“Little Paris of Middle Europe” is the title given to Budapest, the capital of Hungary and according to me, one of the really fascinating places for a traveler – no matter the purpose – business, honeymoon, bachelor party, back-pack, history and well, I can really go on. Budapest has something for everyone.
Buda and Pest are actually two parts of the city, each located on opposite banks of the River Danube and connected by a landmark heritage bridge called the Chain bridge. Both parts of the city are equally lively and have something for everyone. Here are 5 reasons why I totally love this place –
1) History, History and History all around
I am an absolute sucker for heritage sites and destinations and this is my top-most reason to go to Budapest. The city is filled with history and has more than 5 areas designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From Castles to Labyrinths and Museums, you can spend all your time inBudapest, just trying to explore them all. Just highlighting a few below-
The most magnificent amongst all the heritage sites in Budapestis the Buda Castle, standing tall on the banks of the River Danube. The castle looks imposing, especially if you are standing on the Pest side of the capital. The Royal Palace was destroyed during the Second World War and was rebuilt later. The interiors of the palace used to be quite ostentatious but post the rebuilt, are a shadow of their former glory. The castle compound is filled with the National Library, Museums, Statues and Fountains.
One of the landmark fountains here, is the Matthias Fountain, a beautiful depiction of a love story between the King Matthias and a peasant girl Ilonka. The fountain depicts the royal hunting party with Ilonka, the peasant girl on one side. The water of the fountain flows between the boulders. As the case with most fountains, you can toss a coin into it for some good luck. :-). You can also, the Lion’s gatealong the way and head to the next heritage attraction.
Quite near the Castle is the Fisherman’s Bastion – a structure that was built for defense by the fishermen in the area. Today it is a viewing platform with some amazing landscape of the Pest side of the city and the River Danube. As I understand the upper decks are charged for but the lower ones offer an equally good view. Don’t miss the lovely Baroque architecture and pavilions to just sit on and enjoy the breeze – What a heavenly feeling!!!
Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Now here is the eerie and amazing part of the heritage sites – a maze right under the castle – 6 miles long & of course, to my disappointment, you can visit only upto 1 mile. This is a series of caves and tunnels that were used as shelter during the Second World War. Legend has it that this is where the Count Dracula was imprisoned – Scary huh?
This one is on the Pest side of the city and is a landmark. Currently, it houses the parliament but some parts of it have been converted to a museum. Built in the 1880s, the building is as beautiful inside as it is outside. It has around 690 rooms and numerous courtyards.It houses the Crown jewels and one can just visit the same to see these.
But these are not all. There are numerous other historic attractions that you could visit – Heroes’ Square, Museum of Fine Arts, St Stephen’s Basillica, the Central Synagogue – the last being the place where hundreds of Jews were massacred. I will probably write a complete post only on the History of Budapest but for the time being, will move to my next reason to visit this city.
2) Aah! The Baths! in Budapest
Okay – so here is something that is quite unique to Budapest. The city is filled with public baths like the Szechenyi Bath, Gellert Baths and more – a legacy that has come in from the times of the Romans & Turks. The baths are used as how one would use public gardens – for entertainment, relaxing and exercise. You will find people reading a book or playing chess while indulging in these baths. These baths are formed with the natural thermal and medicinal springs in the city. And no, they are not like Swimming pools 🙂 It is quite common to see one host a party at these Baths – it is just a way of life here 🙂
P.S: – Just to let you know, Budapest is also, called the City of Baths owing to the sheer number of Spas it has on account of these baths.
3) Mysterious Caves in Budapest
Thank goodness for the thermal springs – for they are the reason why Budapest has a lot of caves under it for us,tourists, to do some caving. Two of these caves – Palvolgyi and Szemlohegyi are open to tourists for caving. The first one is not for kids and is quite an adventure – with its beautiful cave formations and low crevices and passages to go through. The mere thought of going through these caves make me feel like Indiana Jones. One would of course, need guides to take you through the caves, but am sure caving in Budapest would be a thrilling experience by itself.
4) City that lights up the night
When the lights in Budapest come on in the night, the city looks like something that is straight out of a fairly tale. The lovely Danube river is filled with reflections of the beautifully lit city – a photographer’s delight. The setting is also, perfect for a romantic cruise with dinner & drinks on the River Danube. There are plenty of these cruises available – where you can stand on the deck, soak in the lovely sights with a glass or two in your hand, right next to your loved ones. Hmm! Tempting? If you need some more information on these cruises, click here.
And that is not all, you can even experience the museums and their unusual statues like the Colombo statue along the way. Don’t miss the Baths at night – imagine having a Bath party at night -and no, don’t raise your eyebrows as this is quite common in Budapest.
5) Wine tasting, Coffee Bars and more
Budapest has a plethora of cafes and bars to choose from. Some of the cafes like the Cafe Ruszwurm are quite old – established before the Second World War. The Hungarian pastries and cakes are definitely something that one must sample in the city. Here is a Budapest Food Guide that will tell you all that you need to look out for.
The city also, has a wine culture, with many bars and cruises offering wine tasting sessions. If possible, you should head to the annual Wine festival – a complete culinary and cultural delight.
You not only get to taste some amazing wines but also, get to see the Hungarian Folk dances and other cultural nuances, right at the premises of the Buda Castle.
Now are’nt these 5 reasons are not compelling enough for you to head to the tourist attractions of Budapest?
Getting to Budapest:
Budapest is well connected by Air from all the major airports in the World.
One can opt for Train through the other European countries
In terms of Visa requirements, Hungary is a part of the Schengen Countries and a Schengen Visa is good to enter the country
Here is the official website for Budapest tourism.
Budapest has an amazing traveler’s card, which can be bought here. This card gives you a free passage to internal transport, some of the attractions, a few Baths and more. It also, offers you certain discounts on restaurants and spas.
The weather in Budapest is quite pleasant throughout the year. It does not really snow here in Winter. Best months to visit are between March – May and September to October.
This one is a suggestion more than a tip and frankly, would classify it as one of the reasons to visit Budapest . Go for a Segway tour . I found this extremely exciting – a different way to explore the city.
Beware of pick-pockets and thefts whilst in Budapest
Besides my reasons to visit Budapest, there is plenty more to do here. Check this article for more inspiration on things to do in Budapest.