BUDA SITS ON THE WEST BANK AND PEST ON THE EAST BANK OF THE DANUBE RIVER:
Amsterdam to Budapest River Cruise – Avalon Waterways – Day 14:
Our ship arrived in Budapest at 10.00 a.m. and we were originally supposed to do our city sightseeing tour in the morning. But, as the shops in the Central Market Hall were opened till lunchtime only on Saturdays, many of the ladies were keen to dash off to get souvenirs and gifts for friends and family. It was the last chance to do shopping before the end of the cruise!
On Board Customs
Our riverboat was moored near Liberty Bridge along the Pest embankment of the Danube but before the shoppers could rush off the boat, a loudspeaker announcement soon stopped them in their tracks. Hungarian Customs were coming on board to check our passports.
The Central Market Hall was within walking distance and as they have Hungarian handicrafts at this covered market, this was a good place to start shopping for souvenirs. The sticks of salamis and other Hungarian delicacies would make great gifts too, but Australians can forget about taking any food home! It is 100% interdit!
Central Market Hall
The Central Market Hall, also known as the Great Market Hall, is a huge covered bazaar. It’s called ‘Great Market Hall’ for a reason – you have to see this place to appreciate how huge it is!
The lower ground floor of the building contains the market area where fresh and dried foods and spices could be bought, including the famous Hungarian salamis and paprika. If you’re an animal-lover or get queasy easily, it might be an idea not to look too hard at some of the meat stalls which are decorated with animal heads. But do look out for the caviar stalls, if you have a taste for this luxury food. Shops in the upper levels sell Hungarian embroidered napkins, table cloths, wood carvings, clothing, etc. Although there were plenty of embroidered and lace table cloths and napkins for sale, I didn’t think that they were particularly cheap – the stallholders will remind you that theirs are not made in China. In the middle level, there is a food area where you could try Hungarian goulash and other typically Hungarian dishes, if you were game.
We weren’t shopping for anything in particular, but still found the bazaar a very colourful and interesting place to stroll through. One of the stallholders proudly displayed a poster of former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher visiting his stall. You’ll recognize the stall owner in the picture too, even though he has acquired a few grey hairs.
Budapest Sightseeing Tour
This afternoon’s city tour covered the main historical sights and our first stop was at the Heroes’ Square, the biggest square in Budapest. In the middle of the square is the Millennium Monument, with the Archangel Gabriel on top of the column holding a cross and the Holy Hungarian Crown. The horseback statues on the pedestal are of famous Hungarian kings and dukes.
Heroes’ Square is at the end of Budapest’s famous 2.5 kilometer-long Andrássy Avenue and so we drove down this beautiful avenue lined with expensive villas, residential and commercial buildings, many of Budapest’s prominent institutions such as the State Opera House, chic shops and cafes and restaurants. This was the place to come back to if we have some free time later on. The Millennium Underground Railway also runs under this avenue so it is easy to get to.
Next we crossed over to the Buda embankment of the Danube and stopped at the Castle Hill where the Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle are the main attractions.
Fishermen’s Bastion in particular is a favourite sight with visitors and appears to be a favourite spot for wedding photo shoots. During our time here we saw several couples arriving in their elegant horse and carriage but unfortunately for the wedding couples and us, the skies were a bit grey.
From the Fisherman’s Bastion there are panoramic views of the whole city, including the impressive Hungarian Parliament Building with its Danube River setting and St Stephen’s Basilica. If you’re exhausted by the crowds in the Castle complex and don’t fancy climbing the Bastion walls, you could still sit at its cafe and enjoy the Danube River views.
This evening was our Farewell Dinner on board (see our photos)
More information on Budapest here: Budapest Info-briefing
Photos of Budapest: Budapest Photo Gallery
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