My Viking River Cruise exposed me to the wonders of the old towns, cities and beautiful sights along the Danube river.
Each stop during the weeklong voyage was fantastic. Christmas markets, cathedrals, museums and a mix of pleasant local people busying themselves with holiday merrymaking.
It all made for the perfect buildup to our final port: Budapest, Hungary.
The city has more than 1.7 million inhabitants and is one of the largest capitals in Europe.
On our visit on Viking Delling in early December 2014, one of the best parts was our arrival -- an early morning sail into the historic city center.
We tied up at the pier on the Pest side of the Danube, just steps away from a whole host of places to explore.
As we arrived that morning, all of the wonderful centuries-old buildings came into view. It was a breathtaking start to our visit and a highlight of the entire week. The Budapest Parliament building, bridges and others structures make up one of the most interesting skylines in the world.
We spent a day and a half in Budapest and soon learned that this would be only enough to get a quick look at some of the highlights. There are limitless options to occupy your time.
I have plans to get back for a longer stay as soon as possible. But meanwhile I can tell you about some highlights.
Here are five things to try on your quick stop into Budapest.
5. Ride the funicular up to Castle Hill. A quick ride (about 45 seconds) takes you to the top of the hill of the Buda side of the river. We exited our river ship and walked across the Chain Bridge to the opposite side of the Danube and caught the funicular. Transport tickets in the city work to ride the funicular, trams, trolleys, trains and buses. My tour around the city used the tram and bus system, too, which was very efficient and easy to navigate.
Once atop Castle Hill, you find astounding views of the river and buildings. You'll want to click pics until your batteries die. Top sites in this area: the President's Office at Sandor Palace, National Dance Theatre, Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion.
Yes, the president of Hungary heads to work at the palace. The Fisherman's Bastion is an ornate stone terrace and tower structure that gives even more fantastic views of the city and river below.
2. Walk across Chain Bridge. The stone and steel 1,250 foot Danube span is a gorgeous landmark of Budapest. It was rebuilt from 1947 to 1949 after being destroyed during WWII bombings. It's a pleasurable and picturesque stroll during which you can enjoy new views and capture some more snapshots. Bikers are supposed to dismount as they cross but most don't, so be aware of cycle traffic.
More pics from In The Loop Travel's quick visit to Budapest on a Viking River Cruise: