When we were in Tirana, Ben and I were aware of the escalation of the coronavirus and knew that our next stop, Budapest, would probably be our last for a little while!
We had two weeks in Budapest, the same as our other cities, before returning to the UK before lockdown was imposed, and we DEFINITELY made the most out of Hungary’s beautiful city!
Despite a few attractions being closed, we managed to view many of the beautiful buildings of Budapest on our daily evening walks and time exploring during the weekends. Our apartment was in a perfect location: halfway between the main centre and the thermal baths. There were lots of amenities, shops, and restaurants nearby and our Airbnb host was incredibly accomodating! We would highly recommend our apartment if you stay in Budapest in the future!
On average, it took us about half an hour to walk down to the Danube from our apartment, and on the way down we would pass the stunning Vigadó Concert Hall, built-in 1859, as well as the Hungarian Parliament Building, the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, and the towering St Stephen’s Basilica, named after the first King of Hungary who ruled from 1000 – 1038 A.D.
Walks Along the Danube
We visited Budapest in March, so it is safe to say that it was rather cold, windy and occasionally rainy! But that didn’t stop us exploring, and for some reason it was much windier walking along the Danube than anywhere else in Budapest!
The Széchenyi Lánchíd Chain Bridge stretches across the River Danube and connects Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of the city of Budapest. It was opened in 1849 and today holds a huge significance to the people of Hungary, where it is viewed as a symbol of economic, social, and cultural advancement.
From social advancement to social shattering, situated further right from the Széchenyi Lánchíd Chain Bridge, on the Pest side of the river is the heartbreaking ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial. This memorial, is a tragic and heartbreaking tribute to the thousands of Jews who were murdered by the Arrow Cross (a fascist and anti-semitic organisation who terrorized Jewish people in Budapest) during the Second World War.
Around 20,000 Jews were forced to remove their shoes at gunpoint along the banks of the River Danube and were then mercilessly shot, falling into the freezing cold river and washed away by the icy waters. Shoes, at the time, were a valuable commodity, and so were kept by the Arrow Cross to be sold for money.
The shoes in the memorial demonstrate that no one – regardless of age, sex or occupation – were spared from the terror and murders. The shoes include male boots, female heels and even tiny booties, representing young children who were killed without a second thought.
Uphill Hikes to the Citadella and Feeling Historic at the Fisherman’s Bastion
On one of our sunnier days in Budapest, we took a little walk (ahem – mini HIKE) up to the Citadella which looks over the city of Budapest and the River Danube. Apparently travelling from place to place every two weeks doesn’t necessarily improve cardiovascular health because WE WERE SO EXHAUSTED by the time we reached the top!
The Citadella (or citadel) is a fortress built atop Gellért Hill which holds a great significance in Budapest’s military history. It was constructed in 1851 and is 220 metres long, 60 metres wide and 4 metres tall. Alongside the Citadella, is the Liberty Statue, a monument that is a tribute to those who lost their lives for the independence and freedom of Hungary.
The lookout from the Citadella was absolutely stunning. The clouds were clearing, the sun was coming out and the err…pollen was in full force. I had completely forgotten about my hay fever due to it really only being an issue once a year as well as the fact that all the country-changing had me quite distracted! Whilst sitting on the steps of the Citadella, my eyes were streaming uncontrollably and I scared many a Hungarian who jumped out of their skins with my frequent not-so-subtle sneezing!
Following on from Gellért Hill and the Citadella, Ben and I visited the beautifully intricate Fisherman’s Bastion. The Fisherman’s Bastion was initially build to serve as a lookout and as legend goes, the walls of the bastion were defended by fisherman during wars and conflicts.
When approaching the Fisherman’s Bastion, the first thing that catches your eye is the Disney-esque mystical towers. The towers provide the best panoramic views in all of Budapest and you can live out your dreams of becoming a King or Queen whilst gazing out at your kingdom. I truly felt like Rapunzel in my tower!
Tasty Treats and Relaxing Spa Days
We couldn’t come to Budapest and not learn how to cook traditional Hungarian dishes! We used Airbnb experiences and found a private cooking class in an apartment just outside of the city centre. Dorí, our teacher, taught us how to make authentic goulash, as well as delicious chicken paprikash – a dish I have been wanting to try ever since landing in Budapest.
We also had LOTS of kürtőskalács (chimney cake), an incredible golden cinnamon dough, something Ben and I had tried for the first time in Austria, then we were lucky enough to find again during our following visits to Lille, Athens, and Tirana. Our favourite place to eat kürtőskalács in Budapest would definitely have to be Molnár’s Kürtőskalács, right in the heart of the city, which offers a wide variety of toppings and flavours including vanilla, cinnamon, walnut, almond, chocolate, coconut, cocoa, and even poppy-seed!
Ben and I were so happy that we were able to visit the Széchenyi thermal baths whilst they were still open to the public. The photos honestly do not do it justice!
Despite the air in general being quite cold, and having to do a dash in my bikini from the warmth of the changing rooms to the heat of the pools, the experience wasn’t marred by it. The cooler air intensified the heat of the baths and the overall experience was incredibly relaxing!
The Széchenyi Bath is one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe and is over 100 years old. There are 18 pools in the Széchenyi Bath and it is open 365 days a year, even on national holidays. Aside from the geothermal pools inside and outside, visitors can also use the saunas, gyms as well as get massage treatments and have drinks by the pool.
It is definitely a place we would recommend if you manage a visit to Budapest in the future! You won’t regret it!
There you have it! Our last city before lockdown. We are hoping that it won’t be too long before we can head off to our next continent – ASIA!
Budapest is such a beautiful city and so rich in culture and history. We hope to revisit at some point, but potentially in summer to see the difference in weather and summer attractions!