Big City Tales

Budapest In All Its Golden Splendor | March 15, 2018

The first time I ever saw a Viking River Cruises TV commercial, the one destination that immediately struck me was Budapest, Hungary.

As the elegant Viking Longship sailed along the Danube River and passed by the magnificent Parliament House, it was crystal clear that this landmark delights the eyes by day and dazzles them by night.

Yes, when fully lit, Parliament House reveals Budapest in all its golden splendor and there is no question about its status as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

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Riverfront Treasures

Not surprisingly, Budapest’s central area along the Danube River is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the notable riverfront monuments to explore are: Parliament House, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, and the Shoes on the Danube Memorial.

Parliament House

Inspired by the Houses of Parliament in London, England, construction of Budapest’s Parliament House was completed in 1902. The building’s exterior spans 268 metres and features statues of past Hungarian rulers, along with several spires, gargoyles and a massive central dome. Inside, 691 rooms showcase the best of neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Byzantine design. There is also an elaborate central staircase decorated with granite columns, gold-covered ornaments and a painted ceiling.

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Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Once upon a time, Budapest was a divided city with the municipality of Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. The only way to cross the river was by ferry but that changed in the 1800s when one Count István Széchenyi made it his mission to oversee the design and construction of a permanent bridge. The count secured the services of an English civil engineer who had experience with unique suspension designs. The Chain Bridge derives its name from the iron chains that span between the two massive towers that anchor each end.

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Shoes on the Danube Bank

During World War II, a fascist organization called the Arrow Cross Party carried out a mass execution of thousands of citizens, many of Jewish descent. The victims were lined up along the banks of the Danube River then ordered to remove their shoes before being shot and falling into the river. The memorial depicts the shoes that were left behind and pays honor to those who perished.

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Inland Gems

Beyond the spectacular riverfront views, Budapest has many other sparkling gems to explore within the city proper.

Buda Castle

Originally home to Hungarian royalty dating back to the 14th century, Buda Castle is also referred to as the Royal Palace. Having been built, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, the complex is a true reflection of Budapest’s storied past that has included occupation by foreign invaders. While nothing remains of the castle’s earliest designs and grand interior decorations, its 300 metre facade that faces the Danube River is visually stunning. Today, the castle is the location of the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Library each containing important historical artifacts.

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Fisherman’s Bastion

Located high on a hill in the Castle District, Fisherman’s Bastion offers one of the best panoramic views of Budapest. It is also a popular destination because of its fairy tale-ish, castle-like appearance that includes seven towers and a double stairway that connects the bastion with the streets below.  The towers are symbolic of the Magyar tribes who originally settled the country of Hungary centuries ago.

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Heroes’ Square/Millennium Monument

To mark the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary, Heroes’ Square was built at the end of the 19th century to pay tribute to the country’s great leaders. In the middle of the square, the Millennium Monument features statues of the seven Magyar leaders at its base; a semi-circular colonnade at its rear with statues of notable Hungarians and symbols representing War, Peace, Work and Welfare, and Knowledge and Glory; and a soaring central column that is topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel. The square is used as a gathering place for numerous special events and official ceremonies.

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Matthias Church

Named after King Matthias who ruled Hungary from 1458 to 1490, Matthias Church is officially registered as Church of our Lady. Along with being the site of many coronations, the church contains tombs and other significant clerical and royal items such as the neo-Gothic Triptych main altar, the Matthias Chalice and other coronation regalia.

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A Most Beautiful City

No matter the time of day or the season, Budapest truly stands out for its spectacular scenery and rich cultural history that can be admired and appreciated whether just cruising by or disembarking for a more in depth look.

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