Photo taken on our first morning in Budapest from our room at the Intercontinental.
We had arranged well in advance for two tours with Gabriella of Private tours Budapest, the first was a full day in Budapest with a van, the second (which I will elaborate on in another post) was a half day to the lovely town of Szentendre the morning of our embarkation on the AmaSonata. The Budapest tour with Gabriella was to cover mainly things we would not see with Ama’s tour, that I will discuss in a later post.
I feel that I was too ambitious with my list of sites to visit, Budapest offers so much that you either need to spend a few days there or just pick a handful, of what you feel are the most important things, to see. Gabriella was a terrific guide and did her best to accommodate our wishes but we ended up really seeing only the surface of things with not much detail, again this was my fault for being too ambitious…oh well, I guess this just means I will have to make another visit!
You cannot beat this view!
After a somewhat expensive (but delicious!) breakfast at the hotel, we were met by Gabriella in the lobby of the Intercontinental and shown to the van that would escort us around the city today. From there we proceeded to our first stop, a visit one of the thermal baths that Budapest is so famous for, the Szechenyi thermal baths. The drive through the Pest side of the city to reach Szechenyi took us past many beautiful buildings and structures such as Heroes Square. We only took a look inside the baths and did not actually buy admission and go for a swim. We had initially planned to do this on our own but our time was so limited due to the flight delay and missing a half day that it just didn’t happen. I also wanted to do the outdoor baths and maybe fear of going out in that kind of cold in a swimsuit played a part in the decision to save the baths for the next trip.
After visiting the thermal bath (next time I will get in!) we walked to Castle Vajdahunyad, a 19th century castle built for the Millennial exhibition to showcase Hungarian architecture of different historical periods, the grounds are very beautiful and it is here that you can find the statue Anonymous. An added bonus was seeing the large outdoor skating rink that is it’s neighbor.
It was still morning and we had a very long list so once we were back onboard the van, we headed next to the House of Terror museum, which showcases the plight of the Hungarian people while under communist leadership and the atrocities that were bestowed upon them. This is another of the stops where we merely scratched the surface as we did not have time to do the full admission tour of the museum. One thing I did learn at the House of Terror museum, besides the fact that people regularly disappeared in the middle of the night sometimes never to be seen again, is that my birthday is a national holiday in Hungary (National Day) commemorating an uprising against the communists in 1956 and Hungary becoming a free republic in 1989.
Onward to our next stop, did I mention that we had a lot of ground to cover? We headed over the Danube to Buda (Budapest is actually one city formed from two, Buda and Pest) to visit Buda castle, try some Hungarian strudel (one of our group was brave enough to try the poppy seed strudel which, to be honest, looked like mud) and watch the changing of the guards. As with most of the landmarks on the Buda side, it came with stunning panoramic views over the Danube and Pest.
This seems like a good stopping point, I will pick up on the remainder of our day with Gabriella with my next blog post. Stay Tuned!