Budapest, Hungary is rated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The best place to view Budapest is high up on the Citadella fortress walls of Gellért Hill, on the west side of Budapest. At 770 feet (235 meters) high, Gellért Hill is one of the highest spots in Budapest. You get a panoramic view of the Danube River and its 8 bridges connecting the hilly western-side, Buda, to the flat eastern-side, Pest; both sides making up the city of Budapest. It really is a spectacular view!
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to tell you about our ALL day train trip through Poland and Hungary to reach Budapest.
The four of us were railing (is that a word?) this time our own again, and would need to make a few changes in trains. More difficult, since we did not have a schedule in-hand to countdown the towns before the one we had to get off at. There were many little towns that the train stopped at! We knew we would have very little warning to grab our bags before rushing towards the exit door, when we did see our town’s station sign flash by the window. We, however, managed to do fine by knowing about how long each leg of the tripwas, to begin carefully watching for each station sign to come into view. Once the train even sat, not moving, while another train took-over the track…that caused us to miss our next train, so we had a long wait in the Hungarian town of Břeclav.
We had no Hungarian currency…let’s just say, a bit a problem, since we needed that currency for restrooms. After digging through our pockets and backpacks for any leftover euro & Polish zloty, we, together, mustered up enough to exchange for Hungarian forint, and pay the restroom
guard attendant and afford a meager lunch goulash & a Hungarian dark beer at station cafe. Only to find out later that they did take euros! Then we waited an hour more for our final train. We, finally, arrived at Budapest station and then had to find a taxi…yet, another adventure. While we did get to the hotel, the ride was fast & wild through narrow streets, with rain pouring down and the wipers mostly off. Whew, not my type of driver… what drink is Hungary known for?
There were so many things to see in Budapest. The most amazing was the Parliament building. The most famous icon of Budapest, even having seen it many times in travel brochures or online does not do justice compared to seeing it in person. It is huge, very white and the detail of the facade is like lace. Its perch on the Danube river only makes it more magnificent. We saw it from all angles; afar, from the Citadella, floating by, from the rainy windows of our river cruise, and up close, as we walked by
but could not get inside. It is pretty grand!
Below is the Chain bridge, one of eight bridges that connect the two sides of Budapest. The Chain was the first of the 8 bridges that connect Buda to Pest.
Budapest sits upon 100+ thermal springs. There are many thermal bath houses in the city. The best known is Széchenyi baths. It is really big. Szechenyi Baths (built in 1913) is the most visited & prized attraction in Budapest…with natural hot spring waters in 18 pools, with 10 saunas/steam rooms. Our hotel was within walking distance and I had packed my bathing suit, in my suitcase, just to wear to Szechenyi Baths, : ) and I expected to do that, all of which seemed less likely as the time drew closer. With the possible-rain forecast (my excuse) and the fact that tour bus loads of people come to
gawk look, I was perfectly happy to see the pools/baths through the windows and not be the woman in a bathing suit posted on someone’s blog : ) The building’s domed ceiling was beautiful, as were the many statues, and architectural details.
We walked the Danube Promenade, after taking our rainy boat excursion; a swanky area of hotels, apartments, shops and really pretty cafes along the Danube.
One Promenade attraction is the Jewish memorial, Shoes on the Danube. It is a simple but powerful memorial remembering the Jews, who were lined up on the Danube river bank and shot by soldiers – their bodies falling into the river. Facing the Danube, they were ordered to remove their shoes, before being shot, because their shoes had value. Think about that one.From the Promenade, we walked to Váci Street, the most renowned pedestrian shopping street of Budapest. Comparable to Amsterdam or Paris…a little more than a mile stretch of fun cafes, pubs and shops.
In an earlier post, How to Improve Your Photos, I told you about a blogger I follow, Amanda. Here is a Cucina cafe, in Budapest, that uses one of Amanda’s Pea family fonts, Amanda, which is her own hand-writing font. In Budapest! That’s a long way from Amanda’s home in Tennessee,
I’m so lovin’ this whole global internet life. HERE is where you can download free Pea fonts.
Budapest is a large city and is not as walkable as the other cities we had visited. Here, Captain & I took a Hop-on Hop-off bus at the beginning and end of our self-walking daily tours, but, we had a hard time finding the Hop-on/off signs for getting on and off as we walked around. So basically, we walked til we dropped, or eventually, found our way back to the same hop-on/off stop that we started with.
A long walk. Conclusion: Budapest would have been a good city to have purchased some tours to see and get around. I forgot that Budapest has a ferris wheel EYE, (like London) until I got home and looked through my photos.
Below photo, is the Great Hall Market, or Central Market, that we stumbled upon. It is huge and so interesting. You pretty much could buy anything there. Many locals were shopping for meats and food items. The market has 3 levels of food and lots of tourist chachki, of course, but everything is real Hungarian,
not made in China. Hungarians produce beautiful handmade leather goods, wood carved items, intricate and folk-art fabric goods and amazing colored glassware – those are the things that caught my eye in the market. The sausages and fresh produce were amazing, but it was too crowded to photograph.
Captain & I managed to see almost everything over 4 days…what we missed, our travel buddies, S & J, did see, so we could hear about that over a glass of wine and dinner. S & J used the Millenium Underground Train, instead of Hop-on bus, to traverse the city, in addition to hoofing-it. Budapest built the first underground train system (the Millenium Underground) in mainland Europe. One evening, we all used it as our transportation to an Italian restaurant a few miles away from our hotel. It was fun. By then, our travel buddies, especially my BIL, had mastered using the subway ticket kiosk, so we had to try, too. There is a learning curve for almost everything in a foreign country ; ) The restaurant, Millenium Da Pippo Restaurant, was a Rick Steve’s recommendation. We used Rick’s recommendations throughout our entire trip and found them to always be the best choice.
The music, the food and prices were really great. Atmosphere!
Does that make you want to shop & eat your way through Budapest? Maybe, have a glass of Hungarian wine at a Vaci Street bistro before heading for a massage & thermal springs dip…I would go back, for sure!
We are nearing the end of our train adventure through Central Europe, sigh, and have seen so many incredible areas and learned so much about what people can endure. In retrospect; I can tell you that it was not until we left Hungary, to visit the Czech Republic, that I better understood the Hungarians’ leading part in the effort to overcome Soviet occupation of Central Europe. But, more about that next week in…the Road to Prague.
Thanks for stopping by,