16/03/2019

What I Saw and Did in Budapest, Hungary


Visiting Budapest for the first time? Grab a notebook, here are all my tips!

First things first, little disclaimer. Budapest is huge, it is a city full of chances to explore, museums to visit, restaurants to try, and I think it would take you a good week or so to experience properly what it has to offer. My friend and I stayed two full days in Budapest only, and I can tell you, it only makes me want to come back and see more! 
So in this post, you will find a little, non-exhaustive list of the things I did in Budapest - and that you should definitely do too!

THE BUDA SIDE


Budapest is divided in two parts by the Danube River: Buda is the west side, and Pest the east side. We spent one day on each side, starting with the dreamy, picture-perfect Buda side. To get there, walk across the Chain Bridge, or Széchenyi Lánchíd, where you will find a delightful view of the banks of the river. Our February mornings were quite foggy, there were blue skies and sunshine but there was a thin layer of fog covering the buildings and giving them a mysterious atmosphere, as though they were waiting for us to come and meet them at their feet.


When you reach the other side, take the cable car, or your little legs to walk up the short flights of stairs to reach the top of Castle Hill, pausing every so often to take a picture of the beautiful landscape that slowly unfolds beneath your feet. A few sights will catch your attention when you reach the top, and they are:

BUDA CASTLE - HUNGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE - 
MATTHIAS CHURCH - FISHERMAN'S BASTION

Buda Castle is the former palace of the kings of Hungary. It stands proud, overlooking the city, and whenever you look up from the other side of town, you are sure to see its proud dome and wings up in the sky. It is a huge palace, now home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. We did not go in as we were pressed by time and excited to explore as many sights as our feet could bear before giving up to exhaustion, but I will visit again and spend time in these museums to learn more about Hungarian history and culture - which I am sure is well worth stopping by for!


Right next to Buda Castle is the Presidential Palace, Sandor Palota. Stand there on the hour, any time between 9am and 5pm, to witness the changing of the guard. We arrived there right on time to see the ceremony, and trust me, you don't want to miss it! The guards swing their rifles around to the beat of the drum, and they walk past very close to the crowd. It was an amazing moment to see this tradition, which was revived in 2003 after years under a Communist regime.
Behind the Presidential Palace, we strolled along the colourful streets (where you can do some souvenir shopping in one of the numerous little shops) to reach Matthias Church. Its impeccable white structure will probably blow you away, as it did us. The spire seemed to pierce the blue sky in a very dramatic, photogenic way that can only really be appreciated when you see it in person. I mean, look at how tiny people are against its towering walls:


MATTHIAS CHURCH - ENTRY 1800 HUF (£5)

This medieval church is unlike any other I've ever seen. It has lived through the centuries and seen the coronation of many kings; it became a mosque for the Ottomans, and it has been beautiful preserved through time, both inside and out. Inside, the whole church is covered in intricate painting designs, from floor to ceiling, and there is also a museum where you can admire some of the treasures gathered there through the years.
After visiting Matthias Church, you can only be drawn to Fisherman's Bastion - the intricate, fairytale-like structure that surrounds the side of the hill. This is one of the places that look so beautiful, it seems unreal - like a film set maybe, and although I don't watch Game of Thrones, I could totally see the action set at Fisherman's Bastion. In fact, I felt like a princess myself walking around the place.



FISHERMAN'S BASTION - MOSTLY FREE, WITH A SMALL FEE TO VISIT THE UPPER TOWERS BETWEEN MARCH AND OCTOBER (FREE IN THE WINTER)

The fortress is made of seven towers and stretches over a hundred metres. The Bastion takes its name from the fact that the nearby castle and area were protected by the fishermen's guild in medieval times. I find it quite hard to date the structure, which has notable Gothic features but also looks very new and clean, and in fact it was build fairly recently, between 1895 and 1902.
There are many viewing points, from which you have a beautiful panorama of Budapest, from the Danube to the spikey Parliament building.


THE PEST SIDE

Another sunny February day, and another side of Budapest explored. We dedicated another full day to Pest, the east side of the city. This is where you find the lively city parts - the restaurants, the shops, the bars, all surrounded by stunning buildings. This side very much reminded me of the north of Italy, places like Milan or the fanciest parts of Rome - with the elaborate facades and the massive wooden doors protected by statues and columns. If you're looking for a good afternoon of shopping, or maybe for a nice pub in the evening, Budapest's got you covered. My friend and I mainly went for the sights though, so here are the landmarks we saw in Pest. 

THE PARLIAMENT - ST STEPHEN'S BASILICA - THE CENTRAL MARKET HALL - THE SZECHENYI BATHS

The Parliament building is of course the most famous sight in Budapest. You can admire this huge Gothic-inspired masterpiece from all angles, the best-known being from the other side of the Danube River.


I discovered that the Parliament is the largest building in Hungary, and I am not surprised - it really is big. You'll feel impressed by its proportions as well as its multitudes of spires pointing towards the sky. You can visit the Parliament, which we have not done unfortunately, because of a lack of time. You can also see the Changing of the Guard there, although having seen both I would recommend seeing that of the Presidential Palace, much more interesting.


HUNGARIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY - GENERAL ENTRY 2400HUF (£6.50)

Walking around the streets of Pest is a whole experience in itself. On the way, you'll find plenty of interesting shops (but also mainstrem ones like H&M, Zara and all your typical high street names, if you fancy a bit of shopping), nice restaurants, and pretty buildings. I always like to visit churches when I go to a new place, and thus we went to St Stephen's Basilica. It is located in a lively part of the city and well-connected to everything else, and it is almost surprising to see such a big building right there.


The Basilica is free to visit, but please do make a donation to show appreciation to the place. The inside is full of gold accents, and you can see a relic of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary - his severed hand has been kept through the ages in the cathedral that bears his name. Creepy, I know, but you can't help being curious, right?
The last place that I will mention, and that I think should absolutely be on your bucket list in Pest, is the Széchenyi Baths. Budapest is a thermal city, and there are plenty of spas and baths all around where you can go and spend a nice, relaxing moment. The Széchenyi Baths are the most popular, sure, and they get horribly busy during the day, but they are also the most beautiful I have ever seen, and so unique too.
My friend and I set our alarm for 6am on our last day in Budapest, and walked to the Baths in the morning light. It felt like a struggle to get up so early, especially after two whole days of walking, but let me tell you, when we got there, it was so, so worth it.


SZECHENYI BATHS - FROM 6AM. ENTRY PRICE VARIES. SWIMMING POOL, SAUNA, JACUZZI AND MASSAGES AVAILABLE.

There is a long price list for the baths, and you pay differently whether you go before 8am or after 7pm, on a weekday or at the weekend, and whether you want a cabin and locker, and so on. Do check online, they have a list that's easy to understand. You can book ahead, but it's alright if not - we bought our tickets on the day, but we did go at 7am. Honestly, I 100% advise you to go there in the 6am to 8am slot, even in the winter - it feels so special to have the baths to yourself. I don't think I would have enjoyed the experience as much if I had to share the jacuzzi with ten other random people...
I will now focus on my other favourite part of travelling: the food!

FOOD & DRINKS

Food and drink is incredibly cheap in Budapest. I was almost shocked at how cheap everything was! This means you can eat on a budget, but you may also afford to try out lots of things.
Head to the Central Market Hall for a variety of stalls, from your usual market foods (butchers', greengrocers, fabric sellers) to street food stalls on the top floor. You can try out anything from goulash, rich meat and cabbage dishes, to sausages and fried goods. Don't miss làngos - a fried bread traditionally topped with sour cream and cheese.


Did you know that paprika originates from Hungary? This well-loved spice is featured in a lot of dishes, and you can buy it in any form too. 
In Pest, my friend and I stumbled by chance on a typical Hungarian restaurant called Frici Papa Kifozdéje, which I would recommend if you're looking for a traditional Hungarian experience, without the fuss of the more contemporary restaurants. Everything feels authentic, from the waiters to the dishes, which are hearty, homemade dishes that seem to be cooked by an old Hungarian grandma. The paprika chicken was delicious. There, I also tried the Gundel pancake, a pancake filled with ground walnuts and covered in heavy chocolate cream. If you enjoy alcohol, make sure to get a shot of palinka: sour cherry liquor.

There are a lot of very modern places too, from burger joints to cafes. Go to BITE Bakery Cafe in the morning, for yummy cinnamon rolls and good coffee.

*

Budapest is a wonderful destination, and I could never recommend visiting it enough. Don't be afraid of visiting in the winter - you will avoid the crowds and still have a great experience. Give yourself at least four to five days to see as much as you want, and get to know Hungarian culture - not something we hear about every day, right?

Have you been to Budapest?
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32 comments:

  1. Budapest looks so cool. I've never been but it's definitely one to add to the list!

    Anika | anikamay.co.uk

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    1. It should definitely be on your list! xx

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  2. I really hope to go here one day ! Looks amazing

    jadieegosh

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  3. Once the kids are a little older, we plan to take more city trips around Europe, and Budapest is definitely on the list. Right now they are too small to enjoy a day of visiting.

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    1. They would definitely struggle with all the walking, but one day they'll get to appreciate places like that! xx

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  4. Oh so much beautiful architecture; even the bridge looks as though it belongs in a romantic scene from a film! I adore the image of you in the outdoor baths by the way; such a fabulous travel image!!

    aglassofice.com x

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    1. Budapest could be a most beautiful setting for a romantic film, you're right! Thank you Gabrielle, I couldn't believe we were almost the only ones in the baths that morning! xx

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  5. This is so much fun! If there's a chance for me to visit there, then I will definitely cherish the moment! Such a nice place indeed! ��

    -Katrina | katrinaisha.wordpress.com

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  6. Your pictures are wonderful! I've been to Budapest many years ago, for New Years Eye and it was lovely, but it was very busy that we couldn't see a lot of things. I'm glad you had a lovely time. x

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    1. Well I hope you go back one day Anca, to see what you missed! xx

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  7. I love this guide (and of course the photos!) and I would love to visit Budapest one day!

    franalibi.blogspot.co.uk

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  8. I thinks Budapest is really a beautiful place to visit.
    Click here to get more traffic

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    1. It really is, beauty at every corner! xx

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  9. Budapest looks dreamy indeed. I adore how gothic all buildings are. The fisherman bastion is something beyond compare, it is such an incredible location!

    Cate ღ 35mm in Style

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    1. I love those Gothic revival vibes too! Fisherman's Bastion is so unique, never seen anything like it, though you have the same type of beautiful buildings in Sintra, next to Lisbon! xx

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  10. Budapest is one of my favorite cities.
    I think there should be more hype around this city.
    Amazing photo selection.
    xx
    https://theonethattravels.wordpress.com/

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    1. It's definitely becoming a more popular destination now! xx

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  11. Ooooh it's so pretty! Such gorgeous photos Julia, I had no idea Budapest was such an idyllic place, I would love to visit one day :D xx

    elizabeth ♡ ”Ice Cream” whispers Clara

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    1. You'd love the romantic vibe there Elizabeth! xx

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  12. I've never been to Budapest before, but I'd love to. It sounds like you had a lovely time xx

    GemmaEtc.com

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    1. I had the best time ever! Thanks for stopping by Gemma :) xx

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  13. Mattias Church / Fisherman's Bastion are so beautiful! I really want to go back to Budapest, though I do remember struggling for food as the cuisine is so meaty haha

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

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    1. Oh yes there's meat everywhere, not the best place for vegan options! xx

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  14. Budapest is a gorgeous city, I was there two weeks ago and absolutely adore the city, the fisherman's bastion and the st. stephen's basilica are my favorite places!

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    1. I'm not surprised you enjoyed it - I've never heard anything bad from people who visited! xx

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  15. Oh it looks like you had an amazing time!! I would kill to visit one day

    www.petiteelliee.com

    Ellie x

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  16. With a huge fan following who have been witnessing the charm and tranquility of the city through movies and biopics, Budapest have now emerged as among the most picturesque and fascinating cities in the Europe
    Helene Goldnadel

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