ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE: BUDAPEST
They say travel is the one thing you can buy that will make you richer.
Speaking of richer… think gold! That is, the gold of Budapest. Gold is the colour of success. It’s the colour of luxury, extravagance and triumph. All qualities that one should associate with Budapest. This stunning golden city triumphed over turbulent war times and subsequent communism. It has succeeded in maintaining it’s extravagance through its slow move into the current century, thus protecting the luxury found within the historical buildings and felt at the traditional hot baths.
Despite the stunning golden exterior, many people leave this Eastern European city off their ‘whirlwind, finding myself, must seek experiences’ travel list. Or, if they do venture east, they play it safe only venturing into countries bordering the west. However, there’s a lot to be said for the cities of the east.
The two cities that sit either side of the Rhine, Buda and Pest, merge to form the beautiful, historical city that is definitely worth the detour. Budapest rises up from the Rhine to the hills of Buda, climbing to its peak at the Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle. On the other side of the river, the city spans towards Hero’s Square, where one can venture and relax in the hot baths.
If you’re seeking an ‘off the beaten track’ experience, but are not yet willing to truly leave the track, then Budapest is your answer. Whilst it’s popular with the older age bracket and river cruises, the younger generation are slowing starting to experience the wonders of this city. Prices are still relatively cheap, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and it’s safe.
Landing in Budapest you immediately notice the aroma wafting through the air. If you’re eating a meal in Budapest that does not contain paprika, are you even eating a meal in Budapest? The smell envelopes you, as the Hungarian women guide you through the menu, suggesting dishes that when simply translated mean ‘delicious with a side of paprika’. If you’re roaming around the city, make sure you get off the main streets, move away from the tourist restaurants (you did not come all this way to eat a burger) and look for the local hangouts. How to spot one you might ask? It’s simple really. Red and white checked tablecloths, middle aged female waitstaff and Hungarian on every page of the menu. It may not be a glamorous establishment, but it will be tasty. If you find a spot that ticks all these boxes, sit back, ask for suggestions and let your taste buds enjoy the paprika journey that is Budapest. As you savour the taste of paprika, don’t forget to also indulge in a Langos (deep fried bread) or Kurtosh (chimney cake).
After a day of indulging in the aromas and tastes that this city has to offer, it is now time to hit up the ruin bars. Whilst the name suggests old, ruin bars are a recent phenomenon. Locals successfully transformed old, empty residential buildings in the Jewish Quarter, into hubs of activity using mismatched second hand furniture. They’re dotted around the city, some offering endless farmers market brunches, whilst others only open in the evenings to entertain. However, if you’ve only got time for one, then you must visit Szimpla Kert. The most energetic and eclectic of the ruin bars, this multi storey building offers something for everyone.
Whilst the food is a massive drawcard for the city, there are also many sights that should not be missed. Roaming Budapest is easy, although if you’re walking up to the castle, prepare for a climb. The Buda Castle holds pride of place at the top of the hill, keeping an eye over the rest of the city. Just down from the Castle you’ll find the colourful Matthias Church, adjacent to Fisherman’s Bastion. Settle in for a drink and admire the view or get your selfie game on with Pest making a superb backdrop.
After seeing the sights of Buda, meander across the Chain Bridge to the other side of the river to take in Parliament House, St Stephen’s Basilica and the Jewish Quarter. Here you may stumble across some cute markets, small quirky stores and interesting people. But, make sure you steer clear of the very obvious tourist stores if shopping is on your agenda. If venturing out to Hero’s Square pack your swimwear. The Szechenyi Baths are nearby and worth a visit. Although, the the Gellert Baths in Buda may be more your scene if you’re looking for quieter crowds. Either way, when in Budapest one must live like a local, which includes a trip to the baths.
With so much to do in this city coupled with the friendly locals, laid back vibe, delicious tastes and tradition of relaxing in the hot baths, you’ll wonder why you’ve never considered visiting before.