One evening over a few pints before Christmas, myself and two girly friends decided to visit Budapest. Snapping up an amazing deal on Holiday Pirates we packed tightly small cases and went on an adventure March 2016.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and one of the largest cities in the EU. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with the unification of Buda on the west side and the Pest on the east side.
Budapest is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with some world heritage sites we couldn’t wait to explore.
We started by visiting the banks of Danube, to see the memorials of the Jewish shoes. Cast by sculptor Gyula Pauer these were created to honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War 2. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that bodies would fall into the river and be carried away. It represents their shoes left behind, it’s a very sad and very real reminder of the horrors Budapest faced.
Our first day was to visit the Buda side of the city and what better way then the Castle District or Castle hill as its also known. 170m above the Danube, it homes medieval monuments and museums.
The easiest way to reach Castle Hill is to scroll across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, board the Sikló railway that takes you up to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, for us the Sikló railway was closed so we had to walk up the Király lépcső, the ‘Royal Steps’ leading northwest off Clark Ádám tér, good if you are active but tiring.
At the top, a walled area consists of two distinct parts: the Old Town where commoners once lived, and the Royal Palace, the original site of the castle built by Béla IV in the 13th century and reserved for the nobility.
The views are absolutely stunning on a sunny day and luckily for us, the sun was out.
On day two we wanted to celebrate World Book Day and there was no better way but to having breakfast at the Bookcafé is located on the second floor of the former Paris Department Store, now the Alexandra bookstore. Decorated with beautiful chandeliers and a fresco-style ceiling, painted by Károly Lotz, we decided to treat ourselves to an Oreo Coffee. It reminded me of the V&A in London with beautiful surrounds to enjoy and kick back with a book.
If you are visiting Budapest, it’s worth visiting their market halls this is where you can get a taste of excellent Hungarian homemade food such as the deep-fried pastry lángos or to just look around for Hungarian presents.
We visited the Central Market Hall and it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest, situated on the Pest side on Fővám tér. Constructed of iron and glass, its sheer size and train station-like interior are amazing, but what really catches the eye is the number of people constantly moving around from stall to stall, to buy fresh produce.
The first floor of the market has mainly fresh foods and the second floor has traditional Hungarian folk art items and other typical products of Hungarian origin on sale. I wanted to buy a Russian Doll as Budapest seemed to sell them as a traditional souvenir, it was only until a local lady told me the difference between the designs that determine what is traditional Budapest style and what is a Russian Style.
Unfortunately, we didn’t visit the second largest synagogue or the geothermal springs but I plan to do these if I return. However, the visit to the Cat cafe was fun and therapeutic. Perfect for cat lovers.
The historic place we had to visit was the Terror House and it truly was. It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building.
Inside the exhibition contains material on the Budapest’s relationships with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It also exhibits related to the Hungarian organisation such as the fascist Arrow Cross Party. Part of the exhibition took us to the basement, where we saw examples of the cells that were used to break the will of their prisoners. It is incredibly haunting.
Another amazing part of Budapest is their street art. I probably didn’t see as much as I should of, but I did manage to snap a few.
Vintage shopping in Budapest is amazing but that’s another blog!
It is the easiest place to walk around and explore, the locals are very friendly. Budapest is very affordable with beers costing around £2.60 and a meal costing under £5. Local street food is hugely popular with stalls selling Lángos, I mentioned earlier. It is fried dough slathered with your choice of toppings including sour cream, garlic, cheese, onion. Not the healthiest of options but an a local specialty. There are also Palascinta are like crepes but a bit thicker and can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients. A really special Hungarian filling is turo which a sweet, tangy cheese, or try “Gesztenyés” which is a nut paste.