At one point or another, you may have heard Budapest being referred to as Paris of Eastern Europe. I don’t think it needs the comparison. A visit to this grand eastern European capital will leave you in no doubt of its beauty and the history it packs. Budapest, or as it used to be called, Buda & Pest, two separate cities, dates back to the 9th century. The Celts, Romans, Turks and Mongols all had a hand in forming this gorgeous city and you’ll surely notice many of their handywork around the city.
There is so much to do. We spent 10 days here but like any other place we’ve been to, I wished we had more time. We managed to pack a lot in a short period of time but there are a few left an everlasting impression and should definitely be on your list of what not to miss in Budapest.
Budapest Ruin Pubs
There is nothing new about these places. They’ve been around a long time. What are they? Well, they are bars in abandoned, doomed to be destroyed places. They fill them up with all kinds of stuff. And I mean some really wacky and weird stuff!! It is an absolute feast for the eyes and you can get to enjoy a drink while looking around in awe of the total wackiness of these places. Thrillist Travels lists the top 10 bars worthy of a visit in Budapest.
“Romkocsma, as they’re called locally, are massive abandoned buildings that have been converted into bars and eclectic hangouts — think old factories, abandoned department stores, and former apartment complexes, all turned into bars or clubs. Ruin pubs offer cheap drinks, mazes of rooms, street art, and communist relics. And they’re freakin’ cool places to drink. Here are 10 of Budapest’s best.”
We visited the Szimpla Kert, by far the most famous ruin pub in Budapest. Words can’t do justice describing this place. A room where 90s PCs go to die, chairs made out of snowboards, walls covered with some weird signs and that’s just a few to name. Perhaps the pictures from Bruce’s post will give you a better idea of this place!
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
A visit to Budapest is not complete without a day spent at the Szechenyi thermal baths. But be aware that it can get very crowded. Do your research before heading to the baths. I must admit, we almost skipped the baths due to mixed reviews online but I at the end we decided to judge for ourselves and I’m glad we did!
Even though the baths are very famous and attract many tourists, it still remains a local favorite and you will find many Budapestians lounging and relaxing by the pools. We were there at probably one of the busiest times of year and shared the baths with many other tourists, but somehow it didn’t feel too crowded.
Here’s Travelling Weasels telling you why you should visit the baths.
“Visiting one of Budapest’s thermal baths is an absolute must when you come to Hungary. Hungary is the third most thermal country in the world (after Iceland and New Zealand), so you’ve got to include a visit to a thermal bath at some point. In fact, Budapest is actually known as the ‘City of Baths’ and is the only capital in the world that has rich thermal waters with healing properties.”
“We escaped the heat and the crowds by heading inside, this is where we found the highlight of our day: the indoor pools.”
Perhaps you fancy visiting the baths in winter! Bizarre Globe Hopper did just that. Brave!
Challenge your stamina by soaking in the outdoor pools of Szechenyi Baths on a freezing winter day. Steaming, thermal water invites you to join local men playing chess or just enjoy the massaging whirlpools while snowflakes land on your bare skin. Be ready for a real immersion in the Hungarian bathing culture!
Walk Along the Danube and More
I find one of the best ways to experience a city is by walking it. Budapest is a fantastic city for walking. So much to see and appreciate and of course, walking along the ever-so-famous Danube river should be on the agenda. Big Boy Travel offers some great free walking tour ideas for you to follow as we did and not just in Budapest. In every city, I am sure to check out his site to see if there is a walking map we can follow 🙂
“1. Holocaust Shoe Memorial: On first glance, the Holocaust Shoe Memorial looks like just a collection of bronzed shoes by the waterside, but knowing the history of this spot makes a visit truly moving. During WWII, the Nazi’s secret police group Arrow Cross often executed Jews and other citizens here by shooting them then pushing them into the Danube River. All of the victims were required to line up and take their shoes off not knowing which of them would be shot. When the Nazis wanted to save bullets they would tie a few people together, shoot one, push the group into the freezing river, and watch the dead bodies drag the entire group down. The Memorial’s 60, 1940’s era shoes represent the shoes left behind by the fallen Arrow Cross victims and you really should not missed it.”
To The Citadella – A Hike Up Gellért Hill
One of the things we noticed upon arrival in Budapest, was the impressive statue atop the hill across the Danube in Buda. Oh, look, a hill… We must climb 😉 Perhaps it’s the view you get rewarded with that makes these exhausting climbs so appealing to us, but this was more than just a gorgeous panoramic view you get of the city. The massive structure that sits atop the hill used to be a fortress controlled by the Austrians until 1897. Locals started to demolish the fortress but most of it still stands and it was used by Nazis and communists for surveillance as you’ll notice the amazing view it has of the city.
“Gellért Hill is the place to go for the best panoramic views of Budapest. From the top, you get unrivaled views the Danube river and both sides of the city- Buda and Pest.”
“Gellért Hill has a few things to enjoy, besides the amazing views. The main tourist attractions are the Citadella, Liberty Monument, Cave Church, and Gellért Monument.”
Kerepesi Cemetary – A Forgotten Gem Perhaps?
Always leave the best for last. I had no idea of the existence of this cemetery. We were picking up our train tickets to Zagreb and looking at the map, noticed a large green space. As there wasn’t much to do around the train station, we decided to go exploring. Kerepesi Cemetary was by far the best surprise we stumbled upon in Budapest.
A fantastic, sombre and quiet spot, it is sure to leave you speechless. We could count the number of people milling around on one hand. The place is more of a museum than a cemetery with statues surely you would expect to see at the Louvre.
It even inspired the little one to write about it!
Do you have favorite spots in Budapest? We’d love to hear about them. Just post a comment below.