BUDAPEST: Basilicas, Bridges, Baths and… a Small Birthday?!

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Szechenyi Bridge, Budapest

Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest. Photos by Lily Leung.

The classic buildings in Budapest were the perfect backdrop for strolls around the city, people watching in squares and sipping coffee from sidewalk cafes.

While I’ve spent countless hours sipping coffee and people watching back at home in Toronto, having a drink in front of a shiny office building just doesn’t compare to being front of a 96 metre Basiciica in Budapest, and being in a hot tub at a modern gym isn’t nearly as elegant as taking a thermal bath in a beautifully tiled pool in a classic early 1900’s building.

Here are six beautiful highlights I’ve had the privilege to be see during my four days in Budapest.

6 Highlights of Budapest

  1. Parliament Building along the Danube

    One of the most intricately carved and majestic buildings I’ve ever seen. The Parliament Building sits along the Danube river and looks even more stunning from the other side (photo below was taken from along the river). According to Wikipedia, it was completed in 1904 using 40 million bricks and 40 kilograms (88 lb) of gold (!).

    View of Parliament building from riverside, Budapest

    View of Parliament building from riverside, Budapest

  2. St. Stephen’s Basilica
    One of my favourite afternoons in Budapest was spent sitting at a cafe facing the square in front of the basilica and watching locals and tourist go by. The Basilica was built in the early 1900’s and named after Stephen, who was the first King of Hungary in the early 1000’s. His mummified hand is inside the basilica in a glass case, which I saw but was too creeped out to take a photo. Admisson cost: 200 huf ($1.10 mandatory donation).

    St. Stephens Basilica, Budapest

    St. Stephens Basilica, Budapest

  3. Thermal bath at Gellert
    This could easily be the highlight of my stay to Budapest. I’ve been told there are over 70 thermal springs going through Budapest and after being recommended a thermal bath multiple times, I chose the Gellert Baths from the gorgeous photos on Google images.

    The indoor thermal bath area were beautifully tiled (semi-nude/nude allowed in female or male only areas) and there was a terrace for sun-bathing with an outdoor pool and thermal bath. Admission cost: 4,100 huf ($21.50), 3,000 after 5pm, valid for the entire day. Seemed like a lot to pay for a dip, but it was worth it and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again. See a history of Gellert Bath on Wikipedia and prices on the official Gellert Bath and Spa website.

    Indoor pool and thermal bath, Gellert Thermal Bath and Spa, Budapest

    Indoor pool and thermal bath, Gellert Thermal Bath and Spa, Budapest

  4. Central Market Hall
    Across from the Gellert Thermal Bath, the market was filled with stands selling vegetables, fruit, cheese and meat. I bought a delicious bag of cherries on my walk after my thermal bath at about 398 huf ($2) for a kilo of cherries.

    Fruit and produce stall at Central Market Hall, Budapest

    Fruit and produce stall at Central Market Hall, Budapest

  5. Hiking to the Citadel for a great view of Budapest
    The Citadel had a great view of the city, both the “Buda” and “Pest” side, which is separated by the Danube River. It was free to enter the area around the citadel, but actually entering the citadel costed about $10. It was only a few metres higher, so I skipped entering. See the Citadel’s official website for more information.

    View of Elizabeth Bridge on way up to Citadel, Budapest

    View of Elizabeth Bridge on way up to Citadel, Budapest

  6. Bridges over the Danube

    I walked across 2 of the 8 bridges, which connected the “Buda” and the “Pest” sides of the city over the Danube River. See Bridges of Budapest (external link) for a list of 8 bridges in Budapest.

    Local person biking across Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest

    Local person biking across Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest

A small birthday to Bravo

Finally, the last “B” of this blog post’s title goes out to my MacBook Pro, aka “Bravo”, who turned 2 years old in Budapest. He’s braved it through 10 countries in in the last 7 months, from crazy India, to hot and humid Southeast Asia, and now eastern Europe. Bravo’s birthday in Budapest also marks my 7th month of around the world travel :)

California Coffee Company - Budapest

MacBook (aka Bravo) celebrating his 2nd birthday with an iced white chocolate mocha & free wifi at California Coffee Company, Budapest

Other things I like about Budapest

  • Pedestrian-friendly. Drivers seemed patient, yielded to pedestrians right-of-way and I never got the feeling they were itching to run me over if I didn’t walk faster.
  • Laid back with lots of cafe. Wide cobblestone streets, with lots of ice cream shops and outdoor dining. Even saw a few Chinese food restaurants, which is something I haven’t seen in Turkey, Bulgaria or Romania.
  • Vibrant but safe. The Old Town area I stayed in, near the Basilica, seemed safe, lively even to the later hours of the night.

Sample costs

  • Hostel dorm in the town centre (“Pest side”): 9 euros at Central Backpack King, 90% rating on Hostelworld, excellent location and helpful
  • Grocery store: 1.5L water – 89 huf ($0.50), 1kg cherries – 599 huf ($3.25), slice of pizza bread – 270 huf ($1.45)
  • Restaurant main dish: 1,200 – 2,200 huf ($6 to $12)
  • Metro from main railway station to the Old Town on the “Pest” side: 280 huf ($1.40)
  • Free Budapest maps available from hostels, restaurants and tourist information centre

Other resources for Budapest

>> Does Budapest look like somewhere you’d want to visit? If you’ve been to Budapest, what where you favourite experiences? Leave your comments below!

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  • Enjoyed your article…Budapest is on my list!

  • Janet

    Hi Lily!Greetigns from Budapest! I actually stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for info on Vipassana, I’m starting the 10 day course next week in the Hungarian countryside :o)
    Glad to hear you had a good time in Bp!
    Szia!

    • Hi Janet,

      Good luck on your course, may the zen be with you :)

      – Lily

  • Anonymous

    I like how you celebrated your Macbook Pro’s birthday :) Very nice! Of all the places you listed, I think the one I’m most excited about is the thermal bath! It looks so inviting and sounds like you enjoyed it!

    • Hi Idelish,

      Oh yes, my MacBook is like part of the family, he’s very precious ;) 
      The baths were amazing and I highly recommend them. I would definitely have another visit if/when I ever go back to Budapest. Very picturesque too (which is something you guys might appreciate, from the gorgeous photos you have on your blog!)

      – Lily

  • Budapest was great. We stayed on the Buda side, but I thought the Pest side was more cosmopolitan, more fun. One funny story – I’m so used to cheese being expensive in Thailand that when we went to a market I didn’t want to spend too much so I only ordered like 200g. I was totally surprised when it came to 0.50 euro or something. Great pics!

    • Hi Greg,

      Cheese is expensive in Thailand isn’t it?! It seemed expensive across the board in the other Southeast Asian countries as well. I got 250g for 1.19 euros in Berlin, which I thought already pretty cheap, at least compared to Toronto!

      – Lily

  • Such a vibrant city,your photos made it even better. One of my jr highschool friend went there for their honeymoon and the photos didn’t make me want to go visit yet. However when I saw your photos here it totally change my mind. The Budapest tourism should get you take photos for them :)

    • Hi Sarah,

      I think that’s one of the best compliments I’ve had on my photos :D I have a tendency  to take a lot of photos but never put them up, so you’ve just encouraged me to get my butt in gear to post more! Thanks Sarah :D

      – Lily

  • Found you through Benny’s 40 people post.

    Awesome really. I plan on doing a trip myself sometime soon, so you’d be awesome to talk to about rail passes and stuff!

    As for your posts, they are really great because of the photos. The photos almost make me want to go there right now :P

    • Hi Matt, that’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve had on my photos. Thanks! If there’s any info about Europe or rail passes that you think I might be able to help with, just let me know. The Eurail Facebook page is also really helpful too.

      Talk soon!
      – Lily

  • It’s cute how your laptop has a name and a birthday!

    • Oh yes! Bravo has a name, a gender, birthday and even personality… he’s laid-back, calm, agile, intelligent and lean :) Oh, and my iPhone’s name is “Designer”… he’s also sleek and chilling as well. (Ha, I swear, I’m not crazy!)

      – Lily

  • Teo823

    Hey Lily,

    As i plan my own journey in three months(!) I continue to be inspired by your blog. Thanks! Have you tried any couch surfing yet? I’m wondering if it is a viable option?

    • Hi Teo,

      Thanks for your kind words. I created a couchsurfing account recently, but I haven’t actually couchsurfed yet.  I’ve heard many good things from other travellers who have tried it though, so it sounds like a good way to enhance your travel experience. What countries are you planning to visit?

      – Lily

  • I live in Hungary each year for a month or two! Currently live in White Rock, BC, but plan a huge move to France in 32 days! I just wanted to let you know, your blog reminds me of exactly why we are moving to Europe:) 

  • wow, there are lot of awesome buildings there ..
    Indonesian Tourism guide destination places and hotel list at http://indonesiantourism.netblogthis.com