A trip to Central Europe wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Budapest. 8 bridges that cross the Danube River connect Buda and Pest; these 2 areas make up the city. The Chain Bridge linking Buda with Pest was opened as the first permanent bridge across the Danube in 1849. The 2 cities were officially merged in 1873, creating the metropolis of Budapest. Tourist attractions are located throughout the city but most hotels are located on the Pest (Eastern) side of the city. We stayed at the Art’otel Budapest, on the West (Buda) side of the city. Looking across the river is a great view of the House of Parliament, especially at night.
Our first afternoon we visited Gellert Hill overlooking the city and Danube River. The Citadel and Liberty Statue sit at the top of the highest point in the downtown area. Great panoramic views of the city can be seen from here. Next we stopped at the Buda Castle to visit Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. After some time to explore the castle on our own we headed over to the Pest side of the city for dinner.
Dinner was a traditional Hungarian meal of goulash to start and roasted Goose, potato pancakes and apple with jam. We were also entertained with live music throughout the meal. What a great first day in the Hungarian capital!
The next full day was spent exploring the Pest side of the city; first stop was some shopping at the Central Market Hall. This is a great place to shop for unique souvenirs from Hungary, or to pick up a quick lunch to go. I picked up Hungarian paprika, T-shirts and a painting to take home. Once outside the Central Market Hall there are many other shops along a pedestrian street ranging from souvenirs, outdoor cafes or high-end boutiques.
After our morning of shopping we headed to Hero’s Square. This square commemorates the 7 founders of Hungary; their statues overlook the main city square and City Park. We walked through City Park to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the largest medicinal baths in Europe. We did not have time to visit the baths but did learn about the minerals in the water that help with joint pain and discomfort.
Our dinner was at the Reteshaz Strudel House, the first strudel house in Pest. Here we were served a 3-course meal of strudel, starting with a vegetable strudel; main course was salmon in strudel and lastly the delicious Apfelstrudel. All of these are traditional Hungarian recipes and all equally delicious. We were lucky to have a demonstration of how to make Apfelstrudel from one of the chefs; this was such a cool experience!
To finish our short visit to Budapest we embarked on a Danube evening river cruise. While on-board we were served a couple of beverages while we enjoyed the sights passing by. The cruise is commentated through a headset in many different languages. Enjoy the fresh air on the top deck and back of the boat, or sit inside if the weather isn’t great. A river cruise is a great way to see the city at night and from a different angle.
With only 2 full days in Budapest I only touched on the most popular sites, but this is a city I will certainly be returning to in the near future.