When on a short city break, it can sometimes feel like you are trying to cram everything in. One of the best ways of seeing a lot in a short space of time is to take a walking tour.
Luckily, on our trip to Vienna, the hotel was offering a free walking tour of the city and we decided to make the most of it. When picking a tour, I like to look for ones that don’t just visit the popular tourist spots; I can do that perfectly well on my own. Instead, I like to pick tours that offer something a little different, usually places that are just off the beaten path. The free tour we joined was just the ticket as it was centred around the Jewish quarter and surrounding areas, slightly out of the main shopping areas.
We spent a couple of hours hearing tales of historical sites down the twisty streets next to the Danube. The architecture was incredible, often showing glimpses of the changes made to buildings across the years: Art Deco, Baroque and Gothic in places, splattered with an array of Roman style statues.
Stories of bar tenders who were so drunk they were mistaken for Plague victims and thrown into mass graves, visits to the places Mozart studied and incredibly ornate churches behind plain wooden doors: the tour was excellent and gave a sense of Vienna’s history.
As this tour took place on the coldest day of our trip in Vienna, we rounded off the morning with a hot drink in a toasty café. Once we’d suitably warmed up, we were off again; this time making up our own little tour locations as we found out way back towards the Danube.
An alternative view of Budapest
Whilst in Budapest, one of the main things that we wanted to do was to spend some time on the Danube. As Europe’s second longest river, we wanted to take some time to explore properly.
We had travelled to Budapest with a group of us, but had split up for the night to allow some time for the other two people in our travelling party to have a romantic meal out. Therefore, we found ourselves hopping on board a night boat to take a stunning trip down the Danube before meeting back up with our group for a trip to the ruin pubs.
The day before we had strolled down the riverbank in the Pest side of the City to take a look at the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial. Sixty pairs of shoes, made from iron are lined up on the river side to commemorate the massive loss of life of 3,500 people (mostly Jewish people) who were shot in 1945. After being told to remove their shoes and being shot, their bodies fell into the river, being swept away by the current. It’s a terrible reminder of the worst of humanity and seeing sixty pairs of shoes lined up along the river gives a sense of the scale of the atrocity.
The nighttime boat ride was a very different view as we passed the Hungarian Parliament buildings. Brightly shining against the dark night, it was an imposing building, full of grandeur and twinkling lights.
Chain bridge was magnificent to see in the dark and the sounds of the water rushing past us added to the experience. Illuminated gargoyles standing out in the darkness created a gothic edge to the views.
It was a beautiful way to see a different view of the city and travelling by river always feels much more exciting and exotic than by road.
Have you visited Budapest? What were your favourite experiences?