This city is the result of union of two cities on 1874: Buda, Pest and Obuda Island. Divided by one of the most imponent European rivers, the Danube, the Hungarian capital city left us hypnotized. Sometimes it´s left behind of our trip plan or just relegated to the famous “three days are enough”, but Budapest has a magical magnetism.
With lack of sleep and burning eyes, we did some time in the early morning at the lobby of the Wombats City Hostel, until it was time to meet Melinda from Cityrama. “In Budapest there are more than 1,700,000 inhabitants. The Danube river rises in the Black Forest in Germany and flows into the Black Sea, Romania. It has the oldest subway line of the European continent -1896” Melinda is a computer center. She knows the right moment to make a pause, when to give some minutes to take pictures, or just when she can make a joke.
That was just the beginning of a 5-days periplus in the Hungarian capital and surroundings. The following information is a sort of guide of some “unmissables” to fully enjoy Budapest.
1- Wandering around Buda, Fisherman Bastion, St. Mathias Church and Geller Mount. Then, lose yourself near the Castle, and its patios.
The are two ways to go up the 48 mts that separate the Danube shore from the Castle. Funicular or stairs. The Buda Castle – World Heritage Site from 1987- imponent from every angle. Besides its historical value, it has the best sights of Pest and the Chains Bridge. In one of the patios it´s the beatiful Mathias Corvino´s Fountain.
The views from the Fishermen´ Bastion are spectacular. It was named like that because of the fishermen union which mission was to defend this side of the city and it was built for an international exhibition on the year 1896. Mathias Church –XIII century- is the most famous catholic church in Budapest. Its roof is made of Zsolnai ceramic. It had been destroyed during the WW2 and was rebuilt into baroque style during the last ten years, thanks to the support of the EU.
Here you can find many antique buildings from XVII and XVIII century. One of the highest points of Budapest is Mount Gellert, named after the bishop who came from Venece to join King St. Stephan in his fight against pagans. Also in this high hill stands the liberty statue in tribute to those who fell on WW2.
For a break go to Ruzswurm-1827. A pearl for coffee lovers and pastry, Don´t leave without tasting Dobos Tart, Sissi´s favourite.
2- Pest: where the Paliament´s inmensity rests.
In Pest, Melinda recommends the Four Seasons Hotel, the most expensive in the city, where the cheapest room costs five thousand euros without breakfast. “Maybe in another life”, she finishes staring at all us, who have paid about 25 euros per person for the tour.
In this side lives most of the population of the capital. Pest leaves behind the lordly Buda. Crowded pedestrian streets, rushing black-coated workers, students running late, tourists everywhere, embassies, souvenir shops, restaurants and coffee shops give life to the vibrant Pest. This half of the city is connected to Buda by the Chains Bridge, that in spite of being flanqued by lions, it´s called “Chains” because of its architectonical style. From the bridge you can see the Statue of Liberty, on the top of Mount Gellert. Before, there had been a statue of a Russian soldier. When the communism fell on 1989, all monuments were removed, and the funny thing is that a park full of Russian statues was established outside the city.
Budapest´s Jewish neighborhood is another interesting spot. Its great synagogue, on Dohany St, is the second largest in the world and it has more golden ornaments than the parliament. Walking around this streets and bumping into the Carl Lutz monument, Swiss diplomatic who saved more than 62 jews, is moving.
In Franz Liszt´s city, Austro Hungarian outstanding composer, music doesn´t split past. On the beautiful Andrássy avenue- World heritage-, the Hungarian National Opera House, neo-renaissence style, is worth a visit. Some funny facts: Incidents took place during its big opening on 1884 because of an avalanche provoqued by many impacient aristocrats, which left several injured. Also, at the time it was built, the building couldn´t be bigger than the Vienna State Opera. If you have time, don´t hesitate to go to any of the shows- tickets are from 500 fl. o 2 dollars.
Other icon is the Hero Square, with statues of leaders of the fight for independence. Believe it or not, there´s a replica of the square in Shangai. No doubt, the Chinese are kings of copies. Melinda adds more curious facts: Did you know that Puskas is buried inside St Stephan Basilica?
3 – Not only joining bridges.
During the WWII, 60% of the city was destroyed. The seven bridges across the Danube were bombed and then reconstructed in their original style. Nowadays, there are ten bridges, among which stands out the modern Sissi Bridge. Therefore, for its architecture and beauty, Paris is the only competitor for Budapest.
There´s a legend for every bridge. Tells the story that the architect who designed the lions on the Chain Bridge -the oldest from 1849- forgot to make them tongues, so he became depressed and killed himself. But forget the sad part of the story. During the day, looking at every detail, or at night, fully illuminated, these bridges are worth to admire.
4 – Danube river boat.
Another great perspective of Budapest is from a boat ride. There are different choices, from a simple boat tour, to a fancy dinner on board. Our tour began at late afternoon, sailing under the famous bridges, and with beautiful sights of the Buda Castle, Gellert Hotel, and The Parliament, Hungarian symbol. Before sailing, you get an audioguide and a beer, a champagne, water or a soda.
5- Ruin Bars: the art of recycling
Old recycled buildings, with a surreal decoration are other attraction at the Jewish neighborhood. Those buildings look like they are about to fall into pieces so they must adjust to many legal regulations in order to work as bars. Old furniture, religious paintings, graffitis, paper statues, cars cut in half to use then as seats, and a room full of teddy bears waiting for their drinks are part of the visual.
We recommend Szimpla Kert (The simple garden)-Kazinczy 14- to go for some beers and a Egri Bikavér red wine. One advice: If you want to go room by room to take a deep look into this eccentricity, go before 20hs to avoid big crowds.
6- If you came to Budapest and you don´t take a thermal bath, you haven´t been to Budapest.
After a long walk around Budapest, the best thing is to take a relaxing thermal bath. There are 47 thermal spas at reasonable prices. Behind the Hero´s Square, is the Széchenyi thermal baths, first therapeutic bath in Pest, built between 1909 and 1913 in modern renaissance style. Water flows from Budapest´s second deepest water well at 1246 meters depth and at 76°C hot.
At the spa, there are several options: from cold water swimming pools, to extremely hot pools which sometimes makes it difficult to stay too long. Indoor pools, outdoor pools, swimming pools or just pools for relaxing. As every business, there are additional services with fares for every budget.
Our advice: go to the pool with mint water. The bad thing: in spite of being really huge, the place is very crowded.
Where did we stay?
Because of its energy, excellent location, professional staff, cleanness, modern common areas, complete breakfast, and safety, Wombats City Hostel Budapest it’s a great place to stay for a reasonable price. The adventurous spirit of a hostel combined with the comfort of a hotel, makes them luxurious hosts.
What travel agency we recommend?
City Tour with Cityrama Budapest. High standard tourism professionals, they organize several kinds of tour in Budapest and sorroundings.
How to get there?
We travelled from Prague to Budapest by bus. Tickets on Busbud.com
Danube Night Boat: with Daube Legend.