My house in Budapest, my hidden treasure chest…I just thought I would get a head start on getting this happy little tune stuck in your head. Cause it will be there for however long you stay in this wonderful spot. Worth it, though.
Buda and Pest
First thing to know: This one city has two distinct personalities.
The name of Hungarian capital rolls off the tongue pretty nicely, but until 1873 it was actually two cities—Buda on the western bank of the Danube and Pest on the opposite bank. They have been developed so separately that the imposing Chain Bridge connecting them across the Danube wasn’t built until years later in 1849.
Buda is built on a grand series of hills with amazing views, is home to a grand Hapsburg palace, and has more of a wealthy rep. Pest is bad and bourgeois—much more populated and home to an assortment of cafés and ruin bars, which have become popular little spots for their unique location in old buildings that were originally more or less abandoned.
Also, it’s pronounced PeSHt. With a -sh. Say it right so you don’t sound sh-tupid.
Budapest sits on a patchwork of thermal springs that have been a part of everyday life here since people walked around in togas. There are two main baths that people go to for a bit of time to relax, and I tried out both while I was there. Like the city, they each have a different personality that reflects the side they’re on.
Széchenyi Bath is the biggest and most popular of all the thermal baths in the city. It is over one hundred years old and the spot where you’ll find most locals. The large outdoor pool is found in the center of a courtyard with iconic yellow walls. The day I went, it started hailing as I was walking out to this pool. In May…so hopefully you have better luck than I did. But the warm water felt nice on the toe I dipped in before people started fleeing for cover.
Gellért Bath has a very different feel, as it is part of the famous Hotel Gellért in Buda. It’s less ornate and more art deco, but “less ornate” in Budapest is still considered pretty ornate anywhere else.
Both baths give you an electronic wristband that gives you access to the locker room and your personal locker. The locker rooms can feel a bit like a maze, but just follow the signs or a guy in a towel who looks like he knows what he’s doing. Then have fun pool hopping! Different pools have different temperatures, so you can sweat it out or just simmer.
This place has got all of the views. Take your time walking along the cobblestone streets and exploring, but be sure you slow to a stroll past the colorfully tiled roof of Matthias Church. Then walk around it to find the turrets rising from the famous lookout of Fisherman’s Bastion (that’s what I’m standing on in the featured picture). Climb on up to get that perfect pano shot of the city. Or a model shot like me.
Hungarian Parliament Building
This building is the fairest of them all. You’ll find it perched on the Pest side right by the river. Very grand and Budapest-y inside and out. You can’t miss it.
Be sure to book a tour in advance if you want to get a peek inside!
Statue of Imre Nagy
Imre Nagy was Prime Minister who became a symbol of freedom during the oppression of Communism in Hungary. Anyway, there is a cool memorial statue of him right across the street from the Parliament Building of him standing on a bridge that people can walk on to get a picture next to him. It’s just a nice bit of history to know, and you’ll probably end up by Parliament at some point. So here’s another stop if you’re fan of freedom.
Great Market Hall
Pop into this large indoor market for a quick snack to sustain your sight-seeing stamina. Pick up some paprika while you’re at it—Hungarians are known for it and they sprinkle it on pretty much everything. Also make sure you have some Hungarian forints handy. Paprika ain’t free.
Enjoy this beautiful city! And don’t forget, it’s PeSHt.