Dubbed as the Paris of the East, Budapest is one of Europe’s highly acclaimed cities for its beauty and charm. In truth, no words can amount to the appeal of Budapest. It’s like a gift that came in a wonderful package; a place complete with rich history, stunning views and a regal ambiance all tied up with a romantic atmosphere. My trip to Budapest left me wanting more – a sign of a truly worthwhile escape. And as a traveler, that is all I can ask for – to find a place so captivating that one forgets the longing for home. And so, here are my top ten recommendations should you find yourself in the middle of this wondrous city. Give in to the temptation and play Budapest by George Ezra on full blast and prepare to fall in love with Hungary’s picture perfect capital.
1. Have a moment at the Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Budapest is parted by the River Danube into Buda and Pest. The capital is connected by bridges, the most famous of which is the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. One of the city’s infamous landmarks, this was the first permanent bridge to cross the Danube and was an engineering wonder during the time of its construction. Call me a hopeless romantic, but it stirred emotions up in me and Budapest is just not the same without it. Tourists flock the area to capture the perfect moment and you might need to wait a while to get your own without a hoard of tourists behind you. But I assure you the waiting is all worth it. Made of cast iron and created with intricate detail, this is an important part of Budapest you should never miss.
2. Enjoy a night stroll to the Hungarian Parliament
The world’s third largest parliament building is stunning at day, however it truly is a magnificent display of architecture at night. Unfortunately, it was a cold winter evening when we decided to visit and I could not feel my toes and fingers. The freezing cold did not stop me from appreciating the view though. The guards were staring at us with puzzled faces as we shivered our way into selfies and GoPro moments. They must have thought we were losing our minds marveling at the Parliament as patches of icy snow fell upon us but hey – what’s life without a little adventure?! Go for it.
3. Explore the Danube Promenade
I might be wrong, but I think that the romantic ambiance of Budapest is partly owed to the fact that they have the Danube River right in the middle of their city. As simple as this sounds, merely walking alongside the Danube is a great way to enjoy the place. Shops overlooking the river and other landmarks such as the Elizabeth Bridge are easily found around the promenade.
4. Afternoon coffee and cake with a view.
During our winter stay, a cup of coffee with cherry liqueur was not only welcome – it was necessary. Take a quick break from your tour and don’t forget to find a cozy coffee place to rewarm your toes.
We found a gem perched along riverbank, a quiet coffee shop with such creatively themed interiors called Marvelosa. Although we were happy to occupy a table on the first level, I suggest cozying up on a table upstairs next to a window. You can never go wrong with a warm cuppa and a picturesque view. Cheers to caffeine with shots of alcohol!
5. Pay tribute in Shoes on the Danube
Brace yourself for a time travel inducing experience by paying tribute to the fallen at Shoes on the Danube Bank. A stunning and truly unique memorial, the display showcases pairs of shoes left behind by victims of the Holocaust who were stripped naked and shot point blank while facing the river. Their shoes were the only reminder of what they were – a sad and painfully dark era in human history.
6. Hop on the Castle Hill Funicular
Looking for a place with an awesome overview of Budapest? Look no further and fall in line for a quick ride to the Castle Hill Funicular or Siklo as the locals call it. It saves you the time of trekking to and from the Castle Hill while treating you to an unparalleled overview. Once you reach the top, discover the wonders of Castle Hill and don’t forget to snap some Instagram worthy photos.
7. Climb the steps to Gellert Hill.
Gellert Hill offers one of the best ways to see the city’s structures. Although we were not able to climb all the way to the summit due to problems with visibility, we were lucky enough to have reached the St. Gellert Monument. The view from this level is already amazing and I can only imagine the view from the all the way up the hill. For zero Hugarian Forints, you can have a bird’s eye view of the city while mapping out your next destination.
8. Go get yourself some Palinka.
Hungary is of no exception to having local spirits and when in Budapest, you have to sample a drink or two of their Palinka. It’s a fruit brandy with a minimum alcohol content 37.5%. When asked for a recommendation, our friendly waiter suggested Palinka with glee. Together with a side comment that we should consider it a “liquid coat” for such a cold winter day. I had a Raspberry Palinka with 48% alcohol and boy – it kept me warm until the next day. Cheers!
9. Bath like a local: The Szechenyi
Budapest is known as a city of baths for a reason and the experience is all null and void without braving one of the largest public baths in the world. So forget your sense of personal space and keep all your germ phobia at bay – this is something you HAVE to do. The experience was one of a kind and it’s more of a social activity than one related to hygiene. It’s like a pub, only there were no drinks and everyone was already half naked. I absolutely loved it!!!! Put your sexy swim wear on, imbibe the ultimate Hungarian adventure and dive into the Szechenyi experience. Definitely the best way to chill out in Budapest.
10. Climb the Cupola in St. Stephen’s Basilica.
In every European city I visit, I always make it a point to see the nearest Basilica or Cathedral. St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika) is the largest church in Hungary and dedicated to their first king. The place was a massive and stunning place of worship. Having missed the summit of Gellert Hill, we couldn’t pass on climbing the Cupola for yet another outstanding view. And indeed that view from the Cupola is something you have to see for yourself.
Budapest is a city that reminds you why travel is such an interesting part of life. It’s beauty and culture would never be known to us without the pleasure of travel and exploration. So the next time you think of a holiday, consider booking a flight to this charming, romantic city. Take it from this woman who cannot help but long for her next Palinka long after her return flight has landed in London.