5 foreigners in a mini-van. 5 exhausted (self-inflicted of course) foreigners in a mini van more specifically. That was how I eventually made my way to the elusive Budapest. The manageable 4 hour journey extending to a 7 hour adventure with the border crossing tying Serbia and Hungary proving an extending line of cars. With a haphazard assortment of flights dragging me across the northern hemisphere in no logical order the adored Budapest had constantly been ‘just’ out of reach (by European standards anyway). With a closely impending flight soon returning me dramatically south (Tasmania, specifically), seconds were a precious commodity.
Budapest had never been much on my mind, as a whole Hungary hadn’t intrigued me until that standard traveller banter and word-of-mouth tales had enlisted Budapest as a must visit. The overall theme seemed to rely on the heavy party scene, and although that wasn’t my particular enticement, the beauty certainly was. Hungary isn’t known for its wealth. It’s not exploited as a stunning destination. The food hasn’t become a global sensation. And let’s face it, Hungarian isn’t a language enticing students across the globe (not that any in Australia is with our particular dismissal regarding the necessity or value of a second language.)
Don’t be lured in to the booze tinted haze that so frequently captures far too much daylight from visitors itineraries, Budapest is a stunning adventure when drenched in sunlight glory.
Back to the minivan; I awoke from my sleepy daze to be mesmerised by the wide and winding river, the hilltop fortress, the parks, the architecture and the narrow streets that entrap your soul. Yes. They were all correct. Budapest is the crown jewel of Europe.
There is so much to do in Budapest. It’s a place you could spend months and never get bored. From the baths, to the parks, the shopping to the food, it’s an expansive maze of things to find.
Széchenyi Baths are no well kept secret, they are more the main attraction. The Turkish style baths date back to 1913, and are supplied by 2 natural springs. The complex is comprised of 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools (27° to 38°C). The indoor baths are a stunning maze of beauty and bliss, the outdoor pools are perfect for people and sunset watching (or in my case a 2 hour nap). These are the most popular baths in town and for good reason, they are perfect.
From Széchenyi Baths wander around the City Park, spanning 302 acres it’s filled with that basic and wonderful element of ‘green’. Alongside the natural spaces you find the Vajdahunyad Castle, which although only young at just a touch over 100 it certainly holds up against its dramatically senior ancestors. Walk down the grand Andrássy Avenue toward the city to find Heros Square, framed by the Hall of Art and Museum of Fine Art.
The serene Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion), located on castle hill on the Buda side of the river not only provides sweeping views along my most favourite river in Europe and a staircase with the most visually wonderful angles but is also a pristine example of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture seen in whitewashed glory. The stone courtyard around Matthias Church branches out in every direction, opening into wide streets lined by beautiful cafes and boutique shopping. Dare I make such a call but with the colours the Hungarian sunset throws this might be one of the most perfect sunset gazing spots around Europe.
Wander toward to the palace for postcard perfect views along the River Danube. The magnificent Chain Bridge (which you must walk over under the night sky, with seemingly thousands of lights it’s a glowing wonder), stretches across the river leading your gaze to St. Stephen’s Basilica, neighboured charmingly against the Budapest eye.
The opulent Hungarian Parliament Building stole my breath as I explored the city alone on my first night. Wandering the bank situated on the Pest side it glowed brilliantly gold agains the black sky, reflection floating upon the dark river.
Buildings, parks and other things aside, I did partake in that renowned Budapest nightlife. Of course the ruin bars are a must visit, Szinpla being the largest and admittedly the only one I visited (under a pálinka induced haze of course, the national drink does wonders against your coherent state..) It is undeniably one of my favourite bars the world over, with its array of never ending trinkets decorating the interiors the haphazard perfection.
If you have a penchant for admiring (purchasing) beautifully created clothing by the local designers The Garden Studio is a store that can do no wrong (and if you don’t know Hungarian designers get to know the names Dori Tomcsanya and Kele now!)
More importantly believe the rumours of Budapest, dare I add fuel to the fire but it really is a good as they all say.