In the heart of Buda a rock outcrop rises abruptly beside the Danube. This was an impregnable citadel around which the city on the right bank developed. Adorning the site is the Royal Palace, now housing a number of museums, the Gothic Matthias Church, the key Hungarian national shrine, and an enclave of picturesque little streets.
Across the river lies Pest, extending with Parisian elegance over less encumbered terrain, a rival and independent city until 1872 when it was formally united with Buda. Now Budapest is the principal metropolis of East-Central Europe, its vitality and splendour emerging again after the post-war period of Soviet domination.
The fortunes of Hungary have been very mixed since the establishment of the country in the tenth century by the Magyars. At the end of the Middle Ages Hungary was one of the most powerful and prosperous kingdoms in Europe, and the most precocious in importing the new Renaissance style of art and architecture. But these achievements were wrecked by a devastating two-hundred-year occupation by the Turks; little survives from before this period.
Much of what was built and created during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries stems from the desire to rival Vienna or to express Hungarian cultural difference and yearnings for independence.
Emulation of western models on the one hand, and cultivation of distinctiveness and originality on the other, are in large part responsible for the allure of Budapest.
We have arranged a programme of walks and visits to familiarise participants with the city and its treasures, major and minor and there will be some time left free to explore independently.
Afternoon flight from London Heathrow to Budapest and some time in the hotel in Pest before dinner.
A morning architectural walk in and around Vörösmarty Square, heart of the inner city of Pest, includes the Art Nouveau bank, the Vigado concert hall and the impressive Moorish revival Dohány Street Synagogue. After lunch, cross the Danube to the hill-top Castle District of Buda. Visit the Gothic Matthias Church. Within the 18th- & 19th-century Royal Palace are the remains of its medieval and Renaissance predecessors. The National Gallery housed here has a marvellous collection of Hungarian art from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Travel by coach to Heroes Square and the Millennary Monument (celebrating the founding of the Hungarian state AD 896). The recently reopened Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent collection of antiquities and European painting, particularly rich in Spanish and Italian works. In the afternoon visit the vast 19th-century Basilica of St Stephen. Optional evening performance at the newly refurbished Hungarian State Opera House: performance to be confirmed.
Travel by coach along the course of the Danube to Esztergom. Visit Hungary’s first cathedral, its marble chapel and the Christian Museum, one of the finest in the country. In the afternoon return to Pest via the Neo-Gothic Parliament building.
Optional morning visits in Buda: the Vizivaros (Water Town), the Turkish Kiraly Baths, and the Baroque Church of St Anne. Some free time before a late-afternoon flight to Heathrow.
Dr József Sisa
Art historian specialising in the 19th century. He is Head of Department at the Research Institute for Art History at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. A native Hungarian with fluent English, he lectures in the UK, across Europe and the USA and co-edited The Architecture of Historic Hungary.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £1,980 or £1,830 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,280 or £2,130 without flights.
Superior room with Danube view
Two sharing: £2,080 or £1,930 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,480 or £2,330 without flights.
Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A320); coach travel for transfers and excursions and by Metro on some occasions; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners with wine; admission charges; all tips for restaurant staff, drivers and guides; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer and Hungarian local guide.
We hope to offer an optional performance at the Hungarian State Opera. Details will be sent in summer 2021.
Intercontinental Hotel, Budapest: a modern, international 5-star hotel excellently situated beside the Danube in Pest and close to the Chain Bridge. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is quite a lot of walking on the excursions, some on uneven or cobbled ground. Average distance by coach per day: 10 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.