After 4 years adopted life as a Sydneysider, this was my first Europe trip in a long time. And what a welcome back! It was winter and it was wet, but Budapest’s beauty nestled along the banks of the Danube didn’t fail to shine through the (relentless) raindrops.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
CITADELLA | upon Gellert Hill, and built in 1851. Visit for the view – which is fantastic, and if you’re rushed means at least a glimpse of all major sites. At night all the lights chain Buda to Pest at various stages along the river. It’s pretty magical.
SZECHENYI BATHS | like me, it might be a picture of these outdoor (3) thermal baths that you associate with Budapest. In late November it was so quiet and we embraced the warmth of the ornate indoor pools (15) instead. Not a slick operation but that’s part of its charisma.
BUDA CASTLE | built in 1265. You’ll have many chances to admire this World Heritage site from afar. Obviously it’s arresting close up and houses many museums including the Hungarian National Gallery. Also check out: eyes up, to absorb the beautiful architecture like gothic Hungarian Parliament.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
GIPSY MUSIC | and Hungarian food. Can’t vouch this is the best option (was close to our hotel) but I’d recommend Karpatia as an interesting, slightly formal experience. Also check out: anywhere for Goulash! We ate at randomly named For Sale Pub near Central Market Hall.
FISHERMAN’S BASTION | built around Matthias Church it is neo-Gothic/Romanesque in style. The name honours fishermen that defended these city walls in the Middle Ages. More love for the panoramas, and a good option for night time sight-seeing too.
CHAIN BRIDGE | the most iconic of Budapest’s bridges, it spans the famous River Danube between western Buda and eastern Pest. Retreating German WWII troops blew it up but mercifully it was restored. Also check out: Liberty bridge is the green one, and stroll the promenade on the Pest side.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
AIRPORT TAXI | the run in from Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport will give you what I guess is the real Hungary. It’s a world away from beautiful city centre, and you won’t be shouting out any requests to stop. That said it’s definitely interesting to glimpse how many Hungarians live.
BUDGET HOTELS | I’m a huge airbnb fan, so whilst I can recommend the Mercure we stayed at for spot on location plus value, it was a little generic for me. I’d have rather stayed in an apartment to get a real feel for the city.
MISINFORMATION | late November is apparently not a guaranteed time for Christmas Markets to be on, despite dates being promoted everywhere from Budapest Tourism to Lonely Planet!
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
RUIN PUBS | or Romkocsma in Hungarian. Clustered in VII district, Pest (east) side. Szimpla kert is most known. We visited on Sunday morning (they have markets), but know we missed out on the true experience!
AND KNOW THIS: Hungarian’s celebrate their ‘names day’. Check dates for individual names here. Confusingly ‘Eliza’ is 19th Feb and 24th May. Common in Hungary as well as England!