Buda-Pest - Day 2
March 24, 2019
After breakfast we left the ship which was docked next to the Chain Bridge and crossed from Pest into Buda (the old city). After crossing the bridge we had 2 options to get to the top of Castle Hill, by funicular or by small passenger tram, both required tickets and we opted to try to funicular for the view.
Our first stop was the National History Museum in Buda Castle. This is the only way to see the inside of the castle. The museum had some interesting items but considering that everything was in Hungarian, as expected, there was not any organization as to chronologically or organizationally. There were also not maps to know what was where so we found ourselves wandering aimlessly. The highlights of the castle for us was the castle entrance which looks like you are entering a renaissance period castle, the exterior surrounding the castle and the basement area which was actual remnants of the castle, the wells, dungeon…. Biggest takeaway of our visit, Hungary was named b/c of the Hun occupation o Overall it took us about 1.5 hours to get through the property and would recommend that visiting your start at the basement entrance. (Note they only take cash at the basement entrance. Front entrance is for credit card transactions.)
After leaving the castle we headed farther onto Castle Hill to the Presidential Palace to watch the changing of the guards. This happens once daily around noon and could easily be missed. The Embassy is at the top of the funicular and is not what you would have expected where the President of Hungary would live, but the guards standing out front have the same commitment to their posts that you see at London’s Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guards was fantastic, we loved to see this time honored tradition from the past that is still practiced today.
After the changing of the guards, we walked the old streets of Buda Hill to the old Fisherman’s Bastion and Mathias Church. Short on time, we opted not to go inside the church or climb the stairs of Bastion for the view, but instead enjoyed a quick bite at the cafe and amazing views on the Bastion lower level before heading down the stairs to the bottom of Castle Hill and back across the Chain Bridge back to Pest.
Once in Pest, we headed to Doheny Synagogue. The Synagogue itself was impressive. The largest I have ever seen. But did not find the 4500 HUF (Hungarian Francs) entrance fee worth the experience. The museum I thought was very basic and focused more on educating its visitors on Judaism then the history of the site and Jews in Budapest. The third level of the museum relating to WWII and the Holocaust memorial garden was a very impressive tribute to the casualties, survivors and their families. Crystal offered a guided tour of the Synagogue, we decided not to participate because we would miss other venues we wanted to visit too. In retrospect, if I did it over again, I would take their guided tour for more of the history and story of the Synagogue and its congregation.
Since we were around the corner, we headed back to Szimpla Kert Ruin bar to check it out during the day. Interesting to see all the things that you miss at nite when there are so many people everywhere. They also have a fantastic street food fare next door with some great local food trucks. We sampled the Chimney cake, which is at every street corner. A hollow churro stuffed with your choice of toppings and/or ice cream. We opted for the Nutella filled which was amazing. So glad we walked a million miles that day!
Our last stop before heading back to the ship was the Danube shoes on the river. This exhibit along the banks of the Pest side of the river in front of the Parliament building pays tribute to the families (mostly women, children and elderly) that were taken by the nazi’s down to the river and shot into the river. I found the display and the number of rocks and flowers that filled the shoes a very moving testament to what happened here.
Overall, we really enjoyed Buda-Pest. Purchases including food and beverages was reasonably priced. Admission to the attractions were a bit inflated and there was very limited information provided to visitors, so highly suggest guided tours at all venues. Hungarian Francs are the currency, they are not on the euro. Most places take euros but the conversion they give you is terrible. The city is an active one with lots to see and do and many weekend visitors from all over Europe. We packed a lot into 24 hours, but highly recommend a few extra days (if possible) pre or post cruise to explore the city. If cruising into or out of Budapest, being on the sun deck is a MUST and the views of the city at dusk and at night are some of the most beautiful sites you will ever see.