Budapest is probably my favorite European city…well, maybe within the top 3. It is different than anywhere else you’ve been. You don’t feel like you’re in Europe, you feel like you’re in the old world. It’s got this dark magic, and I love it.
It’s a little more subdued, but yet very distinct from its other former Eastern Bloc neighbors, but don’t let that fool you. There’s so much history from the Ottoman Empire and Turks and Romans to the Soviet influence, everyone has crossed through this area, including the Roma people, who give Hungarians their gypsy culture. All of this historic interchange has led to Hungary (and Hungarians) to be a melting pot of mixed ethnicities.
Heroes’ Square is one of the landmark plazas on the Pest side, featuring Magyar and other prominent Hungarian leaders. The central column is topped by Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown. It is flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and Hall of Art.
One of the most memorable places I’ve been is the Central Market Hall. This grand indoor market is full of colors and sounds and smells, it’s sensory way overload. Marketplaces seem ubiquitous in America these days, but this feels so original.
There’s giant sausages and other encased meats everywhere (literally so many kinds of sausage), cheeses, pickles of all types. Hungarian food is one of my all time favorite cuisines. Put a plate of chicken paprikash or goulash in front of me and you’re golden. You must (read: MUST) buy paprika from Hungary. So closely associated with this country, their paprika is the smoky and rich and perfect. They sell it everywhere.
On the Buda side of town sits the Castle Hill complex, made up of Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Matthias Church. Fisherman’s Bastion is a Gothic style viewpoint that looks like something out of a fairy tale. This very popular tourist attraction provides sweeping views of the river and the Pest side from high above.
The Danube river runs right through the center of town, splitting it into the two sides, Buda and Pest. The gorgeous bridges that span the river are spectacles in and of themselves, and are lovely at night.
Along the Pest side of the river is a long promenade dotted with cafes and riverfront restaurants. This is a wonderful way to wind down and watch as the lights transform this city into something even more fantastical. Budapest at night is something else.
Venhajo-Etterem restaurant is located on a converted steamboat and has direct views of the castle. Dubarry is also an amazing dining experience, if the weather permits you must sit outside in the white linen bistro tables. Both restaurants serve traditional Hungarian fare of which I cannot get enough.
Walking along the river front will afford you the most spectacular views, the low light of early evening is the perfect time to snap a photo of the Buda Castle.
Unfortunately, I only spent a very limited amount of time in this wonderful city, and a lot of it was spent with family (yes, unexpectedly have family here), so I didn’t have a chance to visit the thermal hot springs. This is a must when you visit. The Romans were originally drawn to this area for the touted benefits of these mineral water pools. Of course, the Turks came through and built Turkish baths, some of which are still in use. The Szécheny Baths are a grand structure on the Pest side of town that has many baths. Guess I know where I’m headed next time…
have a great weekend!