I’m finally in Budapest. Whoop! Whoop! And it’s been eleven (11) years. Goodness me!
I first went to visit in 2004 but as I told you last week, I wasn’t really able to say much about it as I went with a German girlfriend who really wasn’t interested.
Sadly, sometimes your travel partner can make or break the intimate experience of getting to know a new destination. At times like this, going solo might just be the answer. Happily, I’ve been to many a country in my younger pre-university and post-university graduation days. In four (4) continents no less, and travelled solo in most of them.
Of course, as times goes go on and marital /family life comes along, travel doesn’t end, but just brings a change to the way, type and time. Going away needs to be a bit more calculated and a bit more expensive. You’ve got to be smarter and a lot more ruthless to take the time that is available to you and more importantly, to use it effectively and thus, be able to take the family with you. Having said that, I still like to do solo travel every now and then to keep the juices flowing!
Anyway, back to Budapest…
Budapest is such a beautiful city and is becoming more popular by the day! It’s not really on the beaten path of course, but it’s not unknown either.
I guess it depends on how much time you have.
Visitors tend to have to make a choice between going to Prague OR going to Budapest.
Guess which one wins LOL!
You do have to make your own choices and that means visiting both, and then making a comparison.
Let’s start with Budapest in Hungary.
Hungary, also known as the Republic of Hungary or the “land of waters” is a country at the centre and heart of Europe and surrounded by Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia (not to be confused with Slovakia), Austria and the Ukraine! Hungary has over a thousand (1,000) thermal water springs and has the second (2nd) largest thermal lake in the world for bathing (Lake Hévíz). “Taking the waters” for relaxation or as clinical treatment, is an important part of the Hungarian culture.
Hungary has a long, rich history, and its culture reflects Roman, Turkish, Slavic and Magyar influences. It has just 1.7 million people, and although a member of the EU, only uses the Hungarian forint as it’s currency. At the moment, 1,000 Ft is worth $3.50 or €3.25!
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is a frequently visited European city and it’s very easy to see why.
Budapest has a natural beauty, an astounding architectural heritage, a unique atmosphere and a rich cultural palette that the Hungarian people treasure. It’s a very walkable city and extremely pedestrian-friendly, has attractive public spaces, wide green boulevards, historic baths, a popular recreational park – Margaret Island – a long winding river that lies on the famous Danube, and has established cultural interest being that the city is divided into both Buda and Pest!
WHY GO TO BUDAPEST?
So let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
Budapest is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe surrounded by the river Danube, split into two lovely parts known unsurprisingly as Buda and Pest, with Buda on the Western bank of the river, and Pest on the Eastern bank.
Budapest in Hungary is a classical city of awe. I’ve just got to give you ten (10) amazing ways to see it with the help of the Budapest official city Card.
Thank you very much!
- Walk around: Budapest is pedestrian-friendly, small and quite easy to walk around. There are also a million and one walking tours as well as free ones such as the Free Budapest Walking Tours which not only has a free orientation tour and a free Jewish District tour, it also has a free communism walk too!
- Rest your feet and take a bus tour: Again, Budapest is a real place of interest for tourists and how better than to see it by bus especially if it rains, like it did earlier yesterday…! There are many companies to choose from and we chose the Hungarian established Budapest Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-off company that included 48 hours on two (6) bus lines, two (2) river cruises, one (1) walking tour, a bicycle ride on the Margaret Island, free goulash, free beers, a free shot, a free magnet and lots of discounts on food and refreshment. They work in partnership with the City Sightseeing Budapest Hop on-Hop off. (If you’ve ever been to London and of course, you have. It’s that one!) We’ve already taken three (3) of the bus lines, two (2) of the river cruises, one (1) walking tour, the free goulash and the free beer. In this case, BEERS LOL!
- Cycle around by bike: Discover the famous sights of Budapest by renting a bicycle, or buggy bike. Because the city is small, it’s quite do-able and it’s European, so there are established bicycle lanes. If you’re nervous about using the open road as I am, then go to the very quiet and pretty Margaret Island, and cycle away from the hordes of traffic there.
- Take a tuk-tuk: Alright. Budapest isn’t Bangkok. I get it! However, taking a “green” tuk-tuk in a European city can be quite nice and even romantic, as the space in Budapest is wide and there are many parks to tuk-tuk through!
- Splash your way through Budapest: The RiverRide floating bus is the only vehicle for tourists which can give you an unforgettable way of enjoying the view both on land and in the river, by splashing your way through Budapest in a swimming bus, on a river ride!
- Go on a traditional river cruise: There is no better way to see the charming sights of Budapest than simply through either the usual sightseeing cruise boat as discussed above, or go one better on a an elegant candle-lit dinner combined with a romantic boat trip, on a beautiful river, in Eastern Europe.
- Take the underground train: The public transport system is fairly easy to use as there are only four (4) underground or subway lines. Don’t forget to buy a ticket.
- Use the normal every day bus. Except for the tourist buses, most buses seemed to be single deckers. With 268 buses plying the city roads, I would expect the network to be quite frequent.
- Take the tram: In many Eastern European cities including East Berlin (where I live), public transport by tram is not only considered to be more cost-effective, but also clean and green. The tram looks good and is quiet. With 32 trams and 15 trolleybuses, you can’t go ecologically wrong!
- You’ve won the lottery, fly in with a helicopter. Go on. Live a little!
TAKE ME THERE?
As you know, we came by train from Berlin.
‘Remember how I told you that between Berlin and Budapest, we would be taking the twelve-hour (12) German Railway overland train service known as Deutsche Bahn or DB, on a direct train to Budapest.
In first class!
It was first (1st) class. But it surely didn’t look like it.
There were six (6) red-cushioned seats and no real “tables.” No sockets. And definitely no WIFI.
I had difficulty believing how second (2nd) class could be any different.
The seats in 2nd class were closer together and had less leg space, and the “open” compartments were crowded and had suitcases and bags in the aisle and out on the corridor. It very much reminded me of the more respectable seating on the Indian train!
And here I was thinking I was going to relax and live a life of Riley for €69.00.
From Berlin to Prague, we had three (3) Korean travellers with us who were really nice and surprisingly chatty, and from Prague to Budapest, we had an Italian family of four (4).
As part of the 1st class option, we were constantly handed out free bottles of water!
IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?
Well, a little, but only because it was August. Budapest is small, in Eastern Europe, not really on the tourist run and not really cheap either.
In short, not your usual backpackers’ run! For that, you’d need to go to Romania!
Once we actually arrived in Budapest, we took a taxi.
It wasn’t easy to find a taxi outside the Budapest-Keleti International Train Station. There was not a taxi to be seen.
So we had to run and flag one down with a fixed negotiated price of €10.00.
In Eastern Europe, taxis are pretty cheap if you use common sense and don’t arrive late at night, too early in the morning, or look as if you’re desperate.
Try to stay cool and be willing to wait for another one.
Don’t let the driver know that you’re new in town. Act as if you know exactly where you’re going. Even if you don’t!
And so, the taxi took us to our first (1st) stay hotel at the chic but luxurious Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace or simply the Buddha-Bar Hotel!
More next week!
For more information about the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace, please contact: Buddha-Bar Hotel.
For more information about the Budapest official city card, please contact: Budapest Card.
For more information about the bus tour please contact: Budapest Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-off.
For more information about a free walking tour in Budapest please contact: Free Budapest Walking Tours.
This article is part-sponsored by the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Budapest, Aria Hotel Budapest, and I got a 50% discount on the Budapest Card, but all opinions and the wonderful Budapest sights that I marvelled at, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
Next week, I’ll be writing about the two hotels that I stayed at in Budapest, what I thought of the city after 11 years, and the wonderful Hungarian food and drink.
Today, I’ll be checking into the beautiful boutique and musically inspired five-star Aria Hotel Budapest. Later in the week, we’ll be travelling to Prague by train and I’ll be staying at the four-star modern designed Angelo Hotel Prague.
I’ll be in Eastern Europe. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin right now, then come meet me in Budapest or Prague!
August is going to be sweltering!
Watch this space!
Have you ever been to Budapest? Would you go to a ruin bar? Do you like goulash?
See you in Berlin.
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