I’ve chatted about a couple of Budapest’s main tourist attractions in my last few posts but today, I wanted to round up some of the ‘other’ bits and bobs have got lost along the way a little. With travelling, I always think that you can tick off the main sights but it’s the unexpected details or surprise discoveries that stick in your memory months after you’ve unpacked your suitcase. And there is so much to see in Budapest. While three or four days is definitely enough to cover the main attractions, Budapest is the type of city that you want to get lost in. Just minutes from some of the main tourist attractions are lanes filled with amazing delights that had me wanting to skip our flight home in favour of spending weeks exploring the hidden corners of town.
We were kindly hosted by Estilo Fashion Hotel on our trip, a design hotel based in a fantastic location perfect for sightseeing in Budapest. Staying just a street away from the Danube banks, we were within five minutes walk from both the Gellert Baths and Central Market (on the Pest side). While the hotel itself was probably more of a good 3* than the 4* it’s advertised at, we really enjoyed our stay here. Each evening, we’d change clothes and head out onto the street outside to take our pick from the delicious restaurants and gelato stalls. Oh, and there’s also a ‘hummusbar’ right opposite which is definitely the place to enjoy a huge lunch one day.
Parliament and Shoes on the Danube
The most famous building in Budapest has to be the Hungarian Parliament Building. I’d seen so many pictures of the Neo-Gothic building – both during the day and lit up beautifully at night – but it was even more impressive in person. In front of the Parliament building, next to the river, is the Shoes on the Danube. This art exhibition is a memorial to those killed by the ‘Arrow Cross’; a fascist organisation who gained power when the Nazis occupied Hungary. They shot thousands of people dead into the river, including 800 Jews. We also visited the House of Terror museum where we learned more about the Arrow Cross and Communist rule in Budapest. If you’re into your history, I’d highly recommend a visit although be prepared – as the name suggests, it’s not a happy, jolly place to visit.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Another of Budapest’s most famous attractions is St Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica and the third largest church in Hungary. The inside of the building is beautiful and oddly, you can also see the Holy Right Hand of St Stephen, a past King of Hungary. It’s literally a mummified hand and I’m not sure exactly why it’s an attraction but hey, if that’s your thing…
If you’re looking for a buzzing, cosmopolitan area to eat that feels a little more off the tourist trail, head to Király u. There’s a set of gates across the road from Wombats City Hostel that lead to the best alley lined with bars and quirky restaurants. Expect to find people eating all kinds of food, indoors and outdoors, a daytime market and even salsa dancers. I immediately wanted to stay and try every single place en route but we were on a mission to find Spíler Shanghai, an Asian-fusion restaurant with hidden bar. To give them credit, we had a delicious meal there including some fruity cocktails and amazing service!
While pounding the city streets left us pretty exhausted by the end of each day, we did pay a visit to Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s most famous ruin bar. It’s a much-talked about nightlife venue decorated with mismatched furniture, graffiti-covered walls and eclectic details throughout. I won’t share my horrendously dark and blurred photos of our evening there but check out Milly’s blog for a proper look inside – this is actually the post that put the bar on my radar all those months ago!
With some time to spare on our final day, we decided to find another famous bar – Mazel Tov. Expecting it to have the same vibe as the other ruin pubs, imagine our surprise when we walked into a light, airy warehouse covered in draping ivy. I mean honestly, I’d happily get married in this place it’s so beautiful and I hear the food is pretty amazing too. We sat peacefully drinking gin cocktails while contemplating the reality of waking up at 4am for our flight home. Is there anything worse than getting up for a flight that’ll only take you back to grey old England? Luckily, this beautiful venue played a pretty great distraction…
After four days of weaving through the city streets, eating and drinking in beautiful places along the way, it was a wrench to say goodbye to Budapest. I’d happily go back in a heartbeat to see more of the much-loved Hungarian city and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for a fun few days away! If you’re on a budget, it’s a really affordable destination – even with the terrible GBP exchange rate right now. In fact, I’ll be writing a post soon about how I spent £30 per day there without scrimping one bit so keep an eye out for that…
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