My love affair with Budapest

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Budapest, youdabest.

No, I'm completely serious. I've definitely said this about plenty of European cities I've happened upon, but I've never actually fell head over heels quite like how I did with the Hungarian capital on my first (and so far, only) trip there in April 2013. If ever you were umming and ahhing about whether or not to visit this colossally beautiful city, then let these 10 reasons attempt to sway you.

// As soon as I clapped eyes on it, I was in love.

This was one of my first views of the centre of Budapest, as I drove into the city from the airport. We drove across the Danube from Pest to Buda - the two different halves of the city - and I immediately clapped eyes on the Parliament Building, which looked fantastic against the pinky evening sky. I had a little feeling straight away that this city was going to be special. Four evenings later and a little bit later indeed, I had the chance to see this remarkable building all lit up for the night. It was a lovely way to end my trip, almost coming full circle.

// Love London? Love Paris? It's a marriage of the two.
For me, the bridges remind me of London, but the style of the buildings make me think of Paris. It's even referred to as the Paris of the East.

// It's a simplistic city that doesn't ask too much of you.

If you want a city that is perfect for just walking around, then Budapest is for you. It's indescribably exhilarating, and an hour can slide away so quickly as you amble the myriads of streets and alleyways, rooftops, little squares, landmarks and hidden treasures>. Just arm yourself with a comfortable pair of shoes, a camera and a map and you are good to go.

// At the same time, there is so much you can possibly see and do.

This is where all the big tourist attractions come into play, and boy there are a whole hoard of them. Create a tick-list in your brain with the four most important things: Heroes Square, The Chain Bridge, St Stephen's Basilica and Buda Castle. But don't stop there - breathe in the beauty of all the unsung heroes. The historical values of The House Of Terror; the peaceful and idyllic Margaret Island; the other delights on Buda Hill such as Matthias Church with it's delightful mosaic rooftop; one of Budapest's many natural thermal spas; the 360-degree view of the entire city from the heights of Citadella. I guarantee, you will not be stuck for things to do in Budapest.

// The beauty is in the buildings...

There's something about the buildings that make my heart dance a little. They have that cool vibe about them, where they're not new but certainly not old enough to be stripped and renovated yet. They all host balconies and pastel paintworks in pinks, yellows and greens. They punctuate the streets that you walk on in such small glory. Small, but undeniably attractive.

// ...but it really lies in the magnificent Danube.

This river is majestic. It's an international waterway: running through not one, not two, not even three but eleven different countries and a plethora of cities, four of them being capitals. It is gargantuan. You can enjoy it in so many ways - take a walk across one of Budapest's many bridges, such as the iconic Chain Bridge, to the very classic but regal feeling Elisabeth Bridge, to the quirky and yellow and not-quite-straight Margaret Bridge. Or hop on a river cruise which tours you along the heart of the city from the very inside. There are dozens of river cruise companies adorning the banks of the river but the one me and my Mum opted for was called DunaYacht, and it had a port just next to Elisabeth Bridge. It cost 2100 HUF (about £6) which is a bit brilliant considering the tour is an hour long.

// It's a true 24-hr city with fantastic transport to boot.
It's recommended that you orientate yourself with Budapest's extensive transport system. This is because Budapest as a whole is such a big place, while you will find lovely things to see all within walking distances, it's inevitable that tourist's lag will kick in at some point. But not to worry! Budapest has a metro system very similar to the London Underground... except it has just three lines: blue, yellow and red. They all cross through Deák Ferenc Square which makes it the unofficial centrum for the metro. There are also at least a double-dozen of tram lines zipping all the way over the city, and boy do they zip! They're a nifty little way of getting around all the main spots while still having a great view. And the ticketing is absolutely brilliant! Ask any Hungarian and they might grumble about the price of a travelcard but if I told a Londoner that a 24-hour travelcard in Budapest costs just £4.50 (1650 HUF), said Londoner would die and go to heaven. Yes. And 24-hour undoubtedly means 24-hour, meaning that a travelcard bought at midday on a Monday will run out at midday on the Tuesday. Boom.

// The history is heart-rendering.

You may think it's depressing to go somewhere so sad on your holidays but personally I think museums such as The House Of Terror give you more of an insight into history than you ever could have read about in a book. To see the portrayal of the Iron Curtain and to wander around the house where decades of unthinkable torturous acts were committed, really connected you to the heart of Hungary.

// It will leave you hungry for more.

Pastries and paprikas. What more can you want? And lest we forget gulyas and palinka. Hungarian cuisine is quite reliant on the spice paprika so you can guarantee your dishes will be extra tasty. And their cream pastry cakes are gorgeous! I recommend buying up a big plate of 4-5 and sharing them with a friend. Believe me, you'll find the room! Great cakes to try are the Dobos Torta and the Rigó Jancsi. Mmm!

// What's great on ground level, will astound you from above.

Ask me the question and I'd tell you time and time again: I'll never, ever forget that view from Citadella. And I'll tell you just how to get there in a three-part journey. From Deák Ferenc Ter, take the red metro line two stops west to Batthyány Ter. Exit the station and from the tram terminus outside take #19 or #41 to Móricz Zsigmond Körtér. It's about eight stops and both trams are very frequent and speedy. From there, take the bus up to Citadella - it's bus #27 and it's handily displayed as the Citadella bus. This may sound like a brainbuster of a journey but it honestly isn't. It takes no longer than 40 minutes to get up to the top. You'll know you've reached Citadella when most of the bus disembarks! Then it's just a five minute walk to one of the most swell views in your entire life. Trust me. We fully intended to make it in time for sunset but just managed to miss it, however the lighting was still a beaut. This was, put simply, the highlight of your trip.

Have you ever had the chance to visit Budapest?
What were your best bits and what are your recommendations?

My love affair with Budapest is in no way, shape or form over.
I'll certainly be back for it next year. That's a promise!


  1. Reading this post, is getting me excited for my trip to Budapest! Hopefully I too will have a torrid love affair with this city!

    1. I don't doubt you will Andrea! It's a pretty remarkable place. Ohh lucky you, I hope you enjoy your trip!