Our excursion called “Panoramic Budapest” left from the dock, but before we got to the main avenue we were stuck in a traffic jam. Finally, after quite some time, we were on our way through the city, across the Chain Bridge, and on to the Buda side. Our first stop was the Castle District with its massive hilltop castle complex, the turreted Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. We parked quite a ways away and walked up the hill toward the amazing Unesco Heritage Site.
The interior of the church is unique and colorful. The designs draw heavily from Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance motifs. Floral patterns, interlocking vines, and playful geometric borders make up the unusual designs. I was sorry we didn’t have enough time to take more photos. I spent most of my time taking pictures of the motifs featured in every part of the church.
The central statue in front of the church is the elevated statue of King St. Stephen who was the first King of Hungary from 1000 until his death in 1038. He was the first member of his family to become a devout Christian.
After the church tour, we walked next door o the Fisherman’s Bastion. The bastion had been built with a beautiful panoramic viewing terrace with lookout towers on the base of the castle walls.
Sites Throughout the City
We meandered back down the hill and stopped at a few shops along the way. We had to gather where the bus had dropped us off earlier. Soon everyone showed up but we had to wait quite a while for the bus. There were a lot of tour buses all trying to pick up their guests. Once more on the bus, we returned to the other side of the city. Although we saw many important buildings, it was difficult to get photos. Here are a few buildings I was able to take pictures of – just to give an idea of the city architecture.
Andrassy Avenue (Champs Elysee of Budapest)
Hero’s Square is the largest Square in Budapest. The Millennium Monument in the middle of the square was erected to commemorate the 1000-year old history of Hungary. The square has played an important part in contemporary Hungarian history and has hosted many political events.
Central Market Hall
It was another very steamy day and around noon, so no one wanted to stay out in the heat that long. We boarded the bus and the guide told us that we would be going to a popular place called, “Central Market Hall”. We were all pretty hungry and tired. The heat really takes a lot out of you. It was hard to know what to expect. The only thing we knew was that we would be paying for our own meal!
We arrived nearby the Market Hall and was told that the bus would return to the same place to pick us up. We walked in a group to the entrance of the mammoth building. It is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It was designed and built around 1897 and offers a huge variety of stalls on three floors. It is distinctive architecturally due to its colorful tile roof. The area of the building is about 10,000 square meters, which is covered by a steel structure.
Most of the stalls on the ground floor offer produce, meats, pastries, candies, candles, spices, and liquor. The second floor has mainly small eateries and one larger restaurant and many souvenirs. The basement, which we didn’t get to, contains butcher shops, fish market, and pickled vegetables. Friday is actually the worse day to go, but Thursday, the day we went, was pretty bad as far as crowds go and we certainly did experience a very crowded market.
As we stood at the entrance, we tried to figure out where we would eat. It was quite a long walk to the other end but that was where the restaurant was located. It was interesting to look at all the goods they had for sale and see the tons of souvenirs to buy, We were in a hurry to get to the restaurant and get finished so we could enjoy looking around and take some photos. We got to the restaurant, “Fakanal”, which was a self-service type place. There were a lot of people already seated, but not that many in line. We looked at the food and menu – most of it looked like meat dishes, so I wasn’t sure if I could find anything to eat. It was supposed to be typical Hungarian food. We went to find more restaurants and looked down at the lower level and saw what seemed like, hundreds of people milling around the small fast food stalls. We decided our best bet was to return and try our luck with the Hungarian food. I discovered they had a fish dish so I chose that and Shawn picked “schnitzel”. We both had fries. My fish was fried whole and was very flat. I opened it up and it was filled with tiny bones. So many, it was hard to find any fish! Shawn’s “Schnitzel” (he thought it was chicken but I looked it up and it said it was made with veal) was tough and flat as a pancake. We had paid $40 for a miserable lunch so were unhappy with our one “Hungarian” experience.
We decided our best bet was to return and try our luck with the Hungarian food. I discovered they had a fish dish so I chose that and Shawn picked “schnitzel”. We both had fries. My fish was fried whole and was very flat. I opened it up and it was filled with tiny bones. So many, it was hard to find any fish! Shawn’s “Schnitzel” (he thought it was chicken but I looked it up and it said it was made with veal) was tough and flat as a pancake. We had paid $40 for a miserable lunch, consequently, weren’t too happy with our one “Hungarian” experience.
Needless to say, we didn’t linger over our meal. We both saw a nearby restroom but you had to pay to get in. The girl taking the money was not that friendly and I had a hard time figuring out the money, and then I had to put it in a seemingly complicated machine so that the door would open. We ambled slowly back the way we had come. By that time, it was extremely crowded and horribly hot. It was over 100 degrees outside. We wandered around taking some photos. We didn’t look for souvenirs – it was overwhelming and there was not that much time left. Here is a slideshow of photos I took on our walk back to the entrance to wait for the guide.
Everyone had eventually gathered and our group, along with several more groups, headed for the buses. One gentleman was having respiratory problems and was hurried onto the bus to get cool. It was now time for us to go to our hotel. We were happy to be going and have a chance to rest and regroup. Viking tours had a contingent to help us, so all we had to do was get our room keys. We were the first off our bus, so we took our keys and went to our room, but were dismayed to discover just one piece of luggage had arrived. We hurried back downstairs only to find out that they had not been delivered yet. We waited for our luggage and then went down to the restaurant to have something refreshing to drink. It was nice just to sit and not have to think about going or doing anything.
The Hilton Budapest City Hotel is in the heart of Budapest near the metro and train station. It is also connected to the Westend City Center Shopping Mall. I was sad to see that we weren’t housed in the Hilton close to the castle, but I guess this was more convenient to get to the airport. The difficult part of our stay was finding a nearby restaurant. First, we tried to locate a supposedly nearby seafood restaurant, but to no avail, although in our search, we didn’t find any other restaurant. Some friends went by and said they were going to a Hungarian restaurant but we opted not to join them. They told us later that it was much further than they thought. It was getting late and we were getting discouraged, in a last ditch effort, we went to the mall and found TGIF. It was not the best food, the service was poor, but it was something to eat. We were exhausted by the time we finished and went back to the hotel. The next morning we had an early wake-up call and went to breakfast. It was all right, but we missed the variety of the Viking breakfast. We ate quickly and went to get ready for our excursion to the colorful artist’s center, Szentendre, and the Margit Kovacs Museum.