1. Beautiful scenery
In recent years people have turned their eyes more and more to eastern Europe. A new generation of young travelers seeking fun and affordable experiences flow into countries our parents had never envisioned going to; Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croacia, Hungary … Budapest is one of the cities that quickly evolved into a bustling tourist destination. The city has it all to enchant anyone; beautiful architecture, delicious food and friendly locals. Plus you don’t get the crowds you’ll get in western Europe.
I am ashamed to say I did not know this before coming to Budapest, but the city is actually divided into two sides, Buda and Pest, stretching along the banks of the Danube, two different atmospheres of the same city.
For an excellent view of the capital I suggest you give those legs some excercise and climb Gellért Hill. You can catch a stunning sunset and chill at the top overlooking Elizabeth Bridge.
2. Interesting tour guides
One of the commodities the city offers are free guided tours (voluntary contribution) given by students that love their city and want you to love it too. You can search for them online and just reach the meet up point; usually held in the downtown area. They even have a range of different languages and the guys and girls giving the tours are pretty knowledgable. They alo know a lot of funny details and curiosities of the many statues and personalities around the city, and it provides a great chance to meet some other travelers if you are on your own.
3. Because Castles and Fortresses
I am a sucker for castles, forts, fortresses, palaces and all fortified buildings that make me feel I am visiting Hogwarts. The Royal Palace and Castle Hill promise first-rate views of the city and an almost time travel experience. With its fairy tale feeling, white walls and conical towers it is quite suprising to find this place was actually built between 1895 and 1902!
Let yourself get wrapped into the artistic atmosphere and admire the tiled roof of the Matthias Church, walk the cobbled streets and the many different stairways. Walk, walk, walk and then rest sipping coffee at a café at the foot of the hill in Ádám Clark Square.
4. Unique booze choices
Beer in Hungary is good, specially the craft one, but you wanna give its many others specialities a try, this is what you are here for. How about pálinka? or some Paprika schnapps? Tokaji wine? If you are not hungarian but able to pronounce their word for Cheers correctly, you are farther along the linguistic line that I am. Egészségedre!
5. Awesome food
Hungarian food is full of flavor and character. Lángos, Goulash, Töltött Káposzta (stuffed cabbage) and just about anything with cheese or Páprika should be on your eating agenda.
Yes, this are strong, full meals, but don’t worry; you burned all those calories walking around the city anyway 😉
You always thought you knew what Páprika was and how to cook with it. Now you come to Hungary and you discover it’s entirely something else. That orange powder you had been sprinkling on your food has nothing to do with the richness and savory taste of real hungarian páprika. Congratulations to hungarian cuisine I must say; because the spicy pastes, magical powder and endearing combinations they have produced with what was originally a mexican and central american chili is exquisite.
7. Alternative Nightlife
Budapest is famous for themed, eclectic bars with a hint of crazy. Have you ever heard of a Ruin Pub? The concept that has taken over Budapest’s nightlife! this old houses sure deserve a visit when in search for a nightcup. Local bands, hipster crowds, creative spaces and extensive hard liquor choices are sure to fill your night with sparkles and send you well partyed back to your hostel bunk bed. If this is the kind of entertainment you are looking for then head for Instant, Fogas Ház, Szimpla, or join a pub crawl.
Mind you this are the most popular ones, with only a few days in Budapest I regret my repertoire of hidden jems is in need of new additions. Any suggestions?
8. Art is Everywhere
There is no doubt you have stumbled upon an artistic city. This is clearly visible in the exquisite materials used in their constructions, the innovative and modern art galleries, the interesting bronze statues scattered through the downtown area and even at church or the market.
There is quite a selection of Art Galleries, History Museums and many unique expositions permanently on display. If you fancy learning about stamps, páprika, the railway system or entering a real nuclear bunker; you can find it all in Budapest.
9. It’s Full of History
Quick brief: the first town was built by the Celts then it was occupied by the Romans at the beginning of the Christian era. Germanic tribes, Lombards, Avars and Slavs all passed through and left imprints of their culture. Then for a long time the country participated in the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary until it came to be its own independent country in 1848.
Relics from ancient times still stand in Hungary but sadly also a large part of them were lost to war. Memorials were built in numerous parts of the city but there is one I find the most sincere and touching one. Right by the Danube River in Budapest, close to the Hungarian Parliament building, you can see sixty pairs of old-fashioned shoes facing the water. This holocaust memorial makes reference to the the days of horror in the winter of 1944-1945, when the Danube was known as “the Jewish Cemetery.” The copper is old and rusted but the way the shoes are casually scattered along the bank makes you feel they have just been taken off. There they are, all those women, men and children; and then you blink and they’re not… they are floating dead along the river. It’s a terrible sight to imagine. But it gives you a ray of hope for humanity to see that people still bring flowers to the riverbank in remembrance and slide them inside the shoes and make out of a tragedy, a hauntingly beautiful scene.
10. For the relaxing baths
The Széchenyi thermal baths are the most renowned and largest medicinal baths in Europe but you don’t need to be sick to go into them. The place is a bustling touristic spot too and well worth a visit while in Budapest. You’ll be handed a bracelet at the counter, this is your locker key, and then head to separated women/men changing rooms. You can meet up with your opposite sex friends once inside the bathing complex. What was once a true public bathing experience has evolved into a more modest affair where everyone is wearing swimsuits. So you have nothing to fear 🙂
There are all sorts of pools; swimming pool, adventure pool and thermal sitting pool, to name some. There is also sauna and for an additional fee you can enjoy a relaxing massage. The natural hot springs are full of minerals and as said before; boost your health and relieve from many ailments.
My guide said that often old men would pretend to be ill so that the doctor would include in their treatment a free pass to the baths. How convenient!