Friday, December 20, 2013

Travel: Budapest

This is a great city! There’s so much to see and do, and visiting during Christmastime is a real treat.

We spent three full days here, giving us enough time to visit the major sights and enjoy the Christmas Fair.

One of our favorite forays into the city was Castle Hill. We walked across Chain Bridge, took the Buda Castle Funicular to the top, made our way to Fishermen's Bastion and Matyas Church, and enjoyed fantastic views of Parliament and the city. Don't miss it; Budapest has some gorgeous rooftops!

And take the yellow metro line! It's Europe's oldest, and its neat and tiny stations/platforms seem to transport you back in time.

Hungary has a tumultuous past, and the Hungarian National Museum is the place to visit for a proper history lesson. The basement also has the most complete and well-preserved, large-scale Roman mosaic we've seen anywhere. Just remember: Budapest's museums and the Hungarian Parliament are closed to the public on Mondays.

The Budapest Christmas Fair is our first European Christmas market, and it didn't disappoint. There are numerous market stalls selling handcrafted wares unique to the area, and the food stalls are bright and festive. We bought a lovely hand-painted porcelain ornament, drank hot chocolate in commemorative mugs, and sampled Hungarian chicken, goulash, sausage, mulled wine (and pretzel-shaped bread).

Our hotel was located on the pedestrian street Vaci Utca, a two-minute walk from Vorosmarty Square and the metro. It's also near St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Central Market Hall, and both Chain and Elizabeth Bridge. The hotel’s situation is ideal, and we highly recommend the Mercure Budapest City Center and its staff.

But the city is easy to navigate, even without a centrally located hotel. Most sights are within walking distance; we only took the metro to Szechenyi Furdo to visit the baths, Vajdahunyad Castle, and Heroes' Square. Taxi fares are reasonable as well, if you'd rather travel by car.

Hungary wasn't on our list of European countries to visit, but we're glad we made the trip!

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