This week, I decided to dig deep into my photo archives and revisit destinations I’ve yet to blog about. Though pictures on a screen don’t do Budapest justice, they rekindled that head over heels feeling this city gave me.
Last summer, I spent three nights in Budapest with my dad and brother. From the moment I laid eyes on the Parliament Building, I was in awe. During the day, the contrast of the strong gothic architecture against the serene Danube River was enough to make me swoon, but as the day went on, I fell even more in love with it. Viewing the building from Fisherman’s Bastion (on the Buda side) was one of the highlights of my visit, but seeing it completely lit up in gold at night while birds resembling shooting stars danced above it truly took my breath away.
My time spent in Budapest was hardly enough for me to feel capable of offering advice on “top must-sees,” so I decided to pick my friend @diathesun‘s brain about the place she once called home. Dia lives in NYC, but grew up in Budapest and returns there every summer to attend Sziget Music Festival.
If you aren’t familiar with Budapest, the first thing you should know is that it’s divided by the Danube River into Buda and Pest (pronounced pesht). Some of the more touristy spots I visited and Dia recommends are Buda Castle, Hero’s Square, and the Hungarian State Opera House. All are rich in history, and not too shabby to look at (and by that, I mean not at all).
The National Gallery located inside the Buda Castle has a wonderful collection of Hungarian masterpieces placed in an amazing art deco building. Dia recommends keeping an eye out for their special exhibitions as last summer they had a Picasso and a Modigliani retrospective at the same time. Budapest also has a large Jewish community and is home to Europe’s largest temple, the Dohany Steer Synagogue.
We both agree that a visit to the Széchenyi Baths should be at the top of your list! I ended up getting a full hour body massage for roughly 60 euros (a steal compared to US prices) and it was one of the most heavenly experiences I’ve ever had. Not to mention, Széchenyi is the largest thermal bath in Europe with 20 baths of different sizes and temperatures (both indoor and outdoor), saunas, steam rooms and more. What more could a girl ask for?! Gellért Baths is a good alternative if you’re into having options.
Moving on to food. To be honest, I had a bad stomach bug in Budapest so I didn’t really get to enjoy the cuisine (one of my favorite parts about traveling), so this is where Dia comes in big time! Her favorite restaurant is Rosenstein, known for their selection of wild game and “the best matza ball soup in town.” She also recommends her friend’s restaurant, Keksz, as a locals-only spot to grab a burger and beer.
A must-try Hungarian dish is Lángos, which is basically fried dough. I picked one up at the Great Market Hall, another must-see spot, and tried it with bananas, strawberries and nutella, but you can get just about anything you want as a topping! The Great Market Hall has everything from local cuisine to specialty crafts. Hungary is well-known for its lace, which you’ll notice once you start wandering around the city, so I picked up a piece from a vendor there.
If you’re planning a night out, take advice from a local and head to Belvaros or English Inner City (District V). There are also a ton of pubs all around Wesselenyi street. According to Dia, summer is the best time to visit Budapest because there are so many young people from all over the world. But rest assured, no matter when you visit, you won’t be disappointed. In my opinion, Budapest is definitely one of Europe’s most underrated destinations.
Visiting Budapest? Have a question I didn’t answer? Reach out to me in the comments!