Saturday, December 28, 2013

Places to go in Budapest, Hungary

You won't run out of things to do in Budapest. It is filled with lively restaurants, fascinating museums, exciting people and lots of shopping to distract you. Take a dip in one of the city's famous baths; savor the local cuisine; check out some of the cool, funky shops featuring homegrown designs; walk across the Chain Bridge or just sit, relax and people-watch at one of the great downtown cafes.

Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge became one of the best known landmarks of Budapest. The bridge straddles the Danube between Széchenyi Square on the Pest side and Clark Ádám Square in Buda.
It offers one of the city's most beautiful views with the mighty Danube flowing below you, it is beautiful.
The Chain Bridge was the first permanent stone-bridge connecting Pest and Buda, and only the second permanent crossing on the whole length of the river Danube. It is one of the symbolic buildings of Budapest, the most widely known bridge of the Hungarian Capital.

This union of cities makes it one of the most symbolic buildings of Budapest; hence, it is the most widely known bridge of all of Hungary. Proposed by Count István Széchenyi, one of the leading figures in 18th century Hungary, work began in 1839.

An English engineer, William Tierney Clark prepared the plans and a Scottish engineer, Adam Clark, supervised the construction over the next ten years. At the Buda end of the bridge, the Place has been named for Adam Clark.

Gellert Hill 

After you have explored the Chain Bridge, take a walk further back in time as you stroll up to the top of "Gellert Hill" for a wonderful view of Budapest. Named after a Catholic missionary bishop who was invited to Hungary around 1000 AD to help convert Hungarians to Christianity; but was killed on the hill as pagans who didn't want to convert, rolled him down the hill in a wooden barrel. As you can see from the photo, it wasn't a short trip down that hill. Today, a St. Gellert monument and its fountain representing his martyrdom can be found on the Northeastern slope of the hill facing the Elisabeth bridge.

The Citadel

While you view Gellert Hill and its fountains, be sure to visit the Citadel, built in 1851 by the Habsbergs to demonstrate their control of the Hungarians and The mighty Danube. Equipped with 60 cannons, it was used as threat rather than a working fortification. After the reconciliation with the Habsburgs the Hungarians wanted to demolish the buildings; but, it remained and was converted to a tourist center in the 20th Century. There you will find amazing displays of the history of Hungary and Budapest.

Budapest's Parliament Building

My EU readers should  bring your passport for a free tour of Budapest's Parliament Building.
Guided tours of the Parliament are available when the National Assembly is not in session and takes 45 minutes. In addition to the history, the tour guide will address the architectural elements such as the main entrance, stairs, hall, lobbies, the old House of Lords as well as the  the Hungarian Crown Jewels (see below). Tours are held in several languages. Admission is HUF 1,750 for EU citizens (HUF 3,500 for non-EU citizens), and the ticket office is at gate "X". That is approximately $16.00 using current conversion.
Budapest ParliamentSome of the best views of the Parliament are not up close, but from the Danube (take a Danube cruise) or from across the river, especially from Batthyány Square, which is only one stop by subway from Kossuth square on the M2 line.

The Holy Crown

Here is a little travel secret!
The US was a protector of the Hungarian Crown Jewels for the people of Hungary. They had a history of being lost or stolen many times. However, after World War II, they were transported to Western Europe and eventually given to the American Army for safekeeping from the Soviet Union. For much of the Cold War, the Crown Jewels were held at the United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox, Kentucky) alongside the bulk of America's gold reserves. They were eventually returned to Hungary under the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1978.

St. Stephen's Basilica

St.Stephen's Basilica is the largest church in Budapest. It's free to enter the church and there is only a nominal fee of HUF 500 to go up to the observation deck.

The building was planned and built in 1851 by József Hild in classical style and continued by Miklós Ybl, who added a neo-renaissance taste to the original concepts. The inner layout and the completion of the building in 1905 is the work of József Krausz. Famous Hungarian painters and sculptors decorated the inner side, using 50 different types of marble.

The statue of the basilica's patron saint can be seen on the high altar. Papal sanction was required to display the statue of the Hungarian King who led his people to Christianity.

At the bottom of the left tower, you will find an elevator which will take you up to the top of the tower where you can see a beautiful panorama of the city.

The Chapel of the Holy Right is behind the sanctuary, where the right hand of the first Hungarian King, St. Stephen is held in a delicately ornate reliquary.

The square in front of the church became a beautiful pedestrian area with some cafes and benches to sit on.

"Margaret Island"

If you want an outdoor activity, try Margaret Island. Located on a 2,5 km-long central Island on the Danube, the historical Margaret Island is a special landmark of Budapest. All motorized vehicles, except public buses and taxis are prohibited. This helps to create a tranquil space in the center of Budapest. In addition to flowing vistas, Margaret Island hosts:
  • An outdoor summer thermal spa
  • A professional swimming pool where the Olympic champion water polo team trains
  • A small wildlife park which is great for families
  • The ruins of a 13th century Dominican cloister
  • A Japanese garden with sunbathing turtles,
  • A 5 km-long jogging circle along the sides of the island
  • Several nice restaurants
  • Two luxury thermal hotels
  • A rose garden. 

Whether cycling, picnicking, jogging, or just lounging around, citizens of Budapest appreciate the car-free and oxygen-rich environment. When the weather is hot, scores of people lay around the biggest fountain of Budapest, which plays pleasant music every 30 minutes. The island is bordered by the Margaret Bridge from the south, and by Budapest's longest bridge, the Árpád Bridge from the north. It is a must see.

"City Park"

Városliget (City Park) is a public park in Budapest close to the city centre. Its main entrance is Heroes' Square (Hősök tere), one of Hungary's World Heritage sites.The area was formerly called Ökör-dűlő, meaning "Oxmeadow". Originally developed in 1751 and opened to the public in the early 1800's, Városliget (City Park) was accepted as the name and it became the first public park in the world. City Park was the main venue of the 1896 millennium celebrations of Hungary, by which time Andrássy Avenue, Millennium Underground and the Grand Boulevard were built. 

"Dagaly Bath"
This world famous Bath first opened in 1948. Later, in 1956 it  was expanded with a 50 m swimming pool. Its water base at that time was provided by a well bored in 1944, which finally secured the efficient use of the thermal waters found under the bed of the Danube. In 1970, the water of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath was directed to Dagály Bath, thus raising it to the status of a thermal baths.

In addition to the pools and baths, Dagály has provided a full range of medical services to its guests ever since the 1970's. The 25 m long swimming pool, with its support systems, was opened in 1983. At the moment, there are 10 pools of various forms and temperatures in the facility's pleasant, picturesque surroundings.

In 2000, thew baths began an upgrade program to modernize and add newer amenities to the public. The 2 large-sized thermal sitting pools situated o­n the territory of the Bath were transformed into 4 up-to-date pools and equipped with modernized water filtering and circulation devices. Today, they are used as:
  • Children's pool
  • Thermal sitting pool
  • Fancy pool
  • Teaching pool
The fancy pool offers a wide variety of facilities to the public, a whirling corridor, an effervescent bed, a whirlpool, neck showers, geysers, splashing sunbathing.

In the summer of 2002, the mushroom pool and the kidney-shaped pool were renovated, and the latter was equipped with a wave-making machine that produced individual concentric waves simulating the roar of the sea.

If you have never been to a thermal pool, this one is an experience beyond compare.

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