One of the biggest benefits of the card is that you have unlimited use of the public transportation system. Another, is that you get two free walking tours...one on the Buda side of the Danube River, and one on the Pest side. We had planned on going to the Buda walking tour yesterday morning at 10:30am, but we didn't get up early enough and we would have been rushed to get to the start on time. So we changed our plans and we'll do that Friday morning...with an earlier start to the day!
So instead, we started off with the short walk over to St. Stephen's Basilica. One of the reasons we chose the Casati Budapest Hotel is that it is so close to everything in the central area.
St. Stephen's Basilica.
The front view.
This huge church is not really that old. It was only completed in 1905, after 54 years of construction, which included demolition of the nearly completed building when the central dome collapsed in 1868 due to poor workmanship.
Very ornate interior!
It is free to enter the church, but they are very aggressive with trying to get you to make a 250 forint ($1.12) "donation". It's not a donation if you have to pay it! I know it's only $1.12, but it's the point. Figure that probably more than 1,000 people per day are going through this church. I know, they have maintenance costs, but I was a little offended by the doorman's demeanor. They do charge a set fee to take the elevator or stairs to the top of the dome for a view of the city. We may do that if we have time another day. They also have a special exhibit of St. Stephen's mummified hand. Long story behind this body part, but where they have the hand displayed, they have a lighting system that only comes on when you make another "donation". Seemed like a bit of a sideshow attraction to me, but I guess it's all about the money.
From there, we decided to walk down Andrassy Way, a long boulevard that runs down to Heroe's Square and the city park where the Zoo is.
Part way along, we stopped in at Alexandra's Bookshop. We had walked by here before, and noticed that it looks like a Chapters bookstore but we didn't go in. Then reader Lyn told us about the cafe inside, so we stopped in to have a look. Sure enough, there's a beautiful room housing the cafe...
So there's a modern bookstore in the front, but when you wander to the back of the building there's this!
Further on down the boulevard, we stopped in at the Kiado Kocsma restaurant and had a look at the menu. This is another recommendation from reader Lyn so we wanted to check it out on our way through. Decent prices, and an interesting looking place. Decided we would return for dinner!
Then we stopped in at the tearoom at the asian gold museum. Decided against having tea, and decided against the museum as well. But it is a nice looking tea room!
The outdoor part of the tearoom.
3 kms (1.8 miles) from where we started, we arrived at Heroes Square and the Millenium Monument.
Built in the year 1900.
Some neat statues on the monument.
From there it was only a short walk to the Budapest Zoo. We've already been to the Mexico City Zoo and the Bristol Zoo this year, so we wouldn't have normally gone to another zoo but admission was included with the Budapest Card so we figured we'd go in for a quick wander around since we were in the area. We stayed longer than expected though. It's certainly not one of the best zoos we've ever been to, but it did have some highlights. They have probably the best display of snakes we've ever seen. Plus we did have a couple of memorable moments with some of the animals that we saw so that made it more enjoyable. And for a small zoo, it seemed to go on forever! But some of the displays are dated. Kind of felt sorry for a few of the animals who's enclosures seemed a bit small.
This meerkat was a real character!
Giraffes sure are funny looking animals!
This is the shortest, thickest looking snake we've ever seen. He sure was strange looking. Called a Gaboon Viper. One of the most venomous snakes in the world. Fortunately, bites are very rare "due to the docile and lazy nature of this snake".
Camels are funny looking too!
This guy took a liking to Ruth, and he sure enjoyed having his nose scratched! Ruth has a new friend!
We took the metro underground (subway) back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before supper. The metro is easy to use, and very efficient. Gotta love the subway for getting around a big city. Then we walked over to the Kiado Kocsma restaurant and had dinner. A little more expensive than we have paid recently, at 5,400 forints ($24.30) including tip. But it was a really good meal and included two glasses of white wine. I had the pesto pork cutlet with grilled goat cheese and rice, and Ruth had the roast duck breast with sun dried tomato, rice, and salad.
View of the Kiado Kocsma restaurant from where we were sitting on the upper level.
After dinner, we walked down to the waterfront and took the tram along to the Margaret Bridge. Walked across the bridge to get another night photo, then we were going to take the tram back but we ended up walking the entire way back along the river. It was another beautiful evening.
Can't get enough of these "Budapest at night" shots!
Lots of people out just sitting by the river watching the world go by.