We arrived in Budapest late Friday night after traveling all afternoon on 2 trains from Slovakia, took the metro to our hotel, checked in, and headed out the next day to explore the city. Over a century ago there were two cities separated by the Danube, Buda and Pest. They joined to form one large city, Budapest (that’s Budapesht as there are no pests in Budapest).
We started off at the main food market, Nagycsarnok, housed in an old steel building. It was very impressive with tons of food to buy as well as souvenirs.
After lunch we had decided to join a free walking tour of the city (we loves those free walking tours 🙂 ). The walking tour was very informative on history and hit a lot of the key sites.
It was very unfortunate however that Red Bull had decided to pay millions of dollars to shut down part of the city center for their Air Race including 2 bridges going to Castle Hill on the Buda side thus ruining half of the walking tour and most of our pictures across the Danube from either side. We were very disappointed at this. As such we had to change most of our plans so we could go back the next day to explore Castle Hill. After the tour, per the guides recommendation, we headed to the old Jewish Quarter for dinner. It was great walking around there and dinner was very good.
The next day we headed to Castle Hill by Metro. After cooling off at a local park and some food, we hiked up Castle Hill to start our self guided tour down through Castle Hill. Walking down through the main street atop Castle Hill was very pleasant. Matthias Church is at the center of the walk and was very grand and of an eclectic design; each of the 4 towers were of a different design.
To the side of the cathedral was the Fisherman’s Bastion with stunning views (except for the Red Bull Air Race) of the Pest side of Budapest and the parlaiment building across the Danube.
We finished walking down Castle Hill, back to the river and crossed a bridge back to the Pest side of the city. We stopped at a grocery store to get food, ate dinner at little park with a fountain, then got some flower ice cream and dipped our feet into the fountain (see Kim and Tia’s post here). It was very refreshing!
Our final day in Budapest was reserved to do what all Romanians do and what Budapest is very famous for due to the abundance of natural hot mineral water under ground. It was pool d… um… I mean, Roman Bath day! Budapest has about half a dozen baths of various styles and sizes. The two most famous are the Gellert baths in Buda along the Danube and Szechenyi Baths in Pest at the city parks. For days we had gone back and forth about which baths to go to; Gellert is expensive but famous for it’s ornate architecture, Szechenyi is slightly less expensive and very large and very grand. We had also discovered the Rudas Baths in Buda along the Danube. These are Turkish baths that maintain men only and women only days. Being we were going on a Monday, it was a men only day in the steam baths and co-ed in the swimming pool and healing spa. After much research on line and debating, we finally decided to go to Szechenyi Baths. We felt with the kids along, it might be the best option. All in all we were not disappointed (much). If we had another day, and the money, and a babysitter (ERICA!!!!), Tuyet and I would go back to Rudas baths on a weekend when it’s fully co-ed for a more authentic Budapest Bath experience.
In the end, we were very impressed with Budapest. We would love to come back again some day. Lonely Planet describes Budapest as a cross between Prague and Berlin. Not having been to Berlin, I can’t say, but I would surely believe them. It is a fun city, lots to do, with great architecture and grand palaces, buildings, and baths.
Next stop… Transylvania!!!