Just in case you get tired of walking in Budapest, take one these cars (picture above) and enjoy a vintage drive around town! I was more than happy using my 24-hour unlimited public transport card, hopping from one tram to another, getting to my chosen destinations.
Today, I was heading towards Buda, the quieter part of Budapest, home to the Unesco World Heritage Site Varhegy (Castle Hill). Castle Hill is a towering plateau, about a kilometer long, that can be seen from the Pest side. It is Budapest’s most important tourist area and contains the most important monuments and museums. If you are on a quick trip to the city, start here and you wont regret it. It contains the Buda Castle Labyrinth, Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery…amongst other things. Take a heritage walk at the Castle, but make sure you keep a day for this place (and plenty of water).
We sneaked up behind the Buda Castle and took the elevator up, which comes out at a large inner courtyard called the Lions Courtyard, and is symbolized by two lions at the entrance and two inside the court. For some reason, the lions on the outside are ferocious while the ones inside are calm. I wonder why? The courtyard contains the Library and the History Museum.
If you walk West from the elevator, you would be looking at beautiful buildings which house the National Art Gallery. Come with a few hours to walk through these magnificent galleries. If you plan to skip the galleries and sit outside, check out the Matthias Fountain, which shows King Matthias and his team of dogs and assistants on a deer hunt. The fountain, which is one of the most popular sites in the Castle, was destroyed during the war and has been restored to its original beauty.
The best part of the Castle is the terrace, which overlooks the river and the Pest side. Arguably the most popular place and you will meet fellow tourists taking pictures throughout the day, especially at sunset. You can spot many landmarks of Budapest including the Basilica, the Parliament, the Chain Bridge, and be prepared to spend some time here. It’s not easy to move away from this view. If you are tired of standing, sit in the cafe nearby…the lemonade was quite nice.
The terrace also has the monument of Price Eugene of Savoy, who himself cannot take his eyes of the view! The sculpture was originally made for a town called Zenta, but then the price was so high that the town decided to let it pass. It was then installed here as a temporary installation as the Court wanted a statue of King Franz Joseph. That never happened and Eugene became the lucky one to enjoy the view!
The Castle has many sites and you can keep walking. For me, I wanted out of the Castle and decided to take the Funicular down to the Bridge. Before boarding the train, I stopped and admired the stunning Turul Bird on the terrace. With its wings spread open, it looks as if it is ready to swoop down for a hunt!
The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular or Budavari Siklo is a short ride but you become a part of history. The railway was opened in 1870, but was destroyed in the Second World War. It opened again for public use in the 1980’s. The walk downhill is also quite nice, so in case you are not tired already, do it! There is a beautiful mural at the exit of the funicular but I was more excited to see a little Suzuki 800 at its base. My fascination with small cars in Budapest went on!
Standing beside the Danube, I wondered if the sun will ever set. It was already seven in the evening, and it was in no hurry to let the night take over. I was, on the other hand planning to go on a Danube Cruise and enjoy the various sites of Budapest from the river. The cruise is for an hour and goes around the Margaret Island and comes back to the city. It was the most relaxing one hour after walking for miles. As always, I couldn’t take my eyes off the Hungarian Parliament, one of the most stunning building to be made! ( I have already blogged about this building)
Evenings are the best time to be out in Budapest. The weather is great, and the people like to party! Go anywhere and you’ll find the beer gardens doing good business. So how could I not be a party to that? I recommend walking along the Danube, on either side, and see the lights come on. The Chain Bridge and the Buda Castle look beautiful. When you are bored with staring at the sites, head to a bar, or a casino or one of the many nightclubs in town. None will disappoint you!
It was time to head back…first to Vienna and then back home to India. On the last day, I decided to go and see two popular sites of Budapest…Hero’s Square and the Szechenyi Baths. If Budapest is the city of spa’s, then Szechenyi Bath is the king. Szechenyi was the first thermal bath of the Pest side. Though started in the late 19th century, its current structure dates from 1913. Since then, it has slowly developed and the last major reconstruction of the place was 1999. Tourists flock this place and it is a ‘must’ on many travel guides. Since you are already here, you may as well take a dip. Tickets start at approx 3200HUF and a massage cost extra. Overall, it’s worth the money and time spent here.
Have you walked the Andrassy Utca yet? This is Budapest’s shopping district, a road lined with trees, neat and tidy, upmarket crowd, various high-end restaurants and many sites. It’s often compared to Champs-Elysees, though much smaller. The Andraasy has the State Opera House, a tour of which is recommended. If theatre interests you, then head to the Budapest Operetta and the Thalia on the Nagymezo Utca. Further towards the Hero’s Square, you will cross the House of Terror, which was used for interrogation and torture pre World War II. I decided to walk past this one as I didn’t have an appetite for ‘torture’ that morning.
Hosok Tere ( or Hero’s Square) is at the end of the Andrassy. One of the largest squares of Budapest, its consists of two colonnades with statues of personalities from the seven tribes that founded Hungary. It also has a few statutes of famous guys from the recent Hungarian History. Together, the statues are called the Millenium Memorial, opened to the public in 1900. The Memorial is flanked by two beautiful buildings, The Museum of Fine Arts and The Palace of Art. The cenotaph in front of the colonnade is dedicated to the Hero’s who gave their life for National Independence.
Just behind the Hero’s square is the City Park, in case you want to take a well deserved break. I had spent three wonderful days in Budapest and like all good things, this stay had to end. With a quick stop at my hotel to pick up my bags, I reached the Keleti Terminus to catch the Railjet to Vienna. As my train left the platform, I wondered if I would have a chance to come back to Budapest. Not in the near future…ghummakkad had many other places to go!