BUDAPEST: Pearl of the Danube (Exploring the Castle District, Budapest Eye and St. Stephen’s Basilica)

Last summer, I went solo traveling in Hungary and Greece for 10 days, and those days absolutely go to my list of unforgettable adventures. Hungary has a very colorful history, from its tribal years to medieval monarchy to the world wars and eventually, communism under the Soviet Union. Today, the country  is practicing democracy and capitalism. The government has done its best to preserve the historical features, landmarks and attractions, making a trip to the country worthwhile. For instance, I had a fantastic time learning about the Jewish culture and community in Budapest by joining a walking tour to the Jewish District. Another must-see and do in the city is to explore the Castle district and the surrounding attractions.

Exploring Budapest
Exploring Budapest

To do that, I joined another “free walking tour”. It’s not really free, but the guide will ask for some tip at the end of the tour, of any amount, so no pressure whatsoever! The guides are very passionate with what they’re doing and they really know their city, so they deserve a good tip! The tour, which you can read more about here, starts at the Lion Fountain and ends at the Fisherman Bastion. We walked along the Danube promenade, passed by the Academy of Hungarian Sciences and St. Stephen’s Basilica, crossed the famous Chain Bridge, and explored the castle district. It is not comparable to Prague castle complex, but still, it has its own charm and beauty!

St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica opened in 1905 and named after Hungary’s first King, Stephen I, aka King Saint Stephen. It is the third largest church in the country today. It features an amazing facade, Neo-Classical in style with Greek cross ground plan.

St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Academy of Hungarian Sciences
Academy of Hungarian Sciences
Walking along the Danube promenade
Walking along the Danube promenade

As I have mentioned before, the city is separated by the Danube river to the east and west. The most famous of the city’s bridges is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge built from 1840-1849 and 375 m in length. It is beautifully illuminated at night, giving it a romantic vibe.

Across the bridge is the Castle district, aka the Buda Castle. Completed in 1265, the main castle is situated on the southern tip of the castle hill and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. All over the castle district are buildings and houses in Baroque, Medieval, Baroque revival, Modernist, and 19th century architectural styles.

The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
Buda Castle complex
The mythological Turul bird at the Buda Castle complex
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
View of the bridge from the Buda Castle
The Sandor Palace, or Alexander Palace, the official residence of the President of Hungary and the seat of the Office of the President
The Sandor Palace, or Alexander Palace, the official residence of the President of Hungary and the seat of the Office of the President
Buda Castle complex
Buda Castle complex
Hungarian National Gallery
Hungarian National Gallery
The Buda Castle
The Buda Castle
Ruins at the back of the castle
Ruins at the back of the castle
Ruins at the back of the castle
Ruins at the back of the castle
Views from the Buda castle complex
Views from the Buda castle complex
Views from the Buda castle complex
Views from the Buda castle complex
At Buda Castle complex
At Buda Castle complex

Another majestic building in the castle complex, and maybe in the whole of Budapest, is the Matthias Church, named after King Matthias who ordered its restoration in the 19th century. The church has been there since the 11th century and has undergone a few restorations until the present time. It served as the venue for many coronations and royal weddings, and the “Mary-wonder” mystery when a statue of Madonna appeared from a collapsed wall in front of praying Muslims during the Holy League in 1686.

Matthias Church
Matthias Church
Matthias Church
Matthias Church
Matthias Church
Matthias Church

And just within a few steps from Matthias Church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, a beautiful terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style. It was built between 1895 and 1902, and offers an amazing panoramic view of the Danube River and the Pest side of the city! The side castle was said to be protected by the fishermen’s guild, and hence, the name of the fortification.

King Stephen's statue in front of the Fisherman's Bastion
King Stephen’s statue in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman's Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion
View from the Fisherman's Bastion
View from the Fisherman’s Bastion
Listening to our tour guide at our final stop -- the Fisherman's Bastion
Listening to our amazing tour guide (girl in blue) at our final stop — the Fisherman’s Bastion
Going back to the Pest side of the city
Going back to the Pest side of the city

Before the day ended, a schoolmate and I decided to meet and try the Budapest Eye, a giant ferris wheel 65 meters in height and located in Erzsébet Square in the city center. It was nice that we were both in the same city coincidentally. We enjoyed a conversation about the state of Philippine education, how life is for Filipinas abroad, and so on! And we planned to go out of town the following day, to visit Count Dracula’s prison tower! Well, I planned to go there with a Russian traveler I met during the walking tour, but sadly, she did not make it on time for the regional train. More about the trip in the next entries!

Budapest Eye
Budapest Eye
Budapest., as seen from the Budapest Eye
Budapest., as seen from the Budapest Eye
Aboard the Budapest Eye
Aboard the Budapest Eye
Aboard the Budapest Eye
Aboard the Budapest Eye

A mini-hurricane in the city? Just like Prague, Budapest offers a weird kind of weather! I experienced pretty much everything in Prague — snow, hale, sunshine, rain. While in Budapest, it’s rain and a very strong gust of wind that took my pretty summer hat away! Darn it. Could still remember how the people ran.. It was very chaotic! But through the situation, I found a really nice restaurant called the Hummus Bar. That’s basically where I ate dinner throughout the remaining days in Budapest. 😛

At Hummus Bar, :P Me love this long time!
At Hummus Bar, 😛
Me love this long time!

This is all for now! Gotta go back to work. 😉 Cheers!

The Fisherman's Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion
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