Following a pretty exhilarating morning in Slovakia experiencing an exciting tank ride (yes that’s right, a tank ride) our Busabout group finally made it to Budapest! The sun was shining, the city was buzzing and we were eager to see some more sights and delights on our summer Eastern Europe trek.
We quickly spruced ourselves up at the Wombats Hostel – our home for the next two nights – and headed off to the River Danube for a sundown river cruise. Aside from trying to look all elegant in pictures rather than severely windswept, we all enjoyed the little trip. It was a good time to catch up with fellow travellers, have a drink or two and take in the amazing city sights around us. Along the away we saw the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building, as well as some of Budapest’s famous bridges.
For dinner we went to a cute little Cuban restaurant, which was followed up with not so cute, but instead hilarious attempts of Cuban dancing with some of the restaurant staff. We finished the night off trying out Budapest’s bar scene discovering some of the quirkiest haunts I’ve ever seen – amazing!
The following day we ventured off on another walking tour led by a student living in the Hungarian capital. Making our way over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge where the Buda and Pest sides of the city are joined and past the guardian lions, we made our way up the steep hill to the castle district. At the top we were greeted with incredible views of the city, including the Parliament Building and St Stephens Basilica.
Wandering around the top of the hill we saw guards outside the palace where the president of Hungary lives, as well as the architecturally stunning Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church – my favourite spot of the morning!
Although it was undergoing some maintenance work during our visit, the Matthias Church was a remarkable sight to see. I instantly fell in love with its stone white walls and contrasting brightly coloured tiled roof. Originally founded in 1025, the church was built in a Romanesque style, but since then it’s had many revamps and taken on some Gothic influences too.
Surrounding this amazing church stands the Fisherman’s Bastion. The fairytale like structure with 7 towers was built in the late 19th century specifically to be a panoramic viewing terrace for the people of Budapest. It’s design mirrors that of the Matthias Church taking on a mix of extraordinary Romanesque and Gothic styles. Both designed by architect Frigyes Schulek, these awe-inspiring historic buildings on Budapest’s Castle hilltop are iconic to this capital city and truly fantastic to see.
Making our way down the hill and over the bridge back to the Pest side of the city, we visited St Stephens Basilica, rubbed the belly of a bronze policeman statue – don’t ask – and finally finished the morning with an alfresco lunch.
By late afternoon a few of us had decided to venture up to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to catch some rays and relax in the warm waters of this natural spa.
These particular medicinal baths were the first of its kind in Pest and are the largest in Europe (and probably the most famous too). Traditional in its interior and exterior, stepping inside the spa was like going back in time to the early 1900s, which not surprisingly is when it was built. Looking around I could see elderly men playing pool chess, friends sunbathing in the shallows and families playing in the whirlpool corridor – this place truly caters for everyone, including me.
I loved exploring the different spa rooms, from covering myself in ice to braving the intense heat of the steam cabins, I literally could have spent hours in there. Reaping all the benefits of the natural hot spring waters, we dragged out our stay at the baths well into nightfall. Not only a place to appreciate more of the city’s amazing neo-baroque architecture and fascinating culture, the Széchenyi thermal baths are the perfect place to enjoy a mix of friendly relaxation and fun.
With our hair still dripping and our skin glowing from the sun, we left the baths and made our way to a restaurant called Spinozas. Here I enjoyed goulash soup, a delicious steak sandwich and the most amazing Strawberry Lemonade, whilst listening to live music by a sweet old guy on a piano. What a brilliant way to finish another brilliant day.
We were nearing the end of our time in Hungary and the end of our trip around Eastern Europe too, but we still had a few more sights to see including a brand new country! Next time I’ll be revealing what we got up to on our final few days in Croatia – join me, won’t you please?
Have you ever visited Budapest? What were your favourite sights in this marvelous Hungarian city? I’d love to hear about your experiences too 🙂