Without a doubt, Budapest was the most surprising city we visited on our recent trip to Europe; completely unexpected and now firmly amongst my top ten favourite cities I’ve ever travelled to. This stunning city is charming, beautiful and filled with history, castles and spectacular buildings that are well deserving of their UNESCO World Heritage listings. At the same time, this city is cosmopolitan, vibrant, bustling and fun. Most people speak fantastic English (which took me completely by surprise) and they are keen to welcome visitors and show off their beautiful nation.
We stayed in an apartment in the heart of Vaci Street, which is an inner city pedestrian mall/street that features shops, restaurants and cafes. This was the perfect location to base ourselves as it enabled us to easily walk to all of the main tourist attractions, sample local fare and take in the bars with easy access to return home. We were also only a block away from the main Christmas Markets which was fantastic.
Our time was short in Budapest, we immersed ourselves in the sights by walking along the River Danube and across the spectacular Szechenyi Chain Bridge to then take the funicular railway up to Budapest Castle. The funicular is only a short ride (around 3 mins) but one on the easiest ways to travel up and down the very steep hill, and great to experience with it being the third oldest railway in Europe. Once at the top, we explored Budapest Castle and took in the magnificent views before heading over to St Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The whole area is UNESCO World Heritage listed and you’ll understand why as soon as you see, the fairytale architecture and views are simply stunning.
After journeying back down on the funicular we walked to the Hungarian Parliament building, which again was more than worth the walk along the river. Just outside the Parliament Building along the river bank is the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial and this is a must-see. The memorial is in memory of the Jewish victims who were shot into the Danube during WWII. The victims were ordered to line up along the river and take off their shoes before being shot and killed, their bodies falling into the river, leaving their shoes behind. This was a very moving experience and definitely worth seeing.
There are lots of other sights to see in Budapest – the Citadel, St Stephen’s Basilica Cathedral (another great shopping area and fabulous Christmas Market) and there are a number of Museums for those that are interested in the arts, the holocaust and the history of Europe. Budapest has it all!
The food in Budapest was also amazing, huge platters of meat and vegetables and the goulash is to die for (as it should be!). They are also fond of their schnitzels, soups and sausages, most with a distinctive smoky paprika flavour which was fabulous.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Budapest and only wish we had a couple of more days to spend there. Heralded as ‘The new Prague’, this city did not disappoint and should definitely feature on your trip to Eastern Europe.