After the last Lysia trip away to Berlin, we vowed never to endure the not so ‘Easy Bus’ to Stansted again but with a cheap deal to Budapest as temptation, at the time it seemed like a small price to have to pay. Though the journey back (delayed flight on Ryan Air, Easy Bus, night bus, not enough money on my Oyster, then dragging our suitcases down what seems like the longest street in the world) was arduous, it was another amazing trip.
Budapest- formerly two cities, Buda and Pesch- is the City of Bridges. One side is filled with neo-Gothic architecture, the ornate Cathedral of St Stephan, a copy of the one in Rome, though Matthew says it has nothing on the real thing, wide avenues and flanked by the famous Danube River. The other side has Ottoman inspired churches, thermal baths, monasteries built into the rock face and a reconstructed palace after the former one was destroyed in the bombings of WWI.
It rained, steadily, the first two days we were there and heads under hoods, the true beauty of Budapest drizzled away as we beat the pavements determined to see the sights. But on the third day the sun smiled on Budapest and we were able to appreciate the full beauty of the pastel coloured city as we took an old fashioned cabled car up to Castle Hill and looked down over the entirety of the city.
There’s a romance about the city of Budapest, an understated flirtation between the sides Buda and Pescht, a teasing of each other as the waters lap against each shore and you can’t help but be in love whilst there yourself. Whilst Buda, the older town looks a little like a Disney town with old fashioned lamp posts and cobbled stones, roads that cradle the mountain and spiral down towards the river and churches named after saints, the other side has more of a cool vibe with university students drinking beers, museums and galleries advertising shows and the modern being studded with relics of old like the intricate synagogue and stunning world famous opera house. A City of Bridges is the perfect title for this place as it truly does chain together things that seem more at odd with seamless ease.
The architecture is one of the selling points of this city. From the government buildings which is constantly being rebuilt, the CET or Whale Gallery along the bank of the river, the Opera House or even the seemingly unassuming façade of an unimportant building, the stone work is intricate and a mixture of all the different influences of the city.
One of the most beautiful places we visited was the New York Cafe. Gilded in glamour, dripping in decadence and mirrors reflecting the pianists plink, plonk of notes around the high vaulted rooms, this cafe, hailed the most beautiful cafe in the world, was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach! The hot chocolates me and Matt had were sinfully indulgent topped with our favourite, hazelnuts, and flavoured with it too. Mark enjoyed a traditional schnitzel and Emily a pasta dish. The real star, though I may be talking from bias, was the dessert plate: a selection of dainty and delectable treats that we spent an inordinate amount of time admiring and picturing! An instagrammers dream.
If you like beer and you like a bargain, then Budapest is heaven. The pricing here doesn’t really make sense, with a glass of wine costing the equivalent of 40 pence at the Central Market, a bottle from a supermarket £1.40 and a beer costing a pound or a little over (or less) pretty much everywhere else, things like soft drinks seem comparably expensive!
There are some great bars catering to the student areas in Pesch, with quirky themes and happy hours, but I imagine in the Summer, nothing would be nicer than to chill at one of the many bars on the Danube banks and enjoy a cool beverage.
Alternatively, we enjoyed many on the Budapest River Cruise which gives you a history of the place while cruising down the river. Highly recommended.
If you go to Budapest and don’t visit the baths, you’ve missed a trick. Being on the Buda side of the river, The four of us opted to go to the Gellart baths below the statue of Liberty and the grotto monasteries and churches. The Ottoman inspired baths powered tiled in ornate mosaic and adorned in gold had a mixture of outside pools at different temperatures, saunas, steam rooms perfumed with menthol and ice cold baths for plunging into afterwards. We spent a good few hours there, but could easily have spent the entire day soaking and looking over the architecture of the city when outside.
Budapest is a tale of two cities, a city of bridges and one i hope to come back to when the sun is shining and the storm clouds have cleared.
Other places in Budapest:
Absolutely amazing Hungarian Restaurant. Live piano and quirky decor, even better food. Firkasz
Good gelato in weird and wonderful flavours including gorgonzola! Fragola