Budapest (pronounced Budapesht) is a stunningly beautiful city and the more you walk around and discover the different areas the more beauty you will find. Nevertheless, amongst all of this splendour lies a history dripping with terror and death and whilst exploring the streets and the river Danube, the buildings and monuments will remind you of a past filled with communism, Secret Police and the attempted extermination of its Jewish population.
I have personally been following the river Danube through a few countries now and for some reason walking along it in Budapest filled me with melancholy. Maybe it was seeing the brass shoes that commemorated the Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis, maybe it was the atmosphere of the city celebrating their 60-year anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Bloody Thursday, maybe it was saying goodbye to friends, or maybe it was a combination that made me stop in the middle of Elisabeth bridge connecting Buda and Pest together over the Danube where tears fell down my cheeks and into the river below as I looked out onto both sides of the city. The sky that day was grey and the rain fell lightly as I felt something erupt from deep within me and then disappear. I honestly cannot to this day describe what happened as I stood on that bridge but as I continued to walk along the sun began to shine again… I guess it was just another mystery of Budapest.
Things to do:
Budapest has two main sides: Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other. Buda is the hilly side and Pest the flatter side and there are so many things to do on each. It is certainly difficult to get bored in this city.
Here is a list of my personal favourites:
Free walking tours: Free Budapest Walk- A great way to see the city with some great information, humour and awareness of the tourist traps in Budapest.
- Hiking up Gellért Hill to the Liberty Statue for a view of the city
- Walking around the Buda Castle grounds and Fisherman’s Bastion
- Castle Garden Bazaar (this also leads up to Buda Castle)
- Thermal Spa Baths- A MUST!! Some with five different pools ranging in a variety of temperatures from 28 to 42 degrees Celsius
- Walking along the bridges- Definitely a place of reflection as you look upon the city and river.
- There is also another look out point at the end of the white bridge on the Buda side which is beautiful.
Shoes by the Danube- a very humbling and saddening sight of sixty pairs of shoes to commemorate those who were shot into the Danube by the Nazis
St Stephens Basilica and the creepy mummified hand- The Basilica being architecturally beautiful and the mummified hand stored in glass case being super weird
Ruin bars- A favourite! Old abandoned buildings now turned into some pretty cool bars.
More Thermal Spa Baths- No explanation needed.
Alexandra Book Café- A cafe above a book store near the Oktogon. Excellent food/drink and stunning décor.
There are so many other things to do in this city but I wanted to highlight my own personal favourites instead of listing all of the tourist things to do.
Food and Drink to try:
Halászlé- a spicy fish soup
Lángos- A deep fried flatbread with garlic sauce, sour cream and cheese… (I only got through half as I imagined my arteries clogging from the amount of grease and fat I was ingesting)
Cakes and pastries in general but definitely try the Örség zöld aranya- it’s full of layers and is delicious!
Let’s not forget Hungarian wine
I absolutely loved my time in Budapest, I met some great people on the walking tour, in my hostel and of course I saw Team Aus again.
But it is important to note that although Budapest is a fantastic city to explore there are some things to remember:
Do NOT hail down a taxi. Always call one first and make sure you bargain your fare before you get into the car. If in doubt you are better to walk or get public transport. Budapest is a very walkable city.
I was also warned not to say “Thank you” before getting my change back as it means that they can keep the change, Always check the prices of things and sit with the menu throughout your meal as they will hike up the cost of your meal and give you ‘tourist’ prices if you don’t, don’t leave the tip on the table and walk away, and if you’re a guy AVOID girls who try to get friendly with you in order to take you to a bar- their job is to get drinks at high prices out of you and they work with the bars.
From my conversations with the locals other than tourism it is the nightlife in Budapest which really sets it apart. The drinks are cheap and the ruin bars really are impressive. But in all honesty, I loved walking around the city and taking in its sights just as much as the infamous ruin bars and find it hard to choose one over the other.
But go and explore for yourself, Budapest won’t disappoint!