Baths, Bars, and Bastions: Budapest

Sara Sees (4)

I did not know what to expect from Budapest, but I was presently surprised by the Hungarian capital. What I found was a hip city filled with breathtaking sights, relaxing thermal baths, and kick-butt street food. Pretty sure I’ll return one day, even if only to chill at the Fisherman’s Bastion for a while.

We started off Budapest with a free walking tour of the city, which included a bit of the Pest side and some of the castle on the Buda side. I wasn’t as impressed with the tour as I was with my tour of Prague, but it was good to get an insight into the city and learn some Hungarian history.

Budapest is actually made up of two formerly separate cities, Buda and Pest. Our accommodation was on the Pest side right next to the Hungarian Parliament, where most of the liveliness of the city is, but I thought the Buda side was absolutely beautiful. It was a complete contrast to Pest; it was hilly, with some wooded area and winding, confusing streets, whereas Pest was flat as can be with straight streets coming together at right angles.

On our tour we learned that not many of Budapest’s buildings are really that old. A lot has been rebuilt after wars. Even the Fisherman’s Bastion didn’t start construction until 1895, and the fairytale-esque Vajdahunyad Castle began construction a year later. Hence why everything in the city is neo-something: neo-gothic, neo-romanesque, neo-classical, you get the idea.

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Old or not, however, the Fisherman’s Bastion was hands-down my favorite site of Budapest. The seven towers of the Bastion represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 896 AD. From the Bastion you can get a beautiful view of Budapest across the Danube, framed by the beautiful stone towers.

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Also at the top of Castle Hill is, you guessed it, the Buda Castle. The weekend we were in the city the castle was hosting a beer festival! Sadly we didn’t get a chance to go…

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By the way, did you know Katy Perry filmed her “Firework” music video on the castle lawn there?! Super cool.

We also got to watch the changing of the guards in front of the president’s house, which has been a longstanding tradition since…… 2003. It was still cool to see though!

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Later that night Hannah and I met up with our new friends from the walking tour, Hannah and Natasha. We went to Szimpla Kert, the most popular ruin pub in Budapest and for good reason. Everything was so perfectly mismatched and random, the atmosphere was great, and we even went back the next morning to check out the farmer’s market there every Sunday.

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We then went to a Jewish street food bar and tried shots of palinka, a Hungarian fruit brandy – surprisingly good!

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On our next day in Budapest Hannah and I took it easy. In other words, we took a spa day at the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath.

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The thermal baths were just what we needed after two long weeks of travel. We tried out each of the 18 different pools, settling on the two main pools outside. It felt great to have nothing to do but sit by a water jet, relax, and let my fingers get all prune-y.

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In the same park as the Széchenyi baths you can find Heroes’ Square, which holds statues of the leaders of the seven Magyar tribes, statues of other important leaders, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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Right behind Heroes’ Square is the Vajdahunyad Castle, which looks misleadingly old but was, in fact, built at the turn of the 20th century. It was still beautiful to walk through, though. Even if we did find the creepiest statue ever: Anonymous. Shudders.

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On our way back to our apartment we stumbled upon what might be the greatest street food in the world: lángos. It’s deep fried heaven with cheese and garlic on top. My mouth is watering just writing this. It was just that good.

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Hannah and I decided to take a nighttime stroll across the Chain Bridge and up Castle Hill on our last night in the city to take in some of the sights at night. It was marvelous and a perfect way to end our time in the city.

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Budapest was cool. It was trendy, friendly, and cheap: three things I really, really like. Three days isn’t enough to cover the whole city, so I’ll be back someday to see what I missed 🙂

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