I had many mixed feelings upon leaving leaving Budapest (or ‘Budapesht’ as it should be pronounced) after our 3 night city break; I couldn’t decide whether I liked this City or not.
I knew it wasn’t because of our surroundings. There is no denying that Budapest is beautiful, with its iconic buildings, gothic architecture and breathtaking views from both sides of the river Danube. And I knew it wasn’t because of the company, or the weather which was delightfully warm with clear blue skies. But something just didn’t click.
There was a sombre mood which lurked in the air and we didn’t find the locals to be particularly friendly or welcoming, not compared to other cities we had visited anyway. Nevertheless, it was still an interesting place to explore and we had an enjoyable time together.
I also learnt that it is okay not to love every city that you visit.
WHERE DID WE STAY
Budapest actually used to be two cities (Buda and Pest) which were divided by the River Danube. Despite being united together now, each side has its own distinct features and I came to learn that people will still refer to the different sides, especially when describing where something is.
We stayed at the Carlton Hotel which is located on the Buda side. Buda is known for being the quieter hillier side, providing fantastic panoramas of Pest and the river below, and home to some of the City’s most famous landmarks. The hotel was conveniently located close to these attractions, as well as the Széchenyi Chain Bridge which links Buda to Pest.
On the contrary, Pest is known for its busy nightlife, restaurants, cafes and bars, and genuinely speaking, is where all the action happens. Maybe we would have had a different experience if we stayed on this side.
WHAT DID WE DO
We headed towards the Buda castle district and found ourselves outside this palace, witnessing the changing of the guards, before admiring the magnificent view of the city from above. I later discovered that this palace is the official residence of the President of Hungary.
Reaching Fisherman’s Bastion was like stepping into a fairytale and arriving at a Disney princesses castle. It is symbolised by its gothic turrets, climbing stairways and phenominal view, providing a fantastic backdrop for your photos. There was also a cute cafe on the terrace which we stopped off at for a drink, whilst admiring its beauty.
Gellert Hill & Citadella
Whilst enjoying the outdoors and the lovely weather, we decided to hike up Gellert hill to reach the Citadella where we were promised (yet again) fantastic views of the City. Whist abit daunting at first, it only took us just over 20 minutes to hike up the wooden trail and was definitely worth it! About halfway up you reach the St.Gellert monument and man-made waterfall, before arriving at the Statue of Liberty at the top; both of which you can see from a distance at the bottom of the hill. You are subsequently rewarded with, in my opinion, the best views of the City.
The parliament building is probably the most iconic symbol of Budapest. It lies along the banks of the river Danube on the Pest side, and is completely and utterly, unmissable. Both spectacular in day and at night, it was best admired in all of its glory from the Buda side of the river. We did not go inside, but if it’s as magnificent as it is on the outside, it is worth a visit.
Shoes on the Danube Memorial
Just before we reached the Parliament building, we came across this heart wrenching and moving memorial. The 60 pairs of iron shoes which lie along the banks of the river, are in memory of the thousands of Jews who were rounded up and shot by the Arrow Cross Party during World War II, with their bodies left to be swept away by the river; a simple, yet incredibly poignant memorial which is a must see.
For some downtime and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the City, we made our way to Margaret Island which is situated in the middle of the river Danube, between Margaret Bridge and Arpad Bridge. It is essentially a beautiful recreational park with various jogging/bicycle pathways, a Japanese Garden and a waterpark to name a few. They also have a musical water fountain which we had the pleasure of seeing!
Night River Cruise
One evening we took a one hour long river cruise which drove us up and down the river, allowing us to see both sides of the City in all of its glory. With the cost of the ticket (€20), one drink and a headset which told us about the history of Budapest and its attractions were included. Since Budapest is so much more at night when it is all beautifully and magically lit up, this was a great way of being able to enjoy the city in its splendour!
NOTABLE CAFE’S AND BARS
In-between our sightseeing, there were a few places that we visited for either a drink or a sweet treat that I think are worth mentioning.
New York Cafe (New York Kávéház)
What was once a popular coffee house in the 19th century, this cafe has now become a popular tourist attraction to see what has been considered one of the ‘most beautiful cafes in the world’. Once you have pushed yourself past the tourists and gawked at the overpriced food and drink, you can admire the truly exceptional elegant interior, with its gold plated walls, grand chandeliors and staircases.
If you are in search for a great rooftop bar which also provides panoramic views of Budapest’s skyline, then this is the place to go! After a short lift ride to the top, we were greeted with ambiant music, fancy cocktails and an incredible view of the sunset.
We stumbled upon this confectionary/pattiserie as we were perusing the streets. It was just so pretty and beautifully decorated, that we had to go in and we ended up walking out with ice cream. However, they offered so many delicious looking treats and cakes that if we had been in Budapest for longer, I would have loved to return to try them all!
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