Most people have heard of Budapest as being as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is easily a cliché and tiring point to describe the city as a version of Paris. Budapest is a beautiful city in its own right and despite the devastation of war and communism and now a centre of mass tourism, it is still beautiful aesthetically.
The union of two or rather three cities Buda, Pest and Obuda.
Buda and Pest are separated by the river but joined by many bridges and still are distinct. Most of the sites to see are on the more polished Buda side. But the views from the Pest side are special.
The most photographed and arguably the beautiful building in Budapest by far is the Parliament and there is a multitude of places to admire its beautiful. Some views include from the citadel. A hike up the hill gives a great view day or night from the Fisherman’s Bastion. Don’t bother with paying a fee from upstairs. The view may be slightly higher but it isn’t any more beautiful. The view from the Bastion and also from the cafe there is wonderful. However there are plenty of other beautiful buildings too. Especially the bridges…
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge designed by a British architect is especially beautiful and known for an urban legend about the lions which is totally incorrect and yet often retold as fact. The legend goes that the sculptor spent so much time studying lions and made perfect lions and challenged anyone to find any imperfection. The lions were carved so immaculately but a child pointed out that the lions have no tongues! The sculptor, János Marchalkó realised in horror and committed suicide by jumping off the bridge into the river!
The story while interesting and often told as if fact, is in fact nonsense. It may like the lions have no tongues but they do they are not visible from below.
The Chain Bridge is also known as being the first permanent crossing over the Danube in the city and connecting the then separate cities of Buda and Pest but also the first where royalty had to pay the toll as well as everybody else.
Also worth visiting or passing by is the Opera House.
A popular story being Franz Joseph’s wrath when his edict that the Opera House should be smaller than Vienna’s and so less grand his wishes were carried to the letter but not to the spirit. He found to his horror and fury that while yes the Opera House was smaller and less grand on the outside inside it was its superior. Reportedly he never visited again!
When I visited Budapest I first met my Moldavian friend Natalya, on her last full day in Budapest. We went to restaurant / cafe where I tried goulash. Perhaps the most famous Hungarian dish – it varies from restaurant to restaurant. Afterwards Anita, a kind friend I made by Couchsurfing showed me and a visiting Italian, Marco, the fortress as well as introducing her University and some other sites along the way. The hike up to the citadel is rewarding with several view points of the. We also went to a restaurant where I tried more Hungarian food. Well.. a Hungarian ratatouille.
Budapest is also known for its Ruins Bars in District VII. Set in ‘abandoned’ buildings they provide a very nice setting and atmosphere despite being a tourist ‘must see’ only marred by excessive smoke if you are a non-smoker. Although there are non-smoking areas present.The city also has a long standing cafe culture. And there are inexpensive cafes but the best known is the very expensive but nice Gerbeaud Cafe.
Sundaes here can cost 10 Euros but I can certify based on my solitary experience and of what I heard previously that they will be of good quality.
As for relatively inexpensive cafes – Susy ,another friend I met, introduced me to another interesting cafe with a great selection of tea and interesting rooms. The one we went in could only be accessed by crawling!During this trip I also met another kind friend Timi on two occasions during my visit, and also a friendly Thai traveller Toppu.
With Timi I saw the Bastion, but also the castle and surrounding area.
I decided to spend my last day in Budapest on going to the free walking tour. I am usually adverse to guided tours. At least when there is an alternative but having spent 6 days in Budapest I had heard many positive reports and decided to go. And it was an interesting experience. You get to learn a lot more of the stories behind all the places although I have not being able to confidentially verify that each story is true free from embellishments (additions).
I stayed at the Astoria Hostel (not to be confused with the Hotel opposite the intersection).
I returned to Budapest the next year (2014) en route to Azerbaijan. Going for a day before abd a day after my journey I met Fanni twice. It was great to meet her. Earlier during the day on both occasions I took the opportunity to see places I hadn’t in my previous trip. Going up St Stephen’s Basilica for what would be a nice view if the weather was more co-operative and to Momento park, which is situated just outside Budapest. The park is where several communist statues from that period are preserved. In addition their is a screening of the interesting “Life as an Agent” film, which was based on actual footage used by the secret police to train.