A Day Tour of Budapest – Without a Tour Bus
At the end of May I attended a photo summit organized by the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. During lunch time, as I walked by a group of people I overheard, that someone in the group was going to visit Hungary in the summer. I introduced myself and told him that I was from Hungary, and if I could help in any way to him, he could email me. After a few emails back and fourth we decided, that I would guide them on one of the 2 days they are in Budapest. We did meet up yesterday, and had a wonderful time together.
We started the day by walking from their hotel (Marriott) to Deak Ferenc Square, where they bought a 24 hour group ticket. This pass is great for tourists who want to discover the city using public transportation. It costs the same as 10 individual tickets, but up to 5 people can use it on any number of buses, etc. Here is Bob and Carol, a lovely couple from Southern California, who started their three week long European tour in Budapest.
Now, that they had their pass, we headed back towards the Danube. Before getting on tram #2 we took a quick look at the outside and the inside of a concert hall, the Budapest Vigado (1865, Frigyes Feszl).
I chose to take this tram, because you get a wonderful view of the Buda side as well as of the back of the Parliament from it. We then transferred to tram #4, viewed Margaret Island from it, and got off at the Buda side of Margaret Bridge. We walked for a few minutes by a new construction side, trying to navigate among cars, because some parts had no pedestrian access. But we did reach our first destination, which is not a typical stop for tour groups: Gul Baba Street.
This 100 m long, very steep street covered by cobble stones has a Middle Ages feel to it. Although we didn’t climb up there, the Tomb of Gul Baba and a beautiful rose garden are not far from here.
We walked back to Elisabeth Bridge for a view of the city, then we planned on walking near the Danube bank for photo opportunities. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. This part of the city is completely torn up for miles, it’s impossible for pedestrians to walk there and admire the view.
Instead, we headed over to Fo utca (Main Street), and I lead my guests to Kiraly (King) Bath, a Turkish thermal bath from the 16th century. They really liked this site. From the bath we walked to Batthanyi Square, where after briefly visiting the Church of St. Anne, we got on Subway #2 (red line) to cross under the Danube. The speed and length of the escalator was kind of a surprise to my guests, it’s definitely something you have to get used to.
From Kossuth Square we walked to the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial which honors the Jews who were killed by fascist. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
From here we looked at the back side of the Parliament, and caught a glimpse of something on the steps of the building. First I thought it might be a change of the guards, but it wasn’t. It seemed like the four guards were dancing to music.
From Kossuth Square we walked towards Freedom (or Liberty) Square. After a short stop at the Statue of Imre Nagy we viewed two controversial statues: the Soviet War Memorial and the Nazi Occupational Monument.
We also walked by St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is dedicated to Hungary’s first king.
I wanted to show my guests the Millennium Underground Railway, the oldest subway line in Budapest, and the the second oldest underground railway in the world. We only rode on it for one stop, took a quick look at the Opera building, then rode it back to Deak Ferenc Square.
We took tram #47 to the Great Market. From the tram we saw the Synagog, the Eotvos Lorand University of Arts and Sciences ( where I got my degree from), and the Hungarian National Museum. The Budapest Great Market was packed! I had never seen so many people there before. We only stayed for a few minutes, then after tasting some Hungarian gelato we headed to our last stop, Gellert Hill.
The finale of our seven hour tour was on top of Gellert Hill, from where you can see the panorama of most of the city.
We finally headed back to the hotel on a bus and two trams. This was a really fun day filled with wonderful conversations. I was very happy that I could help someone from my new home to show them my old one.