Los Angeles Times
By day a pearl, by night a vivid gem
A late flight connection was going to spoil my first look at Budapest, I thought as I arrived at the city’s airport.
I had hoped to arrive in the afternoon, but my flight from London was delayed until after nightfall.
I grumbled about it as I grabbed a cab outside Budapest airport. The driver looked at me with amusement. “Why are you upset?” he asked. “There won’t be anything to see at night,” I replied.
He laughed. “Just wait,” he said. “You’ll be happy.”
He got that right. As fascinating as Budapest is during the day, I learned that its beauty shines brightest after sundown.
I got to admire a dazzling light show put on by the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Buda Castle and, most impressive, the city’s Parliament building.
The driver laughed again. “What do you think now?” he asked. “Wow,” I answered. I had come to Budapest to board the Viking Var for this week-long cruise on the Danube, which flows through the heart of the city. I would take a formal tour the next day, but that night, I strolled Chain Bridge, which offers wonderful views of the waterfront up and down the Danube.
Then I walked to the Parliament building, joining hundreds of other strollers who were enjoying the balmy weather.
Budapest, Hungary’s capital, was formed from two cities. In 1873, Buda, on the western bank of the Danube, and Pest, on the opposite bank, became Budapest.
Locals call it the pearl of the Danube, pointing at its picturesque location, historic buildings and rich folk heritage.
Visitors can tap into the city’s culture by stopping at one of its grand old coffeehouses, bathing in the thermal waters at its elaborate spas and exploring some of its famous landmarks: Heroes’ Square, Castle Hill and Matthias Church.
And don’t forget to take an evening stroll to see the lights.
Budapest is a beautiful city that deserves a much longer look than you’ll probably have time for if you visit it during a cruise. Add a few days to your itinerary and take a closer look.