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
- 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 (!).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 :)
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.
- 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
- How to see Budapest for Almost Nothing: 6 Cheap Things to Do (and 1 Splurge)
- Free daily Budapest walking tours (classic, communist, Jewish)
- List of baths in Budapest
- Lonely Planet guide’s Budapest overview
>> 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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