Elizabeth and I woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine on our first morning in Budapest. We decided the best way to see the city on such a beautiful day was to grab a map and just start walking. We left the Hilton Budapest City and headed straight for the Danube River.
As we worked our way South along the Danube we ran across some of Budapest’s most recognizable landmarks. Just a few blocks into our walk we actually passed the crown jewel of Budapest: The Hungarian Parliament Building.
This iconic, neo-Gothic structure was completed in 1904 and features 242 statures of Hungarian rulers, Transylvanian leaders and famous military figures on the walls. The Parliament’s main facade faces the Danube River, but we walked by the building’s main entrance on the East side.
After we passed the parliament building we came to the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial. The 60 cast iron shoes serve as a memorial to the more than 800 Jewish citizens who were forced to take off their shoes and stand at the edge of the river as they were executed during World War II.
On a much lighter note there is a great view of Budapest’s most recognizable bridge, The Szecheyni Chain Bridge, from the memorial.
The chain bridge connects the newer, more industrial Pest side of the city with the older, more traditional Buda side of the city. Elizabeth and I walked across the Szecheyni Chain Bridge and climbed to the top of the hill to check out the Budapest Castle and the surrounding castle district.
We waited in what seemed like an obnoxiously long line to visit the Budapest Castle museum. Little did we know, we were there on a national holiday to commemorate the 1956 revolution and everything was free to the public that day. The 1956 revolution pushed the last Soviet troops out of Budapest and they were finally able to hold their first free elections. If there’s one thing I learned on my trip to Budapest it’s that this city has a very dark and tumultuous history.
After we left the Budapest Castle we made our way through the rest of the historic castle district. We walked the centuries-old cobblestone streets and got to see Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Fisherman’s Bastion easily offers one of the best panoramic views of Budapest so make sure you bring your camera.
On our second day Elizabeth and I planned to visit the the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Hungary is home to over 1,000 natural spring water sources, many of which feed into local thermal baths. The Szechenyi Thermal Baths are over 100 years old and one of the largest thermal baths in all of Europe. The thermal water is made up of sulphate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, fluoride and metaboric acid. Studies show that these elements can help with joint illnesses, inflammation and other orthopedic injuries.
We booked our tickets ahead of time through Trip Advisor so we got to skip the line and get our own private changing room. The Baths offer a ton of additional spa treatment options, but we just enjoyed soaking in the hot water and resting our weary, jet-lagged legs.
The last thing we had on our agenda was dinner for two at the Michelin Star restaurant Costes Downtown. I actually read about Costes Downtown in an American Airlines’ in-flight magazine on the way home from Chicago earlier that summer. It sounded like they were doing some really cool things with traditional Hungarian Cuisine so we decided to check it out.
What started out as a five course meal ended up being close to ten with the amuse-bouche, bread, pallet cleansers and the coffee. Each course was perfectly executed and was accompanied by a glass of traditional Hungarian wine. It was hands down one of the best culinary experiences of my life.
Despite the cold rainy weather, Elizabeth and I still set out to explore Budapest one last time on day three. We threw on some extra layers, purchased some crappy umbrellas and hit the road. Those umbrellas were so cheap that mine literally broke the second time I opened it.
Luckily, we stumbled onto Budapest’s Great Market Hall by pure happenstance. The Great Market Hall was created in 1897 and is Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market. The first floor was full vendors selling fresh produce, meats, pastries and spices. The second floor was dedicated to the sale of every Budapest souvenir you could imagine and some traditional Hungarian food stands.
In an effort to stay dry we also paid a visit to the Dohany Street Synagogue. Built in 1854, the Dohany Street Synagogue seats over 3,000 people and is one of the largest synagogues in Europe.
At this point the rain had finally subsided and we went to the Karavan Food Truck Market to try some more traditional Hungarian food.
Our final activity that night was a cruise down the Danube River. Budapest at night is truly a sight to see. Every major land mark is lit up and it really gives you a whole new perspective of the city at night. The cruise was only about 30 minutes total, but offered some of the best views of the trip.
I really enjoyed exploring Budapest. I thought the city had an almost small town European feel to it despite having over a million residents. We got to see some historic architecture, learn a lot about their history and enjoy the food and the culture. I would definitely recommend visiting Budapest if you ever get the chance.
Have you been to Budapest yet?! What’re your thoughts on the city?