If you’re river cruising on the Danube, you’ll most likely start or finish your cruise in the magical city of Budapest. Don’t be fooled into thinking a single overnight is enough time to see this remarkable place filled with rich history, art, and wonderful people. A visit to the iconic Parliament is a ‘must,’ but take time to notice the unexpected along your way to the popular sites of the city. While Budapest isn’t glossy and polished, you can expect an unexpected treasure around almost every corner.
Take in the Views from Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1895 and 1902 to commemorate the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian state. From this point, you’ll be mesmerized with breathtaking views of the city, the Parliament Building, and the Danube River. The quintessential photo of the Parliament Building is taken from this spot, so check your hair. You will be taking photos.
Walk the Chain Bridge
Check out the stone lions as you meander across this iconic bridge, the first permanent bridge connecting the two sides of Buda and Pest. According to Hungarian legend, the sculptor János Marschalkó carved these magnificent sculptures but mistakenly forgot the tongues. At the unveiling, a young boy pointed out the error. The artist was so ashamed of his mistake that he jumped off the bridge and met his fate. In truth, these lions do, in fact, have tongues but can only be seen from above.
Experience the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial
One of the most moving pieces of artwork in Budapest is the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial by artist Gyula Pauer. During the Holocaust, the Fascist Arrow Cross Party ordered Jewish men, women, and children to line up along the Danube bank. The militia men forced them to remove their shoes and leave them on the river bank. These men, women, and children were then shot, their bodies falling into the Danube and washing down the river. These 60 pairs of shoes made of iron are a memorial to those that died at the hands of the Arrow Cross militia men in Budapest during World War II. As you stroll along the Danube, notice the intricate detail of the period appropriate shoes and the roses that have been placed in some of the pairs of shoes as a remembrance to those that died during this time.
Meander through the Great Market Hall (or the Christmas Markets)
If you have plenty of time, visit some of the smaller markets around Budapest; however, if you’re in Budapest for a short while, then the Great Market Hall is a nice option. You might pop in, see the crowds, and quickly leave as the Great Market Hall is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Budapest. But take a breath and weave through the maze of stalls on the second floor to discover reasonably priced leather goods as well as Hungarian handicrafts like lace and embroidery. The first floor is where you find the fresh vegetables, meats, Hungarian jams, and regional wines. Of course, you will also be able to pick up Hungarian paprika and other tourist tchotchkes too.
If you’re in Budapest for the festive holiday season, be sure to spend some time at the traditional Christmas Market on Vörösmarty Square in the heart of Pest. Admire (and buy) folk-inspired art and crafts while eating tasty grilled sausage and traditional pastries. The one hundred craftsmen invited to display their wares at this market have gone through a rigorous process to be chosen which makes this Christmas market quite a popular one.
This is a small sampling of some unexpected experiences you can have with a visit to Budapest, which offers so much for a traveler to enjoy. You will find that one visit to Budapest is simply not enough!
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