First Impressions of Budapest- Castle Hill

View of Pest from Fisherman's Bastion

View of Pest from Fisherman’s Bastion

I have traveled to Europe several times with my daughter during the past few years but never with my husband.  It was time for him to get on board.  The decision to visit Central Europe evolved from neither of us having been there.  Budapest, Vienna and Prague seemed to be a popular itinerary, cities easily connected by trains.  It would be our first trip abroad together and my first trip as the solo travel guide, on past trips I had done much of the planning but I also relied on Lauren to help research accommodations and transportation options.  On this trip all the choices were left up to me.  Richard is pretty easy going except that he’s an inflexible vegetarian which was the only area that had me somewhat concerned.  I had read that the cities we would be visiting enjoyed meat focused meals but we agreed ahead of time that bread, cheese, pasta and pastries could always be passable options.

We arrived in Budapest at 9pm, bought a 5-day transit pass at the airport, then took a cab to our hotel which we found to be charming and perfectly situated near the river, public transport and walkable to most sites.

Our room at the Gerloczy Hotel, recommended by Rick Steves and a friend, had 12′ high ceilings and was beautifully decorated.

Gerloczy Hotel

The French cafe on the ground floor was quaint and the perfect place to begin our days with croissants and cappuccinos.

Our first morning in Budapest we walked along the very touristy Vaci Street on our way to the Danube.  We would learn to avoid this street of over-priced, mediocre traditional Hungarian cuisine restaurants and souvenirs, but on our first morning every step was a new adventure.


View of Buda Palace from Pest

In less than 10 minutes we arrived at the water for our first view of the Buda Palace on the Buda side; magnificent and huge perched on the top of Castle Hill.  My first impression was that we don’t have structures like this in California; a place for rulers and royalty, 100 times larger than where most of us reside.

We continued along the waterfront to Chain Bridge, the pedestrian connection between Buda and Pest, and joining the other tourists we walked across the bridge toward Castle Hill.  I had anticipated taking the funicular but there already existed an extensive line of other travelers waiting for a ride to the top of the hill.  Fortunately a tour guide offering walking tours suggested we take the #16 bus, waiting just across the street, to the top instead.  We ran over, jumped on with our 5-day transit pass, and squeezed in just as the doors rattled shut. The bus filled with enthusiastic tourists climbed the steep, windy road toward the Castle District.

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Trinity Square in Buda’s Castle District

It was a short walk to Trinity Square, what seemed to be the center of the Castle District.

Matthius Church was a dominant structure on the hill.  We decided to tour the church in spite of the throngs of tourist groups piling in ahead of us.  It had been recommended in the tour books as the most beautiful church in Budapest, both inside and out.

Matthius Church was beautiful on the inside just as advertised.

The self-guided tour was enjoyable although the tour groups were distracting at times and I’d recommend going to Castle Hill in the afternoon if that’s an option.

View from Beer Garden across from Matthius Church

Just across the square from Matthius Church we discovered a beer garden and gazebo where a band was performing.just as we were ready for lunch.  It was a great spot on a gorgeous day with plenty of out door tables.

The food looked appetizing and fresh, and was delicious with the local draft beer.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Another popular attraction on Castle Hill is Fisherman’s Bastion.

Aside from being interesting architecturally the many towers and terraces of Fisherman’s Bastion offer panoramic views of the Pest side.

This tower at Fisherman’s Bastion looks straight out of a fairy tale.

Although there was much more to see on Castle Hill we were ready for a break from the crowds and walked down the hill to cross back over the Chain Bridge to our sweet hotel on the Pest side.

Next post: St. Stephen’s Basilica-Budapest