Day 1. Travelling to Budapest

A four day city break between Christmas and the New Year to Budapest was our plan.  It started well, driving to Manchester and checking in for our Air France flight to Budapest via Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.  Our flight to Paris was delayed which resulted in a tight connection at Charles de Gaulle.  Thankfully, there was just enough time for us to reach the gate to board our Malev flight to Budapest but when our luggage didn’t appear on the baggage carousel  we realised it hadn’t travelled on the aircraft with us.  We were assured that our luggage would be delivered to our hotel the following day and in the meantime we were issued with One World amenity bags containing toiletries and a T Shirt to sleep in.  It was late evening so there was no opportunity to go shopping for essentials that night.

Buda Castle Hotel

So, minus our luggage we took the train into the city centre crossing the Danube which looked beautiful in the moonlight.   After purchasing the train ticket one needs to validate it in a machine on the platform before boarding the train.  Some friends of ours had visited two years earlier and having bought their tickets did not notice the validating machines and just boarded the train.  When the guard inspected the tickets they were issued with fines, even though they had their tickets as proof of payment.

Buda cathedral

Buda Castle Hotel was , as the name suggests, located near the castle on a cobbled street.   It proved to be a good choice, modern rooms in an old building with friendly staff.   We enjoyed a light supper in the hotel then it was time for bed, dreaming of exploring beautiful Budapest in the morning.

Our room at the Buda Castle Hotel

Day 2. Exploring Castle Hill, Budapest

After enjoying breakfast in the light and airy Buda Castle hotel’s restaurant, it was time to explore.  Wrapping up well to protect us from the icy cold,  we began exploring the cobblestone streets with their 18th century Baroque buildings in this world heritage part of the city.

Buda old town

Our first stop was at Fisherman’s Bastion, named after the fish market, which was constructed to commemorate the fishermen who protected Buda.  Although there is a fee to access the upper lookout, the lower level viewpoint is free and also offers some of the best views of the city below.

Buda Castle

From here we continued on to Buda Castle formerly the historic castle and palace of the Hungarian monarchy.  Nowadays, Buda Castle is the home of the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Library and also the Budapest History Museum.  Outside the palace stands the Lion Courtyard and the statue of the Turul bird.  Walking down the steep hill to the Danube, we walked over the famous Chain Bridge into the Pest district on the opposite bank from where we had spectacular views of Buda and its castle.

Fisherman’s Bastion

We strolled back to our hotel walking up the steep hillside on the Buda side of the river.  Arriving back at our hotel we were disappointed to find that our luggage had still not arrived.  The front desk staff were helpful in contacting the airport for us, only to discover that our luggage was still in Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris.  A quick shopping trip was then required to purchase some essentials.

Day 3. The Szechenyi Thermal Baths and more, Budapest

Castle Hill, Funicular
Our luggage had arrived overnight,  better late than never!   After breakfast we rode the Buda Castle Funicular down the hill to the Chain Bridge then took a ride on Europe’s first ever Metro system, Line One.  The original 19th century route still operates today using 40 year old trains with polished wooden seats and wood panelled stations.  The line now has world heritage status and is used by both tourists and local commuters.

Line One Metro
This line took us to the Szechenyi Baths  which resemble a baroque palace and face City Park which was being used as an outdoor ice skating rink during our visit.

Thermal Pools
There are indoor thermal baths, steam baths and year round outdoor pools.  The temperature of the outdoor pool being 27 degrees, and at the far end, a smaller pool with steaming waters averaging 38 degrees.  Elderly men were playing chess with a large plastic set in the steaming waters and the adjacent cafe has outdoor tables kept warm by the rising steam clouds.

Next on our agenda today was a visit to the Budapest Parliament building (main picture).   It’s a magnificent example of neo-gothic architecture and is the third largest parliament building in the world.  As the building is so large we found the best views were to be had from across the river at Batthyany Square.

The Great Market Hall, Budapest
Feeling hungry we headed to the Great Market Hall at the Pest end of the Chain Bridge.  Built in 1897 it’s Budapest’s largest market, spread over three floors selling fresh produce, sausages in every shape and size possible, paprika and the local Takaj wines.  Upstairs it’s mainly souvenirs, clothing and leather goods, but the main reason for our visit was to eat in the market cafe.  Tables have bright red and white checked tablecloths and a trio in national costumes serenade diners.

The market restaurant, Budapest
We settled on steaming bowls of Hungarian goulash followed by glasses of mulled wine.

Day 4. Riding the Budapest Cog Railway and returning home

The cog railway

A final day in Budapest and it’s a bright, sunny yet icily cold morning.  We made our way to Maszkva Ter to board the world’s third hill railway, a bright, red train used by both locals and as a tourist attraction to take us up to the Buda hills.

Buda Hills in December

As the little train wends its way up the steep hillside a winter wonderland landscape comes into view. At the summit,  we followed one of the forest trails and warmed ourselves with mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream from the quaint old cafe.

Cafe at Buda Hills

Returning back to the city centre,  we had time to look around Pest’s modern shopping centre and enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants by the river.    After collecting our luggage from the hotel we returned to the airport by train.  Our flight home was with Malev to Paris Charles de Gaulle and then Air France back to Manchester.

Meal on board the plane

We enjoyed this, our first first visit to Budapest.  Four days seemed about the right length to take in most of the sights and our hotel, The Buda Castle excelled in all respects.

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