Budapest, Hungary’s capital: The “Pearl of the Danube”

ByAndrea Thompson

December 13, 2023
Unlike most European countries, Hungary does not use the euro, so prices are significantly lower. With over 1000 years of history, there are plenty of things to do and see.Unlike most European countries, Hungary does not use the euro, so prices are significantly lower. With over 1000 years of history, there are plenty of things to do and see.

With a population of around 2 million people, it is a beautiful city in the middle of Europe with a rich history, great food, fascinating architecture, and ideal place for the party lovers, as offers a vibrant nightlife with many great bars and restaurants.

Unlike most European countries, Hungary does not use the euro, so prices are significantly lower. With over 1000 years of history, there are plenty of things to do and see.

Buda, the oldest part of the City and Pest with its Palaces of power, local modern history are split by the winding Danube.  The city is very walkable and has a very good public transport system.

It is very easy to spend a couple of days (or longer) in Budapest and here are my recommendations.

Crossing over the Danube via the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge, take the funicular up to Castle Hill where you will find some of the main attractions in the Buda district.  The apartments of the Royal Palace sustained considerable damage from heavy bombing during the war and are not open to the public.  Buda Castle which contains Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery can be visited, and there are a number of exhibitions displaying events and history of Hungry.

Also be sure not to miss Ruszwurm, the oldest bakery in Buda, which dates to 1827.  Ruszwurm serves its namesake and most delicious traditional Hungarian cakes in a cosy atmosphere surrounded by antique furniture.

We spent a couple of hours relaxing in the oldest and most historic baths in Budapest, Rudas Baths.  Rudas is smaller than the other thermal baths in the city and has an octagonal doomed pool which dates back to the 16th century and the architecture is in traditional Turkish style.  It was amazing to sit outside with snow all around in the hot, steaming water watching the locals playing chess!

Also on this side is the Fisherman’s Bastion.  Inside there is a traditional Hungarian restaurant with live music and such a great place to view the sunset and the lights of Pest from the terrace.  There is also Matthias Church which is worth a visit to see the colourful tiles and frescoes.

The next day we decided to spend some time at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.  This is the largest and most popular spa to take the healing waters.  With 18 pools both hot and cold, steam rooms and saunas both inside and outside before ticking off your list the fairy tale castle of Vajdahunyad, Budapest Zoo and Heroes Square.  This square is a monument to the founders of Hungry and used in one of Michael Jackson’s videos.  A memorial tree still stands at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus where he stayed whilst filming.

One of the most impressive landmarks on the Pest side of the river, is the Hungarian Parliament Building.   Neo-Gothic in design and is the third largest parliament in the world.  Standing 96 meters high and housing over 690 rooms and almost 20km of stairs.  There are guided tours available to view the grand staircase, assembly hall and crown jewels.

Walking along the riverbank you will see the Shoes on the Danube.  This is a memorial to the Jewish people who were shot and thrown into the river without their shoes during the second World War.  The memorial is made from 60 pairs of metal shoes, one pair for each person executed.

The Jewish quarter of Budapest holds the second largest Synagogue in the world and the largest in Europe.  This area contains many bars and restaurants converted from abandoned buildings, with quirky décor and eclectic music playing.

Memento Park is an open-air museum displays statues and monuments from the communist era.  There are sculptures of Lenin, Marx and other communist leaders as well as propaganda and relics.

Nearby is Andrássy Avenue which connects the Park with the City Centre and is lined with shops, cafes, the Hungarian State Opera House and the entrance to the oldest railway line in Europe.

There is so much nightlife in Budapest from bars, pubs and clubs, together with restaurants serving Goulash, the national dish to strudel, stuffed cabbage or beef stew with dumplings and a Michelin starred restaurant.

The Market Hall sells fresh produce and designed by Samu Pecz.  You will see its similarity in the iron structure used to the Eiffel Tower. With Zsolnay tiles it is a unique and elegant building.

There is a lot to see and do in Budapest and relatively cheap.  The food is great, and the people are so friendly.  It is an easy city to negotiate and definitely worth visiting for a couple of days.