When a friend asked me for my itinerary for Budapest, I was stumped. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the names of places I had seen there or the things that I had done. Considering it was a city that completely surpassed all my expectations I thought I would be able to recall every detail of this trip. Unfortunately that is not the case. So to all those people that kept telling me to jot down details so that I wouldn’t forget them, just this time I really deserve a big fat ‘I told you so.’
I was nervous about going to Budapest as a few people I knew were facing issues with their visas while travelling in Europe. Being an ex-communist country and after having heard stories of the Stazi, a friend had terrorized me into thinking that I could very well end up rotting in some dingy prison in Hungary as I was travelling with a Deutschland Visa and not a Schengen Visa. G…thanks for making me nervous for nothing!
I was expecting a rundown city still grappling with the after-effects of all that had passed (the Communist regime, WWI and WWII, etc) and instead found a city filled with stunning architecture and steeped in culture and history. To top this, when venturing off the beaten tourist track, I would invariably find something interesting which for a person who loves exploring a city by foot this was like frosting on a cake.
Budapest is divided into the Buda side and the Pest side with the Danube running through the middle. Buda Hill on the Buda side was where the Kings and their families resided while the Pest side is where the commoners resided. There are quiet a few bridges connecting Buda and Pest, most notably the Chain Bridge and the Elisabeth (White) Bridge. Located between the two sides is Margaret Island, which is one of the main areas where night life can be found. We went looking and instead ended up sitting on the river bank for a long time admiring Budapest at night. The banks of the Danube are lined with a number of upscale hotels but the most impressive building on the river bank has to be the Hungarian Parliament Building: one of the largest buildings in Budapest.
I spent the first day going around on a hop-on hop-off tour and this is the only city where I got my money’s worth. The sights were spread out and though I did walk a considerable amount, I was able to cover a number of places which I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. We visited Hero’s square, the Budapest Opera House, Vajdahunyad Castle, the Jewish Synagogue, walked around Andrassy Avenue and some more. In the evening we went across to the castle district for a little while and then walked down to Margaret Island.
The following morning, we went across to Buda Hill for a tour of Buda Castle. There are a number of stunning sculptures adorning the castle and each one has an interesting story to it. If you are someone who enjoys stories keep your fingers crossed that you get a good tour guide here. After a good 2-3 hours of exploring the castle we walked across to the Fishermen’s Bastion and after lounging around Gellert square we finished up our trip at Gellert Statue.
Budapest is famous for its woodwork and embroidery. So of course I had to shop. I freaked out on some funky wooden cutlery (I am not an old maid thank you very much but I am a sucker for almost anything funky) and some ribbon embroidery. Also at the risk of sounding like a 4 year old, I loved riding the escalators in Budapest! In comparison to the other European cities I visited, the escalators here were the longest, fastest and steepest I have ever been on. You quiet literally have to jump on and jump off and hope that you land on your feet and not you’re behind.
There was a whole lot more that I saw in Budapest but as I said earlier I can’t remember the details. Blame it on old age I guess. Being the foodie that I am, I didn’t even try Goulash as the people I was with were staunch vegetarians! I did however try Palacsintas which are Pancakes stuffed with savory or sweet filling. I even missed the great baths of Budapest! I now wish I could go back in time and jot down everything that I did there. Somebody invent a time machine quick! Or maybe I should just visit again…like I need an excuse to travel. I am going to stop now before I digress. I will however leave you with a few tips that I can remember from my trip.
- Spend at least 3 days here. There is a LOT to see and do and if you have time, walk. The views are absolutely gorgeous!
- If you are visiting Budapest between October and November, go in November as the Tourist season ends in October and rates for anything from airfare to hotels are ridiculously cheap.
- Carry a bathing suit! You cannot and must not miss the Hot springs
- Go off the regular tourist track. I came across some really interesting sculptures tucked away in some alleys while walking around. I even found a rather interesting flea market while there.
- Note down the names of places! If you speak Hungarian, great! If not, then good luck remembering names.
Anyways, I am off to buy myself a travel journal. So until next time, Happy travels!