We reached Budapest early the next morning and went out to breakfast at a cute cafe. Their quinoa, parfait, and hummus platter were delicious!
Afterwards, we walked down to St. Stevens Basilica passing by pretty streets and children play areas. St Stephen's Basilica is named in honor of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary in 10th century - whose supposed right hand is housed here. The current building was built over 1850-1900 on site of a theater and even now- many concerts are held here.
Stepping out of the Basilica, we had some delicious ice cream. After checking into our hotel- which pleasantly was a huge two room annexe- we went o Buda side of the city.
While Budapest sounds like a single city- it is actually twin cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Dallas/Fort Worth that were combined only 150 years back.
Built on a series of hills, Buda is the site of a grand Habsburg palace and has more imperial look. In contrast, populous Pest -- as flat as a prairie --is flat, busy, buzzing and bourgeois, with an assortment of bars, cafés and gourmet restaurants.
Buda side of the Danube is very hilly with many stairs to climb and is home to many of the historical structures. There, Dad and I did a tower tour which explained some history of the Austro-Hungarian empire and led us up to a beautiful view of the city. We then met mom at the Methias church and took a walk around. We quickly went and caught a bus to take a funicular up for the views. We ended the night at a vegan restaurant which mom disliked.
We went for a river cruise just after sunset and it was such lovely views. One issue was that we couldn't hear the audio guide - due to continuous chatter by fellow passengers - but other than that it was still enjoyable.
The next day, we visited the Hungarian parliament (absolutely stunning, a must see) and took a guided tour. It needs to be booked in advance as they control total number of tourists. The Budapest Parliament building was completed as part of the independence of Hungary from Austria. Although the size of this building is massive (apparently little bigger than UK Parliament), the tour only covers a few areas such as the main stairs, one of the lobbies,hallway, the House of the Lords and the section where the Hungarian Crown Jewels are stored. Even though Budapest Parliament holds the Crown Jewels now, they were stolen or lost many times. They found protection in the U.S. among the gold reserves until 1978 when the president at the time, Jimmy Carter returned them.
Later, we went to the central market hall (adorable and great memorabilia). As soon as we entered the area - we met a Hungarian lady who started talking to us in Hindi because she had lived in India for a year. We were so surprised and amazed at how fluent and friendly she was! For lunch, we ate at a Thai restaurant which mom was again, not too impressed with. After lunch, we walked to Hero square, only to discover that it was closed as school children were training for some big event. There, dad and I saw the thermal baths. I was initially interested- but on seeing the crowd and the fact that they are so hot (Budapest temperature was above 95 F)- I was happy that we did not go for it.