21 Days in Europe: Budapest, Hungary
AirBNB: Heart of Budapest hosted by Eva and Ingrid We thought his small studio was perfect for a two day trip in the city. Its right I the middle of town on the “pest” side of Budapest, and only a short time all away from the beautiful Parliament. Since we only had two days, we couldn’t possibly see everything there was to offer but I could honestly say that anything historical could be done in one day. It’s the super fun places for eating and experiencing the city that you don’t have nearly enough time for! Exploring the City: Overview
There are two sides of Budapest, hilly Buda, which holds a lot of the city’s older historical sights like the castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and churches.
You get absolutely beautiful views of the “pest” side from here, which is much flatter, but holds the beautiful Parliament building, as well as very popular night life. Just by Parliament on the edge of the river is the famous monument, “Shoes on the Danube”, which represent the horrendous event of the people who were executed at the very spot and had to take off their shoes before being shot and falling into the river.
Parliament is really cool to walk around to look at the historical statues, go down to the Holocaust memoriam (it was closed when we were there), walk by the mist area that comes up from the ground in a few spots, or even visit the chocolate shop and museum nearby for some delicious treats.
In between is the Danube River, which connects the two sides via 4 different bridges.
The chain bridge is probably the most famous, and is really beautiful to walk. You can see it behind me here:
From the bridge, you can get a view of Margaret Island, which is a must visit if you’re taking a short trip like we did.
There’s a beautiful park, small zoo, rose garden, Japanese garden, food trucks, restaurants, and even a beautiful fountain that has choreographed water movements to music!
Baths (spas, pools, whatever you want to call them), are a huge part of Hungarian culture. This bath house is the biggest in Budapest, and holds about 3 outdoor pools (including jets, a lap pool, and a mini lazy river) as well as 10 indoor pools of various temperatures. It’s where people meet up to talk, or go inside to have a relaxing time to recharge from the world.
While outside was definitely more like a public pool, we preferred the inside where it is highly encouraged to step inside a sauna to detox, and then quickly dip in a freezing cold pool (or vice-versa). We tried out two indoor pools and two saunas just to experiment (because we’re insane) and ended up trying one of the coldest, 18 degrees Celsius (we lasted 2 seconds) as well as the hottest sauna, coming to about 210 degrees Fahrenheit (which we lasted about 5 minutes). Pros stay in for hours if you can believe it!
Food Street food is the word here. Locals weren’t sure about the whole “food truck” scene up until about 5 years ago, but now the Pest side absolutely thrives on it. And it’s no wonder why with these popular street treats:
Längos (basically a flat, funnel-cake consistency pizza with garlic, sour cream, cheese, and whatever various toppings you want!)
This stuff is even better than it looks.
It’s made by putting a special recipe dough on a large metal tube, and then slowly cooked over a coal fire. The dough hardens and the result is basically a cone-shaped cookie. The classic is cinnamon or walnut, but we also tried their dark chocolate chip (so good!). They even had a unicorn one!
Okay so street food is amazing and all, but it isn’t for everyone, and we can’t always live everyday off it. When looking for local foods that are authentic and filling, look no further than the Central Market.
The bottom floor is mostly local produce-from fruits and veggies, to meats and cheese, and of course their pride, paprika. There are also clothing and jewelry vendors, and you can usually find some cheaper souvenirs in these areas (although I’m not sure how completely authentic they might be compared to what you’d find on the Buda side).
The top floor is all the important stuff; food. The atmosphere is absolutely crazy upstairs; with its narrow passages and few tables to sit at once you have your food. You will definitely have your personal space invaded, but the food options are so worth it! We had beef goulash in a bread bowl with a huge pile of Hungarian pasta, and a half liter of fresh blackberry, and red currant lemonade big enough to share for about $15 US. It was amazing and there was so much more we would have definitely come back to try!
Night Life The real gem about Budapest is its night time activities. First off, the city is absolutely gorgeous at night. It’s all lit up and even the Ferris wheel looks classy in its center!
The food truck scene is even more alive; we really enjoyed this food truck park on the Pest side that had amazing Nitro-ice cream! They also had some unusual Längos twists like Längos burgers! (This is also where we saw the unicorn chimney cake).
There are so many tours you can take of various night time activities such as a river cruise (ran out of time for that here! ), heritage tours that uniquely take you to get desserts or wine along the way, or our favorite-
Even if alcohol isn’t your thing at all, you have to see these quirky spaces that were once old old buildings turned absolutely crazy-fabulous! It’s a hodge-podge of so many lights, decor, and just plain junk. When it comes together, completely awesome! It represents Pest’s side so well, with so many businesses fighting to be the unusual experience you have been looking for.
The Jewish Quarter
The only thing that really didn’t have to compete for attention on the Pest side was the Jewish synagogues and memorials. There are three beautiful synagogues each with their own special characteristics to offer. Oddly enough, they are all centered directly around the ruin bars and other...interesting places, but people still single them out for their interesting culture and history. Probably my most favorite memorial for the Holocaust was this beautiful silver tree directly by one of the synagogues:
We didn’t even realize we were going to see it where we were, but at night time, it absolutely takes your breath away. It’s gleaming metal leaves and branches sway in the breeze, creating a beautiful sparkling effect in the moonlight. Each leaf on the tree has the name of a Jew who lost their life in the Holocaust of Hungarian origin.
The Jewish population after the Holocaust was so sparse that it seemed to be a rareity. A local explained to us that the US now probably has the majority of the Hungarian Jews. However, it has increased as of late, and the Jewish population in Budapest now sits around 90,000 people.
We really wished we could have stayed longer to experience some more of the unique culture of Budapest, especially some of the fun night life that the Pest side had to offer! But for now, we are on to Vienna, Austria for two days!
~Gal with a pal