An eight hour overnight train from Prague to Budapest was painless – Our own private room was definitely a treat. It was still hard to sleep with the loud noises and jolting movements, but it’s a nice way to save money on a hotel room!
[Update: I can’t believe that we were at the Budapest train station a mere two weeks before all of the refugees arrived. Seeing all of the news coverage compared to our relatively empty train station pictures is sobering. I wish there was something more we could do to help.]
Michael has been to Budapest a number of times before, but it was my first. We also have a couple good friends that studied in Budapest years ago and spoke very highly of the Eastern European city. As soon as we arrived, I was mesmerized. It looks very similar to Prague, old gothic style architecture, dark and drab, built on a river with a stunning skyline. However, I fell in love with Budapest.
If you’re not familiar with the history of Budapest (Buda and Pest), it is extremely interesting…
We stayed in an AirBnb apartment in downtown Pest on a pedestrian only street by St. Stephen’s Basilica. [Unfortunately, we missed the Hungarian National Day by two days, August 20th, where they celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state. It’s the largest national holiday with a giant firework show and festival. Bummer!]
Initially, we were only supposed to stay in Budapest for two days, but we realized we were rushing and not enjoying. So we decided to extend our trip and relax in the beautiful Hungarian city.
A visit to the traditional Hungarian Thermal baths and lunch in the park on a nice day makes for a fun afternoon. The baths weren’t what I imagined though; it felt more like a pool at the Venetian in Las Vegas. But it was warm and good for people watching. Especially the old locals playing chess and drinking beer in their speedos. A cultural experience to say the least!
Budapest is very walkable and there is so much see on both sides of the river. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes as you won’t want to miss these stellar sights like the Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament. And they’re even more impressive at night.
I highly recommend taking a dinner river cruise. You’ll have two hours of stunning views as the sun sets over the hill behind the castle and the city comes to life.
For a night cap, head over to the Ruin Bars and grab a drink with the locals, or other well informed tourists.
From the Parliament, to St. Stephen’s Basilica, to the baths, and the markets, Heroes’ Square, to the local people watching in the main square and Budapest Eye, you can spend a week here and really soak it up. With just a quick three days, we’re on to the next destination, but I’ll definitely be coming back to Budapest.
St. Stephen’s Basilica.
To honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
Real Life: We locked ourselves in our apartment and spent a day researching, planning and booking our next destination. It definitely becomes overwhelming. And to be honest, we were a little sight see’d out and needed a day to relax. — Lunch and drinks by the water then movies and mimosas in our apartment. Almost like home 🙂 Which I’m learning every day is extremely important in order to maintain long-term travel and fight fatigue.
And just for the record, no, this trip is not all glamorous. It’s extremely exhausting at times, and we do our best to find the healthy balance.
2015 Bucket List Complete:
- Danube Dinner River Cruise
- Szechenyi Bath in the city park
- Heroes Square
- Hungarian Parliament
- Chain Bridge
- Ruin Bar area
- Castle District – Go up and enjoy the views
- Kadar Etterem – Old school communist restaurant that serves Hungarian food.
- Froccsterasz – Outdoor bar that serves sparkling wine spritzers called froccs
- Be in Budapest on August 20 for their national holiday
- Great Market Hall
- Danube Promenade
- Great Synagogue
- Walkable – Pedestrians have the right of way
- Amazing history with so much culture
- Stunning river views
- River cruise not as intimate/romantic as we imagined
- During the summer there are always tons of outdoor concerts and beer gardens everywhere, but especially on Margit Sziget (Margaret Island), the island in the middle of the Danube.
- Similar to Prague – Soviet influence, drab and grey, gothic architecture, on a river
- Take a walk at night in the main square by the pond. All the local kids are dipping their toes in the water and drinking wine.
- The Budapest Eye ferris wheel in the main plaza has the same gondolas as Mammoth
- The bath looks like a Las Vegas pool – Drinks, lounge chairs, etc. The only difference is the old guys playing chess and drinking beer – also, totally fine to bring Go Pros in and take pictures. Everyone does.
- Do the river cruise with a big group of 8 so you have your own table.
- If you’re looking for a night out, cruise through Rumbach street. Bars and cheap fast food everywhere. So much English!
- Very touristy areas – Local drinks and hangouts are further up the bar/restaurant road.
- Be sure to check out the ruin bars on Kazinczy Utca.
- If you need a taste of home (aka Chipotle), eat at Burrita. It’s the closest thing you’ll get.