Forget Paris And Rome, Budapest Is The New ‘It’ City To Travel To.
Budapest is one of the most stunning cities in Europe and has emerged as the new hotspot to travel to. Being Hungarian, I was born in Canada but obtained citizenship ten years ago, I can attest that adding Budapest to your European itinerary will be a wonderful addition to your travels.
When you arrive in Budapest and step onto the pathway that lines the Danube River, you will immediately become mesmerized by the grandiose historical buildings, monuments, and bridges. While you delve into the city center, roaming the plazas and tree-lined boulevards, the upbeat and engaging social scene will draw you in. Unlike the tourist cities of London, Paris, and Rome where you feel like a stranger among a close-knit family, Budapest will welcome you with a tight and warm embrace. It will charm your pants off (literally) and make you forget those ‘other’ famous European cities.
Budapest is divided into two areas, Buda and Pest, separated by the seconded longest river in Europe, the Danube. Buda, with its steep hills and suburban charm, has the Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and The Castle Hill Funicular. From any of these spots, take in the sweeping views of Pest. Pest, flat and easy to navigate houses the gothic style Parliament House, world-famous thermal pools, and funky ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter.
Grab a bike, put on your walking shoes or hail a taxi. Whatever mode of transport you choose, be ready for Budapest to penetrate your soul. Oh, and don’t forget your swimsuit and towel!
WHAT TO DO, SEE AND EAT WHILE IN BUDAPEST
Bike, walk or take a ride up the steep 147-year-old Castle Hill Funicular to Buda Hill where Buda Castle resides. Wander freely in the outdoor courtyards, enjoy the views of the Danube River and Pest from Fisherman’s Bastion, or take a peek inside Matthias Church. There are many guided tours to choose, one of which takes you wine tasting deep into the underground wine cellars.
Uri Utca (Street) Castle Hill District
After exploring Buda Hill, walk over to this Medieval era neighborhood, grab an ice cream and get lost in these charming streets. Have your camera on hand as you will want to photograph the facades of the homes and shops – a mix of gothic and baroque architecture.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
This 2.5km long Island lays between Buda and Pest in the middle of the Danube. Spend a quiet afternoon away from the crowds of the city and enjoy the green space, medieval ruins, water park, musical fountains and enchanting rose and Japanese gardens. In the evening take in a show at their open-air theater under the stars.
Budapest’s restaurant scene is taking over Eastern Europe as the gastronomic destination – Michelin star restaurants combined with more classic bistros are serving incredible Hungarian cuisine. Don’t fret about ‘trip advising’ what eatery to head to, just wander, read the menus and head into the ones that seem busy and more of the ‘local’ hang out. Make sure to try traditional favorites like Goulash Stew atop tiny nokedly dumplings, paprikás csirke (chicken paprika) or Lángos (fried dough) smothered with garlic butter, sour cream, and cheese. Don’t forget dessert! Gesztenyepüré is a sweet spaghetti like treat made of chestnut, sugar, vanilla and sometimes rum but always topped with whipped cream; Dobos-torta, a chocolate buttercream sponge cake with caramel is a true Hungarian classic; but my favorite is the sour cherry Strudel, pure indulgence. If you want to splurge and devour traditional treats, Café Gerbeaud is a must visit. It was my grandfathers favorite as both a young boy and a grown adult. He knows his sweets so you won’t be disappointed. I promise!
Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház)
This architectural marvel, completed in 1904, is the largest Parliament building in Europe and one of the most impressive. With 691 rooms, this stately gothic style building will entice you inside. If a tour is not your thing, admire in close proximity, this building will make your draw drop!
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Located in the stunning City Park Városliget, this 100-year-old medicinal public bathhouse is the most popular in Budapest, therefore, one of the busiest. The 18 thermal pools, outdoor swimming pool, steam chambers, and saunas are packed with locals and tourists wanting to relax. Warm yourself in the hot pools then immerse in the cooling pool for a refreshing pick me up. Head outside to bask in the warm sun, watch men play water chess or indulge in a Swedish massage. Looking for a carbon dioxide bath or a complex balneotherapy treatment? Obtain a Doctors note and enjoy the many medicinal treatments. There are lockers, towel service and even bathing suit rentals.
Heroes Square (Hősök tere)
At the end of the stunning and popular Andrássy Avenue is Heroes Square, this Unesco World Heritage Site pays homage to the tomb of the unknown soldier and the Millenium Memorial. Built in 1900, Heroes Square honors the arrival of the Seven Chieftains and its tribes 1000 years earlier. This is one of the most photographed monuments in Budapest and the place where you can visit the Museum of Fine Arts.
Budapest Ruin Bars
The coolest nightlife spot in Eastern Europe is found in the old Jewish Quarter of Pest. Ruins of abandoned buildings, homes and secret courtyards have become a Pest fixture for late night partiers. These hip and off beat ‘bars’ are the perfect place to either ‘rave’ or spend an evening socializing with locals and travelers. Many to choose from, so bar hop for a fun and quirky night out.