A few weeks ago I was in sunny Budapest having an amazing time with some of my best friends and I am still suffering from severe holiday blues.
Before jetting off I had heard that it was a very nice city, however that was the extent of my knowledge so I really had very little idea what to expect. And it turns out that my expectations were completely blown out of the water. The city has an incredibly cool vibe which I felt instantly. I also fell instantly, as soon as I stepped out of the airport shuttle and cut my knee, without even consuming any alcohol- don’t know why I am even sharing that but it was a very funny start to the trip. Luckily it was all uphill from there.
There are so many things to say and write about our trip, I have no idea where to even begin… let’s start with the sights!
Sightseeing is my favourite thing about travelling to different places; it’s so interesting to learn more about another culture and history, I feel like I’ll never be done with that urge to explore other places. Before we headed to Budapest, my friends and I had quite a long list of the places we were most interested in visiting and seeing, and although we were only there for a few days, fortunately we got to tick a lot of them off!
Top of that list were the Szechenyi baths, mostly because it was the place we had seen most people going to when in Budapest. We booked our passes online the night before, which gave us a fast pass for the queue and a private changing cabin each, but you can also buy a pass at the front desk at reception. There was definitely a buzz about the place with lots of tourists taking a massive warm bath together- what a strange concept.
We started outside at the two baths most people see in the photos, and then went inside to explore the sauna and multiple indoor baths, including the sulfur bath. All of the water comes from a natural spring and is at a very nice temperature to just sit and relax in for a while. I think we spent about 2-3 hours there; we had heard of people spending their entire day there, but I don’t think that is necessary unless you have booked some of the spa treatments as well.
The area around the baths is very cool; there is a park with a few restaurants, which we strolled through after. It is also really close to Hosok Tere, a monument square with a few museums around about.
All in all, I would definitely recommend visiting the baths as part of the Budapest experience, it gives a chance to relax before heading back to the buzz of the city.
Museum of Sweets and Selfies
Not exactly a historical or educational sight, this museum is more suitable for those of us who like to get those cool shots for Instagram. The whole museum is like walking in to Alice In Wonderland, everything is completely bizarre but very cool and, of course there are plenty of photo opportunities – priorities.
There are several rooms with different themes, colour schemes and banana swings of course. I would recommend it if a) you want a cool Instagram photo, b) you fancy a shot on a banana swing and want to sit in a bath full of hundreds and thousands, or c) you are just up for a funny experience with your pals.
House of Terror
On a completely different note, this museum is both historical and educational. I was moved and shocked by what I learnt here. I knew a little bit about the history of Hungary before the trip; I understood that it had been occupied by the Nazis and also had a history with communism. However, this museum taught me so much about the terror this country has gone through in the past and I have so much respect for the people and the suffering they have been through. The building which houses the museum is the sight where many were interrogated, tortured and killed during the communist and Nazi regimes and is also used as a memorial to all of those who suffered. The floors take you on a journey to discover the timeline of their experiences with terror in the past century. I would 100% say everyone should go here.
On our third day in the city, we got the tram to Margaret Island, a massive island park between Buda and Pest. The island is almost completely pedestrianised, with most people getting around on bikes or by foot. It has a Central Park vibe about it, some people were rehearsing plays, while others played football or read their book in the shade of a tree. We spent the majority of our day here; we rented a quadracycle and cycled around the island. I don’t mean to be cheesy, but cycling around this picturesque park on a 4 person bike with my friends felt like a surreal moment from a movie where everything was pretty perfect- can you tell I’m getting nostalgic.
The entire island is just very cute and I could have spent even more time sitting by the fountain watching everyone walk and cycle by; I would definitely say it’s worth a visit, especially if you love a park as much as I do.
On our last day in the city, we realised how much we still had to see, however luckily it was all in the same direction so we could easily walk to one place en route to the next. Our final destinations for that day were Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion, both of which are across the river.
We walked to the Hungarian Parliament first and sat outside at the square to enjoy an ice cream, before walking along the river towards the chain bridge. Before we got to the bridge, we passed the shoes on the Danube Bank.
This was a really moving spot and brought the reality of what people went through to life. It is a memorial to honour the Jews who were killed during World War II, as they had to take off their shoes before being shot at the edge of the water. It is such a low key, small memorial which could be easily missed if you weren’t looking for it.
After we had passed the memorial, we got to the chain bridge where we stopped to have a drink and take a few photos before walking along it to get to Buda Hill.
Once we had arrived at the other side of the bridge, we bought tickets for a mini tour bus which took us to all of the sights in the area for a very reasonable price, which was a much better deal than the funicular railway we were planning to get. From there we visited Buda Castle, the old town, Fisherman’s Bastion and the castle gardens. Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion were magnificent pieces of architecture and had great views of the entire city. There is also what looked like a lovely restaurant at the Fisherman’s Bastion which overlooks the city, we assumed it was out of our price range but I was envious of the people who were eating inside!
This was the Buda side of the city and there was so much to see; I felt like we barely scratched the surface. Buda had a completely different feel to it than Pest; it felt a little bit fancier and more upmarket, with it’s cobble stoned streets, multi-coloured houses and hanging baskets- a real contrast to Pest’s shabby chic vibe. Strolling along the streets in Buda was like taking a step back in time and I wish we could have spent more time there!
This place has been a diamond in the rough for so long, I’m so happy it is now getting the attention it deserves! If you’re looking for a city break destination any time soon, I would urge you to check Budapest out; I will definitely be going back!