On the Buda Side of the Danube

The star of the show in Buda (the west side of the river) is the great castle on the hill. Built in the mid-1700s under the direction of Empress Maria Thersa of Austria, the castle has its roots in the 1200s. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries since. A detailed history of the castle and a room-by-room description with old photos is on Wikipedia – click here.


Occupying the ridge at the opposite end of the castle hill is a charming neighborhood of lovely old buildings painted in pastel colors. The cathedral of Budapest is placed between the castle and neighboring residential district.

Below the castle on the Buda side of the Danube there are gracious old apartment buildings in busy neighborhoods.  The apartment where I stayed was built in 1907. My friend’s grandparents bought it in 1947 and it has passed down to her. It’s a large apartment of the grand old style. Three large rooms overlook the city street below. At the rear of the apartment is the maid’s room (now storage) and a tiny original kitchen, obviously designed for a maid as well. Because this apartment has been handed down intact it contains the memories, the artifacts, the style of many decades. I felt lucky to spend a few days there.

Although Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th century and on the losing side in both World Wars 1 and 2, the people of Budapest continued to preserve the great buildings and neighborhoods constructed when their city was a co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. That pride of place can still be seen throughout the city today. Despite its difficult past, there is a charm to Budapest that many modern cities have lost. As with many places that were once behind the Iron Curtain, the damage inflicted during bombardments during the 1940s was repaired long ago and the gracious style of the late 1800s can be seen throughout the city today.

I hope the pictures I’ve shared here will give you a bit of the sense of beautiful Budapest.

Old meets new on the Danube

This is where my friend A. attended grammar school. It remains a school today. It was originally a convent.


The Famous Gellért Hotel

If you’ve seen a travel guidebook about Hungary chances are you’ve seen a swimming pool at the Gellért Hotel on the cover of the book. There are not many hotels in the world featured on the cover of guide books; not many with names recognized by international travelers. The Gellért is one of that select number. The history of the hotel is a story of destruction and interruption during the wars of the 20th century and rebirth during the Soviet occupation. Wikipedia’s article about the Gellért provides a good, brief history.

The hotel is obviously grand but it’s the spa and its swimming pools that attract attention and draw people from everywhere. I’m borrowing from Wikipedia a description of the spa at the hotel: “Hotel Gellért is famous for its thermal baths. The Gellért Spa, connected to the hotel directly, is a special attraction and its indoor and outdoor swimming pool, wave bath, sunbathing terrace and thermal spa can be used by the hotel guests [and the public]. Thermal baths are used for healing different diseases and illnesses. Jacuzzi with its glass roofs, which is opened in the summer, and the wave bath are the favourites among guests.”

Although I didn’t stay at the Gellért Hotel I was able to walk into the art deco interior of the spa and to snap some pictures, indoors and out.

If you have the opportunity to visit Budapest, grab it! If you’re considering a river cruise on the Danube, make a point of beginning or ending here. If your time there will be outside the summer season, look into staying at Hotel Gellért. It’s location in the center of the city is perfect for touring fascinating Budapest.

This is a view of the spectacular entrance to the famous indoor pool at the spa. Above the area shown here is a gorgeous stained-glass dome.

This is the best picture I could get from the closest point to the famous indoor pool.


But this borrowed photo shows you how fabulous this place is!

By poking my camera’s lens through rails on a fence I was able to capture this scene of the outdoor pool area on a very hot day.

No one from New Bern NC (birthplace of Pepsi) could skip this shot, also taken from the other side of the fence.



http://en.muemlekek.info/monument/gellert-bath.php (great pictures here).

Here’s Anthony Horowitz’s take on Budapest.

A Walk in Pest

My friend A. and I spent a day walking through the edge of the Pest section of Budapest, near the Danube river. (Budapest is actually two old cities, Buda and Pest, which were combined into one city in 1873.)

We began at the large old market hall which is two stories high plus an Aldi store installed in the basement.

The large old market hall is located at the edge of the river, just off one of the principal bridges. It’s filled with fresh food and items designed to appeal to tourists.

Those are peppers piled up beside the shopper.

Here, from another stand, a peck of peppers. The price is a bargain: about 40 U.S. cents for two and a quarter pounds.

From there we strolled through a popular tourist area, then on to the mercantile town center.

The splendid Cafe Gerbeaud, a Viennese style café and bakery serving Budapest since 1858.

Two little curious shoppers, tempted by something good.

When we stopped to visit the Basilica we were briefly entertained by a band of young musicians from Friedberg, Germany.

A lunch time concert from the visiting band with the facade of the Basilica behind them.

The basilica is richly decorated. It’s in the Greek cross shape, that is it has four arms of equal length, making an X shape. As with many (most?) of the public buildings in Budapest, it has a beautiful dome.

From there we walked on toward the Parliament building, which is very large and very richly “dressed,” much like a flamboyant French cathedral.

In the course of our walk we passed many people, many shops and stores and sidewalk cafés, many old buildings – some recently restored, some still in need of restoration.  I hope these pictures give you a bit of the sense of fascinating Budapest.

A tourist having his picture taken with a statue of Ronald Reagan.



My long-time friend (whom I will call A), a native of Hungary, and her American husband (I’ll call him B) invited me to join them in Budapest recently. They have the apartment that A’s family has owned for 70 years. It’s located a short walk from the Danube in a very interesting and attractive neighborhood. While we were there the temperature passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit one day and 96 degrees another. We wandered around the city through the heat each day until this blogger could go no farther.

The delightful Parliament building, the Danube and one of the towers of the famous Chain Bridge.

Budapest is sometimes called the “Paris of the East.” I think, given the number of truly spectacular buildings, that it may be even more beautiful than Paris. Most of the famous buildings were constructed during the Austro-Hungarian empire when Vienna and Budapest served as joint capitals. A monumental palace stands on a hill overlooking both sides of the city, Buda and Pest. Two magnificent churches – one the cathedral on the Buda side of the river and the other a basilica on the Pest side – are crowning jewels. The parliament seems to be made of spun sugar. Three bridges with tall towers overhead cross the Danube just blocks apart. Parks abound, including on one an island in the middle of the river. The architecture, mostly late 19th and early 20th century, consists primarily of highly decorated office and apartment buildings of fewer than ten stories.

The castle glowing in the dark. Look closely to see a river cruise ship docked just under the palace. Many river cruises begin or end in Budapest, on the Danube.

Because there’s so much to see and photograph in Budapest I plan to write several posts and to share many photos to allow you to see more of this fascinating city, beginning with some of the best known places along the Danube.

Located near the palace at the top of the Castle Hill, the cathedral is graced by a very tall tower and a multi-color tile roof, much like the cathedral in Vienna.