Whether it is Budapest’s history, its stunning architecture, lively ruin bars or the world-class goulash soup, the reasons to visit this city is endless. I was close to visiting Budapest several times in the past, but always ended up elsewhere. This year, I finally put an end to my wait, and wined up in Budapest not once, but twice.
First visit was during spring, weather was warm during the day, requiring a light jacket at night. The second one was in the summer, a remarkable increase in tourists flooding the city, which can get pretty hectic. However, the tradeoff is that the weather is absolutely gorgeous and there is more to do. I personally enjoyed the spring trip more, nonetheless.
The landmarks in Budapest are easily accessed by foot or tram. Transportation in the city is pretty reliable and the walks are pleasant. Went on a walking tour for the first time, which can be useful in a city like Budapest. The tour takes about 3 hours; I was impressed by how much I saw and how much I learned about the city.
Buda and Pest were two cities separated by the Danube river, reuniting in the early 1900s with a third city, Óbuda, forming Budapest. The Buda side is hilly and considered to be the aristocratic side of the city. On the other hand, the Pest side is generally poorer, flat, but nowadays it contains most of the nightlife establishments. The Pest side is especially popular among backpackers, which is home for cheap hostels, bars and restaurants.
On the Buda side, ‘Gellért hill’ is an easy-moderate hike, having a wonderful overlook of the city. The hill is to the side of the popular ‘Chain Bridge’, inline with the basilica of ‘Szent István’.
On top of the hill, liberty statue ‘Szabadság szobor’ is erected, which is a memorial to honor the war dead. The hilltop offers spectacular 360° views and contains several parks, where you can have a picnic or so. Lots of souvenir shops can be found at the top as well.
While on the Buda side, the Buda castle is worth a visit. The view of the city, specifically from the ‘Fishermen’s Bastion’ is incredible.
On the east side of the Danube river, the old city of Pest lies. On that side, the famous parliament, basilica of ‘Szent István’, and other historical buildings are found. The ‘Art Eye Ferris Wheel’, which is located in the main square of the city ‘Erzsébet Square’ is on the pest side as well. Among the notable sculptures is a memorial for those who were shot by fascist ‘Arrow Cross’, during World War II. They were ordered to take their shoes off, and shot at the edge.
Most ruin bars are scattered around the pest side. Ruin bars are hip-like bars/pubs that are situated in abandoned mansions and old buildings. The drink prices are cheap and the atmosphere is a mix between Munich-style breweries with a sense of a clubbing experience. Among the best ruin bars I’ve been to were the ones that have a DJ playing in every room of the building. A room that used to be a kitchen, bathroom or living room. These rooms are small in size, cozy, like a small party within the main party. On another note, ‘Pálinka’ is to be tried, a mashed, distilled, matured brandy. It is usually sipped or shot, pretty strong, not for the faintly hearted.
The main attractions of Budapest are nicely lit at night, taking the camera and tripod out was a must. Found a wine bar called DiVino right across from the basilica, enjoyed my wine glass out while capturing images of the iconic building at night, when no one was there.
Need to talk about the food for a moment. The Hungarian cuisine is arguably among the best I’ve had. Things to try (or to die for) are: Goulash soup, Stuffed cabbage ‘töltött káposzta’, Chicken paprikash, Noodle dumplings ‘nokadelli’. The latter is specifically tasty. I tried several restaurants while there (and started with a goulash soup in each one of them), the notable ones were: Belvarosi Lugas and Korhely. One thing to note, however, Hungarian food is heavy. If you plan to go out for drinks or partying, it’s better to have early dinners.
I will close this post with the only advantage (in my opinion) of visiting Budapest during the summer, which is the weather as noted earlier. Hungary is a landlocked country, however, it contains several lakes. Some of these lakes host beachgoers from all around Hungary in the summer, on their manmade beaches. Sand, beach volleyball, bars and several other activities do the trick! Additionally, Sziget happens during the summer, a week-long festival worth to check. You won’t be able to enjoy the turkish hot baths that are scattered around the city though, due to the unbearable heat!