Story and Photography by David Lewis Taylor.
My first glance at the Danube River was from a Belle Epoque palace built in 1902, which is now home to the stunning Hotel Matilid, A Luxury Collection Hotel. From my guestroom, the view of Elisabeth Bridge, the Danube, and the Buda side of Budapest aggrandized the elegance around me while triggering a sense of urgent discovery matched with the excited anticipation for my Danube excursion. The AmaWaterways flagship river cruiser, the award-winning AmaMagna, which will be my home base for the next week will depart at the weekend’s end.
From friends and fellow travelers, I received countless recommendations of experiences not to be missed in this beloved tourist town. My extensive to-see list included visiting the top historical sights and experiencing the notorious and beautiful mineral baths, ruin bars, exceptional bakeries, unique shops, and the cosmopolitan dining scene, all major attractions in Budapest.
Passing shops and cafes along Vaci Utca, I arrived at the Great Market Hall for my first taste of authentic Hungarian cuisine. With Buda Castle in sight, I walk along the Danube Promenade, awed by the stunning architecture and river views. I secured tickets to visit the historical, beautiful, ornate church and the panoramic terrace at St. Stephen’s Basilica. Taking the steps, I ascend 65 meters for a 360-degree view of the city.
The setting sun brings long shadows and a warm glow to the city below. Best seen from Buda Castle, a Royal Palace first completed in 1265, is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, the neo-gothic style Hungarian Parliament Building. Masterfully illuminated at night, as are many of the city’s most beautiful buildings, the Parliament Building is a sight to behold.
Just down the hill, I join friends at the happening Felix Kitchen and Bar for a multi-course fine dining experience. There are exceptional dining venues in Budapest, the latest addition being a Spago by Wolfgang Puck. We end the night and welcome the new day at one of the most interesting and lively ruin bars, Szimpla Kert, in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. After waiting in line for entrance, the somewhat imposing doorman enthusiastically greeted us with a welcoming history of the place, which sprawls over two floors and features multiple bars including a hip jazz room. He extended an invitation to their weekend flea market.
The following morning I walk with no specific agenda. Lured by a delectable array of cakes and croissants in their window, I take a delightful hour break at Muse Artisan Cafe for coffee and breakfast. Along the riverwalk, l pause at ‘Shoes on the Danube,’ a moving memorial to Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Sadly a weekend is not enough time to see this vibrant city. More time was needed to visit all the attractions, sit in cafes, sample the specialties, and experience the nightlife, but the time I had was magnificent.
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