Last week saw me fly away to the cultural delight that is Budapest. A city that is full of fairy tale charm and culture on every corner – it has quickly become top of my city breaks list.
With just two full days in the city there was plenty to pack into the schedule. And pack it in we certainly did. Staying at the Soho Boutique hotel in the Jewish Quarter of the city provided a perfect base to get around by foot.
Day one saw us cover almost 14 miles around the city, heading down across the Danube and making a steady climb to obtain the “best views the city has to offer” from the Citadel at the top of Gellért Hill. After the steep climb up the hill we spent a little while at the top soaking in the views across the river and catching our breath before continuing our adventure on the Buda side of the city.
After the steep climb of Gellért Hill we hopped on the funicular railway to the castle district, where the stunning scenery and architecture continued delight. Here we took in more views over the Danube, took in Buda Castle, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Fisherman’s Bastion in particular was something to be seen, it was breath taking and looked like a backdrop from a Disney film – quickly becoming my highlight of the day.
Views across the river to Parliament were beautiful, especially as we were blessed with such a sunny afternoon and bright blue skies.
After spending a significant part of the afternoon soaking in the delights around the castle region and having a spot of lunch in the sun, we made our way back down to the river, crossing back over to the “Pest” side of the city.
A brief walk around Parliament followed, an impressive building up close, before making our way back to the hotel for a pit stop before dinner.
Our second day saw us head towards Városliget, the city park – which has plenty to offer all kinds of tourists.
Walking up Andrássy Avenue, you will spot some spectacular looking buildings en route. Here you will also find the Terror Museum, containing exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century. If we had more time on our hands this would have been something we would have liked to have visited. However, with it being another beautiful sunny day we wanted our time to be spent out doors.
So we continued up the Avenue until we saw the entrance to the city park, which is very hard to miss with the iconic landmark of Heroes Square.
Just a short walk into the park and you will stumble across the beauty that is Vajdahunyad Castle. With more fairy tale charm, I half expected a Disney princess to throw down her hair from one of the many turrets.
We could have spent all admiring the castle and wondering around the park grounds, however we had booked tickets to spend some time at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths – one of the best and largest baths in Europe. It boasts 15 indoor and 3 outdoor pools with natural hot spring waters.
Personally, I found the indoor pools rather eerie. Getting in and out of different heated pools with the strong sulphur smell was a bit too much for me so we did not stay long here. The outdoor pools would have been great, if they were not so crowded and perhaps better suited for a winter visit, when you could fully appreciate the heated temperatures of the water. I found the baths were not for me; far too many people for my liking. But it is all part of the experience, if you don’t try these things for yourself you don’t know.
So after our short visit to the baths we were on our way again, working our way through the city, stopping for lunch and visiting a Lego shop we stumbled across in our travels.
We spent more time around the city centre this afternoon, wondering around the Parliament building again. And then on to seek out the “Shoes on the Danube Bank.” A rather poignant memorial to those who were shot along the banks and thrown into the river during the Second World War.
With just two full days to spend in Budapest we had seen many of the major landmarks, soaked up the culture and admired all the beautiful buildings (covering a total of 30 miles). Without a doubt it is a city that offers so much history, charm and beauty – quickly becoming one of my favourite places to date.
Two days was not enough to appreciate everything Budapest has to offer. We did not get the chance to cruise the Danube at night or to wonder inside the Parliament buildings – so I imagine there will be a return visit in the future.
It is clear to see why Budapest regularly features as a top European city break location. I have yet to hear a bad review, everyone I know who have visited appreciates its charm and beauty.
If Budapest is not already on your bucket list – then it should be!