24 Hours in Budapest with Amadeus
Coming into Budapest via the Danube River was an unforgettable experience. Sitting on the sun deck of the Amadeus Queen, drink in hand, the city appears before you as you round the corner of the Danube.
You can clearly see the Hungarian capital’s scared past from the time it was behind the Iron Curtain. As you come into the suburbs, the high-rises of the 70s dominate the landscape, but this soon transforms into stunning gothic and baroque architecture.
The view from the river is the best there is. The palaces and grand buildings line the river banks and seem never-ending. It felt like being in the middle of fairy-tale.
There are eight bridges linking Buda with Pest and it’s a wonderful experience going under these on the ship. They are lined with statues and intricate details which can only be seen when you enter the city via the river.
The Amadeus ships dock right in the centre, next to the Liberty Bridge. It felt like I was at the heart of everything and it made the excursions and trips into Budapest really easy. It also meant that, when I was having dinner, I had an amazing view out of the windows. Your eye is instantly drawn to the Liberty Statue, standing tall and proud on top of the biggest hill in Buda.
After this morning of cruising into the city and a scrumptious lunch aboard the ship, it was time to explore!
We were split into different groups so that everyone with us spoke the same language and the guide could do everything in English.
First, we headed to the Pest side of the city. The minibus provided by Amadeus was really comfortable and we had individual headsets connected to the guide’s microphone so it was easy to hear everything. The guides that work with Amadeus are so knowledgeable and friendly; they’re ready to answers any questions. It was fascinating being told about the history of Hungary while being driven along and passing a mixture of buildings; those with bullet holes contrasting with stunning grand cathedrals.
We stopped at the World Heritage Site of Hősök Tere (Hero’s Square), one of the major squares in Budapest. Here, there are huge statues of chiefs on horseback atop towering columns and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We then crossed into Buda to head up to the Castle District. It was getting towards dusk at this point and the fading light made everything even more beautiful. The group headed towards the Matthias (St Matthew’s) Church, past many little shops selling souvenirs and the beautiful lacework the area is famous for.
The church itself is impressive from the outside, with multi-coloured tiles, spiralling turrets and gruesome gargoyles staring down at you. Inside is a mesmerising plethora of gold and opulence. The roof of the church is cavernous, with highly decorated columns and artwork everywhere. Our guide pointed out all the interesting features of the church and took us into the smaller chapels; it felt very peaceful inside.
Outside, there is one of the best views I have ever seen. The church is on top of one of Buda’s hills and from here you can see directly across the river to the Hungarian Parliament Building – one of the prettiest on the river. It looked like a scene straight out of a novel.
By now it was getting dark and we watched as the lights all came on and illuminated these monuments, making them even more beautiful. I stood and watched for quite a while. At this point, we were given some free time to look around and visit the shops. The atmosphere here is great as it’s all a-buzz with people in cafes and wandering the square in the evening.
After this, we headed back to the ship, driving through the city in the dark with everything lit up, to be greeted with a scrumptious four-course dinner and free-flowing wine. That evening, there was entertainment arranged on board the ship. A fantastic group of traditional Hungarian dancers and musicians came and filled the room with singing and dancing. It was great to see what the traditional music is like and even join in! It created a lovely atmosphere.
Then came the best bit of the evening – the night time river cruise of the city. This was my favourite part of the whole trip. The Amadeus Queen sailed upstream, past the illuminated palaces and churches. Sitting on the top deck with everything sailing past, relaxing and letting the world go by, with a drink in-hand was fabulous. It was great to be on the ship, with a cabin just below and all the comforts that come with this. The views were incredible; it was a wonderful evening.
As we came back to dock, the midnight snacks had been served – a lovely way to end the night. So, after a quiet bite and a cup of tea, it was time to head off to my cabin, ready for the next day’s adventures!