Things to do in Vienna February: day trip to Budapest

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Check The Results From My Test Drive

If you go on a Vienna Budapest day trip you will explore yet another corner of the ‘Golden Triangle’ Vienna – Budapest – Prague. My day trip from Vienna to Hungary’s capital was enlightening. Most of all, I managed to connect so many pieces of our common Central European culture: from coffeehouses and palaces to Pawlatschen courtyards. Find out how it was.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip

Vienna Budapest Day TripOn a warm July day, I joined a guided tour to Budapest from Vienna. As early as the bin men started to tidy up the city, the coach departed. In fact, that meant that the tour secured us a maximum of Budapest sightseeing. Within 15 minutes we entered the highway and went straight from V to B.

Along the way, our Hungarian tour guide Elisabeth enriched the passing rapeseed and corn fields with must-knows about Hungary: stories about Árpád, the first Hungarian king, the Hungarian language and the making of Budapest. However, my favourite was the legend of the Turul bird. As soon as it unfolded its statue rolled by on a hill! After 2.5 hours, and a good 230 km later we landed in the Hungarian capital at just 10.30 am.

Visiting Pest

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Heroes SquareVienna Budapest Day Trip. Because we arrived early, we gained six hours of epic sightseeing.  For a day visit to another European capital this was unheard of. Not only could we enjoy the city’s key landmarks but each of us won precious time to explore Budapest individually.

For a start, we gathered at Heroes Square at the fringe of Pest. On the way, we drove along Andrassy Utca, an elegant 2.5 km long avenue lined with elegant villas, museums and embassies.

Since I love grand urban architecture I decided to use the free time before lunch for a 1:1 with the Hungarian hero statues. Following that, I gazed at some jaw-dropping villas in Andrassy Utca.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: villa in Andrassy UtcaIf it hadn’t been a Monday, I could also have visited the Museum of Fine Arts on Heroes square.

More than two dozen gulyash soups, chicken paprikashs, seabreams, pork medallions and one zakuska later Elisabeth added the town of Pest to our menu…

Essentially, Pest embraces two thirds of the city, with key landmarks splattered evenly across. As a matter of fact, Pest is a very residential district. If you ever moved to Budapest you would probably live there.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Jewish SynagogueAfter lunch we took an instand ride across Pest. This would help us connect landmarks and orientate ourselves. Given the distances, I don’t think I would have made it to the mind-blowing Jewish Synagogue on foot. Just a few people know it is the third largest in the world. Other than that, we saw and learned about Budapest’s enchanting Basilika and understood why historic personality Ferenc Rákócy means more than two words to Hungarians. As for my personal taste, I would have loved many more such anecdotes and stories.

Walking Through Buda

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: BudaVienna Budapest Day Trip. Being ferried all the way across the Danube and up the hill to the castle district of Buda made us grateful. To make it manageable, our local guide Judith and two colleagues sliced our group into small chunks of roughly 10 people each: Unlike at other group tours, we listened to stories at a normal volume and without voice system. On top, we avoided having our heads counted on a continuous basis…

To the untrained eye it seemed Buda had been put under a glass dome during World War II. Honestly, it seemed almost immaculate. In reality, most of the historic buildings on site were reconstructions, carefully rebuilt by the Communists after the War. ‘There is a new wave of rebuilding in Budapest since some time. But the locals dislike that permanent state of re-construction the city is in”, explained Judith.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Fisher BastionOverall, Judith gave landmarks St. Matthew’s church and the Fisher Bastion the attention they deserved. Since I wanted to know more I was about to queue up to enter the church. In the last minute, however, I opted for an individual walk to finish off Buda on my own.

Luckily, it was no problem leaving the tour and rejoining them at the bus pick up point. That interplay between guided tour and being able to carve out some extra free time to explore was just up my street.

A caveat about exploring Buda on your own: Everything is strictly signed in Hungarian only. Therefore, either you walk around with a guide book, or you balance your own ‘mystery exploration’ with an informed guide for the rest of the tour, as in my case.

Free Time in Pest

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Pawlatschen courtyardVienna Budapest Day Trip. Back in the shopping and leisure district of Pest, we had two hours free time: We could either zoom in on landmarks seen during the coach tour or explore new places pointed out in the city maps and guides handed out. I headed for the historic market hall at the end of main shopping street Vaci Utca. My personal discovery: Budapest shares those wonderful historic ‘Pawlatschen’ courtyards with Vienna (see photo).

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Market HallThe central market hall from the 19th century was light and airy, and its coloured bricks and large windows magnificent.

Across the ground floor fruit and vegetable stalls, bread and sweet shops extended, most of them of Hungarian origin. The upper floor was buzzing with tourists buying Hungarian textiles and souvenirs.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip: Cafe CentralI decided to give the National Museum a nod before settling for ice cream coffee under the colourful stucco and historic chandeliers of Café Central next to the University Library.

It was a lucky catch, which I proudly made on my way to the super market for some authentic gift shopping: tarhonya and paprika in three varieties each, plus ayvar and some surprise jar with an unpronounceable name.

Vienna Budapest Day Trip. There is not much to say about our return journey. It happened smoothly and painlessly between 5 pm and 8 pm. In hindsight, I probably covered as much of Budapest as I did during two full days on my last self guided visit a while ago. If I had properly read up a city guide back then, I’d be on a par with my one-day guided tour experience.

A final word about the tour guide: Elisabeth belonged to the small camp of guides ready to add individual care to big coach tours. She walked through the rows asking each participant whether they had questions, whether they were generally happy and had everything they needed. Her English and Spanish were immaculate, and probably her Japanese, too (!) as far as I could judge.

How To Book The Tour

Find out about tour availabilities and booking the tour.

NOTE: I was invited by the tour operator. All opinions expressed are my own.

find out about a Vienna Salzburg Day Trip – Small Group Tour Review
explore my Mini Danube Cruise Review – Vienna To Bratislava by Boat
is a Vienna Prague Day Trip worth it? – Read this Tour Review
go for unusual wine tasting on this Burgenland Winery Tour  – Wine Tasting Near Vienna
learn about Wachau Valley – Day Trips and Danube Boat Rides at a UNESCO World Heritage Site
what to see in the Vienna Woods – Tour Ideas by a Native
back to Day Trips from Vienna – Salzburg, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, Wachau, Vienna Woods, and Burgenland
back to Vienna Unwrapped homepage

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