Budapest – The capital of Hungary. Romantic, artistic and relaxing, the two sides of the city are connected by the enchanting river Danube. There was so much to explore, from castles to Turkish baths, great food and even better city views.
I absolutely loved Budapest, and unlike other holidays where I usually plan for hours in anticipation of the trip, for this adventure I didn’t have much time to plan before hand. It turned out for the best that I didn’t. I had only booked two activities, which I used the website Viator for, as they usually offer a range of different excursions or activities and normally at varied prices.
I stayed in Buda (the city is split in two, Buda and Pest) however it is really easy to get from one side to the other, walking took me about 15 minutes and it meant I got a chance to cross the famous Chain Bridge numerous times. There is also the option of taking the metro, which I used when my feet got tired after hours of walking every day! The metro takes you back in time, a guard inspects your ticket, and on each station platform is a little wooden hut in which the attendant sits in. It’s clean and safe, and the fact that they have kept it quite outdated adds charm to the experience.
So, going back to earlier when I mentioned booking two of my activities online, after being told that the queues can get quite lengthy for the Szechenyi baths, I decided to avoid the hassle and buy my tickets online. I also opted for a private changing cabin, and a 25 minute massage. It was worth the extra money, as by midday the place gets quite busy, and instead of having to use a locker to store my things I had the security of my own cabin. The baths were lovely, with 15 pools inside and three outside, you can easily spend the best part of the day relaxing here. It can get quite crowded, especially in the outside pools, but on the whole people were accommodating and polite. I went in September, so I didn’t really experience the contrast of cold weather and hot water, but it still made for a great few hours to rest my mind and body.
Near the Szechnyi baths, there is also the Vajdahunyad Castle, and the zoo. I visited the castle, which looks like something out of a fairy tale, but opted to roam the grounds outside rather than go in. Lakes and flowers surrounded the Castle, and you can really feel yourself being taken back in time.
The second activity I booked was a night cruise along the Danube River, there are loads of different ones to choose from, but the one I picked came with two drinks and live music included in the price (a buffet dinner option was also available). It was an unforgettable night, two hours gently gliding along the water and soaking in the view of the magnificent buildings which lined the embankment, most notably the Parliament building (see cover picture). The band ranged from classical music to more upbeat tones, and on my request played gypsy music (always gets me in the mood to dance).
On the Buda side is Fisherman’s Bastion, a 19th century fortress, with an impressive seven lookout towers, and hundreds of steps to add to the mix. Great views can be seen from here of the Pest side and the Danube river. Matthias church is also situated here, alongside loads of quirky little cafes and restaurants. I visited in both daytime and nighttime, and was mesmerized equally each time by how visually stunning the area was. It’s also nice to get away from the crowds as at night it is quieter, however as I was walking, I had to cross a fairly dark park to get home and I would suggest getting the metro or a taxi instead (it was really creepy, even though everyone assured me it was perfectly safe). There are also loads of steep steps if you walk from the park below – so wear comfy shoes!
On the Pest side there is definitely more to see in terms of churches and architecture. Make sure to visit Hosok Tere, which is a massive square that opens up to host the seven statues of founders of Hungary, and St Steven’s Basilica, a gorgeous Roman-Catholic church. I also headed on over to the Great Market Hall, in which you can buy a range of fruit juices, meats and souvenirs. Situated inside a grand building, if you aren’t interested in shopping, it’s definitely worth a visit for the architecture alone.
In the market hall you can also try Goulash, the famous soup containing beef and paprika. I also discovered an AMAZING Arabic place (don’t shoot me, I fancied a change) called Al Amir Étterem, the food was so delicious, and very reasonably priced. It is Halal, so for those who are suffering without meat during your stay, check this place out. Another place worth mentioning was a restaurant near my hotel, called Bistro, located on Krisztina Ter street, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be on Google Maps. The food however was to die for, quite expensive (I would say it’s a 4-5* place) but if you are looking to indulge then this is the place. I had the oysters which were fantastic, followed by a seafood pasta. The design of the restaurant is what really makes it, and the service was exceptional.
Now, moving on to my last and favourite part of the whole trip – Gellert Hill. It was my last evening, and having done most of the things I wanted to do on my list, I had stopped for an ice cream. Looking at my map, I noticed another landmark, which would take me quite a while to walk to, but I thought hey why not? Let’s see what it has to offer. (At this point I really didn’t have a clue). So, I walked across the Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) and was greeted by a lovely grassy hillside with a waterfall. There were two paths leading up either side of the waterfall, I opted for the left side and started walking. There was a view point after about 10 minutes, which offered a great view of the bridge and river. Then I continued, and honestly thought I would never reach the top. Many times I wanted to give up but sheer curiosity kept me steadily hiking up the winding path. Thank God for my perseverance as it was so worth it! At the top I was greeted not only by a breathtaking view over the river and both sides of the city, but also by a grand statue (Liberty Statue).
My pictures definitely don’t do it justice, all I can do is stress how much it’s worth the climb. I stayed for sunset, and alongside other tourists and locals we watch the sky turn colour, casting a glorious glow on the city below us. From here you can also walk to the Citadel Castle, and admire it alongside more stunning views of the city. Only thing to be aware of – the price of everything is triple of what they charge in the city (I ended up paying six euros for a small bottle of water). To leave, I followed the path down from the Citadel and found myself back in the heart of Buda, definitely an easier route than what I had taken to go up.
It was a short trip, but filled with unforgettable memories which I will always cherish. Whether you are a lone traveler in search of adventure, or with a partner and want something more romantic, Budapest won’t disappoint.