Exploring the Hungarian capital city in a spontaneous trip.
I've never been to Budapest before, and I heard mixed reactions from people who have. I wanted to decide on my own, so I went there to see what's what. And I wasn't alone for this task - a few weeks ago when I visited Brno (click for the story here), I met my friend who also happens to love travelling, and we established that we should take a trip together. So about a week later, when I decided that I'm going to Budapest, a word led to another and not too far from that moment I met her and her friend on a train heading towards Hungary. After we crossed the Slovakian borders, the agricultural land suddenly changed into hilly terrain, eventually unveiling some interesting industrial facilities. There was always something to look at through the window.
The train arrived into the Budapest-Keleti (East) railway terminal, a station completed in 1884. As we walked into the downtown, the streets were lined with a large variety of buildings, from all-glass modern facades through art deco and eclectic style to secession. One block looked like in Vienna, second like Chicago, third like Paris…
Once we found our accommodation, we took off to see the city, instantly submerging within a very vital area that boasts a million of restaurants and bars, all filled close to their capacity. Later we learned that it’s the old Jewish district, nowadays the center of nightlife.
In a bit, we were at the Danube riverfront..
…where we found yet another myriad of (mostly young) people and some rather pretty scenes to admire.
Later, back in the hostel, we put together a rough plan for the upcoming morning and called it a day. Budapest has one of largest public transportation systems in Europe and since our second day in the city we made a good use out of it.
Subway and a bus took us to the Margaret Island, which is a popular recreational area, as the most of the surface (nearly one km2 /238 acres) is covered by parks with running tracks, playgrounds and such.
We walked on its east side towards the island’s southern tip, where’s a connection with Margaret Bridge plus a neat view.
There we hopped on a tram back to the downtown to explore its streets at daylight..
..and to visit the Szent István (St. Stephen's) Basilica, a good-sized church topped out in 1905, on a mound that saved many lives during the floods of 1838.
Its dome is 96m (315 ft) tall, the exact height as the Hungarian Parliament – to symbolize equal powers of faith and the government.
More corners of the city..
In the afternoon, we joined a free city tour, where a local guide told us many bits and pieces about Budapest's history, Hungarian language, food, traditions, and customs. Good stuff!
After local supper, we went on the Gellért Hill to spend the evening..
When the sunlight disappeared completely, we returned to Pest via the Elisabeth Bridge…
..and dove in the lively parts of the old Jewish district, for more.. culture.
Following morning we started the same way as the last one, in the subway. By the way, the Budapest subway system is the second oldest in the world, after London's.
The tube took us into the Városliget, or the City Park if you prefer. There we ate breakfast, while watching kids playing with pigeons.
Probably the most famous place in the park is the Széchenyi thermal bath, Europe’s largest facility of its kind.
Sidewalks, streets, and tunnels took us back towards the river, where we boarded a kind of public transportation we haven't tried yet: boat shuttle. While it took us down the stream to the opposite side of the downtown, we got to relax, enjoy interesting views on the landmarks on both riverbanks, and got some sunburn as a bonus.
We left the boat close to the famous Hotel Gellért, but we were more interested in the bridge right next to it:
Close to the bridge's other side are two notable shopping places we checked out.
...and then we returned back to the Buda, to see the Matthias Church
...and the castle again.
Then we took a last look over the hills of Buda...
...went to the flat Pest..
..walked through more appealing streets..
..and ended where we began: the Keleti Station.
As for me, Budapest is fab. I'm looking forward to revisit it again sometime in the future, see the stuff that we skipped this time and discover more local tales.
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy my impression of other cities.
Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories