Today I’m writing a very special post, about a city that means so much to me: Budapest. “Why”, you might be wondering – and here’s the answer: my great-grandfather was born there, more specifically, in Pest.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is, nowadays, one of the most populated cities in Europe. It has a long history that starts in the 13th century, with the settlement of Mongols people. For many centuries the country gave place to important battles about modernization, independence (of many different Empires) and territorial disputes – today, Hungary’s territory is just 1/3 of what it once was. In 1849 the twin cities of Buda and Pest were connected by Chain Bridge, one of the main touristic attractions of Budapest. “Besides its improving transportation connections, the Chain Bridge was a symbolic structure, foreshadowing the later unification of the two cities as Budapest, connected across rather than divided by the river”. Until 1918, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest was its capital.
It has recently become a popular destination as it’s cheap (although it’s one of EU countries, its currency is still Forints, not Euro) and is considered a very beautiful city. According to Forbes, it’s Europe’s 7th most idyllic place to live in. The central area of the city along the Danube River is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has many notable monuments, including the Hungarian Parliament, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gresham Palace, Chain Bridge, Matthias Church and the Liberty Statue.
But let’s start from the beggining.
My boyfriend and I stayed there for two entire days and it’s enough if just want to take a look at the main attractions. During the first day, however, we couldn’t enjoy much of the city as it was snowing a lot and we had no internet access (it never works when we need it, right?!), so we basically ran on the next day to do all over again and more. So here is a summary of our route:
We started walking towards The Citadella, that means we passed by Gellért Hill, a monument named after Saint Gerard, who was thrown to death from the hill. Arriving at Citadella, we decided to play archery for the first time (turned out I am not THAT bad, I even got a gift because I almost hit the aim!). We also ate something that I don’t remember anymore in one of the many kiosks there.
After that we walked back to the city and, following the river, we passed by Buda Castle. Because it was still morning, the sky was cloudy and the view wasn’t that surprising. We decided no to enter the Castle because we were running against time, so we headed to Fisherman’s Bastion, which was, for me, the best part of Budapest. All its architecture – 7 towers representing the 7 former tribes, the roof of Matthias Church and the view of the Danube – is stunning. We stayed there for at least an hour appreciating and taking pictures of every detail. There, I could finally get my souvenir coin (A couple of months ago I decided to start my personal collection of souvenirs: a coin from each city I would visit from that moment on. Specifically in Budapest, getting the coin was VERY hard – when I first found a coin machine, in The Citadella, I hadn’t any change to pay for it. Then, when I found another one at Buda Castle, it was out of work. Finally, when I was almost quitting Fisherman’s Bastion, I found it and could get my coin! I even filmed it haha).
We then walked towards the famous Chain Bridge and got to the other side of the Danube. A few meters ahead we found ourselves in the Shoes Memorial, which I found particularly touching. It is a very strong honor to the people (mainly Jews) who were killed there during the World War II (they were invited to take their shoes off and were shot in the edge of the river, so the memorial represents the shoes that were left behind). I believe that’s the saddest and most powerful memorial I’ve ever seen.
Nearby there’s a Liberty Square with a Soviet War monument. At that point, we were starting to feel tired of walking and decided to take the tube to Heros Square. We then went to Saint Stephen Basilica and entered there. I made a wish, as it was my first time in that church (I’ve always been told that every time you enter a new church you can make a wish) and then we had a Frappuccino in a Starbucks nearby.
The day after that we had a reservation for a quick visit to the Hungarian Parliament, which took half an hour. You can book your visit on their website and I recommend you to do it at least a week earlier. The first visit is at 8:00 and the last, at 18:00. You can check the different prices here. The Parliament is the second biggest (in area) of the world and is very pretty inside. It is also the tallest building in Budapest. Because later on we would head back to Berlin, the visit was the only thing we did that day, which was a shame because the sky was so blue and it was warmer.
To summarize, I loved Budapest and I plan to go back there to get to know the city better. Also, another must-do is to visit their spas and thermal baths (we even went to the box office of the famous one – Szechenyi Thermal Bath – but we didn’t feel like going inside it that time) and for sure I’ll do it the next time.