I’ve been trying to write down my thoughts on Budapest for days and have finally decided that they best way to share the experience with you is to catalogue some of the major sights/experiences, and then share anecdotes in separate posts later on. I’ll be doing the same type of thing for Vienna next week.
Some of my favorite things, among others, were:
1. Vajdahunyad Castle: located in Budapest’s main public park, the castle was built in 1896 as part of a celebration of 1,000 years of Hungary. It has been altered and renovated several times and therefore several architectural styles can be seen in its design. Inside the castle is a statue of Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian-born actor who played Count Dracula in the original 1931 film adaptation. There is currently a public skating rink set up next to the castle.
2. Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion): this is hands down the most common thing recommended to me while planning this trip. The Fisherman’s Bastion, which received its name after being protected by the fisherman’s guild, is a castle-like terrace structure seated on the edge of Castle hill, behind Matthias church. Given its location at a high point in Buda, it is known for exceptional view of Pest, particularly the Hungarian parliament building. Unfortunately, my days in Budapest were set amidst some sort of foggy, gothic, suspense film, so the view was significantly obstructed, though still beautiful- nothing changes the feel of a place quite like fog. But alas, ominous wasn’t exactly the mood I had expected and therefore ‘return to Budapest in the sunshine’ has firmly taken its place on my bucket list. Regardless, the architecture of the terrace and neighboring Matthias Church are stunning.
3. Hősök tere (Hero’s Square): Hero’s Square hosts a smorgasbord of Hungarian culture; it is home to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Art, and the Millenáriumi Emlékmű or Milllenium Memorial. Though I did not have the chance to explore the art museums, the monument itself is gorgeous and intriguing. It resembles a gate being guarded by the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, among other historic national leaders. Once again, the foggy atmosphere and relative emptiness of the square made for a notably mythical feel- it resembled something akin to what I imagine the entrance to Mount Olympus would look like.
4. Nagyvásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall): Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market is charming, to say the least. With produce, imported foods, and butchers located on the first floor and souvenirs and prepared foods on the second, it is also slightly overwhelming. I wandered through in search of chocolate but ended up leaving having tried three separate Hungarian dishes- all of which blew me away.
5. Food (!!): to say that Hungarian food surprised me would be the understatement of the century. Food is an essential part of traveling and is one experience that I seldom regret spending money on. When asking around for tips about Budapest, recommendations were all relatively similar- art, architecture, castles, and the like. But not a single person mentioned how extraordinary the food is in Budapest. Amongst quick bites and street food were a handful of exceptional meals. Namely our lunch at Pesti Diszno Bistro and our dinner at Regos Vendeglo.
6. Szimpla Kert: Ruin pubs were also highly recommended, and oddly enough every person I asked recommended the same one. My friends and I ventured in one night, having done little to no research, only to be greeted by the ridiculous décor (which reminded me very much of Pink Houdini in Sarajevo), that truly defies words. Each ‘room’ has a different themed bar, with wines being in one room, cocktails in another, Hungarian liquors in another, and so on. I was impressed by the vast age range that was in attendance as well as the low menu prices- for such a highly recommended place you would think that they have touristy prices. In all, I’m not sure how to best describe the feeling of Szimpla Kert, except to say that you feel like you’re walking through the inside of an artist’s head. Confused, amused, and mildly concerned. I returned the following morning just to capture it in daylight.
Even with the damp weather, Budapest was absolutely breathtaking. The city itself is a work of art and its personality, and that of its people is undeniably charming. Though, hopefully next time I'll get to visit during nicer weather. See you soon, beautiful!