Budapest is the perfect budget friendly destination. It’s an Eastern European city and the capital of Hungary. The architecture, views, mountain, river, food, drinks and welcoming people everything was marvelous. Budapest is divided into two parts the Buda and Pest sections of the city. The Danube River flows between the two districts which are connected via several stunning bridges. The Buda side is hillier, which is harder to traverse. You will find The Fisherman’s Bastion along with Buda Castle etc. on this side of Budapest. The Pest side is flatter; the famous Hungarian Parliament stands on this side of the city. I arrived in Budapest on a Friday evening and skipped the pub crawl arranged by pm 2am student trips. Essentially I had one day to cram everything in. I had a bus tour, guided walking tour, converted my Euros to Forint (Hungary has not adopted the Euro yet) went shopping, eating and sightseeing. In the evening I took a night time cruise along the river. All of this in one day so I skipped the pubs and the hangover to be able to handle the day ahead, this guide is ideal if you only have a day to spend in Budapest.
Spotted bullet holes
Bullet holes can be spotted in the less upscale parts of Budapest. They serve as a grim reminder of the war. There were bullet holes around the area of the hostel, I stayed at. The bullet holes were the first thing I saw when I looked out of the window of my room in the morning. You can spot bullet holes at other streets in the city to. Just keep your eyes open. Some of the holes have plaques close to them to show that they are real.
Took a bus tour
Mine was included into my travel package. There are tour buses operating in the city. This is an easy way to get your bearings before visiting the sites especially if you only have one day to spend in Budapest.
The tour bus drove down the World heritage site, Andrássy Boulevard. This street in Budapest dates back to 1872. The facades of the buildings along Andrássy Boulevard are fantastic. The buildings including the Opera House are built in the Neo-Renaissance style. It is lined with large trees, cafes, restaurants, and luxury boutiques. It is certainly is one of the main shopping streets in Budapest. Andrássy Boulevard reminded me of the Champs Elysée in Paris. Walk from the side of the Opera house towards Heroes’ Square if you going to walk down this amazing avenue that way you will get to see the square, its columns and many striking statues.
The bus I took stopped at the square. Heroes’ square is one of the key squares in Budapest. Heroes’ square has several statues including the statues of the 7 Chieftains of Hungary. The square has also been host to several political events including the reburial of Imre Nagy who called for democratic reform in communist Hungary. This square is one of the most visited sights in Budapest. Heroes Square is boarded by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. My tour group stopped at the square to take group photos. We then continued our bus tour.
The Synagogue and Jewish District
The bus I took drove through the Jewish quarter. According to my tour guide the Jewish District was a Ghetto during World War II. There is a thriving Jewish population living in the quarter today. Its home to the extraordinary ruin bars which I sadly didn’t visit. The biggest Synagogue in Europe is to be found in the Jewish District of Budapest; the inside of the Synagogue is very pretty to. But if you are pressed for time a bus tour is best. I saw the outside of the Synagogue which I plan to revisit someday.
Gellért Hill provides a panoramic view of Budapest. It stands at 235 meters. From the hill you can see Buda Castle. There’s a casino, a restaurant and caves. The liberty statue also stands on the hill. I climbed the hundreds of steps up the hill as my travel package included a walking tour up the hill, to the lookout points, and Buda castle, the Citadel , past a fountain, St. Matthias and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Take time to look at the Citadel when you are at Gellért Hill. It is now a restaurant some of its walls include elegant, bold designs.
Buda castle was constructed in the 13th century. It is a Gothic style castle built during the late Middle ages. Buda castle used to be a royal palace. It currently houses the National Library, Art Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. Buda Castle was declared a World Heritage site in 1987. I got to see it from Gellért Hill even though my walking tour didn’t give me time to go inside. The Castle is situated at the Southern tip of the Castle hill. The northern section of the hill is known as the Castle district (Várnegyed). This district is well known for its baroque styled buildings, homes and churches. The castle is accessible via funicular or hike up the stairs. The sights around the castle include the Lion courtyard, the Matthias well, a statue of King Matthias and an impeccable statue of the mythical Turul bird of the Magyars. Various legends surround the Castle’s labyrinth. According to the legends it was a harem, a prison where “Dracula” was locked up, and a hospital. If you only have time to see one castle in Budapest this is the one you should check out.
St. Matthias Church
The church is over 700 years old located in the heart of Buda Castle District. It is right in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion. This church saw several coronations. It was initially built in the Romanesque style in 1015. In the second quarter of the 14th century St Matthias was rebuilt. Then in the 19th century it was comprehensively restored. The church was previously officially called the Church of Our Lady. It was later renamed after King Matthias who ordered the Southern Tower of the church be changed. What makes St. Matthias church stand out is its distinctive bright sunset orange roof tiles. In front of the church stands a pillar which is surrounded by sculptures. The pillar was a holy symbol built for God during the plague years. The devotees believed that God would see the pillar and eradicate the plague. Today the church and the pillar is a symbol of the creativity of the Hungarian people.
You will find the Fisherman’s Bastion behind Matthias Church. These mock fortress walls were built during the 19th century to celebrate 100 years of the Hungarian government. The bastion looks like a Disney Castle the architectural design of the Fisherman’s Bastion is magnificent. The Fisherman’s Bastion provides mind blowing views of the city below. You can see the Danube River, and the Hungarian Parliament building below. If you plan to visit in winter take a warm jacket with you. I’ve heard that the area is less crowded in winter as its icy cold. A follower of mine on Instagram told me she didn’t take good photos because she got too cold. On hot days carry sunscreen and apply it regularly. The sun will blast you at the Fisherman’s Bastion if you don’t. This was my last site which I visited with the tour group. My friends and I went to exchange our Euros soon after.
With my euros converted into Forint I could go souvenir shopping. Unlike many other cities buying gifts close to tourist hotspots is totally fine in Budapest. Things are inexpensive almost everywhere in the city. Handcrafted key chains and wooden Christmas decorations are available all year round. I bought a key chain for myself and decoration item for my mom at the shops close to St. Matthias Church. I later bought myself a book marker at a shop in the area surrounding the Parliament building.
This bakery is a stone throw away from St. Matthias. It’s one of the oldest bakeries in Budapest. I was worried that it was a tourist trap but my tour guide advised us to go there. I went and I must say it was the best chocolate cake I ever tasted. I ordered the Rigó Jancsi cake which is a traditional Hungarian chocolate cake. Ruszwurm is an institution in Budapest; popular with both locals and tourists alike.
Budapest has many restaurants and bars. I have included links which supply more information on restaurants in Budapest. I ate at a place not too far from St. Matthias Church. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. The food there was phenomenal. The photo of the restaurant is below:
Check out these blog posts to find out more about what to eat and where to eat:
Try the cakes at Ruzwurm, right next door there’s a gelato place that serves high quality ice cream. Try Beef Goulash it’s what I had for lunch. And Lángos is really delicious to. I had Chimney cake in Bratislava and didn’t like it. It is a typical Hungarian cake as well. Maybe you will love it; this cake is rolled in sugar and cinnamon. In Budapest and Bratislava there are sweet, tart lemonade drinks which are sometimes infused with mint and or strawberries. My trip to Budapest coincided with summer and the lemonade drinks were tantalizing. I’m still missing them now that I’m living in Cape Town again.
St. Stephens Basilica
After all the eating my friends and I walked down to reach St. Stephens Basilica. It’s named after the first Christian king of Hungary. It is rumoured that King Stephens’s right hand is entombed in one of the church’s chapels. St. Stephens Basilica is the third biggest church building in Hungary and has 6 bells. The bells are seldom rung. They toll at 5:00 pm on the 20th August and at midnight on New Years’ Eve.
The sun was starting to set by time I got to the Parliament Building in Budapest. This cast the building in shadows giving its Gothic design a more ominous appearance. It provided a much needed break from the blazing sun. The Hungarian Parliament is one of the most beautiful Parliament buildings in the world. It is situated at the riverbank of the Pest side of Budapest. Indeed Freddie Mercury of Queen wanted to buy the building back in the 1980’s. He was on tour in Budapest when he said “Who owns that nice house? If it has enough bathrooms, I will definitely buy it!” It has 691 rooms so it must have lots of bathrooms. The stair case is more than 20 kilometers long and it spans across ten central courtyards. There are no less than 27 intricately crafted spires. The dome of the Parliament can be spotted from far away. If you stand on Gellért Hill you can see it from some look out points. It is visible from the Fisherman’s Bastion as well. The decoration of this building includes 88 statues of Hungarian rulers, gargoyles, the aforementioned spires and other Gothic details. Enough said the place is eye-catching. Visit it during the day and try to see at night time. I couldn’t see the beautiful interior but was fortunate enough to catch a night time glimpse of the illuminated Parliament building of Hungary.
Close to the Parliament is a set of stairs with metal panels. The year 1956 is written on them. The panels are punctured by what appears to be bullet holes. When you walk down the steps there are statues. The site seemed to be an exhibit. I didn’t know at the time that in 1956 the Hungarian revolution occurred it was a countrywide uprising against the communist regime. I saw a sign which had In memory of 1956 October 25. This is the day when the uprising started. The revolt began with student protests and was peacefully conducted by the protesters. According to the We love Budapest site more than 2500 people were killed, 20,000 were injured and 200, 00 were forced to flee Hungary as the regime cracked down on protesters. The square around the Parliament building is where protesters were shot.
The President at the time Nagy Imre called for reform. He sought help from the UN and the West which refused to aid him in his endeavour to create a democratic multi party system. Nagy Imre was imprisoned and subsequently executed in 1958 for his resistance and labelled treasonous. His death along with the uprising led to the eventual demise of communist rule in Hungary. It was the first time that communism was opposed in the region. These events helped to bring about the reunification of Europe. The 25rd of October is a national holiday in Hungary which commemorates the sacrifice of the Hungarian freedom fighters. There are free events hosted annually in honour of the uprising.
As stated above this is where the shooting of protesters occurred. There are also a number of monuments and statues in the square. You can sit on a bench or the grass. It’s perfect to wander around in during summertime.
Statue of Imre Nagy
The statue of Imre Nagy gazes at the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. This particular statue honours the executed president Imre Nagy . Nagy became a symbol of resistance, hope and peace for the people of Hungary. This is why thousands of Hungarians gathered at Heroes’ Square when he was reburied. I skipped checking out the Reagan statue which isn’t far from the Imre Nagy monument. Ronald Reagan was opposed to communism, and his statue stands in opposition to the Soviet star obelisk. However, Reaganomics hurt the US economy and Reagan’s policies led to mass incarceration of young black men. His drug policies sought to imprison black men. He also traded arms for hostages. I had my picture taken next to Imre Nagy . I choose to not take a picture of Ronald Reagan.
Walked along the riverside
I looked at the boats and the clear blue water shimmering as the fading sunlight loomed over the river. Travelling through Europe gave me War memorial fatigue and I didn’t want to picture the scenes which inspired the creation of the shoes statues alongside the river bank. During World War II Jewish people were shot at the riverbank and their bodies fell into the river below. I don’t shy away from teachable and uncomfortable travel moments, in this one instance I had to opt out.
After returning to the hostel to change my friends and I traveled via tram to the river side. The night time boat cruise was the best part of my time in Budapest. The river side was cool, the night was comfortably balmy. You have to see Budapest by night, don’t skip it. You will see Buda Castle and the Parliament sparkling brightly against the dark sky. And the 375 meter long Chain Bridge which was opened in 1849. It features colossal iron chains, hence the name Chain Bridge. The grand bridge towers are adorned with the Hungarian coat of arms. The sculptor János Marschalkó sculpted the majestic stone lions which guard the bridge. The Chain Bridge is an emblem of the independence of Hungary. It was the site of protests in Budapest during 1989 when the iron curtain fell. At night the chains lights look like shimmering diamonds encrusted in a necklace. There is travel moments that take your breath away this cruise in Budapest had that effect on me.
The last thing I did in Budapest was have a beer in the hostels lounge area. There was no wine available. The beer was surprisingly good. And then I went to bed as Bratislava was my next stop with am to pm.
If you have more time than I did
This castle is in the City Park of Budapest. It was constructed in 1896. It constructed as part of the millennial celebration. The celebration was held in honour of the 1000 years anniversary of defeating Carpathian Basin in 895.
These funky bars are part of the Jewish quarter. They have quirky interiors which make for brilliant photos. Just start taking the photos whilst you are still sober.
Budapest is known for producing delicious wine. And there are even caves where you can go wine tasting.
Thermal spa baths
These natural hot springs were out of the question for me as the day I spent in Budapest was a sizzling summer’s day. The upside of the weather was that the skies were clear blue. The downside is that it made the idea of a dip in a warm spa unappealing.
My friend Elian got to see Budapest during Christmas time and visited the Christmas market. According to her it’s lively, cheerful and dazzling. This is a seasonal thing my visit to Budapest didn’t coincide with the Christmas markets.
Where I stayed
I booked a travel package for my Budapest trip. This meant that I didn’t get to choose where I would be sleeping. pm 2am student trips booked the travel group rooms at the Goodmo House hostel. The hostel was clean. The food we ate at breakfast was good. The only thing I hated about the hostel was that people made the bathroom floors dirty with their dirty feet. I wore slippers when I showered. There were not enough bathrooms for such a large amount of people all needing to board the tour bus at once. The cleaning staff cleaned regularly. Honestly the some people who were part of the tour group were just gross. The staff was friendly and helpful. Goodmo is bit far from the city centre but, there are public transport spots which are pretty close by. If you are a budget traveller it’s a good place to stay.
Goodmo House details
Address: Józef utca 13, Budapest, Hungary
Call: +36 30 4869897
Budapest like any other major city is home to opportunists. Be careful with your wallet, camera, phone and other items. My tour guide told us not to play gambling games with any Gypsy’s or anyone for that matter. People get distracted during the game and find out afterwards that they have been pick pocketed. Don’t take roses from sellers who make you think they are giving you a rose for free. You will have to pay for a rose you thought was free. The city is relatively safe just be vigilant and aware.
pm 2am student trips
If you are a student or younger than 35 living in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium I recommend this travel company. The trips are usually faced paced. They budget friendly. Many times you would spend one weekend seeing a few cities. When I visited Budapest I first spent a day in Vienna then I arrived in Budapest and later I explored Bratislava. 3 Capitals all in one weekend, if the bus arrives late the operators compensate for it by extending the time where you can explore your travel city. These tours are all long distance bus tours. The travel package usually includes a brochure with useful information, sights, and a map. A postcard of the destination, a breakfast snack not the best but filling, a bus tour and walking tour as well as transport to and back home from your travel destination. Meeting people on the bus to travel with is easy.
The details of pm 2am student trips are as follows:
Website: www.pm2amtrips.com or www.pm2amtrips.de
Call Germany: +49 202 272 65 235
Call Netherlands: +31 71 30 20 235
There are many more things to do and see in Budapest. These were not included as I prefer to add things I saw and did personally. I’m hoping that I will be able to go back to Budapest. The next time I visit I want it to be around Christmas time that way I can visit the Christmas market and hot water thermal spas. Thank you for reading this post and taking time out to support my blog. I appreciate it. Comments, e-mails and chats are all welcome. I’m open to online collaboration as well.
xxx Nikki xxx
This looks like such a wonderful city! I was all booked up to go in September but had to change our plans last minute and ended up going to Prague! I can’t wait to rebook that trip (on the other side of winter) and see the city for myself. I love all of your suggestions.
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It is wonderful and there are so many free things to do which is always a great thing. I never got to see Prague its on my never ending travel bucket list. Thank you for the positive feedback. I’m so happy that you enjoyed my post. And enjoy your trip to Budapest when you do go (:
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