We had a lovely weekend in Budapest with a lot of sightseeing and we surely want to visit again in the future. My latest trip to Bucharest had amazed me so I am looking forward to more European cities. Let’s take a look at how we spent our days in Budapest…
Day 1: Arrival in Budapest
Having collected our luggage, we chose to head into the city by bus and underground. It was far cheaper than a taxi (though taxis are readily available from the taxi office just outside the arrivals terminal).
After freshening up at the hotel and with a guidebook and map in hand, we walked to Stephen’s Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika), which is beautifully lit up at night, where there is a selection of restaurants and bars serving food pretty late into the evening. We chose a fantastic bar restaurant Paulaner’s Platz Beerstation, where we ate traditional light bites, sampled the local beer and enjoyed a live band while looking out on the beautiful square.
Budapest is a stunning city that straddles The Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. From the incredible Neo-Gothic Parliament (Orszaghaz) Building that sits right on the river bank, we wandered past the memorial statue of Imre Nagy, martyr and Prime Minister during the Hungarian revolution; passed Ronald Regan’s statue, in Liberty Square (Szadadsag Ter) in honour of his role in helping end communism, and on to Stephen’s Basilica which is equally as impressive by day as it is by night.
From here we headed for the Inner-City Parish Church (Belvarosi Plebania Templom), one of the oldest buildings in Pest; wandered through the National Jewish Museum (Nemzeti Zsido Muzeum), passed the Great / Central Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagoga), taking in the beautifully intricate weeping willow Holocaust Museum which was unveiled in 1991 in memory of 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in World War II.
Heading back to Október 6, Utca, we had lunch at Pest’s original strudel house Els Pesti Rteshz. From here, we jumped onto the underground. We headed up to the Városliget area where we visited Vajdahunyad Castle, a flamboyant expression of Hungary’s finest architecture and Heroes’ Square, a relic of a proud era in Hungary’s history.
The main attraction here is the Szechenyi Baths and Pool, the deepest, hottest baths in the city. For about £22 (subject to exchange rate), we enjoyed the stunning thermal baths and a fantastic 30 minute back massage. Then, as the sunset, the baths and buildings lit up, creating a magical world of Neo-Baroque silhouettes and steam.
We returned to the hotel then headed out for dinner to a restaurant we had seen at lunchtime. We ate a wonderful meal, enjoyed an incredible bottle of Hungarian Merlot and were entertained by a fantastic quartet who played both Hungarian folk and contemporary songs. We headed to a great champagne bar off St Stephen’s Square for a cocktail nightcap from here.
Day 2: Going to Buda’s Castle District
On day two, we crossed the river via Chain Bridge to Buda. The sun had come out, and the city was bathed in sunshine, and the sky was clear and blue – perfect photo weather. There were many photos stops as we crossed the river and wandered along the river bank.
We stopped for a cup of tea in a sunny spot below the towering Castle Hill (Varhegy) then took the funicular to the top of the hill – you can walk it, but we decided the railway would be more fun – and arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard. Having taken in the dramatic view across to Pest from the viewpoint, we headed to Matthias Church (Matyas Templom), an impressive white building that seemed to gleam in the sun, its tiled roof an artwork in itself. From Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya), there are other spectacular views across the roof of the Calvinist Church, Parliament Building, Stephen’s Basilica and off into the far distance.
Heading back to the south end of the Castle District, we took in the Mátyás Fountain that depicts King Mátyás and his beloved Ilonka. Next, we wandered through the quadrant of the Buda Castle – Royal Palace (Kiralyi Palota). The Palace is a striking building with impressive gateways, sculptures and a Neo-Classical dome; it also houses the National Gallery of Hungary.
La Pampa Steakhouse, a Hungarian take on an Argentinian restaurant, was our location for dinner this evening, where we ate a fantastic three-course meal.
Day 3: Gellert Hill
Our final day in Budapest came around all too soon; we took a tram along the Pest bank of the river to the Elizabeth Bridge, wandered across the river to the Freedom Statue, dedicated to an 11th-century martyred bishop; passed the Rudas Baths and on to the Gellert Baths and Gellert Spa. Opposite the hotel, we discovered The Rock Church. This little church dates back to 1926, tucked inside caves within the rock and boasting several tiny naves and stain glass windows.
Crossing back to Pest, we joined a river cruise for a 90 minute trip up the river, around Margaret Island and back again. A great option, as the commentary, gives you some historical facts and tales not found in the guidebooks. Upon disembarkation, we revisited the Inner City Parish Church, this time in the sunshine. We had lunch at Dunacorso Restaurant and enjoyed our last Hungarian meal in the sun, watching the world go by while watching over the Little Princess.
Q: What do you love about most Budapest?
A: The architecture, it’s a great walkable city, and the cost of living was really reasonable
Q: Favourite restaurant/café area in Budapest?
A: We didn’t choose a bad one; the food, wine and hospitality were great everywhere we went.
Q: Must-see sight in Budapest?
A: The Castle District
Q: Good value tourist ticket you can buy?
A: A two or three-day Budapest Card is used on most public transport and provides discounts on entry to some of the city’s museums. The more journeys you take on public transport, the more you save. We found the city very easily accessible and did lots of it on foot, we bought seven individual journey tickets for travel on public transport which cost 300 HUF (Hungarian Forints) each, which is approximately £1 per journey (subject to exchange rate), this meant we didn’t spend anywhere near as much as the cost of the Tourist Card – BUT if buying single journey tickets make sure you validate each one as you board the bus or tram or as you enter the underground station (fines for non-validated tickets can be high).
Q: Local tipple?
A: Great Merlot!
Q: Best viewing spot?
A: Fisherman’s Bastion
Q: The best place for shopping?
A: Váci Utca, though for a more traditional experience head for one of the local markets.