Budapest/Vienna/Salzburg in the Spring
I was invited by our Virtuoso long-time onsite, Panorama Tours, to tour Budapest/Vienna and Salzburg. Traveling on the American Airlines Dreamliner to Paris, I enjoyed my main cabin extra seat and appreciated the friendly attentive crew in economy. The flight was on time to Charles De Gaulle Airport and with fingers crossed, hoped that my Air France flight to Budapest, four hours later would not be cancelled. (Air France was cancelling flights due to internal labor action.)
Happily, my flight did take off on time, (the two earlier flights having been cancelled), and arrived at Budapest Ferihegy Airport on time for my meet & greet and transfer to the Hotel Four Seasons Gresham Palace.
Day 1: The Four Seasons Gresham Palace was originally built in the early 20th century as the eastern European headquarters for a British Insurance company. The building has been beautifully restored and enjoys one of the best locations in the city, overlooking the Chain Bridge connecting the two cities of Buda and Pest across the Danube River. Our hosts at the hotel commenced a site inspection and afterwards our small group of four agents were hosted at a sumptuous dinner at the Kollazs Brasserie & Bar. Afterwards, the four of us went to a wine bar nearby and sampled some very nice Hungarian wines.
Day 2: We started with a very early breakfast at the hotel where we met our English-Speaking Hungarian guide for the day, then a city tour by minivan to visited the Main boulevards and neighborhoods of Pest. Mid-morning, we were dropped off in the Jewish ghetto of World War II and visited one of the preserved building complexes which has become a series of coffee houses/restaurants and flea market on the weekend. We walked to the Parliament Building, (Parlimenti Iatogatas), and had a tour of the beautifully domed and ornate premises. Afterwards, we headed to the Ritz Carlton Budapest, (our host for that evening), for lunch and site inspection.
After lunch, we drove to the Aria Hotel Budapest and enjoyed another site inspection and cocktails on their smart and contemporary roof top bar with spectacular views of Pest. The Aria Hotel Budapest has four different music themed areas built around an internal courtyard with a glass ceiling which completely soundproofed each area.
We continued our tour of the city, driving across the Danube on the Chain Bridge to Buda.
Buda is very hilly and far more residential than Pest. We toured the area, including the Matyas Church and Fishermen Bastion and returned late in the afternoon to the Ritz Carlton to check in and meet again in the lobby to drive to the Danube for our evening dinner cruise. The cruise lasted for 3 hours and the dinner was surprisingly good and our vantage point enabled us to enjoy the lights of the city, which were fantastic.
Heading back to the hotel around 10:30PM, there was a lot of activity as the country was holding their National elections that day and Prime Minister Victor Orban was re-elected, which was not a popular choice in Budapest. There were mass protests beginning as soon as the results were announced.
Unlike our previous night’s stay at the Four Seasons, which was built like a fortress and you could hear a pin drop, sadly you could hear a lot of street noise from our rooms at the Ritz Carlton due to protestors.
Day 3: The next morning, after an early breakfast and check out from our hotel, we met our guide and minivan driver to begin our three-hour transfer to Vienna.
The countryside was very beautiful, and spring had definitely arrived in central Europe. We arrived at our hotel in Vienna, Hotel Sacher at lunch time and after a quick check in to our rooms, met up with our Vienna guide in the lobby to head to our lunch spot and then enjoy a walking tour of the inner city.
Our lunch restaurant, Do Co Restaurant, was located on the top floor of the ultra-modern Do Co Hotel
Directly across from the St. Stephan’s church. We ordered from a very eclectic menu, with diverse items ranging from Sushi to traditional Austrian fare. The food was good and the Riesling wine was outstanding.
After lunch, we commenced our walking tour including visiting the St Stephan’s church and the shops and buildings on the inner most ring. We continued to the second most famous café in the city, Café Demel for coffee and a pastry. We finished our tour with a visit to the Hofburg Palace and the riding stables with the Beautiful Lippazan Horses. That evening we were hosted for dinner at the Sacher Hotel and toured the newly refurbished rooms and hotel. The rooms and suites are very spacious and look outstanding with changes in color scheme on each floor.
Day 4: The next morning, after an early breakfast, we walked around the corner and toured the Hotel Bristol with their newly renovated rooms on the Mezzanine Level. The rooms are spacious and contemporary with some Art Deco touches. Afterwards, we met our driver back at the Hotel Sacher and commenced a Driving tour of the surrounding neighborhoods and ended at the Kempinski Vienna for lunch at their outstanding Michelin rated restaurant, Restaurant Edvard.
After lunch, we drove to the Schonbrunn Palace for a tour followed by dinner and an outstanding concert with twelve-piece symphonic orchestra and two young and talented opera singers performing Mozart Arias and Haydn Symphonic movements.
Day 5: After breakfast and check out, we met our driver guide in the lobby and commenced our three-hour drive to Salzburg. We had a quick check in at our hotel, the Sacher Salzburg and met our guide for a walking tour of the historic city which ended at the Hotel Goldener Hirsch where we had lunch and a tour of the rooms. The hotel is overdue for a complete refurbishment, (scheduled for later this year), and the rooms looked very tired.
We had dinner and a tour of the newly refurbished rooms at our hotel. The rooms refurbishment had just been completed the week we arrived, and like the sister hotel in Vienna, the rooms look totally refreshed and color schemes change from floor to floor.
Day 6: The final tour day of our trip commenced with early breakfast at the hotel and meeting our driver guide in the lobby for a private original Sound of Music tour. We were driven to many of the shooting locations from the original 1965 movie accompanied by the original sound track. We proceeded to the Kempinski Berchtesgaden for lunch and hotel tour. The Kempinski Berchtesgaden’s location in the Alps near Eagles Nest is outstanding and the rooms looked recently refurbished with panoramic views of the mountains. Afterwards, we toured the Salt Mines Berchtesgaden which is an outstanding tour for families of all ages.
Our Driver guide drove us back to the hotel to meet our hosts from Panorama Tours, Bernadette and two of her colleagues, who were escorting us to the St. Peter church for an enjoyable Mozart Dinner Concert in the Baroque Hall.
Day 7: The next morning after breakfast, we were driven to Munich Airport for our flights home. My flights on American Airlines via Munich and Philadelphia were oversold but the flights were on time.
The trip, with outstanding guides, beautiful locations and springtime weather was memorable and I thank my hotel and onsite hosts and three travel companions for a wonderful trip.