Finally! I was in Budapest. I had planned so many times to be here but somehow it never happened until now. I flew with WizzAir (One of the cheapest airlines you can fly to Budapest) to Liszt Ferenc Airport, Budapest. The weather was good for September, plenty of warmth and sunshine. After landing, we took the airport bus to Kobanya Kispest and from there we took the Metro line to the city center (Deak Ferenc Ter). Our AirBnb apartment was in District VII, the Jewish Quarter, which is in the city center and is also the hub for all touristy things. Another advantage is that the accommodation is reasonably priced in this district. Of course, we soon found out that everything in Budapest is cheap when compared to Germany which was really awesome as we were on a tight budget, just graduated and searching for jobs in Germany. This city has so much to offer that you can spend almost a week doing different activities. I spent 4 full days in the city and still had so many more things to do.
The accommodation was good and as promised (with a Jacuzzi tub!) in the pictures. No bad surprises! 😉 After quickly getting ready we set out to first convert our Euros to Hungarian Forints. The conversion rate is 1 EUR approx. Equals 300 HUF. There are plenty of Euronet ATMs where you can easily convert currencies. After the currency conversion we went to a famous street called Kazinczy utca. This street has some amazing places to eat and drink.
After eating soup at Bors and slurping yummy Ramen, we set out to do the walking tour. The first thing I do when I come to a new city is a free walking tour. This is a great way to know the highlights of the city, the history and the guides always give tips about the local cuisine and drinks. It is also a good opportunity to meet fellow travelers and make new friends. We booked a free walking tour with Original walking tours. It was a 2.5 hour tour where we walked around 10 kms and is a very good tour which I highly recommend.
So Budapest was actually two separate towns before. The Buda town (and Obuda) on the
West Bank of the Danube and the Pest on the other. Later it became one big city of Budapest. The Pest side is where most of the tourist attractions, the shopping streets, and all the happening places are. The Buda side is more of a residential area but it has it’s fair share of attractions as well. Geographically, Buda is hilly and Pest is flat. The Buda and Pest sides are connected by plenty of bridges on the Danube but the most iconic and distinct is the Chain Bridge (Szechenyi Bridge). A walk along this bridge is a must and the walking tour also covers it.
Buda Side Attractions:
1. The Buda Castle and the underground tunnel network: It is a distinct part of the Buda side and one of the monuments which defines the cityscape. It is nice to walk around the castle for good views of the city. There are museums of history and art inside the castle, but I haven’t been to either. The interesting part of this castle is there is a network of underground tunnels and there is a unique museum called Hospital in the Rock.
Hospital in the Rock Museum has guided tours which takes you into underground tunnel systems which were converted into a full fledged hospital esp. during WWII when the city was under siege. I found it interesting that there were few babies born in this hospital and later they were invited for the inauguration of the museum and were shown where exactly they were born! This also has a nuclear bunker.
There is also something called the Labyrinth which is not as interesting as Hospital in the Rock. The tours after 6 pm in labyrinth are interesting as they give a gas lantern and ask you to go on your own in the dark tunnels which have stories about Dracula and other spooky stuff! Reminded me of Scooby Doo adventures when I did this! 😀
2. Fisherman’s Bastion and Mathias Church: This is a must visit for an amazing view of the Budapest Parliament, the Danube and the Pest side of the city. The fisherman’s bastion itself has some good architecture. This is a place where you can click away your selfies and DP’s. Go crazy!
3. The Baths! – The St. Gellert Hotel and Baths, Rudas Bath and Spa and Lukas spa all are on the Buda side. But more about the baths in part 3 of the blog.
4. Gellert Hill – After a small hike up this hill, the view of the city is amazing! Another bird’s eye view of the city which is breathtaking. This is also a UNESCO site.
Pest side attractions:
1. The Parliament building – This is the ultimate landmark of Budapest and is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. It looks beautiful during day time and when it is lit up. There are guided tours in English where you can visit the Parliament building but I haven’t done this.
2. Vaci Utca – This is the shopping street and it’s nice to just stroll and shop for those souvenirs, sip coffee in Anna’s cafe or the famous Gerbeaud Cafe. Take a metro to Vorosmarty ter to reach Vaci Street.
3. Great Market Hall – At the end of Vaci Utca is the oldest and biggest market hall in Budapest. You get all fresh produce. The fresh paprika and Magyar (Hungarian) chillies caught my attention. The architecture of the building is nice and has colourful tiles on the roof. These tiles are made by Zsolnay, a Hungarian Manufacturer of coloured tiles, porcelain etc.
4. St.Stephen’s Basilica – This is an enormous structure and worth a visit inside. You can also go on the top floor and have a look at the city. There are plenty of restaurants and cafe’s close by.
5. Heroes Square and Szechenyi Bath – This is another significant landmark in Budapest. There is a park which has a lovely castle with a draw bridge and a moat. The famous Szechenyi Baths are also in this park. More about the baths in the next blog post.
6. Terror House: This is a museum about the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary and as the name suggests, all the atrocities that the common man had to suffer. This is a place I am yet to visit and I will add more details once I visit it.
The River side:
The Danube cuts through the city and divides it into the Buda and Pest side. There is a tiny Margaret island which has a nice running track around it. There was also a musical fountain show, which we ended up witnessing unexpectedly when we went to the island. Of course, there are lots of cruise options along the Danube. There are sightseeing cruises, dinner cruise, boat parties and so many other options.
Experiencing Budapest on the cruise is a must. It gives a different perspective of the city and I really liked it. There are public transport ferries which run from the Buda and Pest side of the river, which you can hop on if you have a day ticket. It is the cheapest option and this is what we did. There are also half day cruise options available. The Bend Cruise is the most popular one.
My husband liked Budapest so much that he told me it would be exciting to live in this city. Little did we know that his wish would come true in a month’s time! 😀 We went on a short vacation in September 2016 and I was starting with my work in October. After we got back from our vacation, my company HR calls me and tells me that I have to go to Hungary as part of my first work assignment! wow.. that was so sudden and exciting at the same time! Wohoo! Even though my work location is located approx. 60 km from Budapest it would still be accessible on weekends! So cheers to that! The Next part of the blog is all about the mouth watering food in Budapest.