Our guide to Budapest
So you are going to Europe and contemplating a stop in Budapest? Do not even hesitate, we found it to be elegant and intriguing, filled with magnificent architecture and plenty to do. I wish we had spent even more time there! We honestly did not get to see everything we wanted to or even experience the famous baths.
Although we were not able to see absolutely everything, we really did accomplish quite a bit of the itinerary. Our stay at The Ritz Carlton Hotel on Elizabeth Square was a fantastic luxury experience in the perfect central location. This convenient home base made it super easy to see the sights efficiently.
The Great Market Hall
OH the market! One of my very favorite stops on the Budapest tour. The Great Market Hall is absolutely HUGE. Built in the neo-gothic style, this massive space catered to thousands of visitors. During the summer it was extremely crowded, but I was still thrilled to be there. The ground floor held the large meat counters and gorgeous produce stands. The market is the spot where many locals do their weekly shopping as well as entertain the crowds of tourists. The upper floors were filled with stalls offering hand made items, souvenirs and many delicious food places where you could choose authentic Hungarian dishes and sweets. LOVED IT!
St Stephen’s Basilica
Completed in 1901, it is the largest church in Budapest and can seat 8,500 people. When the sunlight streams in through the stained glass windows the beauty of the church makes you stop where you are and look up. You can actually go up inside the dome to see amazing views of the city. We spent quite a bit of time inside just appreciating this glorious sacred structure. In addition, the church offers very popular concerts featuring the work of prestigious composers including Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Vivaldi.
I keep thinking… “This is my favorite, no, this is my favorite, no, this is my favorite.” I have many favorites in Budapest. The city offers so many captivating buildings with so much history. I truly enjoyed everything! Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that connected the Buda and the Pest sides for the first time. There is a crazy story that the bridge architect was extremely proud of the structure and defied anyone to criticize it. Someone pointed out that the famous lions at each bridgehead had no tongues. Legend says that he was so upset that he threw himself in the river. Evidently this never happened but it is a fantastic story that is shared on every tourist bus!
Parliament Building & Boat Tour on the Danube
No this is my real favorite! We took a boat tour down the Danube which is an absolute MUST! To see the city from the water gives you an entirely new perspective. If you ask anyone what you should see in Budapest, they will always say that you must see the Parliament Building. However the building is so enormous it would be impossible to miss it!
According to Visit Budapest Travel it is the third largest parliament building in the world. Our busy touring schedule did not allow enough time to go inside the building, but just the views from the water were mind-blowing. As an architecture enthusiast, I must have taken fifty photos from many different angles!
This enormous and grand square is dedicated to the heroes who lost their lives fighting for the country’s independence. It is conveniently located at the end of Andrassy Avenue, adjacent to the City Park and The Museum of Fine Arts.
This beautiful walking street lined with impressive neo-classic style buildings, mansions and palaces was created for the bankers, aristocrats and noble families. In addition to the stunning architecture, today you will find elegant and expensive shopping as well as popular cafes and chic restaurants. It is referred to as the Champs-Élysées of the east and I can see why.
New York Café
Even if the cafe was filled with tourists, it was totally worth our time. The New York Café website explains “At the turn of the 20th century the New York Café (New York Kávéház) was the most beautiful and the most beloved coffee house in Budapest. It was a popular place among writers and editors, in fact, the most influential newspapers were edited here, upstairs in the gallery.”
We can attest to the opulence and grandeur of the interior as we ate sweet treats while listening to live chamber music. A magical moment indeed!
Views from Castle Hill
Honestly, this was my absolute favorite. Like an oil painting the views of the city below caused you to blink and think, Is this real? The pastel colored views of the Danube and famous bridges of Budapest are unlike any city I have seen. We took photos and selfies galore and could not believe our luck in visiting on such a gloriously clear and sunny day.
Take the Big Bus
Tam and I found that by taking the easy to maneuver “Big Bus” Tour Bus around the city, we were able to really get a feel for where everything was located and it enabled us to get from place to place easily. We purchased a three day ticket and we used it every day. In addition to taking you to each site around the city, there is an audio tour as well which gives you a little bit of history.
This Empty Nester’s Guide to Budapest will give you a strong base for creating an itinerary. These are all must do’s and must see’s. We did not get a chance to visit the famous Gellert Baths, the Ruin Bars or the Dóhany Street Synagogue. I will add them the next time I visit!
One more post on Budapest – Our Luxurious Stay at The Ritz Carlton
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