This article was published in Downend Voice, Issue 46 for December 2016
An architectural gem, vibrant and fast-paced, Budapest is one of Central Europe's most interesting cities. Being an economical, cultural and financial hub, Budapest is Hungary's capital, the largest and most important city. What I learned during my visit is that Budapest used to be Buda, Pest and Óbuda, three different cities which united in 1873 and became the flourishing capital it is today. You can spend days in Budapest and still feel like it's not enough. Its amazing young culture, phenomenal nightlife and exciting sights, attract countless tourists wishing to capture a quick glance of Hungary's true heart. Yet, if you only have a short weekend to spend in Budapest, here is your best guide on how to have the most amazing time in the beautiful Hungarian capital.
I like to start my morning with a good coffee and Budapest is well known for its grand cafes. There are so many to choose from, ranging from hip and atmospheric to elegant establishments. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you shouldn’t skip it, and you have no reason to because Budapest has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Now, I strongly suggest that you don’t make my mistake of ordering Hungarian Krémes first thing in the morning because these custard cakes are so delicious, you won’t want to eat anything else for the duration of your stay.
Budapest is an elegant city with Buda being the most impressive side, located on the Western side of the Danube. Imposing bridges, skillfully decorated, attract countless photography lovers, myself included. To capture the real soul of Budapest, you must snap a picture of the House of Parliament (Országház). This is a highly regarded architectural treasure, due to its interesting combination of gothic features alongside renaissance elements.
I love seeing cities from above, there is something rather magical about seeing rooftops stretching all the way to the horizon. Budapest is a beautiful city, but its real magnificent colours truly come to life when observed from the Fisherman's Bastion. This is a wonderful terrace which takes its name after the fishermen who were in charge to protect the area during the Middle Ages. For the history enthusiasts: the Fisherman's Bastion has seven towers, each dedicated to the seven Hungarian tribes that settled in Carpathian basin in 896 AD.
Beyond the beauty of aerial views, there’s plenty of shops, boutiques, and mansions awaiting to be discovered, all located on Andrássy út, a 19th-century boulevard, named a World Heritage Site in 2002. For the love of arts, this is the place to be, as it is on this very street that you will find the Hungarian State Opera House and the Ferenc Hopp Museum of East Asian Arts.
Towards the end of the day, there is no better place to admire the stunning colours of the sunset, than on the Gellért Hill. Make your way up to the Statue of Liberty, by the Citadella, but know there is quite a hike to get all the way to the top. From here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and The Hungarian House of Parliament. It is here that you can take that postcard-perfect photography, as the city bathes in the orange hues of the sunset.
Budapest is not just a pretty place, but the perfect city for foodie travellers. During winter, you are guaranteed to find tons of Xmas stalls which are colourful, inviting and cheap. There are plenty of incredible local dishes to be experienced, starting with the famed gulyás. Contrast to all belief, gulyás is actually a Hungarian soup with specific dumplings. A few dozen years ago, it was mainly consumed by Shepherds (hence the name) who didn’t have many ingredients nor means to cook whilst out with their livestock. Gulyás is cheap to produce and very filling, with a unique taste of paprika, one of Hungary’s most widely used spice.
Another incredible and unique food which should be tried whilst in Budapest is Lángos. I don’t rave about Eastern European food that much, but Lángos is something of a dream. This Hungarian speciality is a flat, large, fried bread, served with sour cream, cheese and bacon on top. It’s very difficult to imagine something tastier than a mouthful of Lángos, especially during the winter holidays.
No Budapest trip should be complete without trying Hungarian wines. Although I am not a wine drinker myself, I couldn’t resist the urge to try a glass of Tokaji, a special wine cultivated on the Eastern side of Hungary, which acquired the nickname “The Wine of Kings”. After my first sip, I immediately understood why King Louis XV of France sourced his wine from Hungary. The sweet and delicate taste of a Tokaji wine is truly unforgettable.
Budapest is one of my favourite river cities in Europe, because of its quality food, affordable prices, and historic sights. The Hungarian capital stole my heart many years ago and I strongly believe it’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in a versatile city which has plenty more to offer than just meets the eye. It’s hard to imagine a more intriguing city than Budapest, which can accommodate luxurious holiday seekers, as well as budget travellers and combine the two in perfect harmony