We arrived into Budapest late in the afternoon and by the time we’d checked into our lovely hotel, the Prestige Hotel, we had time for a quick walk before our dinner reservation. We decided to head out and get a look at the Hungarian Parliament from the other side of the Danube. All was going well until we started to feel the odd spot of rain as we crossed the Chain Bridge, it had been glorious all day and so we dismissed the idea of going back for an umbrella. We made it across to a point where we were level with the Parliament and the grey clouds had rolled in. We had time for a few photos before the heavens opened and we had to dive for cover, getting completely soaked in the process. Not a great start to our trip – thankfully the rest was much better (and drier!).
Our first morning in Budapest was spent on a segway tour of the city with Yellow Zebra, which was a brilliant way for us to quickly get a feel for the city and also to learn something of the history of the city. It also spared my boyfriend’s knee which is not great after a lot of walking, although being the Sport Billy that he always was prior to all of the knee surgery, he took to the segwaying like a duck to water, enjoying slaloming between obstacles at the back of the group. I highly recommend it if you’re in Budapest and fancy a guided tour, even the most apprehensive from our tour were whizzing around after five minutes.
Our second morning was spent not on the Pest side of the city where we were staying, but rather exploring Buda. It’s a great way to spend a (largely inexpensive) morning or afternoon in Budapest.
Budapest only became a single city (unifying Buda, Obuda and Pest) in 1873. Buda is located on the hilly West bank of the Danube, whereas Pest lies on the flatter East bank. Buda is the quieter and more residential side of the city, so we opted to stay in Pest, although we were keen to spend some time exploring Buda. Wanting to beat the tourist groups (and taking advantage of our hotel’s fantastic positioning only minutes from the Chain Bridge) we got up early one morning and headed across the river to take the funicular up to the top of the hill. Although the funicular only cost a few Euros, it’s a perfectly doable walk if you fancy a bit more exercise. Do walk across the many bridges over the funicular track though as you get a fantastic view across the Chain Bridge and over to St Stephen’s Basilica.
A short stroll away from the funicular is Fisherman’s Bastion, a beautiful terrace which looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing and which offers lovely panoramic views across to Pest and the Hungarian Parliament. Although we got there just before 9am we definitely weren’t there early enough to have the place to ourselves before the city woke up. If you do want to pretend to be queen of your own Bastion I’d definitely suggest getting there earlier than we did, it’s open and accessible all day and night though so I’m sure you can find a time to enjoy some solitude there.
We enjoyed an early morning ice cream before having a stroll around the quiet tree-lined streets.
Doing my research I’d read about Cafe Ruszwurm, a tiny cafe founded in 1827 with a lovely wooden counter inside housing a variety of cakes and pastries. We got there around 10.15am and were lucky enough to still be early enough to get a seat, apparently it gets very busy. We would have sat outside but the surrounding area was in the middle of all sorts of construction, mainly to fit out a Jamie’s Italian next door.
We selected drinks and a cake for me and a chocolate croissant for my boyfriend and sat down to tuck in. Both homemade they were delicious. Go there early (it’s never too early to have cake!) and enjoy.
Budapest is a city of far too many beautiful sights and angles and I came home with a memory card bursting at the seams with far too many shots of the Parliament and Chain Bridge as viewed from Buda. Some of the best views both up and down rive come from the grounds of Buda Castle.
My advice would be to not only visit once but to go back as dusk starts to fall, because there’s something magical about standing looking over the city and watching the lights of the city come on as blue hour falls.
Budapest captured my heart, if you haven’t visited then put it on your list of places to visit. A lot of people go with friends and have a cheap week full of bar and club hopping. Personally, I’d say you have to go with someone you love to really do the city justice, it’s utterly romantic and watching the sun set from Buda is magical.