Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, wasn’t top of my hit list of cities to visit in Europe—until my visit last September. Now I rave about it to anyone who will listen. What a fabulous city—my only complaint about my time there was that it too short! I can’t wait to go again and see more than a three-night visit allowed.
My two bridesmaids (from 28 years ago!) who live in London suggested a long weekend “girls” trip with them to Budapest while I was visiting with them in the UK. Yes please, I said immediately. I’d never been anywhere in Eastern Europe. We flew from Gatwick airport on a budget airline for a fare that seemed ridiculously cheap for someone living in Australia. Then stayed in a delightful small hotel near the Opera House—again very reasonably priced.
The first thing I learned was that Budapest is a city of two parts dissected by the Danube River—Buda and Pest. Buda is on the west bank of the river and Pest on the east. (By the way, I’ve always pronounced Pest as in insect pest but it sounds more like Pesht.)
We were in awe of how beautiful the city was. Everywhere we looked were well-preserved beautiful old buildings—many from the nineteenth century—lively public squares, and wide, tree-lined streets, most with separate bike paths. The central area has so many imposing historic buildings it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a cultured city, too. There were free concerts and mini ballet performances around the Opera House and posters everywhere promoting art exhibitions.
Budapest is a big city and we only had a taste of it. We made the most of our short visit by walking around the city (lots of cobblestones, comfortable walking shoes essential!) as well as catching trams and the metro. The public transport isn’t hard to negotiate and there always seemed to be someone to help us with directions. We orientated ourselves by taking a two-hour river cruise with a recorded commentary in English (as well as other languages) and accompanied by classical music by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt.
Because of its strategic site on the Danube, the history of Budapest seemed to be one of constant invasion and occupation with consequent different influences on the architecture. We took in the highlights, included the elegant bridges, Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion high on the hill overlooking the city (you get up there by road or on a funicular train); Matthias Church, St Stephens Basilica, and the imposing Hungarian Parliament.
Budapest is sited on numerous thermal hot springs and “taking the waters” is quite the thing to do. With our limited time, we only visited one of the well-known spas, the Art Nouveau Gellért Baths in the fabulous old Gellért Hotel in Buda. What an experience! All that soaking in hot, mineral water and even swimming in it was incredibly relaxing.
The food was excellent in Budapest. We ate in a traditional Hungarian restaurant serenaded by musicians, a fashionable contemporary restaurant on the Danube, an elaborate old-fashioned tea room and friendly bistros. One of the best meals we had was in a worker’s café in the covered Central Market Hall. Hungarian wines were also sampled and enjoyed.
I’m a bit of a shopaholic and managed to get some shopping in too. There were the international stores you expect to find in a big European city. But we shopped in quirkier Hungarian boutiques and stores and I took home some stylish, well-priced fashion items, lovely stationery, and a bead embroidered evening purse.
Budapest was perfect for a long weekend with wonderful friends. I can’t wait to go back for a longer trip and see more of this fabulous city and its surrounds.
Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends. She likes to travel whenever she can!
Visit Kandy at her Website.
Conveniently Wed to the Greek
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