DAY 7: Budapest, Hungary
The day began by getting up early and going on a bus tour of both sides of the city: the older Buda and more cosmopolitan Pest. Our boat was docked on the Pest side in an ideal location — right across the street from the Four Seasons Gresham Palace (If you get a chance, go into their lobby or better yet get a spa treatment) and at the foot of the Chain Bridge, which separates both cities.
We drove by the Pest’s National Opera House and historic Heroes’ Square and then once up in Buda, we walked along Fishermen’s Hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Some passengers went back to the ship to eat lunch while others went to either Art Nouveau Gellért Spa or to visit the Christmas markets.
We visited two of Budapest’s Christmas markets, which were both a short seven-minute walk from our ship. The first was in Vörösmarty Square (takes place from Nov 27th-Dec 31st), which is located at the northern end of Váci Street, the capital’s main pedestrian/shopping street. They have some gift stalls and a tent with folk dances but this is the place to come for food. Hot sausages or Hungarian baked goods, like lángos (fry bread with a variety of toppings) strudels or my favorite, Kürtöskalács (aka chimney cakes). They cost 1,500 Hungarian Forint, which is about five euros. Good to know: Hungary is the only country that we visited that doesn’t use the euro but most stands accepted it. Some also accept credit cards.
FYI: If you walk to the very end of the street you will get to Budapest’s famous indoor market called Great Market Hall. The first floor is filled with locals buying groceries for the week while upstairs caters more to tourists buying souvenirs like paprika and t-shirts.
Our favorite Christmas Market was in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica (takes place December 1st-31st). This market opened in 2011 but is rapidly gaining popularity due to its amazing backdrop. There’s a small ice skating rink and the big attraction is the hourly lightshow on Saint Stephen’s Basilica. All of the markets offer traditional Hungarian things to eat and drink to ward off the cold.
More info on Budapest Christmas Market.
Onboard Viking Skadi they had a traditional Hungarian farewell dinner but we dined at Budapest’s most famous restaurant, Gundel Restaurant which is quite fancy and has hosted countless celebrities, heads of states and even the Pope!
DAY 8: Budapest, Hungary
This will be the saddest day of your cruise because everyone has to be out of their cabin by 9am. Most people boarded buses to the airport but the wise ones extended their trip by at least a night and got a hotel in the city or went to Prague. After our breakfast, we went to the Budapest airport – about a 30-minute drive. The airlines had long lines in their economy class lines but I was able to go to the front of British Airways’ line, thanks to having elite status on their partner airline American.
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