It's nice to have cities that don't have any "must-sees". Places where you can leave stress and guidebooks at home and just stroll around among beautiful buildings for a weekend without feeling like you missed anything. Budapest is such a city. Forget the hustle and bustle and tourist queues like at the sights in London and Paris – here in the heart of Europe it is still relatively calm on the tourist front. Especially if you, like us, go here in the fall. The fact that the Swedish krona also lasts relatively far in Budapest is a nice bonus. So here comes my travel guide to my favorite places in Budapest, a perfect amount of experiences and sights for a great weekend!
Hungary's capital is surprisingly easy to navigate. Right through Budapest runs the Danube River, which divides the city into two parts: Buda (the hills west of the river with the castle elevation) and Pest (Parliament and the grand boulevards). The city was formed in 1873, when the two districts were merged to form Budapest. Most of the famous houses you visit as a tourist were built around the time the city was unified at the turn of the last century, but there are fully functional Turkish baths from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century and even ruins of a Roman amphitheater from when Hungary was a part of the Roman Empire.
Many go to Budapest for an affordable spa weekend, either at one of the many hotels that offer spas or by visiting the large thermal baths in the city. The Hungarian bathing tradition is more than 2000 years old and it is noticeable that bathing is part of Hungarian everyday life. Everyone seems to know everyone and there is not much information in English, but very friendly!
The first time I was in Budapest, I went on a day trip with a tour guide. The first thing the guide told us was that in Hungary people like "fat and paprika". And that's actually true. Here you eat fantastically good, but relatively stiff, home cooking with lots of butter and paprika. When I think about it, almost everything we ate probably contained paprika. Sweet, strong or bitter – paprika in Hungary comes in many varieties.
A tip is to take the subway when you are in Budapest - here is the world's second oldest subway (after London), with nice old ornate stations. Very affordable and clean. Although I personally love the bright yellow trams a bit more than the metro.
WARM BATH HOUSE
Budapest is built on a large number of mineral-rich hot springs, known to both relieve skin conditions and cure diseases. There are several large bathhouses in the city with both outdoor and indoor baths. However, what should be mentioned is that these public bathhouses may not have the comfort and service that you might expect if you are here on a spa vacation. This is part of everyday life in Hungary and not some luxury establishment. The largest bath is Szechenyi, a yellow palace with a large number of pools. If you want to be pampered and pampered with luxury, spa hotels are a better choice.
One of Budapest's most famous symbols, The chain bridge which connects Buda and Pest with its two protective lions. During the autumn when we were here, the Danube was covered in thick fog - so thick that you can hardly see across to the other side of the city. A layer of haze of eastern romance, absolutely indescribably beautiful. You simply don't want to take the public transport between Buda and Pest - the very best travel memory you get is a walk across the river.
LARGE SALES HALL
Here in the large market hall you will find all the food souvenirs you need – salami (with paprika of course), spices, pastries, fruit, wine and souvenirs. Upstairs has more clothes than downstairs, so it's pretty sure you'll find something useful (and cheap) here.
Dating back to the 13th century, stands Matthias church stately and colorful on top of the castle hill. The beautiful ceramic church roof was added at the end of the 19th century and has been allowed to retain its unique style ever since. Matthias Church is a well-visited and active Roman Catholic church, so if you want to visit the church inside, you have to fit the times that are open to the public.
THE FISHING BASTION
Right next to Matthias Church you will find The fishing bastion with its white pinnacles and towers. This is where you'd better bring your camera, because if you want to get the perfect shot of Parliament and the Chain Bridge, this is where you should stand. The slightly odd name probably originates from the Middle Ages, when it is said that the fishermen who lived under the bastion were responsible for the defense of this part of the city. Almost completely destroyed during World War II, but carefully restored to its former white glory. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Budapest.
For over 150 years Café Gerbaude served steaming fresh pastries and coffee among tapestry wallpaper, marble and heavy curtains. We warmed up in the autumn cold with an Irish coffee (ok, not so Hungarian) and a plate full of pastries. Expensive by Hungarian standards, but not in comparison to an equivalent place in Stockholm. Stop for a while and watch people, this is where everyone hangs out.
Hungary's largest building and one of Budapest's most beautiful. Parliament we stand proudly on the banks of the Danube. The parliament is not open to the public, but you can admire the building from the outside and visit the memorial and statue of Imre Nagy, the former president of Hungary, which overlooks the parliament.
SAINT STEPHEN'S BASILICA
The most important church building in Hungary is Saint Stephen's Basilica. Large, beautiful and filled with historical treasures, the basilica is well worth a visit. It is claimed that the building is one of the ten most photographed buildings in the world, but allow me to be a little skeptical about this information.
One of the world's oldest zoos has a lot of charm, a good location and is well worth a visit if you are here with children. Right now, they are also building a brand new aquarium and biodome, which should be ready in 2018.
Top pick: Four Seasons Gresham Palace
We stayed at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, a hotel that is not only beautiful, but also one of Europe's best hotels. With impeccable service, a spa for the whole family (the kids can even get a 'Sleeping Rose' massage) and a perfect location by the Chain Bridge, you couldn't be better. If you don't live here, it's worth coming here and have a drink in the piano bar in the evening and soak up the atmosphere.
Alternative: The Ritz-Carlton
The Boutique Choice: Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace
With an Asian touch, this boutique hotel is the perfect hotel for those who have ever listened to Buddha Bar's lounge music. If you also like the color red, this hotel is a given.
Alternative: Budapest Boscolo Budapest, Autograph Collection
Middle class: Bohemian Art Hotel
Modern, slightly quirky, colorful and with odd solutions for the rooms – there is not one room here that is the same as the other. Just check out the loft room for 4 people… Great location in Old Town!
Alternative: Hotel Parliament
El: 230V / 50Hz
Inhabitant: 1,8 one million
Currency: Hungarian Forint. 100 HUF = SEK 3,30 (Oct 2017)
Shopping: Restrictions on Sundays, large shops are closed.
Time zone: No time difference from Sweden