We had a super short stay in Budapest (just one full day), but even so, it was easy to see what made the city so great: Colorful neighborhoods, lots of elevated views, and some of the most stunning architecture I've seen thus far on this trip. The city of Budapest is actually composed of two sectons, Buda and Pest, with the famous Danube river dividing the two. One of the highlights of the trip was simply walking along the great Danube. It's an absolutely surreal experience, especially at night where magnificent buildings are lit up on hills for miles on end. They look like grand castles, floating in the sky; a pretty amazing sight.
Day 7: Chain Bridge, Danube River
By the time we rode the train into Budapest, from Vienna, it was already dark. We stayed in a touristy part of the Pest side of the city, not far from the Danube River. There were lots of dining options, and we ended up going with a restaurant inside of the Four Seasons hotel. Our order: Chicken paprika, Galuska dumplings, and duck breast. I'm not sure how authentically Hungarian the food was, but everything was delicious, including the rather interesting raspberry ice-cream soup (yes, soup!).
Afterwards, we took a stroll along the Danube after dinner. As I mentioned earlier, the view was breath-taking: we could see all of the stunning architecture sitting atop hills across the river. Because these large buildings were the only structures lit at night, they literally looked like majestic castles, suspended in the darkness. As we looked out at Chain Bridge and the reflections of the buildings in the water, I couldn't help but hear Johann Strauss's waltz, The Blue Danube, playing in my head, as the music matched the romance and beauty of the scene so perfectly.
Day 8, Part 1: Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church
In the morning, we started the day off by walking across Chain Bridge, and taking this little cable car up to the top of the Castle Hill. We got to see many beautiful views of the entire city from up there, and explored around Fisherman's Bastion, one of the castle-like structures we had seen from across the river, the night before.
Matthias Church is also on Castle Hill, within Fisherman's Bastion, and I think it might be one of my favorite church buildings out of the entire trip. The inside was renovated and restored in the mid-to-late 19th Century, and I loved how they brought in some modern/geometric patterns and aesthetic while still staying true to its original Gothic style . You can see some close-ups of really intricate patterns tiled on some of the walls of the church below. Cheery street musicians were top-notch.
On our way down from Castle Hill, we took a slight detour through some residential areas. I loved the bold, vibrant, and bright colors. We stopped by a little Belgian restaurant for lunch, where they handed us the largest beer menu I have ever seen in my life; basically a novel. I can't remember what exactly we ordered, but everything was incredibly delicious, including raspberry Belgian beer. Four courses and dessert later, we were stuffed out of our minds.
Day 8, Part 2: Parliament Building, ST. Stephen's Basilica, Varosliget
For the last half of the day, we went back over Chain Bridge to the Pest side, and walked along the Danube River near the Hungarian Parliament Building. It is the most magnificent building I have seen on my trip thus far. I was so obsessed with it that I re-visited it 3 times. First off, the building is ginormous. It spans about 3 city blocks and you can spend a good 10 minutes just walking the length of it. The outside of the building is covered in intricate design details, including statues of Hungarian rulers and the coats of arms of kings and dukes. According to Wikipedia, there are altogether 242 sculptures on the inside and outside walls. It also makes for a lovely view from the other side of the Danube. We sadly didn't have time to go inside, but I think I took enough photos of the outside to compensate!
Another incredibly memorable stop for me was Saint Stephen's Basilica. We happened to stumble upon an ongoing concert when we visited. I'm not sure of the context, but it drew a large standing crowd in the back of the church, and we heard a bunch of voices singing in perfect harmony, with some occasional chanting. A crappy 7-minute recording is here:
I've never been one for this type of religious music, but it was absolutely mesmerizing hearing it live. Maybe it was because I was standing in the middle of a beautiful cathedral in the middle of Europe, but it was one of the most beautiful things I've ver experienced.
Then we called it a night. Budapest, I hope to visit again! Next up: London!