Budapest---There's So Much to See in 48 Hours
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Our stunning hotel, Corinthia Hotel Budapest, was on the edge of the Jewish Quarter so restaurants and things to do were very accessible. This was our second visit to this stunning city, but there were still many things to see and do.
We started our stay with a sunset dinner cruise along the Danube to see Margaret Island, the House of Parliament, Castle Hill with the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Royal Palace, and many more beautiful sights. The scenery at sunset was definitely worth the trip!
The next morning we started our day with a tour of Buda, the western and hilly part of Budapest. (Buda and Pest were only united in 1873. Before that time they were separate entities.)
We visited the Fisherman's Bastion, Castle Hill, and Matthias Church. (Yes, we saw many of these sights from the river, but they are worth a trip up the hill to see them up close.) There is a small charge to visit the upper level of the Fisherman's Bastion but the view is terrific. We were on a tour so our entry and transportation were included, but Budapest has the Budapest Card which is worth checking out depending on how long you are going to be there. http://budapestcards.com/ On this visit we were able to visit the interior of Matthias Church which as served as the coronation church for Hungarian kings and a monastery. The interior is a blend of Gothic and Ottoman which makes it very interesting. We were able to go upstairs in the church to see the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Buda is also home to many spas...maybe for a next visit?!?!
And on to the Pest side…The Opera House was closed for renovation, so we added a tour of it to our next trip. (Yes, Budapest is worth another visit.) The National Parliament wasn’t open so, again, for a next visit. We did see St. Stephen’s Basilica from the outside. We had visited the interior and the “Holy Right Hand of Hungary’s first King St. Stephen so we enjoyed just walking around. The Central Market Hall, built in the 19th Century, was a fascinating blend of local produce and souvenirs.
The Dohany Street Synagogue, located in the Jewish district, is fascinating. This Moorish designed synagogue is the largest in Europe and second largest in the world. It has several very interesting design features such as eight-pointed stars instead of the traditional five. The Emanuel, or Holocaust, Tree of Life Memorial is located in the Raul Wallenberg Memorial Garden behind the synagogue. American Actor Tony Curtis paid for the tribute in honor of his father, Emanuel Schwartz. The tree is “planted” over the mass graves of many of those who were killed by the Nazis. The metal leaves are engraved with the family names of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims. We didn't go inside the synagogue, but we enjoyed viewing the Moorish-inspired building from the outside.
At every turn there are reminders of the many wars that Budapest has endured, especially WWII. Embedded in the sidewalks are plaques with the name of the Jews who lived in the building and were killed or taken to concentration camps. Some of the walls on Castle Hill have been saved to show the pockmarks from artillery fire. Perhaps nowhere is the destruction caused by hatred more evident than in the bronze shoe sculptures (Shoes on the Danube) along the Danube River. Approximately 20,000 Jews were forced to remove their shoes before they were brutally murdered and their bodies thrown into the river. The 60 pairs of 1940’s style shoes reflect the diversity of the people killed, young and old, men and women, white collar and blue collar, all a sad and sobering reminder of the tragedy brought about by hatred and prejudice.
But Budapest isn’t all a grim and sober reminder of the past. Everywhere there is construction for the future. There are many restaurants, bars, and parks with tourists and locals enjoying time outside.
On our first visit to Budapest we had seen a delicacy that we were too full to try, but this trip we were able to achieve the goal. We found that Getto Gulyas, located near our hotel in the Jewish Quarter, served stews including Kakashere-es tarejporkolt feher parasztkenyerrel, aka Rooster Testicles and Cocks Comb Stew. The stew was excellent and worth the search, although I’m not certain the roosters would agree! Service was good and the menu featured other local stews that are hardy enough to keep you warm on a cold day.
We also walked down Kiraly Street and discovered an inner courtyard full of small bars and restaurants. We discovered that inner courtyards were common in Orthodox Jewish communities to allow the residents to close the doors to the outside world on the Sabbath and holy holidays and be able to travel freely within the boundaries of their expanded homes. During the week the courtyards were home to businesses and used as passageways for visitors.
Our farewell dinner with our tour group was at Gundel Restaurant with white tablecloths, good food, and great entertainment. The first violinist was Roma. He had his 3-year-old son with him who had a pretend violin and played it as vigorously as his father. In this way, the skill has been passed down from generation to generation.