“Wow, this city is so beautiful”. This was to become the unofficial motto of our five day stay in Budapest, the energetic and bustling capital of Hungary.
After a seven-and-a-half hour bus ride from Krakow (two hours of which were spent sitting in the gridlocked Krakow traffic) which passed through some of Slovakia’s beautiful mountains and countryside, we arrived late at night but brimming with anticipation. Our driver* assured us that five days would probably be enough to see the best parts of the city and was pretty confident we would love it. And we did.
As per usual, we decided that a great way to get oriented and see some of the main sights would be a free walking tour. Fortunately, Budapest has a fantastic free tour company (they offer THREE different tours..all free!), and our guide spent the next three hours regaling us with stories, teaching us some Hungarian phrases, and leading us to many of Budapest’s most spectacular sights, and the ones that contribute to attaining UNESCO World Heritage status.
The city is made up of two parts, the flat Pest and the hilly Buda, and is split by the mighty Danube. We began in Pest, learning about famous Hungarians and their many inventions – colour TV, the Model T, and holograms (just to mention a few). We saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral and learned about the best Hungarian foods to try, which definitely came in useful later.
Our walk then took us across one of Budapest’s most recognizable landmarks, the Chain Bridge, and up into Buda, the hilly side of the city. We made the steep climb up Castle Hill and from there we were treated to a spectacular view over Pest. Although Castle Hill has never actually featured a castle, it is home to (arguably) the three of the most famous buildings in the city – Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Royal Palace which dates back to the 14th century.
We spent a couple hours after the tour wandering around Castle Hill, admiring the magnificent views, and enjoying some delicious Hungarian pastries (more on that later!), but eventually it was time to head back.
As per usual, our walking trip had proved to be a huge success and we learned tons of valuable info (both on the buildings and history of Budapest, and on little things like “how to take the metro” or “what color lid indicates still (pink) and carbonated (blue and green) water”…you know, the important stuff!).
If you enjoyed this post, then there’s good news – there are two more posts on the way about Budapest…plus a tasty post by Calli!
Logistics: The Budapest Free Walking Tour website can be found here. *We splurged and used a driver as we were arriving late from Krakow. We used Pulai Alajos (who was recommended on many sites) and the service was great. We don’t usually do things like this but it worked out great as it was late, raining, and the bus company dropped us off a block from the station.