48 Hours in Budapest…On Your Marks, Get Set…Go
We were off for a little over 48 hours to Budapest, Hungary. Another new city and another new country to tick off our list. We were only there for a long weekend away and with Lonely Planet’s pocket Budapest book safely in Stef’s hands, it became obvious that this city had a lot to offer.
We flew with the budget airline, WizzAir. I’d never really heard of them before and although the actual tickets were cheap, they got you with the extras. Want to take a carry-on bag? That’ll cost ya. Want to take a bag bigger than an extremely small rucksack? That’ll cost ya. Want to go to toilet on the plane? That’ll cost ya! Only joking on the last one, but with all the add-ons, it was still a lot cheaper than any other flight operator. It was a 2 hour 45-minute flight and when we got off the plane, it was about 30 degrees Celsius and the weather report said it was going to last for the duration of our stay. Nice.
We were sleeping at the Hotel Parliament which funnily enough, was just around the corner from the Hungarian Parliament building. It was a 4-star hotel which included breakfast. The room was very clean and smart and the bathroom matched the style. The only thing we couldn’t understand was that the bathroom door was frosted glass but had a gap big enough to see through running around the edges! There was so much choice in their buffet, including various cheeses, meats, cereals, fruits and pastries. The breakfast was absolutely amazing and we stuffed ourselves until near bursting point every morning! We booked it via Hotels.com and due to us having accrued a number of free nights with them (they give you a free night every 10 you buy), it reduced the balance from £300 to only £49! £49 for three nights at a 4-star hotel! It was situated in a great location and walking distance to most tourist hot spots. The staff were very friendly and best of all the WiFi was fast and free!
A Walking tour of Budapest
Not many people know this but Budapest is actually two places, Buda and Pest which are separated by the Danube River.
For our first day, we did an extremely long 10 mile-ish walk around Buda. Both Stef and I love a good walk and the old buildings and statues on what seemed like every corner made it a pleasure to navigate around. To track our route, we used a special device called the i-gotU. It’s a small little GPS box no bigger than a box of matches. We normally just clip it on to a bag and let it do it’s thing. Here is the route we took.
The walk took us along the Danube River, which is Europe’s 2nd longest river (2860 km long and running through 7 countries!) past the absolutely stunning Hungarian Parliament Building and by the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. There were minimal clouds in the sky and the temperature was hitting 34 degrees Celsius!
On the second day, we explored Pest. We were exhausted from our long hike, but we plowed on and did another long walking tour of the other side of the river.
The headings below are the places we saw along the way.
The Gellért Hill Cave
Tucked away under castle hill is the Gellért Hill Cave, also known as Saint Ivan’s Cave. In the 1920s, the original cave was extended and the unique church was born. It is still used as a church today and we even got to see some real nuns! For a small fee, you could walk around the cave church and I can honestly say I have never been in a church like this. Compared to the heat outside, the rocks kept the ambient temperature nice and cool and this alone made the entrance fee totally worth it!
Liberty Statue On Gellért Hill
After the cave, we headed up an extremely steep path up to Gellért Hill to see the Liberty Statue. It is a 14m high bronze statue on top of a 26m pedestal. We walked from sea level to where it overlooks the city at about 230m high. With the heat and what felt like vertical paths, we finally made it and the views were absolutely stunning. You could see for miles. The statue was built in 1947 and was to celebrate the ending of Nazi occupation.
A short distance from the Liberty Statue is Castle Hill. To get to the top of Castle hill where Buda Castle is, it’s either a very tough climb, or a couple of minutes ride on a cable railway (the Buda Castle Funicular). We opted for the later which only cost a few pound each. I’m not going to lie, we didn’t really do much up there. I think both Stef and I are done with museums. They all seem to be the same. Unless they are very unique or offer something fabulous, we’ll be giving them a wide berth. They did have a museum about the history of Budapest. I’m sure it’s interesting. After having a little look around Buda Castle, we remained on the hill and headed to Matthias Church. From the outside, it looked amazing. The craftsmanship put into it was out of this world. We couldn’t wait to see what it was like on the inside but… we never got to find out as someone was actually getting married and the doors remained closed to the public. How dare they!
Around a section of the Matthias Church is a lookout wall called Fisherman’s Bastion. For a small fee, you can climb the stairs and gasp at the amazing views over the river and town centre. It was empty when we got up there so could get some amazing shots, however, within about 5 minutes, a bus load of Chinese tourists invaded and made it impossible to get a decent photo without getting a iPad on a selfie stick in shot!
Hospital In The Rock
The Hospital In The Rock was pretty coll place to go. During World War II and under Nazi control, this hospital was carved into the natural cave system that was already there. The original cave and tunnels spread through about 10km under the hill and surrounding area. During World War II, whilst Budapest was under Nazi control, it was used as an air raid shelter. Later in 1941, the cave was converted into the hospital. With all the casualties from the war, the hospital was well above capacity and as supplies were low, even bloody bandages had to be re-used. If your injury didn’t kill you, the soon to be infection would! I could go on, however, I suggest you head over to their website to read about it or better still, get yourself to Budapest. It’s an interesting read and site. For about £10 per person, you could walk around the cave with a tour guide. If there’s one place you just have to visit in Budapest, this is it! They also offered blankets for you to wear as it was very cold in there, however, coming from England, I thought it was quite warm and was happy to wear my shorts and t-shirt!
Saint Stephen’s Basilica
A few roads away from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge is Saint Stephen’s Basilica. What is a Basilica I hear you ask? Simply put, a large important church. Leading up to the Basilica is a large square surrounded by cafes, eateries and shops. The front of the Basilica is lined with stone steps, leading you to either the main entrance or the side entrance to the viewing tower. Although it was free to enter, a donation was suggested. In total, to walk around the church and climb the tower, it cost about £5 per person. First of all we tested out Stef’s fear of heights. The stairs to the tower were very small and barely fit 2 people passing. There were 364 steps in total, which came in handy to burn off the extremely tasty Hungarian meals we’d been having! Once at the top, you could walk around the tower and take in a panoramic view of Budapest. After a few selfies, Stef’s fear got the better of her and she made her way back down. I am proud of her. Everywhere we go there seems to be some sort of high viewing tower, but despite the fear, she still ventures up there. It wasn’t quite as high as on top of Castle Hill or Liberty Statue but it did give amazing views of the city. Once on the floor, we headed straight into the Basilica. It was quite busy but the place was massive so it did not feel too crowded. They were actually holding mass whilst we looked around. The pews were full and the priest was rocking it at the front. The crowd were singing away. It was a peaceful calming experience. The architecture of the Basilica was out of this world with what seemed like every nook and cranny hand crafted.
The Terror Museum
A 15 minute walk from the Basilica was the Terror Museum. This place was recommended to us on the premise that it was truly disturbing and we’d walk out in tears. Challenge accepted. We paid the entrance fee of just over £5 each and walked through into the main building. Once there, we were greeted with a massive tank and 5 floors of potential terror! It was a bit like IKEA where you just follow the route around the museum. The first room we went into was surrounded by TV screens playing some pretty disturbing footage. Dead people, people dying and diggers pushing multiple bodies into mass graves. We were surrounded by it. But that was as twisted as it got. From then on, walking the different floors, we heard stories from a number of survivors from the wars, saw clothing Nazis wore and experienced the living conditions of some of the prisoners of that period. I’m not sick in the head but I wanted more. Don’t call it a Terror Museum and just give me people telling sad stories. There was far too much reading involved. Stef and I ended up skipping a lot of the areas which were just lines upon lines of text. The high points of the museum were the padded room and the prisoner cells. If you like a good read about the war and it’s victim’s then it’s a great place to visit but if you expect terror, this is definitely not the place.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath and the City Park
Just down the road from the Terror Museum was the Széchenyi Thermal bath in the City Park, Városliget. I say just down the road, it was one road, however, that road was 1.5 miles. After the 10 mile walk the day before, the walk around the multiple floors of the Terror Museum and the extreme sunshine, when we made it to the park, we were absolutely exhausted. As we sat on a bench, we both looked at each other and both came to the same idea. It was far too hot to be sitting in Thermal Baths and we were just too tired to be splashing around in the pool. Sure it would have been refreshing, but our legs were like jelly and we still had the walk back. As we sat there on the bench overlooking the Városligeti-tó lake, we watched several people crossing via an extremely small stepping stone path surrounded either side with the nice cool water. With four sets of fingers crossed, absolutely nobody fell in. Such a disappointment. You could also hire pedalos to navigate the lake. Our legs could barely walk, let alone peddle a boat! After a bite to eat, we headed to the Thermal bath just to see what it was all about. There was a massive queue to get tickets and when we looked through a window, we saw it was rammed. Not my idea of relaxation. Thankfully, there was a Metro station right by the park so we got to ride a very old fashioned train back to the hotel. Our legs appreciated it and it was well worth the £1 cost!
Budapest At Night
With so many amazing buildings, you’d think they’d look stunning at night. Well be right in thinking that. It was fantastic. Each of the main buildings and churches were lit up with bright lights. Not only it did allow you to see them, but it also seemed to attract what we call bats. Around the tops of the lit up churches and buildings were these flying things. Their wings did not look like birds and they sort of flew like bats. I Googled it and couldn’t get a definite answer – some say birds…some say bats.
What did we eat?
I was told prior to going that the food in Hungary was delicious. We weren’t disappointed. I think this was the first time we’ve been somewhere where we haven’t had a KFC or a Burger King just to fill the gap. There are so many eateries, bars, cafes and restaurants in and around the town centre. The few we chose were absolutely fantastic and we would gladly eat there again!
EzAz Restaurant & Bistro
Located not too far from our hotel, EzAz was the first restaurant we tried hours after landing. We went here purely because we saw a big sign which said they served an Hungarian Platter for 2. How can you come to Hungary and not try their platter? To wash it down, we also ordered the local beer – Soproni. For starters we ordered the traditional Hungarian Goulash soup , which came with these small little peppers. They couldn’t be that bad I thought. Oh My God! They were the hottest things I have ever tried. My mouth was on fire and Stef also had a similar experience. I picked them out the meal and put them to one side! The platter came out and it consisted of deep fried chicken breast, leg of duck, chicken leg fillet, crunchy duck wing, ratatouille, jasmine rise and french fries. We cleared our plates…just. The Platter was about £20 with the beers costing £2.
At the top of Gellért Hill just behind the Liberty Statue is a small place called Palinka Terasz. After the extremely steep walk up the hill, beer and food was needed. This place had them both along with shelter from the blistering sun! Again, we ordered a meat platter. For £12, we got the Hungarian Hearty plate for 2. When it came out, we were gobsmacked. The platter was huge and was filled with different meats and veg. Washed down with another couple of local beers, it was exactly what we needed!
The Robinson Restaurant
Situated by the lake in the great City Park sat the Robinson Restaurant. It looked a little bit upmarket to us from a distance but we were hungry from all the walking so took the risk. It turned out to be quite reasonable prices and the choice of food was great. Although it overlooked the lake, unfortunately for us it was busy so we got tables in the middle of the restaurant. I went for the Dario Burger(£13) with a beer (£2.70) and Stef went with the Paprikash Chicken (£10) washed down with a jar of fruit juice. The burger was bursting with flavour and extremely difficult to eat due to it being massive!
The Box Donut
Even though we were stuffed from the meal at the Robinson Restaurant, we still had room for dessert (as always). The Box Donut shop, as the name suggests, sells square donuts. SQUARE! They had a large selection to choose from including Pokemon themed donuts. Stef went for the caramel and I went for the low-fat, sugar-free triple choc…
The Wrap Up
48 hours in Budapest is fine if you want a mini break, but there is so much more to do and see and you could easily spend weeks here. It’s such a beautiful friendly place, you won’t have any objections in returning. I’m sure when we have visited every other country in the world, we’ll be heading back to Hungary. The flights are cheap, the people are friendly (and also talk English), the food is delicious and the places are spectacular. What are you waiting for? Book those tickets now!