We have now arrived in Budapest after 45 amazing days in Poland with many experiences. In Poland, we saw everything from skyscrapers, medieval castles and pastel-coloured towns to unrivalled scenery in the Tatra National Park.
We got accommodated on the Buda side in an Airbnb about 300 meters from Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church in Budapest. Here we had a visit from grandma and grandpa, and together with them, we have been around the Budapest area. In addition, a single detour by car to High Castle in Visegrádi fellegvár and the Basilisk in Esztergom.
We would have loved to spend a week in Slovakia before Budapest, but we were a bit pressed for time. Mainly because we had booked accommodation in Greece, where we are “hiding” from the winter cold in Europe until we go skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria.
A little history
The Hungarian language is unlike any other in Europe. Therefore, the little language understanding we gained in Poland didn’t help us much, as Hungarian probably makes even less sense than Polish.
The Hungarians originated from the Huns, one of the most famous being Attila the Hun (around 434). But otherwise, they have a history where especially the Romans and later the Turks under the Ottoman Empire, have contributed a lot to the country’s development, including especially the Buda and Pest area, along the Danube river.
Facts about Hungary
- The capital is called Budapest
- The number of inhabitants = Approx. 10 Mio.
- Currency = Forint (HUF)
- The Hungarians are Catholics
- Hungary’s total area is 93,028 km2.
Budapest is one of the places in the world with the most thermal baths. A thermal bath is bath with mineral water from the underground, which has a healing effect on the body.
The properties of the water were first discovered by the Romans 2000 years ago. Later again, under the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire (1541-1699). Both times, the occupation built facilities to enable bathing and relaxation. Some of the bathing facilities that exist today date from the latter period.
When looking for SPA experiences in Budapest, the Gellert bath often appears. This is also where Rie and I went on our date, but many are significantly better and cheaper if you ask the locals. One of them should be the Szechenyi bath located in the most fantastic park, on the Pest side. I will get back to the park later.
The Gellert Bath was lovely, and the different pools did what they were supposed to. The place looks both majestic, old and a bit worn. However, it was a pleasant experience, and the price was acceptable. About 11,000 HUF for two people and we could stay there as long as we wanted. If you want a massage or other treatments, you can add them as well.
The Buda side and the Pest side are quite different. Our apartment was on the Buda side of the Danube River, but it was probably a bit of a coincidence that we ended up here.
We stayed 350 metres from Fishermans Bastion, which is a MUST visit. One morning we went up at 6.55 am – where we had it all to ourselves. Here you don’t have to pay anything to walk up the wall, and you get the most beautiful view of the Pest side and the Parliament building, along with the sight of the sunrise. It was unique!
Dracula’s prison cell
The next destination is Romania, more specifically Transylvania and Dracula’s castle. So it was obvious also to see where Vlad Dracula was imprisoned for many years in Budapest. He was imprisoned by the last great king of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus (Matthias Church is named after him), in the passages that run under the streets of the church.
I will tell you more about the story of Dracula when we visit the castle in Bran, Romania.
Emma and I are the two who are the most into the spooky stuff, so of course, we had to take a trip down the maze under the streets of Buda. The entrance to the caves is a bit hidden from tourists, and we were pretty alone down there.
We walked around the corridors, some partially lit and others pitch black. It was a bit foggy in the lower part, and at the bottom of the maze, we found Dracula’s cell. It was pretty creepy, and Emma wanted out as it was a bit too much for her.
If you are looking for a good thrill, I highly recommend visiting the underground maze.
The parliament and the Jewish shoes by the promenade
We could see the Parliament building from the Buda side, and it was a beautiful sight, both at sunrise and in the dark with all the lights from the city. But you have to take a drive-by and see it up close. It is the most fantastic building. It was built between 1885 and 1904. Originally it was planned to be completed in 1896, on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary’s founding, but they missed that deadline by eight years.
On the pier facing the Danube River, an exhibition was created back in 2005 to commemorate the many Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. Although we have not spent time on that part of history in Hungary, it is no less tragic here. Some 440,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz under Hitler’s rule. Most were gassed on arrival.
The memorial in Hebrew reads (translated) “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militia in 1944–45”.
Food and wine in Budapest
Although Budapest is more expensive than Poland, eating out is still relatively cheap. Rie and I went on a date night while grandma and grandpa took care of the kids. Here we were at Byblos, a Lebanese restaurant with delicious food and outstanding Hungarian wine. Especially the appetizer was delicious.
However, the best place we ate in Budapest was at Ghetto Gulyas, where the whole family had dinner, including wine and beverages for 36,000 HUF. It serves good Hungarian goulash and various delicious local stews. They also have good Hungarian wines at reasonable prices where the best we got was this.
The Hungarian wines we tasted did not taste sulphur, as grandfather Arne had said before the first glass. They were delicious, and you can buy them at quite reasonable prices. So look for them at your local wine shop.
If you are going for a walk in the city, visit the bar street Gozsdu Udvar in the Jewish Quarter, which is pretty hip. Here Rie and I went out after dinner. It might remind you a bit of Jomfru Ane gade (Denmark), only in a slightly cooler version. There are sports bars, wine bars, regular bars, disco bars, bars with topless ladies dancing on the tables and even a bar where you sit in a bathtub… A bit for everyone.
Playground in Városliget
If you’re bringing children to Budapest, you’ll find the playground above all playgrounds in the park of all parks here! We have never seen anything like it. There are slides, cable cars, climbing frames, trampolines, and even a balloon turned into a climbing frame. Add to that some beautiful surroundings and trees in autumn colours and the option of barista coffee for parents – you can’t ask for much more.
The area also offers running tracks, outdoor fitness, a beautiful castle museum, water parks, a giant ice rink in winter, ZOO and much more. In one corner of the park, you will find The hero place “Hösök Tere”, an honour to the seven tribal chiefs who founded Hungary.
The space is public and free of charge.
Useful knowledge when visiting Budapest
- Throughout Budapest city centre there is 3-hour parking. To park you have to pay with coins. If you want to avoid 3-hour parking, find a Parking garage or use this free outdoor parking space we found where there was room for our yellow bus.
- You can also install The Simple APP, where you can pay and renew your 3-hour parking every 3 hours via your mobile. It costs 1390 HUF for 3 hours and you pay for parking on weekdays between 8.00 and 18.00. Weekends and evenings/nights are free.
- The Simple App can be used for many other things. For example, you can also buy a 24, 72 hour or 7 day card for all public transport in Budapest. We bought 7 days for 4950 HUF. Public transport is called BKK in Budapest.
- Please note that Hungarian Goulash is always served as soup 😉
- You can order Take-away with the Wolt APP
Are you going to visit Budapest?
YES, you must!
In our experience, people in Budapest are somewhat more welcoming than the Poles. The reason might be that people in Budapest are more used to tourists. Their language is entirely incomprehensible, though, but some know a bit of English, so it’s okay.
Budapest celebrates its heroes and history, and you can’t go far without seeing monuments, statues, buildings or other things that honour its history. It’s very unique
We managed to see many beautiful and exciting things in the short time we were here. Unfortunately, The Chain Bridge and The mountain train were closed for renovation, but we were undoubtedly satiated when we left. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to explore more of Hungary’s history, which, like Poland’s, is very interesting.