The last stop of our 4-week Eastern Europe trip (but definitely not the least) was Budapest. I was most excited for this city for numerous reasons — I was seeing some friends who I haven’t seen in months; I couldn’t wait to see the sites especially the architecture (I hear it’s like walking back in time); I wanted to relax in their Turkish Baths and lastly have a taste of their famous Palinka.
We stayed at the Opera Residences, a place I would recommend for families, couples or friends who visit Budapest. It has a large space with a kitchen, washing facilities and best part – WIFI. It’s right behind Budapest’s State Opera that has lots of cafés and entertainment just around the corner. Andrássy Avenue and the Váci utca shopping street are just a few steps away from the Opera Residence.
We arrived in Budapest from Bratislava in the late afternoon and only had enough time to see the area where we were staying. The Opera House was right at the back of our hotel so naturally it would be the first one to see. This building is centuries old – didn’t I tell you it was like walking back in time? Up until today they hold concerts here.
St. Itzvan Cathedral
This cathedral is just walking distance to our hotel and it is very hard to miss since it’s one of the tallest buildings you’ll see in this city.
We walked around where we were staying and took photos of the residential buildings which were so beautiful! Just look at the details of these buildings! The entire city had buildings like these.
On our second day we woke up really early and started our walking tour of the city. First stop was the Danube where it is said to have one of the best views in the world which is why it is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. True enough, despite the weather, the view of the Buda side was amazing!
Walking around the Pest Embarkment is very interesting because in just about every corner, a sculpture greets you with a unique story to tell. Some might be familiar to you like Peter Pan sitting on the railings.
This is one of the best photos of Dad, EVER! (I miss hugging your tummy, my darling. I love you!)
We continued walking and walking without caring where we would end up, the buildings were really something. This building behind us is the Gresham Palace – Four Seasons. Did I mention the F1 race was held in Budapest and the F1 racers were staying at this hotel? I was wishing to see at least one of them.
Our feet took us to the Budapest Parliament House. This has got to be one of the best architectural structures I have ever seen – just look at the intricacy of that building and the gardens that surround it make it even more beautiful.
Meet my bestfriend, Sj, who flew to Budapest all the way from Doha, Qatar just to see me for 2 days! She arrived late in the afternoon this day and I had to take her back to all the places that we went to today. Being in an unfamiliar place with the best people you could ever be with is one of the best experiences you could ever have.
Szabadag Ter – one of the many parks in the city. I wouldn’t forget this park because of Ronald Reagan and we spent almost 20 minutes playing with the fountain — it was like being in Disneyland.
St. Itzvan Ter
At the back of the Cathedral are (ironically) a lot of bars where we spent almost every night drinking. There are also a lot of little souvenir shops and restaurants in the area which makes it a tourist magnet but be careful with pick pockets, there are so many in this city.
More sculptures around the city we saw walking back to our apartment.
MY parents were very happy to see Sj visit them at the apartment. My dad always loved it when he saw my bestfriend and I love how she always made him smile and laugh. This is definitely one of the best memories I have.
That evening, one of our very good friends also flew to Budapest from Brussels to spend time with us. We met her up at her hotel and she took us to Mini Budapest for dinner. The restaurant was trendy; had wine bar vibe with a good variety of tapas and light meals which we ordered a lot of and the dessert was mouth-watering. It was really great having a mini reunion with these lovely ladies together with this fine young gentleman, my brother.
This is one of Budapest main streets. This is 2.5-kilometer long street that’s filled with parks, old buildings and interesting remnants of WWII such as the House of Terror.
Heroes’ Square, where Andrássy Avenue ends, is the biggest square of Budapest. In the middle stands the Millenium Monument where we saw people climbing up on and we found ourselves doing exactly the same.
We had to say goodbye to Sj! It was so sad to see her go. Even though we only had 2 days, this trip was one of the best
If you’re up for some shopping, you’ll go crazy in Váci utca, a kilometer long of designer shops and restaurants where no motor vehicles are allowed. Vaci Utca starts off at Vörösmarty tér where the famous Gerbeaud is (said to be Budapest’s most famous confectioner) and ends in Elizabeth bridge.
I thank my friend Jennifer for taking us to one of Budapest’s covered market halls called the Central Market Hall (the biggest covered market of the city) located at the end of Vaci Utca in Fővám tér. The building is really beautiful, you wouldn’t even expect it to be a market inside. It has “VASARC SARNOK” written at the entrance of the building.
When we walked in, I thought we were in the main train station! It’s an entire warehouse full of stalls! The first floor were stalls selling produce, meats, pastries, candies, spices and other local delicacies (fresh or canned); on the second floor was more on traditional Hungarian items and typical souvenir products made in Hungary. TIP: try their deep-fried snack called Langos.
The market is always worth a visit – you get to see where locals buy their delicacies and you can get a taste of excellent Hungarian homemade food like goose pate (my dad went crazy) and the sausages; here you can do some shopping for “pasalubongs”.
There are different ways to reach the Buda Castle but the best way is to take the The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular or Budavári Sikló – It’s a steep railway that takes you right at the foot of the castle. It’s quite an experience.
Sightseeing the castle district would probably take you a few hours – the place is just big and there are a lot of places to see in the area. From way up here, you see the marvelous view of the Danube, its bridges as well as the nicest parts of Pest like the Parliament, the Cathedral, Gresham Palace and the Chain Bridge.
If you haven’t noticed, almost all the cities in the world have that one famous bridge such as the Tower Bridge, Pont Alexander, Harbour Bridge, Charles Bridge and the list goes on… For Budapest, it’s the Chain Bridge – this is the first bridge in the city that connected the Pest and Buda side. This is probably the most famous one because you get to see a great view of the Buda Castle in the background.
Trinity Square and Fisherman’s Bastion
This is part of the Castle hill and is one busy square! Here you’ll see couples getting married and horse carriages and so much more things you don’t get to see everyday like a 700 year old church (Matthias Cathedral)
On the very last day, when all my friends left, my family and I spent most of the day in Városliget (City Park) which is a public park in Budapest where the most famous Thermal Bath is located (Szechenyi Bath). For a truly Hungarian experience, you can put this on your list. You can take the metro, go down Szechenyi Furdo and it takes you right at the entrance of the Baths.
Part of the City Park is the Vajdahunyad Castle surrounded by a pond that has sculptures in it that makes you think a great flood passed through it. (Budapest is one creative city)
I’m sure I missed a lot of things to see and do but that’s up to you to add more on the list I have here. As for me, I had the best time in Budapest with the best people I could ever be with. You know that saying “it’s not the place, it’s the company”? Well, in this case, it was both!
(May 28-June 01, 2011)