3 Days in Budapest

Parliament
Budapest, Hungary

June 15 – 18, 2015

3 Days in Budapest. Visiting Budapest has been on my bucket list since 2007. The jaw dropping city first caught my eye when I saw a photo one of my college friends posted (he was studying abroad at the time). Since then, I have come across numerous breathtaking photos of the Hungarian Parliament lit up along the Danube River and various “where to go in Europe” travel postings with Budapest at the top of the list. Every year since 2007 I had thought about going to Budapest and I finally made it June of this year!
 
After a long day of traveling from Dubrovnik to Budapest (it was tough to get a direct flight), I arrived in the late evening the night of the 15th and departed at the crack of dawn on the 19th – this really only gave me three full days to explore the two cities: Buda and Pest. Buda is on the west side of the Danube River and offers panoramic views of the city as it is primarily set on a hill, while Pest is as flat as a prairie but charming in its own.
 
Day 1: St. Stephen’s Basilica, Walking Tour, Jewish Quarters, Drinks in the Park
Ego sum via veritas et vita.
Starting my day at St. Stephen’s Basilica where “I am the way, the truth, and the life” is written across the front, I joined the local Free Walking Tour touring Budapest for three hours by foot. I’ve found that these tours are the best way to get your bearings of a new city and smartest thing to do on Day 1. During the tour, I learned about some of the history of Budapest – how it was occupied by the Germans during WWII, how the famous Chain Bridge that connects Buda and Pest was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1947, and even about the little things like how the lions tongues are actually present within the statues that guard the famous bridge (they cannot be not seen at first site). I also learned that the Hungarians, at least in Budapest, are big on their statues and superstitions. So scattered throughout Pest are numerous bronze statues like the Hungarian Police Man and the Little Princess statue by the water – don’t forget to rub policeman’s belly and mustache for good luck!
 
In the afternoon, we eventually made our way up Castle Hill to the Palace, St. Matthius Church, and the Fisherman’s Bastion which was built in the 19th century and served as a lookout tower. The views from Buda are quite stunning – honestly, everything I had imagined and more. Buda is much cleaner and nicer than Pest – the streets pristine, the colors of the buildings pastel, and it is far more fairytale charming than Pest. I suspect it might be very expensive to stay on the Buda side though, or at least by the castle. Now St. Matthius Chruch, I have never seen a church that shares the artwork of its roof’s tiles. The mosaic tiles on the roof of the unique medieval Hungarian church differentiates this gem from all other churches I have seen in Europe.
 
Later that evening, I strolled through the Jewish Quarters with my new friend Tyler who I met on the walking tour and who also happens to be born on the same day as me! One of my favorite memories of being in Budapest was grabbing beers at one of the small tobacco shops on the side of the road and sitting in the park in Erzsébet tér, the largest green area in Budapest’s inner city. It reminded me of the summer nights I spent in Paris where young locals and tourists drink under the night sky, under the lit up structures around them, enjoying the company of their friends.  
 
Day 2: Szechenyl Baths, River Cruise Along the Danube 
Treat Yourself Spa Day. After traveling for four weeks, my body was just straight exhausted and worn down so I decided to spend my day at the Szechenyl Baths located in Városliget, the City Park. Budapest is well-known for its thermal waters and there are actually about 123 natural springs throughout the city making a visit to one of the famous thermal baths a definite must for anyone! From my hotel, I headed up Andassy Street, which is famous for its shopping, along the way I stopped at the Opera to pick up a ticket for next day, and then moseyed my way up through the park and to the bath house.
 
Szechenyl Baths is a monument within itself. If you can put the fact that you’re swimming in pools with hundreds of other people aside, the thermal baths are quite lovely. I spent about 4-hours pool and sauna hopping, oh and I treated myself to a one-hour Swedish massage. The massage wasn’t anything special but my worn out, exhausted body appreciated it. A few things to remember, bring your swimsuit, flip flops, and towels. Lockers (4500 HUF) vs. Cabins (5000 HUF), just get a locker – the cabin was tiny and it literally is just a changing room. You’re better off changing in the locker room where there is more room.
 
After the Thermal baths, rested and relaxed, all I wanted to do was sleep so I went back to my hotel for a siesta. For dinner, I found a cute little modern Mediterranean restaurant called Divin Porcello by the water. It was the perfect spot and very close to where my evening river cruise departed from. The River Cruise – another highlight of my visit. In that one hour river tour, I saw the beauty of Budapest transition from day to night with all its lights lit from one side of the river to the the other. When I saw the Parliament building light up against the deep blue night sky, I had to pinch myself. It didn’t seem real – everything was too beautiful, it was perfect.
 
Day 3: Central Market, New York Cafe, Parliament, Tram, Opera
My last and final day in Budapest was jammed packed. I hit up the Central Market in the morning where you can find everything from paprika to butchered meat to fresh fruit to touristy souvenirs. Compared to other central markets I have been to, the central market in Budapest was much more open and less crowded – although, I’m sure it is busy on the weekend. Nonetheless, it is definitely worth a visit.
 
For lunch, I went to the Grand New York Cafe in the highly esteemed Boscolo Hotel. For a quick lunch at a 5-star hotel with an intricate dining room bult for the rich and famous, I’d expect to pay at least $50, I spent about $25! Budapest can actually be very cheap! My first night I had a delicious 4-course meal at a French restaurant – my tab was only $14!
 
I spent the afternoon exploring the grounds of the historical Parliament, the 3rd largest in the world, and then took the famous Tram #2 along the Danube back to my hotel. The tram was great – being as old as it is, the tram has a lot of character and offers spectacular views of Buda just across the river.

My last stop was Magyar Állami Operaház, the Budapest Opera House which is absolutely stunning inside. Up the red carpet lined stairs is a magical building of history, romance, and art. I almost felt as if I were in a fairy tale. The ticket I purchased was in a private box and although 2nd “row” (literally, the chair behind the first), there was no one in front of me so I ended up paying $14 for a front row private box seat – it was pretty awesome. Now, if only the show was just as awesome. I grew up going to musicals in NY on Broadway so I guess the bar is set pretty high. Unfortunately, when deciding between getting a couple of extra hours of sleep before my early morning flight or watching an opera where the storyline just wasn’t there, I chose sleep. I may have also snuck in a late dinner at the local Thai restaurant – there’s only so much goulash and heavy stews one can have!

Well, that wraps my 3 days in Budapest and three days was a perfect amount of time. Generally, everything was relatively cheap and affordable. Compared to other places in Europe, including Croatia, I see why Budapest is on the top bang for your buck destinations to visit.
 
Love always,
Katt

 

 

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One response to “3 Days in Budapest

  1. Pingback: One Month in Europe | Working to Travel·

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