Budapest ended up being one of our favorite cities of the entire trip and unfortunately marked the last destination before Lehar had to return home. This wonderful city is split along the Danube River with Pest on one side and Buda on the other. The historic Chain Bridge and Liberty Bridge join the two sides in the south, while the green parks of Margaret Island lie in the middle to the north. We weren’t sure what to expect, particularly in regards to any lingering communist influences, and we were happily surprised with what we found. The city has a lively nightlife scene, trendy restaurants and cafes, and most importantly: craft beer!
The Hungarian Parliament dominates the Pest side of the Danube. It is beautiful to walk around both by day and night. A short distance away is St. Stephen’s Basilica, named in honor of the first king of Hungary. Inside the basilica, you can see his mummified right hand which supposedly has miraculous properties and remains on display as a saintly artifact. Further inland is Heroes Square and the surrounding parks that include some of the city’s famous thermal baths. To the south is the Great Market Hall, the Dohány Street Synagogue, and the Hungarian National Museum. In the center of it all is a great scene of restaurants, food carts, and bars. One of our favorite areas to explore were the eclectic ruin pubs built into the shells of old abandoned warehouses damaged during World War II.
Opposite Pest, most of the sights are atop hills in Buda. To the south on Gellert Hill is the Citadella. In the north is Fisherman’s Bastion, a huge ornate terrace that surrounds Matthias Church. Between the two is Buda Castle which together with Fisherman’s Bastion and the surrounding area make up the Castle District. Buda Castle happened to be hosting a folk art fair during our visit. We ate traditional food, watched craftsmen make baskets, leather goods, and pottery while kids played with traditional games and toys. Our tickets also granted us entrance to the Budapest History Museum located inside the castle, which was overwhelmingly large and extensive.
St. Stephen’s Day
Our last full day in Budapest happened to be Hungary’s largest national holiday known as St. Stephen’s Day - basically the equivalent of America’s Fourth of July - and was complete with city-wide festivals, parades, and fireworks. We were able to do a quick tour of Parliament (free on the holiday) and saw St. Stephen’s hand paraded around the streets. We found a food festival and concert outside Buda Castle with delicious sausages and craft beer, then walked to Heroes Square for another festival with traditional music, costumes, and dancing. To wrap up the holiday we grabbed a spot on the river bank to watch fireworks shot off from the river, bridges, Buda Castle, and Gellert Hill. It was probably one of the best fireworks shows we’ve ever seen!
We love Budapest!
Although we only spent one week here, we’re sure that several weeks would still not have been enough to take in all the sights. Budapest sits squarely on our list of places we need to visit again.