And the Danube was Actually Blue!

I just came back from a long weekend in Budapest. The “Queen of the Danube,” the focal point of Hungary and a lively cultural centre.

The city stands on both sides of the Danube River in a magnificent natural setting where the hills of western Hungary meet the plains stretching to the east and south.

The river divides the city into two parts, Buda and Pest, connected by a series of bridges.

The most notable is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest.

The lion, either growling or sitting more or less quietly, is pretty much everywhere!

What not to miss. The Váci utca, a narrow street turned pedestrian thoroughfare, is the most fashionable shopping centre of Budapest. There is a Starbucks there. Very crowded at all times. But quite convenient for daily breakfast.

This is what I liked the most:

1. Parliament (Országház), Kossuth Lajos tér. The Hungarian National Parliament building is the largest in Europe, designed by architect Imre Steindl for the 1896 millennial celebrations, and built 1880-1902. It is based on London’s Parliament.

2. The Royal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. Entrance to the area is free, while some museums and attractions have paid admission. Luckily, there was an exhibition of the work and life of Frida Kahlo worth visiting at the National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria).

3. Lions’ Courtyard The courtyard got its name from the four stone lions that guard its gate.

4. The Fisherman’s Bastion and lookout terrace (Halászbástya). For impressive views across the Danube to Pest.

5. Vajdahunyad Castle. While loosely modelled after a Transylvanian fortress of the same name, the building is not really a castle at all: it’s a full-scale model built for Hungary’s 1896 millenial celebrations.

6. St. Stephen (István) Cathedral (the Basilica), Szent István tér. Though often called “the Basilica” for short due to its clerical rank as a basilica minor, it actually is shaped like a Greek cross, with two steeples and a dome on top.

7. Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, aka Church of Our Lady). Dominant neogothic church crowning Budapest’s cityscape.

8. Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum, Dohány ut. This synagogue is unique both because of its size, and its two onion-shaped domes, which are forty-three meters high. Onion domes are typically found on Catholic or Orthodox Churches.

9. Andrássy Avenue in district VI. is another great spot for shopping for exclusive designer clothes, shoes and accessories.

10. Szechenyi Baths. I won’t necessarily recommend a visit to the Baths. At least not taking a dip. Too crowded, the facilities are old and show signs of distress. Plus I did not see any possibility of taking a shower prior sharing the waters with everyone. I passed that experience!

11. Hero Square, with the tumb of the unknown. Hero square is actually on your way to the Baths, and Vajdahunyad Castle, where I stopped for lunch at “Anonymous” restaurant. You can’t miss any of those spots.

Well, not necessarily in that order. The best, or not to miss for me was a night cruise on the Danube. It gives you a spectacular view of the city.

Really, really beautiful, and you get to understand why Richard Strauss composed “An der schönen blauen Donau“, Op. 314 (German for “By the Beautiful Blue Danube“).

Blue Danube by Richard Strauss

This is not all, Budapest offers much more than this. It should be in anyone’s “Must see” list.

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