We started our second day in Budapest with a visit to the St Stephens Basilica. It is the largest church in Budapest and can hold up to 8,500 people. Although in architectural terms it’s a cathedral, it was given the title of ‘basilica minor’ by Pope Pius XI.
|Dome from Inside|
The incredibly ornate interior features about fifty different types of marble, elaborately decorated chapels, and many sculptures, including a bust of the basilica's patron saint, who was the first Christian king of Hungary.
The entry to the cathedral is free and there is a charge of HUF 500 to go up the Cupola. This is one of those rare Cupolas where elevator access is possible to the top and views, as expected, are beautiful.
After spending about an hour inside the Cathedral and climbing the Cupola, we proceeded to the tour of House of Parliament. The tour has specific time schedule and it was imperative that we get there in time. The tickets can be bought in advance on line at www.jegymester.hu
The Parliament House is arranged around ten central courtyards and contains more than twenty kilometers of staircase, as well as 691 rooms. The building has twenty-seven intricately decorated spires. The impressive dome, visible from afar, reaches a height of 96 meters.
The building's facade is magnificent, decorated with eighty-eight statues of Hungarian rulers, pointed arch arcades and numerous gargoyles, spires and Gothic ornaments.
|Main entrance stairs and hall|
The interior of the Parliament House is as stunning as its exterior, decorated by some of Hungary's best artists.
The tour started at the staircase hall that is marvelously decorated with granite Corinthian columns, gilded ornaments and a huge ceiling painting by Károly Lotz.
|Waiting Area for Press and other guests|
Next stop was the circular Copula Hall, which features statues of Hungarian monarchs and an intricate, almost cathedral-like ceiling. The coronation crown and insignia of King Stephen are displayed here. But no photography is allowed in this room
We then went through the "waiting area" and proceeded to the Assembly Hall which is equally ornate and beautifully decorated.
The tour took about 45 minutes and was worth every HUF that we spent on the tickets.
While we were enjoying the air conditioned environment, I got a message on Facebook from a friend who (I didn't know then) lives in Budapest. Guess there are some advantages of posting pictures on Facebook while in town! He and his wife offered to show us around in the late evening and we were all more than happy to accept the offer because, honestly, Budapest truly comes alive at night.
|M1 metro station at night|
In the evening, we boarded the M1 from the Vorosmarty ter to visit the Heroes's square. The Metro 1 is the oldest line of the Budapest Metro system. It is also the second oldest underground railway in the world (the first being the London Underground), and the first on the European mainland. The stations on this line look beautiful at night! The carriages are pretty rickety though and have no through access.
Heroes' Square was created at the end of the nineteenth century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895. The square only received its current name after the completion of the Millennium Monument which stands at the center of Heroes' Square
Soaring above Heroes' Square is the Millennium Column, the focal point of the Millennium Monument. The column is topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel.
|Equestrian statues at base of Millennium Monument|
Behind the column is a semicircular colonnade with statues of famous men who made their mark on Hungarian history. Statues atop the colonnades symbolize War, Peace, Work and Welfare, and Knowledge and Glory.
Around the base of the monument are a number of equestrian statues honoring the seven chieftains of the Hungarian tribes who, led by Árpád, conquered the area now known as Hungary.
Museum of Fine Arts
On the north side Heroes' Square is bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts, a museum with an exquisite collection of European art, housed in a monumental classical building.
Opposite the Museum of Fine Arts stands the Műcsarnok (Palace of Art), another Greek-like temple that nicely complements the design of the Museum of Art. The Műcsarnok is an exhibition hall, mainly used to host temporary exhibitions.
|Crowds around the pool|
After enjoying a lovely dinner in a cafe near the Heroes's square, we took the metro to the Elisabeth Square (Erzsébet tér). The square has open grassy areas, a small pool, a hip club, and concert venue, some food bars and terraced pubs, and Sziget Eye (Budapest's version of the London Eye).
|Folks drinking, chatting, singing...|
It was around 11 pm in the night and the party scene was really coming alive.
We spent about an hour here and then were walked back to our hotel by our friends because metro had shut down by then and because it was a very pleasant weather for a walk.
|Sziget Eye in the distance|