John was out again on his travels again in his efforts to #ExploreEurope – This time he hit the Hungarian Capital of Budapest. Here is his account of the trip…
Budapest – The Capital of Hungary
Hungary is a country of approx. 10 million people and almost 2 million of them live in Budapest. Budapest was two cities – The affluent Buda and not so rich Pest. As the years went on and the two cities grew they merged as one. The central river area of the Danube is a UNESCO World Heritage site with the Royal Palace in Buda on one side and the Parliament on the other side in Pest.
Budapest has been ruled by many different nations over the years starting with the Celts, Romans, Turkish and most recently the Soviet Union ending in 1990 when the wall came down. The city has a royal imperial feel to it. Very grand buildings like the Opera House, St Stephens Basilica and the second largest Synagogue in the world are just a few to mention.
When I first arrived it was late and dark. I took a walk down to the river and looked up at the Royal Palace. It was illuminated and looked amazing. Walking back to the hotel and stopped for a glass of wine, everyone spoke English and were very friendly. Hungary is in the EU but has not yet started using the Euro; they use Forint but everywhere I went to will accept the Euro as well.
The first thing I arranged was the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. I find it a really good way to Explore a new city and get loads of helpful tips and advice. The hop on and hop off tour is brilliant in Budapest it is for 48 hours and included a boat trip and was just 24 euros!
I did bus tour on Friday and was blown away by the beauty of the city. Going up to the Royal palace was breathtaking then going up t the Citadel which is the highest point of the city you see the Hungarian Statue of Liberty and get an unspoiled view over the Danube and both sides of the city. Just for the view alone it was worth the trip. I then took a walk around the Hungarian Parliament. It looks up towards the Palace – or so I thought! When the Parliament was built on the “poor side” of the city in Pest the politicians chose the spot very carefully. They wanted the Royals to look at the parliament every time they looked over the city and see that Budapest was now a democracy and not under Royal rule. I then took a boat tour along the Danube river to see both sides of the city from the river.
St Stephens Basilica is the main Roman Catholic church in Hungary. St Stephen founded Budapest and the relic of his hand is on display in the Cathedral. This is well worth a visit.
I then headed toward the Opera and the National History Museum. After a walk and a lot of pictures for facebook and Instagram I jumped back on the bus and headed towards Heroes Square. There is a statue of Archangel Gabriele and the legend says he offered Stephen the crown of Hungary. Also around the square there are two museums , another castle and a spa. Hungary has 80 geological thermal spas. January was a bit cold for me to try them but I have it on good authority that in the summer it is a very fun place to hang out.
Sunday was a walking day. I walked to the Synagogue and learnt the history of the Hungarian Jews and everything they experienced before the second world war, during and after. This was a very humbling part of the trip but a part I am glad I took the time to do this.
Hungarians are very proud of their diverse history and the hop on hop off tour was a great way to hear a local tell her stories. It seems the like bridges very much and also they are very proud of their education and dozen or so Nobel prize winners.
On Friday for dinner I wanted something local. I checked Tripadvisor and found a restaurant called Hungarikum Bisztro. With 7500 reviews and 4.5 stars I thought it must be worth a go. I was not disappointed. Goulash soup for two and Pork knuckle for two with wine and water for a mouth watering 42 euro!! The food was delicious and the price was amazing. If you visit Budapest this is a must for local food but book early. They were turning people away and a sign on the door said fully booked no free tables until Monday. When I left they even gave us the recipie they use for their Hungarian Goulash soup.
On Saturday breakfast started off at the New York café – billed as the most beautiful café in the world. It did not disappoint. It was built in the 19th century and has the feel of a royal palace. The building has chandeliers, gold ornaments, marble floors and Italian silk wall paper. Well worth a visit even if just for a coffee. I then walked back streets and into the Jewish quarter towards Europe’s largest synagogue. It was of course closed on a Saturday (the sabbath) but the area was very busy with local markets, bars restaurants and museums. I took a walk around the indoor markets and enjoyed looking / tasting the salamis, cheese and there are red chilli peppers everywhere.
On Saturday evening I wanted to try some fine dining. I went to the trusty Tripadvisor and found a restaurant called Caviar & Bull. It was an awesome experience. From the food to the service and then I had desert sitting at the chefs table in the kitchen watching all the cooks preparing, cooking and presenting the food.
In short – this was my favorite weekend trip I have done since living in Germany. There is still so much more to see and do in Budapest. I will be going back shortly for part 2 – watch this space!