Three years ago we took a work trip to Budapest, Hungary. This was my first trip to Budapest and I honestly had no idea what to expect.
From door to door, it took us twenty-two hours to get there. The longest leg of the flight was only seven and a half hours. But you have to add in the other stuff - traveling to the airport, arriving three hours early since it was an international trip, a layover in Amsterdam…
Then the crazy shuttle ride through Budapest. I swear, we almost hit three other cars (that I could see). After that, I only looked at the buildings as we passed. But we made it!
Our hotel had the absolute best view of Buda Castle (Budai Vár).
We were staying on the Pest side of the Danube River. Something I had not realized until after we arrived and took some of the tours - the city was a combination of three cities: Buda, Pest, and Obuda. The city of Budapest was formed at the end of the nineteenth century when the three merged to form one.
The Buda Castle is often referred to as the Royal Palace (Budavári palota). This building houses many of the city’s cultural institutions, including two museums: The National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. Such a pretty Building! And we got to see this every morning at breakfast.
After dropping off our luggage, we checked out the Christmas Market (see next week’s Budapest post). Then later that night, Matt and I took a walk. Man, was it cold!
Our hotel was only a block away from the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd).
The Chain Bridge was one of the first permanent bridges built in Budapest (1849). For a time, the only way to cross the Danube River was by ferry. When Count István Széchenyi missed his father’s funeral when the ferries were not running because of bad weather, he became the driving force behind getting a bridge built.
As cold and windy as it was (in the low thirties), the view was totally worth the walk.
Our first full day in Budapest, we decided on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
Note: This is my TOP tip for every trip. If you’re visiting a place for the first time, don’t have a lot of time in a specific spot, or just want to get the lay-of-the-land before you dig in, then a bus tour is a great bet. Not only do you get an overview of the city and the main attractions, but you can also utilize the bus as somewhat of a taxi. If you have an idea of the different locations you want to visit, you can get off the bus to eat and/or check out different areas, then get back on the bus, and (as they finish up the route tour) you will be taken back to your original spot. Always a win-win in my books.
We saw so many different sights that I didn’t know about before coming to this amazing city. Plus, you just pop in the earbuds and you have a personal tour guide telling you about all the great places around the city.
Budapest Nyugati pu (Budapest Nyugati pályaudvar) - one of the train stations in Budapest.
The day view of the Chain Bridge.
Matt found a Burger King!
(and, yes..., we did eat there a few times... :) )
Saint Gelle’rt - A monument depicting the Saint who met his death on that same hillside. As the legend goes, Gelle’rt was required by King Stephen to help convert the Pagan Magyars to Christianity. After the king's death, insurgents fighting to return to Paganism captured Gelle’rt and rolled him down the side of the hill in a barrel pierced with nails.
As a fun treat, Matt took me on a nighttime boat tour down the Danube River. This was a lot of fun after having spent the day on the top of the tour bus in the cold. Now we were inside a warm glassed-in boat, with another personal guided tour via our earbuds, AND this time with a glass of beer and wine.
We were able to see our hotel! Ignore the blurriness from the glass.
This is my favorite picture of the Parliament House (Országház) on the Pest riverbank. So pretty!
The next evening, we went on a walking tour with our workgroup. I have to point out here that it was 28 degrees! Cold!!! Yes, I am originally from Wyoming. But after having lived in Georgia for almost two decades, my blood has thinned considerably. Still, this was the best tour we experienced for this trip. Our guide was amazing about giving little details that we had not heard on other tours and (because of the group we were with) showed us things that were not on an original night walking tour.
The memorial, Shoes on the Danube, was a reminder of the ordeal the Jews had to go through during WWII.
During our walking tour, I didn’t realize we would be taking that route and wasn’t expecting the heartbreak of the story. This memorial really is a sight to see and experience. Seeing it at night was very chilling.
We crossed over the river to the Buda side and was met with this incredible view of the Matthias Church.
We saw so much on our walking tour and because it was so cold, there were not a lot of other people out and about. It really was a neat experience and we all felt like we were the only ones walking in some of the areas.
Before leaving Budapest, one of our coworkers insisted that we had to check out one of the city’s iconic ruin bars. I had never heard of a ruin bar before, so we started looking at the various options. The one we chose was Szimpla Kert.
For those not familiar with a ruin bar (Hungarian pronunciation - romkocsma), these are makeshift bars inside dilapidated pre-war buildings. These bars were initially places that offered cheap drinks within open-air courtyards of abandoned buildings. The ruin bars are primarily located within the Jewish Quarter of Budapest as that was where a lot of the abandoned buildings were located due to the Nazi occupation in the ’40s.
The ruin bars were decorated with a hodge-podge of furnishings and items scrounged from the area.
Szimpla Kert was the ruin bar that “pioneered” the tourist scene of today. Since 2004, ruin bars have become a key part of the tourist nightlife.
There were even sections of the place that were blocked off. We were told these were areas of the building that were not safe to enter. I really wanted to go up and see. But we followed the rules…
Our final stop before packing up was to the Central Market Hall (Központi Vásárcsarnok).
This was another shopping area where we were able to find the last little bit of souvenirs. The food here was incredible! Although we weren’t able to grab any of this to take home, I did find quite a few unique magnets, pens, and small items that were easy to pack.
We really did have an amazing experience in Budapest.
Looking for more details about each of the locations I mentioned above (and other places we didn't get to see on this quick trip)? Check out the following link for some incredible information:
Come back next week to take a peek into our visit to the Budapest Christmas Market and an Ice Bar! Brrr for both!
More posts about Budapest...