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Budapest is a city that sprawls majestically over two sides of the Danube and separates into Buda and Pest as a result.
Enjoy the Castles, Museums, Parliament, mouthwatering cuisine and lots of shopping as well.
Many people will pass through Budapest either coming or going to Slovenia.
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Welcome to Budapest, Hungary - What's there to do and see in Budapest?
Budapest comes alive on both sides of the Danube at night. The lights that dance off the river surface remind you that this is a city that never sleeps.
You can curse that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that you wish you could stay forever, but Budapest has a strange way of captivating you.
By day or night there are endless choices of things to do, see and taste. Welcome to Budapest!
Arriving into Budapest!
The hordes arrive into Budapest by plane, car, the increasingly popular river cruise and also the way we came, by train from Vienna.
To say Budapest is a youthful city is an understatement. The train is packed with students who are returning from the country to the big city
to resume their courses. As they file out of Budapest-Keleti like a swarm into the night air, we pass the sinister taxi stands that are to be avoided at all costs apparently
because they like to take the weight off your wallet before you reach your hotel. We decide to walk, the hotel doesn't seem that far but it certainly helps
if you walk in the right direction. We are told by a delightful young lady (who speaks a dozen languages like they all do!) that we are headed into an
industrial area and we must be going the wrong way. Of course she is correct, we came out the wrong entrance and turned left, thus ending up in the wrong location.
We thanked her as we doubled back and got back on course. The streets are lively tonight and there are plenty of bodies out and about.
We get to our hotel and what a great place it is. Probably the best hotel we have stayed at, the Palazzo Zichy is hip, contemporary and modern.
It has style and panache but it also backs that up with outstanding customer service and a breakfast to die for. We did not want to leave the breakfast room
but Budapest awaits...now put that croissant down!
Budapest has a great public transport system that is easy to use. The Metro system has great coverage and there are also buses and trams
that will get you where you want to go once you have mastered which ticket to buy and where to get off. We opted to be "real" tourists and use
the hop-on hop-off bus. I just liked the idea of taking photos from the rooftop and it goes to all the desired tourist stops so why not?
On any subsequent visit, it will be more practical just to use public transport but the hop-on hop-off was fun on the first visit!
To Buda or not to Buda?
The left side of the Danube or "Buda" is home to some amazing sightseeing that can easily take you a few days if you pace yourself and enjoy the views from some magnificant vantage points. Yes, the immediate area to the left of the Danube is quite hilly so be prepared for stairs and more stairs. Starting to the south, Gellert Hill offers stunning views looking down the Danube. Admire the Citadel and pose next to the Freedom Monument before you move on. The Gellert Baths at the base of the hill are also very popular but more about the baths later. Castle Hill is a massive complex of grandeur and history. Buda Castle, the History and National Museum plus the Library and Castle Theatre are all here to explore and enjoy. Views from here are also stunning as you look across the Chain Bridge at Pest on the other side. The cobblestone streets behind Castle Hill are an absolute delight to wander and explore. Stop for a relaxing beer before heading for the Fishermans Bastion. If you continue north you reach Margaret Bridge and here you can explore Margaret Island.
Margaret Island is a great place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It's a favourite spot for joggers, bikers and walkers. The whole island is basically a park so it is nice and green and a great spot for picnics. It might take you a good hour to do a complete circuit. Situated on the island are the popular Palatinus swimming pools which have many pools and waterslides, great for the kids. There is also the Hajós Alfréd which is a pool named after the famous swimmer where many of the top swimmers train. It is suited for more serious swimmers although the public can buy a ticket. You can also go to the spa, rent bikes including the famous 4 seater "bringóhintó". There are also a few monuments and buildings to admire and the whole island is car free!
The Right Side or "Pest"!
Pest contains the main central business district, the beautiful Parliament buildings and the main shopping strip on Vaci St. The whole area from the
Margaret Island down to the Central Market is full of historic buildings, beautifully designed squares and inviting shopping establishments.
Don't forget the myriad of restaurants and bars whose outdoor seating areas line the pavements and are full of thirsty and hungry tourists
and locals. And the people here are so beautiful too, just like Slovenia! You'll find a lot of the big chain hotels in this area along the riverside
and to the south as mentioned earlier is the huge Central Market. This is a mecca of food and definitely an eye opener plus your taste buds will be tempted as well!
One thing Budapest is definitely famous for is their thermal mineral baths. You cannot visit Budapest without sharing in this amazing experience.
There are many across Budapest but the biggest and the best are the Szechenyi, Degaly, Dandar, Gellert, Kiraly, Lukacs and the Rudas.
Some of these baths date back 500 years and the minerals in the water are renowned for their healing powers for certain conditions and diseases.
The Szechenyi Baths is the grand daddy of them all and are the largest in Europe. This is a massive complex of 18 outdoor and indoor pools at different temperatures
where the devoted come back time and time again for medicinal purposes or just to relax. They also offer a full service of steam chambers, saunas, massage, pedicure and
fitness programs plus a full range of medicinal therapies.
Budapest in Review
Budapest is one of the coolest and most lively cities you will ever visit! There's more than enough to see and do for the whole family but just walking the streets and people watching is fascinating enough. Hungarian is a tough and strange language to comprehend so most don't bother. Luckily a lot of people speak a few languages so it's never a problem. bring your camera and your bathers, it's going to be a great holiday any time of year!
Top 10 Sights and things to do in Budapest
1. Castle Hill Precinct (Buda side)
Being elevated gives the Buda side of the Danube a slight advantage over Pest due to the great views. The major feature on this side is of course the Royal Palace. It houses the National Library,
The National Gallery and the History Museum. You could easily spend half a day here, especially if you are an art lover. Behind the palace are the most gorgeous cobblestone streets for you to explore.
You can walk up or take the Funicular, the views of the Chain Bridge and Pest are amazing.
2. Gellert Hill
Poor old St Gellert, the pagans didn’t approve of his campaign to convert the locals and he unceremoniously rolled down the hill from atop of Gellert Hill. The Citadel Fortress is situated up here and also the Liberation Monument which was erected after WW2.
The views of the Danube and Budapest are spectacular and the thermal baths are found at the base of the hill.
3. Pest Side including Vaci Utca
The Pest side is brimming with fascinating architecture, shopping, dining and hotels.
Walk past beautiful town squares, elegant streets and sidewalk cafes. Marvel at such buildings like the Hungarian Academy of the Sciences before heading to Vaci Utca for some retail therapy.
The big name stores are here and you might come across colourful street artists as well! City Park is also a must see and contains the moving Heroes Square and the Szenchenyi Baths as well as a Zoo, Amusement Park and Circus!
4. Fishermans Bastion
Who can forget the sight of Matthias Church and The Fishermans Bastion? Further down from Castle Hill, this area is a tourist favourite. The neo-gothic style of the ‘Bastion” is unique and beautiful. Great views from here too!
5. Margaret Island
As mentioned above, Margaret Island is a great place to get away from it all and enjoy all the parks features. Bring the kids for a picnic and enjoy this wonderful green space.
6. Thermal Baths
Also mentioned above, the baths are world famous and a must-do in Budapest. You will be totally confused by protocol on entering, but this is all part of the fun.
Not recommended for kids, adults will enjoy the soothing qualities of the baths and find it a relaxing tonic after spending a hard day pounding the streets.
The sheer size of Parliament will astound you as well as the attention to detail throughout its 691 rooms and exterior as well. A tour is highly recommended.
8. Central Market
This huge food market is a colourful sight even if you don’t buy anything. Upstairs there are more non-food related stores and there is also a fish market and special events like cultural days where you can taste specialties from different nations! Great fun.
9. Dining in Budapest
Like other European capitals, Budapest has an abundance of places to eat and caters for almost all tastes. Yes, they like to throw paprika into everything but hell, why not? Goulash (served as a soup) before the main meal of Porkolt
(meat, potatoes, paprika, mushrooms and lots of onions!). They do pork particularly well (like the Slovenes) but you find almost anything you like here in Budapest. From high-end to all you can eat buffets, the range is far and wide.
Wash it down with a local wine, beer or palinka (brandy). You won’t go hungry as the streets are lined with cafes and restaurants vying for your patronage. Ask around for a place serving authentic local cuisine!
10. Danube Cruise
After all that food, a night cruise might just be the ticket to calm the belly!
There are many companies offering cruises both day and night with the average tour being 2-3 hours. Up and down the Danube you’ll go, seeing everything there is to see along the shores of the Danube and most come with commentary.
Budapest is quite spectacular by night so treat yourself!