You are planning your fantastic visit to Hungary and you need some ideas what things to do and what things to see in Budapest, the beautiful capital of Hungary. Now here are some tips that may work for you.
Exploring Budapest – from the Bastion and the Citadel
Wow, Budapest is so beautiful! I mean the river and the sights on both sides. Beyond our expectations. If you climb to the top of the Castle Hill and go to the Fishermen’s Bastion, you will see this (see the photo). If you climb up to the Citadell on the even higher Gellert Hill you can expand your views a lot more. The city seems classical and historical by day, and romantic, or super romantic by night – we loved the night lights so much!
Get a general idea about how Budapest is arranged on the two sides of the river. It is easy to remember that Buda was built on the hills (where the Buda Castle or Palace is) and Pest was built on the flat plain. You can see the Basilica in the photo. This is the highest point on the Pest side to get some views (you can climb to the top of the bell tower of the St Stephen Basilica).
Anyway, we paid a little sum to get to the top of the bastion, but later discovered that there are many fee parts – so it was not really worth paying for the Fishermen Bastion, but we did not regret. We took a champagne to celebrate!
Walking along the river Danube
Once you had a map inside your head about Budapest, you can satisfy your romantic cravings on the nice paths along the river Danube. Both sides are good for walking, we went from bridge to bridge and got really tired of taking so much beauty in. Walking is one thing, you will need to take a Budapest river cruise to really get the best of it, or take a dinner cruise on the Danube like we did.
And then pick a good restaurant by the river. Some of them have terraces, and there is a ship called Spoon Bar where you can enjoy the pub and party atmosphere too (some were having a party on a boat). The restaurant on Fisherman’s Bastion has an irresistible panoramic view, but it was a bit too pricey for us to eat out, so only had a Martini.
Spas, baths, pools – Budapest, here we come!
Whatever you do in Budapest, don’t miss the spas, we also did a bath party in Szechenyi and goodness it was glorious! You have been warned. As for Budapest baths, I was a skeptic myself until I tried the spa baths myself – yeah, the plural is intended, now I am a fan, and enjoy visiting more of them. If you think the baths in Budapest are like the average swimming pool or a bit bigger jacuzzi, you are really mistaken. The baths are first of all an architectural experience (worth exploring for itself!), then they are relaxing and exciting at the same time. I don’t know how, but they have a sort of magic where you are absolutely not bored, and let all the steam out.
There is Szechenyi Baths which is like a 19th century palace, where the aristocrats decided to build the biggest pools and baths ever to have all day fun, sunshine, sauna, massages, etc. It is a huge building with numerous baths of various sizes and temperatures. It is a labyrinth, lol, I got lost like 3 times. Now I know Szechenyi pretty well, but I print out the Szechenyi bath map for my friends before they freak out.
The people are from young to old, all kinds of folks, lots of locals (which is always a good sign) and loads of tourists – all happy, relaxed, enchanted by the beauty and light hearted mood of the whole thing. OK, I am not happy about the long lines to the bath, but when it is not hot, it is OK to wait (no shades!).
There are many tourists who re-schedule their Budapest itinerary and go to Szechenyi more times.
I am always planning to go to the party in the bath, but I have not made it yet. Shame. I hear they are really awesome.
Been there, done that!! Will repeat!
Then there is Gellert Spa – another super big bath castle. I even got lost in the labyrinth of pools, but luckily was with locals, so did not get too frustrated. OK, just a bit. I simply fell in love with the whole design: Gellert could be easily in the top hundred world attractions to see before you die if they were a bit cleverer (the tourism skills in Hungary seem to fail when it comes to friendly bath personnel and helpful maps for the bath, or bilingual notes, etc. – OK, not always, but more than a foreigner like me can tolerate it well. Honestly I prefer Szechenyi for the atmosphere, but the Art Deco design of Gellert is so unique, so meticulous, so colourful. I want it in my bathroom one day when I hit the jackpot.
In this photo of Gellert you cannot see the mosaics, but let me show you another photo of the bath too.
So this is the indoor main pool (there are several outdoor pools as well):
Pretty and inviting! Am I right or am I right? And now the mosaics I would love to have in my bathroom (and kitchen, and anywhere):
Walk in the Buda Royal Palace
On the Buda side, go up the hill or take the cable car from the Chain Bridge. There are very nice statues. We loved this one with the visla dog and the hunters, etc. We did not go into the National Gallery, because we had no time. Right, we were too hungry. But we walked around the big palace and the many courtyards, saw the views on many sides (the Fishermen is the best of course).
The Matthias Church was interesting with frescoes on all walls. Completely covering the walls, we have not seen anything like this.
Cruise on the River Danube in Budapest
Wow, I mean wow and wow. I just love to cruise on the river, night cruises are so romantic, you really wouldn’t believe it. OK, I am romantic, so actually a night river cruise is always part of my Budapest trip. I take my friends on a night cruise and then they also drop their jaws. The day cruises are also nice but the night cruises on the shimmering Danube with so many buildings illuminated – they are the perfect wow factor for me. If you have no time at all, let’s say you can only spend 1 day in Budapest, then do not leave the city without a night cruise. I mean it. You can find a Budapest night cruise every night, no worries, but if you want to have dinner too, you need to book them in summer.
Pastries in the old confectioneries of Budapest
One thing you must do in Budapest is to have a cake in an old confectionery. We tried several. I guess I really have a sweet tooth. Here is Cafe Ruszvurm (turn your back to the Fisherman’s Bastion when you have had enough of the panoramic views of Budapest, walk past the Church of Our Lady aka the Matthias Church, cross the square with the Holy trinity, just keep straight ahead, and voila, you will see this little cafe, the Ruszvurm. Eat to your heart’s content.
You can also go to Cafe Gerbeaud (‘anno 1858’!)
BUDAPEST AND THE MANY FESTIVALS
Budapest has quite a few weekend festivals. We have been to a couple of them by now, so I can really say that they are good (some were excellent, and 1 or 2 were poorly organized).
Take a weekend, any weekend, and there must be some festival in Budapest. The locals seem to make the festivals for themselves, which makes some festivals feel like a real local community event.
Our best festival was the Palinka Festival: I am sure we should not have 3 shots of palinka so fast, but that is what happened and it cannot be taken back. We had a jolly good time.