Going into the trip, I knew barely a handful of things about Budapest. I knew that its Parliament Building was the Gothic charmer of my dreams, that Paprika was the #1 export and that Goulash was something I HAD TO try, but other than that, I was ready to let this Hungarian hideaway surprise me. And that it did!
Not knowing what to expect, you could imagine my eyes wide as wide could be when first driving through the city. EVERYTHING was so regal looking. The buildings were gorgeous, the monuments, towering. I was blown away at my first impression. We stayed in Terézváros, Budapest's VI district, on the "PEST" side of the Danube. Budapest was formerly two separate cities: Buda sitting on the west bank of the river and Pest on the right. In 1873, shortly after the Austro-Hungarian compromise, the cities merged to create a Twin Capital City for the dual Monarchy. Many bridges stretch over the Danube connecting the more flat and urban Pest to Buda's green, quiet, fairytale hill tops.
Reading on, I will break down our sites, eats and more based upon which side of the river we roamed.
New York Cafe:
Something we noticed immediately while here is; you will NEVER go hungry in Hungary. There are ENDLESS options and seemingly a restaurant on every corner. Nosh the goulash and eat the cakes! One place in particular to pop in for a cocktail and cake is
Minimalism is not the motif in Budapest. The more decor, the better, as you can tell with this masterpiece of a building. Not only did the beautiful atmosphere set the tone for our afternoon cocktail, but so did the pianist who played "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston. Let me tell you, it will be an afternoon snack you won't forget! After your grub, get above the city with some stellar views at St. Stephens.
St. Stephen's Basilica
It is 500 Hungarian Forint (HUF) to climb the tower - in USD $1.78. Insane views for less than $2! The beauty seen atop the Basilica is truly breathtaking. This is a North West view of the city from atop the 364 step ascension. You can take the elevator, but what fun is that?! We shared some quiet moments taking in the view. In that time I realized that this place might be one of the most beautiful I will visit in my lifetime.
After we rubbed our eyes and made sure this wasnt indeed a dream, we spent the rest of the day exploring and eating up the culture. Literally.
Hungarian State Opera House
If you have the means to see an Opera in Budapest - TAKE IT. Hungary in known for there dramatic Opera's and the Hungarian State Opera House is a stunning statement piece in the heart of PEST. Unfortunately June/July are its off season - so plan accordingly!
Legenda; Duna Bella Cruise:
Before we start up about the BUDA end of the city, I want to encourage everyone to ride the waves in between. Shawn and I both agreed that the HIGHLIGHT of our time in Budapest was a sunset river cruise on the Danube. The experience was 3,900 HUF which translates to $13.95 USD. Insanely affordable. We chose the 6:30pm Duna Bella cruise from Legenda Sightseeing Boats. We booked the day before and had no issue with getting tickets - but as always, "better safe than sorry." Book in advance during peak season - you won't be disappointed. It was perfection! With champagne in our hands we set sail on a golden Daunbe and witnessed the shores of this amazing city like no other.
Everything felt SO walkable in Budapest. We spent a day across the bridge getting to know BUDA a little better. Quant and quieter, we took the afternoon to find romance and more stunning vantage points.
No matter where you stand, this city sparkles. In doing my research I remembered this white castle-looking attraction that allured me. It was Fisherman Bastion - hands down the visually most unique site I have visited in Europe. During the Middle Ages, local fisherman defended this span of city walls, hence it's name. The sprawling terrace sits directly next to Matthias Church - another neo-gothic masterpiece.
This is the best spot to get a gorgeous panoramic view of Pest.
Buda Castle and In Between:
Between Fishermans Bastion and Buda Castle is a sweet little stretch of shops, eateries and idyllic alley ways. Take your time and stroll. Buy some paprika. Take home a Hungarian doll. Savor your moments!
Buda Castle can be seen from just about ANYWHERE in Budapest. It is hard to miss atop the highest hill. The castle and its grounds can provide ENDLESS entertainment. There are museums galore, restaurants, tours, festivals and beyond. I would absolutely suggest looking into what the museum has to offer if you should choose to visit. A new Picasso exhibit had just opened at the Hungarian National Gallery before our arrival. Jackpot!
Budapest was undeniably, hands-down the jewel of the trip. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone going to this beautiful and storied city. Shawn and I knew this Eastern European trip was going to be the most challenging when it came to language. 5 new countries, all with vastly different ways of communicating. Though we always find it respectful and appropriate to study the basic phrases before touching-down - most everyone spoke English and happily. Aside from being a breathtaking city, the US Dollar goes FAR here. It absolutely must be a stop on your next excursion abroad!
Here is the rest of the highlight reel. Reliving this gives me all the feels!
Preserve Your Penny:
- Simply Go to Budapest! The US Dollar goes far there. Shawn rationed $200 for 4 days in Budapest and after still came out in the green ! You can really do and see so much here with very little spent!
- Use your benefits! Every attractions offers great student and senior discounts! Bring your ID verifying and you are set!
The Where To's:
Where to Grab a Bite (Yellow): Jamie Oliver's, Chagall, Iguana Bar & Grill, Pesti Disznó, La Pampa, Domi's Bake Shop
Where to Grab a Drink (Red): Müvész Kávéház, New York Cafe, Cech In, Pontoon, Simple Kert Ruin Pub, Instant Ruin Bar, Biergarten
Where to Stop and Look Around at All the Beauty (Green): All Places mentioned above with a few others to boot!
I hope when planning your next big adventure, you consider this unbelievable beauty! Your dollar goes far, and the sites are incredible!