What better way to see a city, at your own pace, than with the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour. With a morning free in Budapest, that's exactly what hubby and I did - bought ourselves seats on the red double-decker bus to see, at a quick glance, some of Budapest's famous sites. And, I must admit, it was more 'on' than 'off' as we only had the morning spare.
I love the little bits of trivia information that one picks up along the way when exploring new surrounds. Here's one for you - did you know that Tony Curtis, the well-known actor from yesteryear was actually born in Hungary? I haven't been able to verify this information, so perhaps it was a secret.
Here's another piece of interesting information - Buda (as In Budapest) is the hilly part of the city and Pest is the flat part. Buda and Pest developed separately and only became one city in 1873.
Visitors can begin their hop-on, hop-off tour at any one of the twenty-eight stops on the itinerary. I must be totally honest with you and say I cannot, for the life of me, remember absolutely everything that we saw, but will to the best of my ability, attempt to recap as many of them with you as I can.
Whilst waiting for our bus to arrive, I discovered that this beautiful city has what they call 'Pop-Up Parks', with very interesting designed seating, where one can sit or lie down and take in the city's sounds and views. Some of this seating is undercover with shade cloth and are located in very pretty park areas.
Dohány Street Synagogue
250 years old and the second biggest Synagogue in the world - Image: Elaine de Wet
This Moorish Revival architecture'd Synagogue is 250 years old and is the second biggest in the world, able to seat eight thousand people and located in the 7th district of Budapest. Outside the Synagogue is a silver tree with over two thousand steel leaves, commemorating the holocaust victims and donated by none other than Tony Curtis.
The oldest hotel in Budapest - Image: Elaine de Wet
Hotel Astoria is the oldest hotel in Budapest, having opened in 1914 and more than a century later, stays true to its original character. The Hotel Astoria's position is perfect for guests as it's only a ten minute walk to the Hungarian National Museum, the Dohány Street Synagogue, the Danube promenade and the famous Váci Street.
Hungarian State Opera House
The Hungarian State Opera House - Image: Elaine de Wet
This magnificent new-Renaissance style building was completed in 1884 and modelled after the Vienna Opera House and today is home to both the State Opera and the State Ballet. When the Hungarian State Opera House was opened in 1884, the city shared the administrative duties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with Vienna. Emperor Franz Joseph commissioned its design.
Statues of famous musicians - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Hungarian State Opera House is considered to be amongst the best opera houses in the world in terms of its acoustics and has an auditorium that seats 1200 people. In front of the Opera House is the statue of Ferenc Erkel, who was the composer of the Hungarian national anthem and also the first music director of the Opera. The other statue in front of the Budapest Opera is of Ferenc Liszt, the well-known Hungarian composer.
Composer of the Hungarian national anthem - Image: Elaine de Wet
As you can see from the amount of people in my photos, Heroes' Square is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. Heroes' Square was created at the end of the nineteenth century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 1895. Since many of the attractions weren't ready in time, the festivities were held one year later, in 1896. The Square only received its present name in 1932, three years after the completion of the Millennium Monument.
Judging by the amount of people, you can believe this is one of the top tourist spots in Budapest - Image: Elaine de Wet
Soaring above Heroes' Square is the Millennium Column, which is topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel. Behind the Column is a semi-circular colonnade with statues of famous men who made their mark on Hungarian history. Statues on top on the colonnades symbolise War; Peace; Work and Welfare; and Knowledge and Glory.
Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden
One of the oldest zoos in the world - Image: Elaine de Wet
Ok, we whizzed past this one, so I just managed to get a quick photo! But, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden is the oldest zoo park in Hungary and one of the oldest in the world. It has over one thousand different animal species and is located in the centre of the city.
Municipal Grand Circus
The only stone circus in Central Europe - Image: Elaine de Wet
Don't you just love these old buildings? The Capital Circus of Budapest aka Municipal Grand Circus, originally opened in 1889, with its current building opening in 1971. This Grand Circus is the only stone circus in Central Europe.
The Chain Bridge
Not the best pic taken through the bus window - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge in Budapest. The closest bridge was in Vienna and during wintertime the only way to cross the Danube was by taking a ferry. A temporary bridge was only available in summer and had to be disassembled every year to protect it against drift ice.
A Count, István Széchenyi was the driving force behind the construction of the Chain Bridge, after having missed his father's funeral when the ferry service across the Danube was halted due to bad weather.
In 1836 Széchenyi asked William Tierney Clark, an English civil engineer to design a bridge. Clark had the experience as he had already designed two suspension bridges over the Thames - the Hammersmith Bridge in London and the Marlow Bridge.
The stunning bridge towers are decorated with the Hungarian coat of arms; imposing stone lions guard the bridge on either side. According to legend, the sculptor of the lions threw himself into the river when, during the bridge's opening ceremony, a spectator proclaimed that the lions had no tongues. In reality, the lions do have tongues, they're just not easily visible, and the sculptor lived on for several more decades.
The Chain Bridge survived an attempt by the Austrians to destroy it in 1848, during the War of Independence. In 1945, however, near the end of World War II, the bridge was blown up by the Germany in an attempt to halt the progress of the Red Army. The bridge was one of the first structures to be rebuilt after the war - the current bridge is an exact replica of the original.
The views from Buda hill of Budapest - Image: Elaine de Wet
Onward and upward with our Hop-on, Hop-off bus to one of their hills on the Buda side - Buda Hill? - to admire the amazing views of the absolutely beautiful city of Budapest. The views of the city and the Danube River were spectacular.
If you're ever planning a visit to Budapest in Hungary, I would suggest taking a tour with one of the Hop-on, Hop-off Tour operators as there really is no better way to take in a city than with a whirlwind tour of their top attractions.