Rather than a long form travel blog for this trip, I will leave you with three posts – one for each city, with pictures of the highlights. Please comment if you have any questions!
From Vienna we took a bus to Budapest with our Great Value Vacations tour group and guide. It took about 4 hours and we arrived midday, so these photos span our two days in Budapest.
Rest stops in Hungary kiiiind of look just like rest stops in the US.
We spent the first few hours in Budapest in the Buda’s Castle District. One of the mot prominent landmarks is Matthias Church, a romanesque Roman Catholic church, built in 1015. Overlooking Matthias Church is the founder of the first church ever to stand on this site, Saint Stephen.
Here’s a video of Matthias Church and the surrounds:
From the walls of Buda Castle just behind the church, there are sweeping views of Pest. Technically Buda and Pest are two separate cities which are bisected by the Danube River; the Chain Bridge connects hilly Buda to the west of the river with flat Pest to the east.
The most grand sight from the wall, not that you can miss it, is that of the Hungarian Parliament Building. It is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, home to the crown jewels, the largest building in Hungary, and the tallest building in Budapest.
From Buda, the bus took us south to take in the best views of the city and the Danube from Gellért Hill.
The next day John and I were up super early to enjoy a full day on our own in Budapest, also the last full day of this awesome trip.
Just outside Heroes’ Square is the Memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It’s slightly hard to see from the angle I shot it at (more/better pictures can be seen here) but it is a truly gripping piece of sculpture. The monument represents, from back to front, the coalescing of Hungarian freedom fighters who stood up for the independence of their country. The rusted, sporadic, small columns come together dramatically to form one unified, strong, sharp, formidable beacon under which stone is cracked and order is disrupted. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a nationwide revolt against the government and its Soviet-imposed policies. I encourage you to read about it; my description just barely scratches the surface.
For lunch we walked to Budapest’s massive indoor market, Great Market Hall. After lunch we checked out all of the vendors, food stalls, and souvenir shops.
From the Great Market Hall we walked across the Liberty Bridge over to the Budapest Cave Church (Sziklatemplom), which is a church built inside a series of caves inside Gellért Hill.
The hill provides a great view of the Liberty Bridge and the Danube River, as well as another statue of St. Stephen.
Just casually whizzing by the Parliament Building…
Up next was a visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica named in honor of – you guessed it – Hungary’s favorite son, St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary. They love him so much they keep his right hand is on display in a reliquary in the back of the church. I took pictures of the hand but didn’t post them here since they are kind of gross (check it out here if you like).
This basilica was unlike any church I have ever been in; it truly took my breath away. I’d probably drop dead if I ever go to Rome.
Video I took of the unbelievable interior of St. Stephen’s Basilica: (don’t miss the dome at the end)
The Hungarian State Opera House:
To celebrate our final day of vacation, we had afternoon tea in the lovely New York Cafe – advertised as “the most beautiful cafe in the world.” It did not disappoint.
That evening we took the subway downtown to have dinner at Cyrano restaurant (finally tried the Hungarian classic, chicken paprikash).
After dinner we took a nighttime boat tour on the Danube.
Picture perfect Parliament Building at night:
I really loved Budapest. Of all three cities, it’s the one I would come back to first. It was elegant, visually beautiful, and easy to get around. I loved the contrasting vibes of Buda and Pest; they are a unique set of cities with very different, yet genuine and special, personalities. Buda is craggy, verdant, and full of old-world charm; Pest is slick, modern, bright, and chic.
The next morning we were headed to the airport early to make the long 12 hour journey home by way of Amsterdam.
Our tour of Central Europe – Prague, Vienna, Budapest – was magical. We had the most wonderful time, due largely in part to our guide and choosing to travel on an escorted tour. There’s just so much to see and, without a local guide in a foreign country, I think I’d be hard pressed to chose our itinerary and really get a sense of each place. I highly recommend a guided tour when traveling abroad; we’ve done it twice now and it’s been an absolute perfect choice for us.
As for the three cities, I honestly could not pick a favorite. I loved each one equally and that surprised me; I thought I’d have a definite favorite. I already want to return to all three, there’s so much to do and see that we didn’t get to on this trip (and that’s saying a lot because we did so much!). I named each of the three posts after each city’s motto or nickname because these characteristics are what have stayed with me since we returned home. This vacation will certainly be a tough one to beat!