Second stop of my #flixperience is Budapest. I didn’t know what to expect from this city as I’ve never heard a lot about it, and having seen it I don’t know why. It’s such an beautiful city, it’s old but not uptight, relaxed but not boring and so modern without leaving behind their own culture. So you guys have to help me to spread the word about Budapest!
The Danube river used to separate two cities: Buda and Pest. As these two grew, they unite to form Budapest (who would have guessed it?). Buda, on the western side of the Danube, hosts the famous castle and the residential area of Budapest, while Pest has much more sights and activities to offer. So when booking a hostel make sure to be on the Pest side.
Hungarian food is really diverse and – to the surprise of the friend I’m traveling with – also very good. A good spot for Hungarian food is the Great Market Hall, here you can find them for a really good price. My first recommendation is the most known one: Goulash. This meat stew is traditionally served in a hollowed bread. I sadly can’t show you a picture of it because I was too focused on eating it all.
Next recommended dish is cabbage rolls. If you are from Europe or western Asia you probably already know them from visiting your grandma, if not you have to try them. This is also a good option for when eating in a restaurant because it’s not really street food.
If you have followed my blog you’ll be familiar with the next one: Langos. This is a fried dough in a pizza shape, mostly without toppings or with cheese only (that’s why they’re also called “Communist Pizza”). At the great market hall in Budapest you can find them with all kinds of topping and even sweet ones with Nutella, I guess they’re not traditional ones but, hey, culture evolves!
And now on to the best kind of food: desserts. If you’ve ever traveled to this area – Czech Republic, Romania, or even Italy – you surely know Chimney Cake. Its dough rolled around a stick and then baked, afterwards you take out the stick and are left behind with a chimney-formed dough. It may sound weird but it is delicious.
And know my last recommendation, the easiest to find as they are available in every supermarket: Pöttyös. It’s a chocolate bar filled with sweet cottage cheese. Depending on the supermarket, there are different flavors available. My favorite was milk chocolate, but you can try them all since one bar is only 100 forints (about 0,30€).
If you search for Budapest on google about 80% percent of the results will be photographs of the Parliament building. So that’s why will start here. If you’re interested to enter it, you should definitely book a tour in advance since it can get busy, it was all booked out during our 3 day stay. (Book here: http://latogatokozpont.parlament.hu/en/introduction). If you’re not interested then there’s no need to come here as you have to be on the other side of the river to get a good picture.
Walking down the Danube river you get to a small monument that can easily be overlooked since it’s only a few centimeters high: the Shoes on the Danube promenade. During second world war many persons were brought here, were ordered to take off their shoes and stand on the edge of the river, so that their bodies would fall into the river when shot. This way nobody had to take care of the bodies afterwards. I read online that this monument is dedicated to the Jews but I later on learned that only about 20% of the here murdered persons were Jews. I mention this because of the many ethnicities and groups that were persecuted and do not get the same remembrance as Jews.
Eventually you’ll get to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, as you cross it try to get a glimpse of the lion statues. There is an urban legend that says that the sculptor was so proud of his lions that he jumped of the bridge when a little boy pointed out that they do not have tongues.
As you enter the Buda side of the city, the Buda castle lies directly before you. Don’t worry, it looks very high and the funicular will look very appealing, but it’s a really easy 5 minutes’ walk up. Don’t expect the interior being like a common castle, since it was completely destroyed. First by war, then by communists. Nowadays Buda castle is used as National Gallery and Budapest history museum. Both entrance fees are about 2000 forints and 1000 forints for students. http://budacastlebudapest.com/open/
On the way to the next sight you can enjoy a beautiful view over the residential part of the city – Buda. The Matthias Church, with its white facade and orange roof, may be one of the most beautiful buildings of this town. During Turkish occupation, it was used as a mosque but due to a restoration you won’t find any Muslim symbols. Right next to the church is the Fishermen’s Bastion, from here you can get the best view over Budapest.
Next, I recommend you to get to the highest point in Budapest: the top of Gellert hill. The bad news is that you must head down to river and climb it all up again. It’s not a difficult hike and there is mostly shade but I do not recommend it for the hottest hours of the day. Once you’re on the top you have a wonderful lookout over the city and can visit the Citadella, a fortress that was built after the Hungarian revolution. There is also the Statue of Liberty, a girl holding a palm leaf, that was first dedicated to the soviets after their liberation in WW2. But in 1989 they changed the inscription to honor Hungarians who gave their lives for the Hungarian independency.
To get to the Great Market Hall you just have to cross the Szabadság Bridge. The great market hall has a very accurate name since it’s Europes biggest indoor market hall. On the first floor, they sell all kinds of foods like vegetables, meat and dairy products and on the second floor you can get souvenirs and traditional dishes. This is surely the easiest place to find souvenirs, but I have found cheaper souvenirs right outside of the great market hall (I guess they have to pay higher rent IN the market hall), so if you have time you can compare the prices.
Next stop is the Grand Synagogue, which – just like the great market – lives up to his name. It is the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest worldwide. But it is a little pricey to go inside (3000 forints/student and 4000 forints /adult).
One of our last stops is St Stephens Basilica. This church has 2 curious stories to tell. First one is about the king the church was named after: Stephen I of Hungary, who lived 900 years before this church was built. For some reason that I didn’t quite understand, they exhumed his body and only his right hand was left. That’s the story on why you can visit a “Holy Right Hand”. And the other story is about the only (complete) body buried in this basilica: you would think that it would be some king or priest, but no, is it a football player. Ferenc Puskás is considered the best hungarian football player, so when he died the only logical thing was to bury him in St. Stephens basilica.
And the last must-see in Budapest is the opera. Try to get cheap tickets as this is one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe. And if you travel during summer break like me, you’re out of luck ’cause they do not offer tours.
Now that you’ve seen and eaten the most important things in Budapest, you’ll be happy to hear to you are in the “party district”. Budapest is very famous for the “Ruin Bars“, old buildings that were reformed into bars and clubs. They are way bigger than normal bars, oftentimes also have open terraces and are decorated in a style that you will feel comfortable immediatly. I normally don’t do pubcrawls because I like being spontaneous and free when going out, but this was the first city that I felt I would miss out on something if I didn’t attend one.
The only thing missing on this list is Heroes Square with it’s park and the Széchenyi Bath, as they are a farer away. But I have been told that going to this termal bath is the best cure for a hangover, so if you’ve had a lot of fun at the pub crawl and have enough time planned I recommend going there.
I hope you liked this guide… if you have any questions, ask!