Hello, I don't know if you know this but I have done some travelling recently. I went to Budapest with my sister and her friend in late April and I returned from a three-stop trip in Greece with my housemates several days ago. I thought I should stop procrastinating and write about my travels before I forget everything. I wanted to make it a little more interesting and useful to read so I'll split up Budapest, as we were only there for a short time, into specific categories like Food and Sightseeing etc. So this is Budapest.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, famous for their thermal baths, gorgeously fascinating ruin bars and majestic Parliament building. The city is split into two separate parts Buda and Pest, bisected by the River Danube and connected by several old bridges named after historically important people. Buda is also known as the royal city, you can always tell which side of the bridge you are on because Buda contains the hills and Pest is completely flat and is also home to the distinctive Parliament building. Pest is home to the city dwellers and traders of the capital.
We stayed in All-4-U apartments, which is an affordable, clean, centrally located block of apartments with friendly staff and all the amenities you could possibly desire. It was almost too nice, I didn't want to leave. They even had a hairdryer, a washing machine, a fridge, a microwave. It's like being at home.
When you have limited amount of time in a place, then the tour buses that cities often employ can be very useful. We paid 6000 Forints for a two-day bus tour, which included a free lunch, and use of the green and pink bus for the entirety of our stay as well as a boat tour. The green bus stops at 17 tourist attractions, and the pink bus only stops at 10 (two are the same, but the rest are different), the pink bus takes a more scenic route along the River Danube.
As for sights, on the first day we arrived in the afternoon and decided to check out Szechenyi Baths, which was built in 1917 making it one of the oldest thermal baths in Budapest. Entry was 5000 Fts. Aside from the old structure, and the fact that you can play chess in the pool and there is a tiny wave pool in the middle I found it to be a little underwhelming, I am not entirely convinced by the purported healing qualities of the pool but it looks like a good time and people claim it is a good hangover cure. Fortunately, it is located near the City Park which is very beautiful and tranquil.
The next two days we made use of the bus tour, the first day was spent on the green bus tour which travelled around Pest and then crossed the bridge to Buda, the bus had audio so enlightened us on interesting facts as we drove around the city. The audio informs us of the history of Budapest, what the meaning behind certain statues are, how the roads were modelled on Paris and when the metro system came about. My favourite part was learning about the story behind certain bridges, I am not sure if that is interesting to everyone so I'll spare you the details. The Chain Bridge is recognised as a tourist attraction, though, as it was the first bridge constructed to connect Buda and Pest together completed in 1849, it took 9 years to build.
There are many other notable sights, for instance, The Parliament Building, whose architectural design is Gothic, is spectacular both during the day and at night and impossible to miss with its red roof and haunted house appeal. St Stephen's Basillica, a very impressive cathedral.
My personal favourite, The House of Terror Museum, which was literally the headquarters for the Nazi Party when they were still around, the museum plays videos of soldiers and civilians discussing that very difficult period of their lives, it is very moving. They also have sheets of information about Budapest during that time and how they progressed. There are actual dungeons and cells in the basement where people were helped captive.
On a cheerier note, the Citadella in Buda, which is a fortress on Gelert Hill, it offers amazing views of the city and again has historical importance. Budapest is very rich in history and has been home to many important people like Nobel Prize winners and opera singers. Also to see, there is, The Market Place, which is something every European capital seems to possess and is essentially a market full of raw meat and souvenirs which is just bustling with activity during the day, a great place to haggle and get some cool stuff to forcibly shove into your suitcase and gift to friends and Margaret Island which is a small island (around 2.5km long) in the middle of the River Danube, mostly made up of parks.
Heroes Square is one of the biggest squares in Budapest and is known for the iconic statue of the Seven Chieftans as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the middle of the square is a statue of the Angel Gabriel on a very high column. The Museum of Fine Arts (possibly the coolest building ever) and the Art Gallery can also be found in Heroes Square so it is definitely worth a visit. It is located just in front of the City Park and is a wonderful area to walk around.
There are many other sights to see in Budapest, many museums and castles, there is an old synagogue and even a palace, but we just did what we could in the time we had. One of the coolest places we went to was a ruin bar called Szimpla Kert, it is literally a huge bar in a castle, with mismatched decor, hidden rooms with TVs strung around, a giant disco ball, a garden and a colourful atmosphere. I love it. I doubt you will ever in your life go anywhere else like it. Their cocktails are pretty great too.
Food, for me, is one of the most important parts of a holiday, it can make or break the trip. Hungarians take their food, and their meat, very seriously and it is surprisingly quite traditional. Goulash soup is one of their more traditional dishes, a filling soup/stew with beef and coarsely chopped vegetables that were easy to make for farmers back in the day. We got a free bowl as part of our bus tour deal at a place called NKA which is near Astoria (a fancy and frankly overrated hotel). I liked it.
As mentioned, most traditional Hungarian dishes use a variety of meat, which translates into a heavenly place for me. I tried deer, duck, chicken, they had it all and it was all delicious. We went to three different restaurants and I would say my favourite was Spiler which was near our apartment, they do the most amazing berry iced tea, the most refreshing tea I have ever drank in my life. They do a burger there called Juicy Lucy which is an ordinary beef burger except the burger is stuffed with melted cheese. Yes. My favourite meal was chicken paprikash which I had in Trattoria Mama. We also went to Cafe Vian where I had duck. All great places, but the last two did charge for service.
We went to two places worth mentioning, the first is Fanki Donuts which we walked past on the way to the thermal baths. I had a raspberry and white chocolate donut which has altered the way I regard donuts for the rest of my life. I simply expect more from them now, I wish I could go back in time and eat it again it was that good.
Finally, we went to Goamama which is a cafe and they do a gorgeous white hot chocolate which is not as sickly sweet as the one Costa bring out every Christmas. It's frothy and deliciously perfect, like a warm hug for your throat, they also have a great selection of cakes so naturally we sampled all of them.
Of course, there was the ruin bar which is unmissable, but we also checked out Instant Bar and Liter Bar. Instant Bar is nothing special, we went on a Monday night and it wasn't particularly lively apart from a group of boys on a stag dressed as Oompa Loompas complete with glittery wigs. Liter Bar had a 2 for 1 cocktail did, one of my favourite things of life, they were understaffed but the drinks were great. A good place to chill and relax after a hectic day running around the city.