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Five days in Budapest Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2016, Ian C, The Ians on Tour.

The Ians are on tour again, visiting Eastern Europe for the first time, along with return visits to a couple of favourite Western European cities.

First stop is Budapest, Hungary. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, sans luggage. After checking in to our hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, we took a stroll around the neighbourhood, and found that we were not very far from the Danube River (Duna in Hungarian).

After a bit more walking, we stopped at one of the several restaurants/bars on boats permanently moored on the river, where we discovered what would be our beer of choice for Budapest, Soproni.

Friday was a bit of a bust. Jet lag and stress of not having our luggage caught up with us. We did wander out at one stage to find some clothes, with no luck. Just boutiques for young slim people or tourist tat.

So Saturday became our de facto first day in Budapest. We took a walk down to the Duna, then across the Széchneyi Lánchid (Chain Bridge), built in the 1840s to unite the formerly separate cities of Pest and Buda.

Across the bridge we took the funicular up to Buda Castle, a huge area with not only Buda Castle but churches and other buildings, including the residence of the Hungarian President. There are also spectacular views over the river to Pest and behind the hill over Buda.

After that, it was time for our usual first day in a new city activity, the Hop On Hop Off bus tour. Always a good way to get your bearings and see the major sites. The bus company we selected had a number of tour routes for one inclusive ticket. 

We did two bus routes, which took us past all the major sites and attractions, including up to the Citidel, a 19th century fortification atop the highest hill in Budapest with a long and interesting history, and then on to a boat tour on the Duna, under several bridges, past the magnificent Parlaiment building to Margitszigit (Margaret Island) and back.

After the tours we took another expedition to get some new clothes. We tracked out to a mall not too far from the hotel (we’d passed by three times on our bus tours earlier) and finally got a few t-shirts, socks and underwear to tide us over.

Saturday night we went in search of some Hungarian cuisine. We found a restaurant just off the main tourist strip, Százéves that billed itself as Pest’s oldest restaurant. Whether or not it was, the food and drinks were delicious.

Sunday was a day of walking. We walked up Andrássy út, a street which is billed as Budapest’s Champs Élysées. A short way into the walk we stopped at Miniversum, an amazing interactive model train display through Hungary and Austria. It was a lot of fun.

Continuing the walk we finally got to the end of the street, at Hősök tere (Heroes Square) on the edge of Városligeti (City Park). The park was lovely. We stopped at a cafe, Rezveg, for a couple of beers and some lunch, before exploring more of the park.

Sunday night it was time for the obligatory dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, with the obligatory purchase of a t-shirt and bear. Lots of 60s memorabilia on the walls.

Monday was anther day of walking. First to the Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Grand Markets), in a stunning and huge late 19th century market hall. Then on to take a look at Bálna, a former customs building stunningly converted to some shops, cafes and exhibition space.

After a quick beer stop it was on to Szabadság tér (Liberty Square), probably the most beautiful square in Budapest. Complete with a statue of Ronald Reagan, as you do.

Next, it was on to Szimpla Kert, one of the famous Ruin Pubs, so named because They set up inside derelict buildings in the Jewish Quarter, which were never really recovered after World War II. Walking in was daunting, it as dark and foreboding looking, but opened into a huge garden filled with tables and eccentric kitsch – one table is built into an old East German Trabant car. It turned out to be great fun.

Monday night being our last night in town, we wanted somewhere nice with local food for dinner. The hotel’s concierge booked us into Réskaka, which did a modern take on Hungarian cuisine.

Returning to the hotel and last drinks at be hotel bar our late luggage finally arrived! Hoo-fucking-ra!

Budapest is a lovely city. Maybe some day we will return. 

Today we leave Budapest, travelling by train through Slovakia, skirting Austria, to Prague, in the Czech Republic. 

To be continued…



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