Thursday 19th March
Arriving in sunny Budapest at 11.30am local time (an hour ahead), we were met by our mini bus which was to be our transport for the next 4 days. Luggage loaded and ready to go, we sped off for the 20 minute journey to our hotel at the 4 star superior Radisson Blu Beke. This top-notch hotel is situated in the centre of Budapest on the Pest side of the River Danube.
After lunch we were met by our local tour guide, Monika, and kicked things off with a visit to Heroes’ Square, the city park and St Stephen’s Basilica. We then stopped at the New York Café for coffee and cakes (delicious!) before heading back to the hotel to change for the evening. Afterwards, we were taken on a boat cruise on the River Danube followed by dinner at the award-winning unique Borsso Bistro.
Friday 20th March
After being spoilt by a big breakfast in the hotel’s ‘Olives’ restaurant, we climbed on board our mini bus and headed to the Hungarian Houses of Parliament for a guided tour. The Hungarian Houses of Parliament, built in 1896 (completed in 1904), are the largest in Europe and home to the Hungarian Holy crown. Well worth a visit for a bit of culture and royal ‘bling’!
After the tour, we hopped back on the bus and drove over the Budapest Bridge to the Buda side of town. Here lies a palace and church that King Matthias built next to each other in Roman-style – a sight I would definitely recommend to groups travelling to this part of the city.
We walked on the newly-restored cobbled stones and the castle district walls where we enjoyed a fantastic view of the Danube and the Pest side of Budapest. We then walked 5 minutes to Alexander Palace which houses the seat of the President, and luckily for us it was noon so we were there in time to watch the change of guards!
This was a captivating 5 minute ceremony of ten soldiers marching and performing their gun demonstration prior to changing the two guards by the entrance to the palace.
Heading back over the Danube, we then drove over to Margaret Island. This island truly is the green gem of Budapest and provides a peaceful hideaway from bustling downtown Budapest. It’s a good job it’s so large (1.5 miles long and 500 meters wide), stretching between Arpad Bridge and Margit Bridge in the embrace of the Danube.
Here you can enjoy attractions like romantic walkways, medieval ruins, a small zoo, musical fountain, water park, open air theatre, cinema and a few hotels. Once lunch was finished we headed off to see some exciting potential concert venues!
Tonight we were taken back up to the Castle District of Buda to the Hilton Hotel where we were greeted with a welcome drink in the hotel’s lobby bar, followed by a short viewing of the Hilton’s illuminated 13th century court yard (all I can say is wow!).
We were then seated for dinner overlooking the Pest side and marvelling at the fantastically-lit Houses of Parliament. It really was an amazing view!
Saturday 21st March
After another big breakfast at the hotel (I could get used to this), we departed for the Royal Opera House, located in central Budapest. Built in 1875 and funded by the city of Budapest and the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, it is the largest opera house in Hungary.
Richly decorated, it’s considered as one of the architect’s (Miklos Ybl – a major figure of the 19th century Hungarian Architecture) masterworks. It holds a whopping 1261 people and is designed in the shape of a horseshoe. Unfortunately it’s not a venue we can use for concerts!
After a guided tour of the Opera House, we headed out of the city to the Danubius Hotel Arena. Ideal for student groups, this large hotel is 15 minutes from the centre of Budapest, a few metres walk from the metro and just a 5 minute walk to a large shopping centre.
Back in Budapest, we visited the Hotel Budapest which offers something a bit different with its unique spherical shape. Your heads will be spinning (in the best way possible) with this fantastic hotel that’s suitable for all group types.
Sunday 22nd March
Alas, it was our final day in sunny Budapest and we woke up to our last big breakfast before checking out of the hotel. We left the centre of Budapest and headed out to the picturesque Hungarian countryside.
Around 20 minutes later we arrived at Godollo Castle – the beautifully restored castle of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of the Emperor Franz Josef. After enjoying a guided tour and a quick coffee, we departed Godollo Castle for Domonyvolgy. Here we visited the Lazar Equestrian Park for a traditional Hungarian Horse Show followed by a truly rustic lunch.
With everyone well-fed, it was now the end of our time in Budapest. We were taken back to the airport where we said our goodbyes and boarded our flight back to the UK. Until next time Budapest!