cooked vegetables, plus a cup of hot green tea – I was into the tea that day, and a creamy mousse-like dessert) before setting out to explore. What we saw took our breath away.

City lights and vibrant Budapest culture.
City lights and vibrant Budapest culture.
St. Stephens, all lit up.
St. Stephens, all lit up at night.
Welcome to Budapest!
Welcome to Budapest!
Back at the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
The sparkling Széchenyi Chain Bridge with Buda Castle in the background.
Photos don't do this justice, but here's part of the city reflected in the waters of the Danube.
Photos don’t do this justice, but here’s part of the city reflected in the waters of the Danube. It was so beautiful!
Our first glimpse of Matthias Church and Halászbástya - the Fisherman’s Bastion. We felt like princesses climbing these stairs.
Our first glimpse of Matthias Church and Halászbástya – the Fisherman’s Bastion. We felt like princesses climbing these stairs.
Part of the Fisherman’s Bastion with Matthias Church in the background. The Fisherman's Bastion was built at the turn of the century to commemorate the 1000th birthday of Hungary. It's seven towers represent the seven tribes that came together to found the country.
Part of the Fisherman’s Bastion with Matthias Church in the background. The Fisherman’s Bastion was built at the turn of the century to commemorate the 1000th birthday of Hungary. Its seven towers represent the seven tribes that came together to found the country.
It both looked and felt like a castle. Try to imagine live violin music playing in the background of these views.
It both looked and felt like a castle. There were live violinists adding elegant ambiance to the views, too.
One of the seven towers.
One of the seven towers.
Mátyás-templom, or, Matthias Church. Its long and complicated history begins in 1015 and includes several reconstructions, a few coronations (and royal weddings), and even some time as a mosque.
Mátyás-templom, or, Matthias Church. Its long and complicated history begins in 1015 and includes several reconstructions, a few coronations (and royal weddings), and even some time as a mosque.
Some of the best panoramas of the Hungarian Parliament Building can be seen from the Fisherman's Bastion.
Some of the best panoramas of the Hungarian Parliament Building can be seen from the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Just look at that Gothic architecture!
Just look at that Gothic architecture!
~emoji with the heart eyes~
~emoji with the heart eyes~
One more because I really just can't get enough of this building.
One more because I really just can’t get enough of this building.
Two passersby show the massive size of the church.
Two passersby show the massive size of the church.
And lastly, the icon of Budapest at night - the Hungarian Parliament Building, in all its sparkling splendor.
And lastly, the icon of Budapest at night – the Hungarian Parliament Building, in all its sparkling splendor.

Unfortunately, it was getting late. With the next morning’s early wake-up call in mind, we headed back to the hostel to rest up for our upcoming Austrian adventures. I’ll never forget my time in Budapest, and I’m so grateful that we were able to see so much of the city in our short time there.

‘Til next time, Hungary! Now, off to Austria.

 

 

Gelato Count: 33

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