Over the years I have visited a few of Eastern Europe’s most popular cities – Prague, Krakow and Lubljana, as have many others. All were beautiful and gave me an appetite for visiting a few more – top of the list was Budapest! So here goes, I hope I can give you a taste!
For many years cities like Budapest were not on the tourist trail thanks to a history of communist oppression and war. Thankfully this part of the world has moved on and is now well and truly open for business.
It has so much to offer – historic buildings, the stunning Danube, quirky bars and a vibrant nightlife, fabulous restaurants, thermal baths and the sprawling City Park which incorporates an ice rink in winter, a circus, a castle and the most beautiful walks!
We arrived on a late night flight and were off guard as tired so ended up being caught in one of the oldest scams going and got in an unauthorised taxi and were charged 4 times what we should’ve have been .. grrr! (TOP TIP – only get in an official taxi, if it’s during the day there are very cheap buses from the airport, we got one on the return journey for a few £s).
Once we got over the shock of the rip off taxi ride we had a great weekend – it was January so a bit on the chilly side, so definitely wrap up! In any city we usually do a hop on/off bus tour to orientate ourselves and in Budapest this was definitely the way to do it as it also included a boat trip on the Danube, as well as allowing us to explore Buda and Pest (the city was previously split in two). There are several companies offering this so shop around.
We did also do a bit of walking as we were staying on the main shopping street so near many of the main places to visit. So where did we go?
The Hungarian Parliament
Wow what a building it’s huge! We didn’t do a tour as were limited on time but the best views are definitely from the Danube. Do not miss out on a boat trip and learning about Margaret Island that lies between Buda and Pest, it looked so tranquil and a great place for families to chill out. Some more info on this site!
One of the main bridges that connects Buda with Pest and a hive for photo opps due to it’s stunning architecture.
Hard to visit Budapest and not be affected by the impact the Jewish community had still do on this city. At the river there is a memorial to the Jews that were killed during WW2. The synagogue is really beautiful and the surrounding area has lovely restaurants and is close to the Ruins Bar area if you are wanting night life.
House of Terror
I normally mark where I want to go on a map once I get to a city, this helps me plan each day and link nearby places. So on the walk up Andrassy Avenue (the equivalent to the Champs Elysee of Paris) to the City Park I wanted to stop off at the House of Terror. This was a great museum and insight into the desperate position of Hungary during WW2. Handouts were available in many languages as you moved around the building. Worth spending an hour or two here.
The Ruins Bars
Several friends had recommended this area and we were not disappointed! These bars are literally ruins in some parts, but very eclectic and quirky which I loved! Don’t expect high end wine bars, but do expect these bars to be bursting with people, character, music and cheap alcohol! You might have to do a bit of walking from bar to bar and dress code is relaxed and anything goes! I had a dress and heels on and was definitely overdressed.
This photo is ‘borrowed’ but it gives you the gist!
St. Stephens Basilica
Another WOW moment! I hadn’t really intended to check out this spot, but wandered beside it so thought, ‘Why not?’… Well I was glad I went in, this cathedral is breathtaking no matter what your take is on religion you can’t not be impressed with the exquisite architecture. There was a bit of a crowd around one area which turned out to be St. Stephen’s mummified hand!
I wasn’t too sure what this actually was though once on the ‘Buda’ side of the city I soon realised this was yet another stunning location, very fairytale-ish with unrivalled views of the main city.
Ice Skating in the City Park
Who doesn’t dream of ice skating outdoors in the winter – well ok I do! Totally loved this and in a stunning location, though check out time slots. There are lockers to keep your personal belongings whilst you skate in front of Vajdahunyad Castle …. as we visited the park later in the day castle was closed – another reason to return.
Szechenyl Thermal Baths
Let’s just say the baths will blow those cobwebs away, even in the depths of winter! We visited in January in very cold weather and loved the warmth that the baths gave us. The baths are located with the City Park and are only one of many as an option within the city. Be organised though and bring flip flops as the ground around and in the changing room is a bit dirty…
Having said that nothing better than standing in swimwear in temperatures below zero and jumping into the outdoor baths at 30 degrees, with the steam rising. There are also numerous baths indoors with stunning glamorous architecture.
This is a MUST if you find yourself in Budapest.
You will be spoilt for choice in Budapest, though I definitely recommend this restaurant, superb service, delicious food and very good value!
For those loving a burger you are in luck as there is a Hard Rock Cafe in town!
Don’t miss out on a trip to the New York Cafe, some say it’s the most beautiful cafe in the world! You might have to queue to get a table but it is worth it. This really is a little bit of a sanctuary in a busy city and the surroundings are stunning. You will hear some authentic Hungarian musicians which was an unexpected treat.
This is a very vibrant, beautiful and historic city, which is why I loved it! Budapest offers the opera, ice skating, thermal baths, stunning views from the Danube, as well as some beautiful architecture.
I totally loved this city and would recommend it! If visiting in winter wrap up, if you are here in the summer make the most of outside space.
Eastern Europe is beautiful so get exploring!!