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Budapest Bike Breeze - The Best Way to Tour the City


A sight seeing bike tour with Budapest Bike Breeze is the best way to spend your first day in Budapest: you'll learn about the history and culture of Hungary, it'll help you find your bearings in Budapest and, most importantly, you'll have lots and lots of fun!




Finding the meeting point
The meeting point was very easy to find. The tour meets at the steps of the Lutheran Church (the Deak Teri Evangelikus Templom) which is in Deak Ferenc Square, right next to Deak Ferenc Ter tube station. Here is a Google Map for you. 

Here we met our guide, Adam, and the rest of our group. It was a cool multi-culti party consisting of two Norwegians, two Australians, one Brazilian, one Brit, another Brit (aka me) a German (aka Tanbay) and a Hungarian (aka our guide Adam). 

It was a really good sized group - big enough to be interesting, small enough so you could get enough attention from Adam. 

From the church we walked for two minutes to find our bikes. We were then in the Jewish quarter and Adam pointed out many bullet holes in the walls that, amazingly, were from WW2.

Then we were given our bikes, they were really good bikes too, speedy, light, easy to use etc.

I'm not that great on a bike (I tend to fall off looking at interesting things), but in Budapest this was not a problem. I'd even go so far as to say that Budapest is the perfect place to ride a bike: it's flat, there are lots of bike lanes/big pavements, the cars have respect for the cyclists, and there are no potholes. I didn't fall off once! Yey!

Erzsebet Ter (Erzsebet Square)


















Our first stop was at Erzsebet Square/Ter. Here we started to learn about Hungary's sad history: Hungary has been occupied by Ottomans, Habsburgs, Nazis and Soviets and has played an important part in European history. This square itself was originally called Erzsebet Tet after one of the Habsburgs, but was renamed Stalin Square and later Engels Square. 

Nowadays it's back to Erzsebet Square and it's a cool place to hang out in the summer, lots of people have a few drinks here before heading over to the hip bars in the Jewish section. 


St Stephen's Bazilika 



















A short cycle ride took us to our next stop: St Stephen's Bazilika! We were pretty impressed by this Cathedral, and learnt about St Stephen: King Saint Stephen or Stephen the First was the first king of Hungary and the person who made Hungary Christian. He died in 1038 and was buried in his Basilica, but because there were fears that his body would be stolen AND people believed his hand had magic powers, his hand was cut off and can still be viewed today, mummified in the Basilica. 

Mummified hands aside, the Basilica is impressive - it's the largest church in Budapest - and it's very pretty, especially on the inside.

German Occupation Memorial



















Next up was an interesting and controversial site. This was a memorial to the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Why is it controversial? 

The German Eagle attacking the Statue of Hungaria implies that the Hungarians could not resist the Nazis and, therefore, should share none of the blame for the death of nearly one million Hungarians, which includes two-thirds of Hungary's Jewish population. 

In reality things aren't so black and white: After WW1, Hungary lost 71% of it's lands, but in the 30s, Horthy (the Regent of Hungary), made an alliance with Hitler and was able to regain some of their lands. He also led Hungary in a supportive role of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. But he was reluctant to contribute to the Holocaust in Hungary and tried to strike a deal with the Allies. This led to the Nazis invading and taking control in 1944. Thus Horthy isn't remembered in the kindest of lights and this memorial which absolves him of all blame is controversial. 

Liberty Square
Our next stop was controversial too. Inside Liberty Square, opposite the American Embassy is a monument to the Soviet liberation of Hungary in WW2 from the Nazi Occupation. It's controversial because many Hungarians don't believe the Soviets liberated them, rather they believe that they became the new invaders. 

The reason it's still there is because they agreed to keep it there if the Soviets would take care of the grave's of Hungarian soldiers in the USSR. 

On the other side of the monument is a statue of Ronald Reagan, which is a kind of a middle finger to the Soviets. Ronald Reagan is walking towards the monument and plans to bring it down. 

Hungarian Parliament Building


Hungarian Parliament was one of my favourite stops of the whole day, because the building is massive and impressive. The Hungarian Parliament Building is the third largest parliament building (after the one in London and the one in Bucharest). 



Like the one in London, it has a house of commons and used to have a house of lords, until the Soviets got rid of it. 

There was a competition to decide who should design Parliament building. Obviously this one won, but second and third place were so popular that they were built too: they're opposite and house museums. 

Budapest Castle District
Next up was a steep ride to Budapest Castle District. The ride wasn't really that hard, but because we'd been riding on a 0 degree incline all day and it was nice and sunny, it felt hard. Luckily the view from the top, the awesome sights and Adam's extensive knowledge made it worth it. Plus he took this nice photo of us: 


In the background you can see Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which we cycled over. It's the oldest bridge in Budapest and was the first bridge to cross the Danube (the river). Budapest was originally three separate cities: old buda, Buda and Pest. Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube. 

Back in the day, Count Szechenyi lived in Buda but went over to Pest for his Father's funeral. This was in the 1800s, before global warming, when it got so cold that the river would freeze! Count Szechenyi walked over the river for the funeral, but by the time the funeral was over, the river had started to defrost and the Count was stuck in Pest. Thus he ordered the bridge to be built. 

We also had a fabulous view of the Parliament Building from here:


Next we went into the courtyard of Buda Castle. Like most of the sites we'd seen, this one had a sad Nazi & Soviet history. Buda Castle is the historical palace of the Hungarian royalty and it was pretty much flattened by the Nazis.


There are still bullet holes from WW2 in these columns: 


Then we went and looked at the view of Buda. Adam said that there is a definite divide between those that live in Buda and those that live in Pest. Pest is a lot cheaper, but people from Buda look down their noses on it. We were staying in Pest and we think it's pretty nice. 


Next up was my favourite site on the whole tour: 

The Matthias Church. 
I love it because it's super pretty:




















St Stephen founded Matthias Church in 1015. In the 16th Century, when Turkey occupied Hungary, Matthias Church became the main mosque of Budapest. 

Fast-forward to the 40s, Nazis and Soviets occupied the church and the Soviets used it for a stable! 

Also in Holy Trinity Square there is a section that inspired the capital of Gondor:



It also had amazing views of Parliament House:



Lunch

Lunch was a traditional Hungarian meal: goulash! As we were on the Wheels and Meals Tour lunch was included in the day. We had the vegetarian option. 

City Park

After lunch we headed over to City Park, which is really beautiful. Adam told us that this water (that you can see in the above photo) becomes an Ice Rink in the winter.

Szechenyi Baths
Szechenyi Baths are the most famous baths in Budapest, we had a ten minute break here and had a look inside, it looks very grand. 

Great Synagogue
One of our final stops was the Great Synagogue - this is the second largest Synagogue in the world. The largest is in New York, which means that the Great Synagogue is the largest Synagogue in Europe! It was also really pretty. 
  
House of Terror















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Our last stop was the House of Terror. This is a museum about the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary. Outside is a small exhibition about the 1956 uprising. It includes a gift from Germany: a section of the Berlin Wall. 

Further Information
For further information find other reviews of Budapest Bike Breeze on Tripadvisor and/or watch our YouTube review!:



Conclusion
I hope it's clear that we absolutely LOVED our tour with Budapest Bike Breeze. We saw so much, learnt even more and just had a super fun day hanging out with Adam and the other people on the tour. We highly recommend that you go on this tour when you come to Budapest. We did it on our first day in Budapest and think it was a great way to get to know the city. 

There was no way we would have packed so much into this day without the bicycles and we'd also never have learned so much without Adam.  

To find out more, visit their website: www.budapestbikebreeze.com and on TripAdvisor. Also be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Make sure you pin this to your bucket-list:



And to keep up with our own adventures like us on Facebook too!

Disclaimer: We were invited as guests of Budapest Bike Breeze, but as always all opinions are our own.

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We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same!

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