Budapest is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and it certainly lives up to that. There is much history packed in this city going as far back as the 9th century with the Celts, Romans, Turks and Mongols all having a hand in forming this gorgeous city, not to mention the amazing contrast you’ll notice between the Belle Époque and Communist eras. In particular the explosion of construction gearing towards their Millennial celebration of 1896.
Budapest was not always one city. We actually stayed in Pest on the East bank of River Danube. Buda lies to the West of the river. These cities merged and became one in 1873.
After spending 40 days in mostly English-speaking countries, we looked forward to stepping out of our comfort zone. We’ve been wanting to visit Eastern Europe for a while. In fact, pre-Kasm, we had planned a trip to Prague and Budapest but life had other ideas for us at that time.
We said goodbye to our friend Rick in Sweden and off to Budapest we flew. Our second RyanAir experience was MUCH better. We were ushered to a separate section for families and were the first ones to board. Thanks Kasm!
With a late arrival in Budapest, we decided to stay close to the airport and find our way into the city the next day. The hotel provided a free shuttle service and breakfast. It was well worth spending a little extra so we wouldn’t be lost in a city we knew nothing about in the middle of the night with a child in tow.
The next day, after a good night sleep and satisfied bellies, we set off to go find our Airbnb and get to know Budapest.
Transportation in Budapest is amazing and ridiculously easy to figure out. In fact, it was easier than London where we spoke the same language.
We had the hotel shuttle bring us back to the airport. We could have taken a taxi from the hotel to town for about $30-$40 but for 650 HUF ($3) you can take a bus from the Airport to M3 Metro line which brings you to center of town. Make sure you buy a “transfer” ticket and not a “single” ticket. The transfer ticket allows you to take both the bus and the metro.
The Metro brought us just around the corner from our apartment on Váci street, one of the most famous pedestrian streets in Budapest. Even though it is extremely touristy, we still enjoyed it very much and the cafes are perfect for people-watching.
Our Apartment was located in a historical building with the front door opening right onto Váci but once inside, it became quiet and tranquil, a huge relief! Last thing we wanted was the street shenanigans keeping us awake at night!
The location couldn’t possibly have been more perfect. Step out the door and you have plenty of options for eats and drinks. Grocery Store just a few steps to the left, with a great selection (except for fruits and vegetables). But no fret, the largest and oldest indoor Market, Great Market Hall was just at the end of the street, a 5-minute walk! Who doesn’t love walking down to the Market to pick up fresh eggs, pastries, and fruits for breakfast! And who is so lucky to have an awesome husband to do that in the morning 😉
For the wine lovers (present company included), there is a fabulous store just around the corner on Iranyi street called Borszertár with an amazing selection. Unfortunately, we can’t recall the name of the Sparkling Rosé and Red we tried but we absolutely loved both. Don’t expect cheap prices, but it was well worth the tour and the history lesson we received.
Budapest – Paris of Eastern Europe
I’m sure by now, you are saying, get on with it and tell us about Budapest already…
We spent just over a week here and loved every minute of it but… (I’ll tell you about the but later 😉 )
DAY 1 -Get Connected To The Interweb
Our first day in any place is usually about getting settled in. Once we dropped off our bags, we went on an errand run. First was to get a sim card for my phone. We’ve been picking up a local sim in each place. Navigating the city is much easier with Google maps than the old fashion way. It also helps to do a quick Google search when we are looking for something specific. Once connected to the interweb, we moved on to the next errand, groceries.
We ended the day by having a drink at ÉS Bisztró which was lovely.
DAY 2 – A Visit to Buda
One of the things we noticed stepping off the metro on our first day, was the impressive statue atop the hill across the Danube in Buda. It was an inviting sight – [inserted by hubby – when we see a steep climb we feel the need to exhaust ourselves, ridiculous!] and on our second day we set off to explore Buda. We walked across the Elisabeth Bridge which leads to Gellért Hill. The Hill was named after Bishop Gellért, who was thrown to his death by pagans from the hill. His statue now faces the bridge and can be seen from Pest.
We continued our walk upwards towards the Citadel (Citadella), a fortress built after the Hungarian revolution in 1848. For some reason, we are attracted to the highest point in any city we visit. It was a steep climb but the view was stunning and we did get some awesome shots.
Once we were thoroughly soaked (in sweat), we made our way back down the hill towards Fisherman’s Bastion which again gave us another stunning view of Pest (another hill, must climb). We got our fill of the “touristy” stuff and did what we always do, go on a walkabout. The streets beyond Fisherman’s Bastion are quaint, pretty and just a pleasure to walk. We even came across a second-hand English bookstore where Kasm picked up a book about Jack, the Pirate of Caribbean 😉
We took the Széchenyi Chain Bridge back to the Pest side and slowly made our way back towards home with a stop at the “First Strudel house Of Pest” for a late lunch/early dinner. I’m sad to report we did not try the strudel as our delicious meal filled us to the max and left no room for dessert.
DAY 3 – Zsimpla Ruins Pub
The Next day, we thought we’d take it easy as our feet were sore from the beating we gave them. It helped that it was pouring rain and we couldn’t really get an early start! Once Mother Nature gave us a break from the downpour, we headed out to check the Zsimpla which was one of the coolest pubs we’ve ever been to.
DAY 4 – Jewish Quarter
Having had an easier day, we were ready for another long explore around Budapest. So off we went exploring around the Jewish quarter. We used the BigBoyTravel Blog and followed the Jewish Quarter Walk. It was great to get a bit of history while walking the streets.
I should also mention this was the day when my smarts disappeared due to hunger and we ended up eating at a horrible place!
DAY 5 – Kerepesi Cemetery
We had to pick up our train tickets for Zagreb and while looking up directions to the train station, I noticed a big green area just around the corner. Upon further investigation, I came across the Kerepesi Cemetery. We spent over 3 hours here and could have easily doubled the time!
At 5 hectares of land, Kerepesi is the oldest cemetery in Hungary and the largest outdoor statue park in Europe, filled with some of the most beautiful and stunning masterpieces that could rival any museum. You can also check Kasm’s post here. He really enjoyed his visit to Kerepesi.
Aside from a handful of people visiting loved ones’ graves, we were the only non-locals there. I am very grateful to have stumbled upon this gem by chance and to have it be part of our Budapest experience.
Our day ended up with a dinner at Kék Rózsa in the Jewish quarter. It’s a very discrete little place that can be easily missed if you don’t already know about it. It was recommended as a place “where locals eat”. We enjoyed it but it didn’t really have a wow factor to it.
DAY 6 – Széchenyi Thermal Bath
A visit to Budapest is not complete without taking a soak in Széchenyi Thermal Bath. We dedicated a full day to this place with a little meandering through the park. It is an impressive place that one must not skip while in Budapest.
DAY 7 – Central Pest
On our last day in Budapest, we followed yet another walk by BigBoyTravel Blog. We took our time meandering through the city towards the parliament.
We visited “Shoes On the Danube Bank” on a previous day. The Memorial is to honor the Jews who were killed during World War II. The Victims were ordered to take off their shoes and they would be tied together before being shot at the edge of the water. The bodies would then fall into the river and get carried away. We overheard a guide saying that in order to save ammunition, they would shoot one and the rest being tied together, would be pulled along into the river.
As it was our last night in Budapest we decided to go back to ÉS Bisztró for dinner and it was divine! The waiter remembered us from our first visit and was extremely friendly.
…About that But from the start
We loved Budapest. It reminded me of strolling the streets of Paris. We felt comfortable and safe. Every corner there is beauty to be admired. There is so much history especially from the pain that was inflicted upon people of Hungary for so many years.
But we were disappointed with the interactions we had with some locals. Our Airbnb host, David, was absolutely wonderful. Friendly and ready to help at a drop of a hat, but most everyone else, whether it was at the cafe, restaurant, grocery store or some of the major sites, just seemed annoyed with us. We found it rather puzzling! Why did they seem so unhappy? Was it just towards us or is this normal for the service industry in Budapest? Perhaps if we spent more time in the suburbs and not the heart of the city, it would have been a different experience? All that said, we still highly encourage you to visit Budapest. It is a real gem and we promise that you will love it!