Europe Trip 2024: Day 6 in Budapest and Barcelona

May 15, 2024

I took a 10-day trip to Europe with my son between April 26 and May 5. This post covers Wednesday, May 1.

Up early for the Parliament tour

We woke up earlier than the other days as we wanted to try to get tickets for a tour of Parliament. We planned to get ready, check out of the hotel, leave our luggage with the hotel, and head to Parliament before they opened the doors.

I had one last chocolate csiga (snail) for breakfast.

I am a pretty risk-averse person especially as I get older. When I originally pictured this day of the trip, I figured we would eat at a nearby cafe and lay low until it was time to check out of the hotel and head to the airport. I had not envisioned this being a full day of seeing the sights.

But all that changed in our plans for the day. I was encouraged by my adventurous son and I wanted to take the chance to tour Parliament. I have toured it twice before and I knew it would be worth it to my son to see it. I also realized we had five hours before our mini-bus would pick us up. I was hoping we could get a tour early enough to finish and give us time to grab lunch before returning to the hotel to get our luggage and go to the airport.

We took the two subway lines and arrived at Kossuth tér. As we walked across the square and got closer to the underground visitor’s center, my heart sank as I saw people at the top of the steps. I thought they were lined up from the entrance at the bottom of the stairs to the top of the stairs. That would not be good for our chances. But as we got closer, I realized that it was a small crowd and that the stairs had a chain barrier so everyone was at the top. Hope was rekindled.

We had forty minutes to wait until they opened the doors so we could purchase tickets. The time went by slowly. Closer to the time the doors were open, the crowd got closer to the barriers. One man who was one of the first ones there asked the crowd if they were going to be orderly and respect how long people had been waiting or if it would be a free-for-all. No one answered. It ended up being a free-for-all but we got a good place in the queue.

We kept our eyes on the board that showed the tour times and how many tickets were left. We had identified an 8:45 tour or a 9:30 tour. As we got closer, the 8:45 sold out. But as we counted the number of people in front of us, we realized that we could get tickets for 9:30. What a relief when it was finally our turn and we had the tickets in hand.

There were still 13 tickets left for the 9:30 tour as were next in line to buy tickets.

The time between buying the tickets and the tour went by quickly. We went through security, picked up our audio guide, and were off on the tour.

The Hungarian Parliament was built in the Gothic Revival style with the dome being Renaissance Revival architecture. It is a symmetrical building that originally served a lower house and a higher house. The current government is a one house system so one chamber is used for the Hungarian National Assembly and the other hosts conferences, ceremonies, and guided tours. The building is 96 meters tall and is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest.

We climbed several stairways and wound through many ornate hallways to the main staircase. I believe that in the past, you climbed up these stairs on the tour (with shoe coverings). The audio guide told us that the stairwell is only used for official functions. I believe on previous tours, we had entered through the main entrance and climbed the stairs.

After the grand staircase, the tour moved into the central dome hall. We could not take pictures here because the Holy Crown is displayed in the center. The crown is one of the treasures of Hungary and has its guards. Statues of Hungarian royalty surround the central hall. The inner structure of the dome is beautiful and I wish I could have taken pictures of it.

The inner dome from a picture in a book I bought on a past trip to Hungary

Next, we moved on to the lounge of the chamber of peers. This a space where politicians could gather outside the governing chambers. The lounge contains many pyrogranite sculptures (an ornamental ceramic) representing Hungarian national groups and trades. The sculptures were the work of the Zsolnay factory in Pécs known for their ceramics. We bought a tea set in 2005 by Zsolnay.

Next, we made our way into the chamber. Both chambers are replicas of each other.

The tour ends in an exhibition space that tells the story of the building’s construction and has other memorabilia. The space also contains a 1:100 model of the parliament building that includes a cutout on the Kossuth tér facade that shows you the places you visited on the tour.

The red star topped the spire on the central dome during Communist rule in Hungary.

Walk along the river and Chain Bridge

After the tour, we decided to take one last walk along the river and cross the Chain Bridge. It was the perfect way to end our time in Hungary as I saw my favorite bridge one last time. We took a tram down to Batthany tér to take the subway back toward our hotel. We ate lunch at the McDonald’s at Oktogon. We shared a chimney bread we bought from a street vendor outside the McDonald’s and walked to our hotel. We had a bit of time until the mini-bus picked us up so we enjoyed the park at Hunyadi tér once last time.

He didn’t realize I was filming to see the subway car come into the station
Enjoying the park one last time
Boarding our flight back to Barcelona

Back to Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona in the early evening. Our bags were waiting for us at baggage claim and we breezed through passport control. We rode the subway to Clot and checked into the Leonardo Hotel that we had stayed out my first night in Barcelona. I was thrilled that they accommodated my request for two twin beds. Not many hotels offer this option and we had a double bed for my first stay the week before.

After getting settled in, we decided to grab dinner. My son asked if I would be willing to try a Peruvian restaurant nearby, Me Sabe A Perú. We walked a couple of blocks and were seated. Not long after we were seated, Ryan noticed that his homestay “father” Hector was in the restaurant. Hector and his wife are Peruvian and he made Ryan a lot of Peruvian dishes during his stay. Which is why Ryan wanted to eat dinner at this place.

Hector came over and introduced himself. We had a conversation translated through my son, who had just taken his first Spanish class during his time in Barcelona. I understood that Hector thought Ryan was a good kid and I was quick to agree with him.

We both ordered Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian beef stir fry with soy sauce and chili pepper served over french fries and rice. It was a delicious meal. Hector had made it for Ryan many times and it was Ryan’s favorite meal. I am glad that I got to share that with him.

We talked to Hector before we left. I am glad that Ryan had that chance to talk with Hector and give him a proper goodbye. And I enjoyed getting to meet him and thank him for taking care of my son.

Sagrada Familia at night

After dinner, we walked about 10 minutes to the Sagrada Familia to see it lit up at night. Buildings like this have such a different feel at night. I am glad I got to experience it that way. I was looking forward to visiting the inside of the church the next day. It was one of the things I was most excited about seeing when I was planning the trip this spring.

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