Written by Pam Sievers and Kathy Lindahl.
If you catch it on a bright, sunny day, you can’t help but be impressed by its grand old opulence – wide, tree-lined boulevards, a majestic opera house, dramatic scenery on each side of the Danube, green parks, and shiny monuments.
If you catch it on a gray, drizzly day, you might tend to feel its history in the last 70 years – Nazi rule during World War II, followed by the suppressive regime of Communism until 1989; faded, outdated building facades, neither historic nor modern and food that will be a lowlight on your trip.
But on our five week, eight city tour, Budapest left the greatest impact and I highly recommend it on anyone’s travel itinerary. Do not say “I’ve been to Prague, that’s enough.” The cities couldn’t be further apart.
Top 11 Things We Did in Budapest:
- Pre-arranged our transportation from the train (do this from the airport, too). The cab drivers were very aggressive and roaming the platforms as we stepped off the train. Your hotel or apartment can arrange this for you. We took the train from Prague – cheap and comfortable, but rather long.
- House of Terror Museum – gives you a great sense of their history and the differentiation between Nazi rule and Communist rule.
- Shoe Memorial – located on the Danube shore, a short walk between the chain bridge and Parliament. http://budapestgolocal.blogspot.com/2010/10/shoes-on-danube-bank-holocaust-memorial.html
- Castle Grounds Visit including Matthias Church – gorgeous church and views; easiest to include on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour.
- Central Market Hall, but better deals on souvenirs can be found on streets leading to the market.
- Stroll Andrassy Blvd and understand why Budapest is referred to as the Paris of the East.
- Visit the Opera House – free tours in the afternoon.
- Stroll the Danube at dusk from each side – view the castle from one side and Parliament from the other.
- Attend an English speaking church, always a favorite while traveling as it’s a good way to meet expats who can share ideas and hints while visiting their area. In addition to some spiritual renewal as well, of course. http://www.reformatus.hu/mutat/6861/ Read up on Jane Haining first – it will make the experience more memorable. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Haining
- Discovered the largest store for sheet music and CDs. This was just a block off of the famous Vaci Street shopping area, very near the Hard Rock Café. The Rózsavölgyi shop at Szervita ter #5. They also have a ticket agency within the store, where you can book tickets for concerts, shows, and events.
- Stayed in a delightful apartment in the same 100-year-old building as the music store in #10 (very near Vaci Street); really added flavor to the total experience. http://bvr.hu
Additional things we wish we’d done.
- Visit a spa/natural bath. Just take an old bathing suit and do this; we really regret we didn’t.
- Visit the Dohany Street Central Synagogue. http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
- Read up a bit on the history of Hungary and be reminded of its significant relationship to Austria.
However you plan to get there, make Budapest a stop. It’s beautiful with an old world charm, your money can probably go much further than the rest of Europe (this was the case when we were there in Sept 2013), and the history is a great lesson in Eastern European history.
For more writing by Pam Sievers, see her blog at My Patchwork Journey.