Hungary, the landlocked country with seven neighboring nations in central Europe, is a charming destination. It has lot of history, architecture, culture, music and cuisine to offer to the visitors. The country's status as a member of the European Union but not of the eurozone makes it affordable.
We started our tour with capital Budapest, the pearl of river Danube. It has monumental bridges linking the residential Buda and the buzzing centre of Pest. Entire city is home to some of the finest architecture in the world.
Yellow trams rattling around the grand boulevards, facades bearing witness to past revolutions, cobblestone streets, grand turn of the century apartment blocks make the perfect settings for a film. No wonder Hollywood loves Budapest for shooting movies. Our tour guide named Andrez told us that the city could be portrayed as any city in Europe, at a relatively lower cost of production. Latest sequel of Die Hard was being shot during our visit and we learnt that the crew had been stationed there since two months.
Our hopes of an encounter with Die Hard's John Mclane (Bruce Willis)in the city's famous Gerbeaud Café didn't materialize. We tossed the thought for a delicious signature cake and the hot cappuccino at the historic café. Chocolate butter sponge cake, flavoured with apricot palinka and candied apricots, layered with chocolate cream and covered with a frosting of dark chocolate was too hard to resist!
It's pleasant to take an evening walk across the Liberty Bridge in the World Heritage listed Castle District on top of the hill on Buda side. Ramparts of the Halaszbastya (Fisherman's Bastion) and Romanesque Mathias Church are a delight to watch from different viewpoints. After a delicious dinner at one of the fine restaurants, panorama of the Pest and the Danube during the stroll is beautiful.
Night cruise on Danube River was a good way to identify the city's popular monuments from their glowing lights. Parliament building is an expansive monument of Budapest. On a tour of the parliament, one could actually witness the royal crown housed under the magnificent central dome.
Grand Market Hall (Nagycsarnok)
The popular tourist attraction located at the end of the famous pedestrian shopping street Váciutca on the Pest side looks more like a train station. The 120-year-old indoor market was damaged during World War II and what we see today is a renovated version opened in 1990. The Grand Market Hall is worth a visit for its beautifularchitecture, windows, colorfully tiled roof and a peek into Hungarian lifestyle. Vegetables, fruits, meat, pastries and paprika are sold at the basement whereas Hungarian folk costume, upholstery and souvenirs are sold on the first floor. Some local cooking demonstrations, more souvenir and food shops are on the ground floor. Haggling before buying is a norm here.
The market is open from 6am to 6 pm from Tuesday to Friday and till 3 pm on Saturday and 5 pm on Monday. It's closed on Sunday.