Hear this story before you visit Budapest. In California, Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi was once asked if he believed in Extra Terrestrials? He said – They are already here among us, we call them Hungarians. Some people say he was referring to the presence of Hungarians producers, directors, writers and technicians in Hollywood. Others say that he was referring to the unique language that they speak – that resembles none other.
Come with me to Budapest that is at the heart of Hungary as its capital city. Hungary is at the heart of Europe – well geographically speaking. Old cities like Budapest have so many stories to tell that we sometimes forget that they have not just history but a present too. Let me share some new experiences to see quintessential Budapest with the new eyes. I am sure you would see it as a great city to explore as a new age traveler.
Check out the great offers on British Airways with Citi Cards to book your tickets to visit Budapest. This could well be another reason to choose a Budapest Holiday.
Walk around the Hero Square
In Budapest, they say, you must look up when you are walking. This is because the top parts of the buildings here are the most ornate. There are a lot of streets that you can walk around and a lot of buildings that you can admire. However, my recommendation would be walking around the world heritage site of Hero’s Square and Andrassy Avenue. Hero’s square will tell you a bit of history of Hungary when its foundation was laid more than 1000 years back by 7 Magyar chieftains who came on the horseback. Square is flanked by two beautiful buildings dedicated to Arts – Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Art.
If you speak to locals, they will tell you to take two strolls around Heroes Square – one during the day and one at night.
Read More – The Pest Side of Budapest
Visit the New York Café
Travelling and coffee go together. We all need our coffee breaks at regular intervals. How about having coffee in one of those cafés that used to be a meeting place of the privileged artists or intellectuals of the city way back in late 19th CE. Add to this the fact that it even served as the office for a literary publication – making it an absolute must go for the bibliophiles in me.
Head to the Ground Floor of Boscolo Hotel Budapest on the Pest Side of Budapest. This is the most opulent café you would ever have coffee at. Wonder if artists of today are creating something as grand somewhere.
Read More – New Yor Cafe, Not in New York
Visit the Hungarian Parliament
Parliament building of Hungary is one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest. River Danube flowing next to it adds to the aura of its neo-gothic architecture in limestone. 3 designs were shortlisted for this building inaugurated in the 1000th year of Hungary’s existence as Hungary in 1896. Two other designs were also built and one of them is a museum now and another a ministry building.
You can not just visit the Parliament of Hungary once. You must take a guided tour to see it from inside with brilliant frescos, a unique cigarette stand, the crown, and the famous staircases. However, you must see it from the River as it reflects in the water. You must see it from the other side of the River – from the hilltop when the two bridges surrounding it are lit up.
Read More – Handsome Parliament of Hungary
Walk on the Chain Bridge
The Danube at Budapest has a chain of bridges connected the two sides of the city. It is a pleasure to watch them, especially at night when they are all lit-up. However, take a walk along the Danube and then cross it while walking the historic Chain Bridge. There is a separate lane for cycles and pedestrians.
The original chain bridge was first opened in 1849. It was destroyed during the second world war and was re-built and re-opened in 1949.
Not many cities offer the kind of views you get of the bridges and from the bridges of Budapest. You might also remember this bridge from the climax scene of the film ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’
For more information on Bridges of Budapest – refer this website
Fisherman’s Bastion at Buda Castle
If you have ever wondered where may the inspiration for Walt Disney logo may have come from – head to Fisherman’s Bastion. You would see the fairytale castle. The seven bastions here represent the seven Magyar tribes – the city does celebrate its roots with élan. Plan to spend an evening here.
The view of Pest from Fisherman’s Bastion is breathtakingly beautiful and hopelessly romantic.
Enjoy Thermal Baths When You Visit Budapest
Budapest is known as the City of Spas. Well, the city sits on a network of natural thermal springs. Why would its residents and visitors not take that natural water to heal their bodies and souls? Taking a thermal bath is something one must do in Budapest. There are many Thermal Spas across the city where you can be for a couple of hours and soak yourself in therapeutic waters. High mineral content in the water is supposed to help you with any joint pains and improving blood circulation. To me, this sounds like the best way to relax in Budapest.
Not many ancient or medieval thermal spas remain, but a lot of them have been designed to take you back in that era. A lot of them come with contemporary looks and facilities. Note that some spas are single sex on some days although most are now turning to mixed-sex ones. Some spas are also open at night. Thermal baths also offer treatment for ailments, massages or beauty treatments like pedicure etc. Look at the menu when you buy your Bath ticket.
Szechenyi Bath is one of the biggest and the most popular baths in Budapest.
Lázár Equestrian Park
A proverb in Hungary says that Hungarians were created by God born to sit on a horse. I do not have the cultural connotation of this proverb, but I can tell you Hungarians definitely know how to ride a horse. I visited the Lázár Equestrian Park about 35kms from Budapest one fine morning. We had lunch at a ranch-style restaurant in front of acres of manicured landscape.
Horses were grazing at a distance. Maybe they were just preparing for the horse show that they have to perform soon. Soon we saw archery on horseback, traditional horse carriages and some comedy show on a trained donkey. Massive bulls too jumped in the show and displayed their power.
The show ended with a lady in traditional dress riding the horse on a side saddle. Now, this is was the most interesting part for me – how do you drive a horse while wearing a heavy multi-layered delicate dress with both your legs on one side. Reminded me of the women in India pillion riding scooters with both legs on one side.
We also took a round of the horse stables – the one who knew horses went gaga over some of the breeds. I was just happy admiring them from a distance. The Equestrian Park also sells the horses in case you want to buy one.
Attend a concert at Hungarian State Opera House
Music is the soul of any culture and spaces created for performances tell you a lot about how people value their culture. At Budapest, Hungarian State Opera House is both a musical and an architectural treat. The opulent building built with ample use of marble is full of frescos that can engage you for hours. The horse-shoe shaped 1200 seater auditorium is supposed to have one of the best acoustics in the world.
I remember the opulent red and gold color that dominated the interiors of the opera house. The tour of the Hungarian Opera House was my introduction to the world of operas. Next time I visit Budapest, I want to definitely attend a concert there.
Check out their events calendar and see if a concert fits your itinerary. Even if it does not, try and take a guided tour of the opera house that is available in many languages.
Water Limousine Ride on the Danube
Now, I have had a boat ride, yacht rides, dinner cruises but at the Danube in Budapest, I discovered luxury Water Limousine. I took a sunset trip. It was wonderful to cruise over the waters of the Danube that look quite placid from the banks but is not quite so when you travel with it.
Budapest city comes to you as a lovely Panorama with two world heritage sites on either side of it. The bridges connecting the Buda and the Pest are like the glue that makes the city of Budapest.
You have an option to take the day and night trips as well. If you can afford to take all three, but the best one is probably the sunset one – you get to see a bit of daylight scenery, then the lovely sunset and then a bit of night as the lights start coming up on buildings and bridges.
Hungarian Paprika as Souvenir
Every destination has a unique way of traveling back with you to home. In Hungary, I loved the little Paprika packs that are available almost anywhere in Budapest. The best place to pick up the authentic variety is at Central Market.
Hungarian Paprika is close to red chili at home in India but with its unique taste and flavor. I loved the packaging of Paprika in small tin boxes, in ceramic boxes and in colorful pouches.
The shelf life of Paprika is roughly one year, so pick up accordingly. Check out this Wikipedia page to understand more about Paprika.