We arrived in Budapest just over 48 hours ago. It feels like much longer! As I write this blog, we are on the train, already leaving Budapest and heading for Vienna. We really enjoyed our quick and jam-packed time in Budapest.
When we arrived in Budapest, we hopped into the private car we had pre-arranged for 40 EUR to take us to the Intercontinental Hotel. It was about a 40 minute drive, so I think the 40EUR was quite reasonable.
The Intercontinental Hotel is right beside the Chain Bridge in the heart of downtown Budapest. The location could not be better and we were lucky to get a River View room with a view of the Castle Hill. It was amazing all lit up at night and being able to watch all the River Cruises sail by.
Our first afternoon in Budapest was spent wandering around the Castle Hill District and taking a 1 hour tour of the Hospital in the Rock Museum. For $18 CAD, it was pretty reasonable and worthwhile if you have extra time. The tours run every hour. The underground hospital was used in WWII and during the Civil uprising in 1956. They have some exhibitions set up to show you what the conditions would have been like at the time and also some exhibitions set up for later, when it was used as a bomb shelter during the Cold War. The museum is found on the far side of Castle Hill, about a 20 -30 minute walk from the Intercontinental Hotel.
Our one full day in Budapest we managed fit in two walking tours, 30,000 steps that covered the majority of the main sites of central Budapest. Our first walking tour was a “Hidden Gems” Tour with a private guide. We started by taking the oldest metro in mainland Europe from near our hotel to Hero’s Square. We had a quick walk to the Szechenyi baths (very near Hero’s Square) for a quick look around. I wish we had an extra day, the baths looked wonderful. There is a combo of indoor and outdoor baths, you get massages and VIP tours. That would have been VERY nice after a long day of walking. They open early in the morning and that is the quiet time to go. It gets busier later in the day. After that, we went through Hero’s square with our guide, Gabor, talking about how Hungary was settled by Pagan Nomadic Tribes and later “civilized” and “Christianized” by St. Stephan. The Hero’s square pays tribute to them all.
We continued walking past the Opera House, with a quick look inside at the amazing opulent interior. We walked through the Jewish Quarter with a Secret stop in a hidden courtyard to view the last remaining piece of the Jewish Ghetto Wall from World War II. It still had some of the barbed wire on top and at one time 70,000 Jewish people were imprisoned inside those walls. It was quite moving. We had a stop for Kosher Cake and Coffee in a Jewish Bakery and continued on to the Holocaust Memorial, past the Terror Museum (which used to house the Secret Police) and back to the Riverfront. This completed our “pest” side of the tour.
We walked across the Chain Bridge and up to the top of Castle Hill. There is also the option to take the Funicular Train to the top, if you prefer not to walk. There were some amazing lookout points from the Castle, across the Danube to Parliament. We wandered past some of the artifacts in the castle and past the Presidents offices. We viewed some more of Castle Hill’s “must sees”, some churches, lookouts and an 800 year old Church Tower. The Church survived the Turkish invasion, but only the tower survived the bombing of WWII.
That concluded our first walking tour. We had a couple of hours to rest our weary feet and change into dry shoes and clothes (it was quite a rainy day!), before we headed out on our second walking tour. The second tour was arranged with Secret Food Tours and included many stops for authentic food and drinks. This was also a private tour and we
met up with our tour guide first for coffee and traditional Flodni Cake, then walked through Liberty Square, past some of the Embassy’s to the Downtown Market for an amazing arrangement of local sausages, meats, cheese, pickles, baguette and chutneys. This was my favorite stop. The Rosemary and Pear Chutney was so good, I had to buy a couple of jars! We also received a traditional favorite chocolate treat of Hungarians. It was a cottage cheese/lemon filling covered in dark chocolate. It was surprisingly good and tasted like chocolate covered cheese cake.
We rolled ourselves to a food truck for Langos (fried bread covered with garlic, sour cream and cheese SO good!) and on past St. Stephens Cathedral to another food truck for cinnamon covered funnel cake. By then we are so full we can hardly move, but we aren’t done yet. The Hungarians take their food seriously. We went to Cupakos in the Jewish district for Goulash Soup and toasted bread with Chicken Pate topped with warm Apple Chutney (their Secret Dish).
Finally, we moved on to the best part of the evening, the wine tasting at a local wine bar, which only serves Hungarian wines. We sampled three, our tour ended there and we decided to stay on for another bottle of wine. It was a nice little spot with live entertainment.
Finally, we called our very full day in Budapest to an end with a quick walk back to the hotel for a well-deserved good night sleep. The main train station is under construction for a couple of weeks, so we took a taxi (17 EUR) to the Kelenfold Train station. It was quite old and dilapidated but it did the trick and our train was pretty easy to find. First class train tickets Budapest to Vienna were about $100 CDN per person. Sandwiches on the train, which were surprisingly good were only $3.50 EUR each and there is free WIFI. The three hours is passing quite quickly with some nice countryside and green rolling hills and villages to look at on our way. We are looking forward to our few days in Vienna!