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Budapest: Beyond the Bars and Booze!

Budapest is a city well known for its bars, booze, and “Boys on Tour,” but what more does this sparkling little city have to offer?

...As I found this summer, the answer is a lot! This beautiful city has so much more to offer every type of tourist out there; it’s teeming with an interesting history, unique culture and fabulous food which should all be appreciated along with the cheap alcohol and unique atmosphere of the Ruin bars. So, I'm here to give this great city its due, with a guide of things to see and do beyond the bars and boozing!

For the Photographers:

The architecture and atmosphere in this Eastern European city is really something to behold! As a keen photographer, this place really got me excited to get behind the lens! 

With such beautiful architecture, it's hard not to get snap happy!

Budapest, as many of you will know, is split into Buda and Pest (the Jewish quarter) which sit at the two sides of the Danube, and each should be appreciated in their own right. My advice would be to catch a free walking tour; these were fantastically fun and informative, and guided you around the key archaeological sites on both sides of the water. Here you will have plenty of opportunity to take prime positioned snaps of the scenery to document your travels!

The tour company we used were these guys. We had a fantastic time and at the end of the tour the guide offers a free map with cheap places to sample cheap and tasty Hungarian fare (more on that later!).

A few photos for your bucket list:

  • Buda Castle – the guards on horseback are a fabulous sight to see and are more than happy for a photo op!

Castle Guards on Parade

  • The Hungarian Parliament building
  • St. Stephens Basilica – For a small fee, you can make the dizzying trek up to the top of this and the panoramic views are spectacular!
  • Matthias Church – A beautiful gothic Catholic church which is just as beautiful inside as it is outside
  • Gellért Hill – the viewpoint overlooking the Danube; the statue is affectionately known to locals as “the bottle opener.” You can appreciate the resemblance yourself when you visit!
  • Hősök tere – or Hero’s Square. Appreciate this on the way to the thermal baths (another must-do!) This impressive piece of architecture marks the thousandth anniversary of the country of Hungary and features some of their greatest leaders.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion – This really looks like something out of a fairy-tale, with its pristine white arches overlooking the twinkling city and water below. It is an excellent place to take pictures of yourself and fellow travellers to remember your trip.

The Fairytale-like Fisherman's Bastion

For the History Buffs:

For those who enjoy educating themselves about the antiquity of a place, Budapest has a plethora of historic sites to keep all the history nerds happy! In my opinion the history of this little city is so rich and full of scandal and interest, it can be appreciated by all travellers, not just those with a thirst for knowledge!

Here are a few places we particularly enjoyed on our trip:

  • The Hospital on the Hill - Set in the caves on the hill of Buda, this building has played a part in many historical events in Budapest's history, from serving as a hospital in World War II to being used as a nuclear bunker during the Cold War. These have been brought back to life with wax models to exhibit this building. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside, so you'll just have to trust me and go and see it for yourself!
  • Synagogue (second largest in the world!) – this was my first ever experience of a synagogue and before I entered, despite having Jewish heritage, it was a religion skimmed over in school and one I'm embarrassed to say I knew little about! The guides were fantastic and shared personal stories about their heritage and family experiences of the holocaust and communist regimes. The courtyard is beautiful and features a number of memorials to those who tragically died as a result of World War II.

The must-see synagogue

  • The House of Terror – maybe not one for the faint-hearted but incredibly interesting none the less. This museum focuses on the horrors endured by the Hungarians during the communist regime, which I am ashamed to say, before my visit, I knew little about. It was a very sobering place to visit and was definitely one to make you think, but in my opinion that’s what travel is all about!
  • The Shoes by the Danube – This artistic tribute to the Jews, men, women, and children, who were marched out of the ghetto, ordered to remove all their clothes in the blistering cold and shot on the edge of the Danube. Despite the horror this memorial represents, the place itself is quite peaceful and tourists and relatives offer tribute to those lost by leaving stones (a Jewish symbol for eternal remembrance), flowers, and trinkets. A quick tourist stop, but definitely one to make time for.

The Shoes by the Danube

For the Foodies:

Now as a food lover, one of my main aims when travelling is to scope out and sample the best of local cuisine! Budapest is a city of hearty grub and I could go on and on about the culinary delights easily, but I've narrowed down the list to a few favourites!

For those of you who are hungry in Hungary:

Lángos – This deep fried flat bread topped with cheese, onions and Hungarian sausage is basically a heart attack in snack form, but boy is it good!

A Heart Attack in a Snack!

  • Traditional Hungarian Goulash – not what I traditionally recognise as goulash in the UK but this tasty combination of beef, vegetables and paprika (of course) is often served as a starter in an almost chunky soup consistency. It is beautifully rich and an extremely tasty one to try
  • Chimney Cake, or Kürtőskalács to the locals - An excellent cheap eat on the move! A cylindrical shaped sweet yeast dough roasted and smothered in butter before being topped with your choice of; cinnamon, hazelnut, chocolate or coconut.

Chimney Cake Goodness!

For Those Who Enjoy the Finer Things in Life:

A list for the self-proclaimed posh totties (or the posh totty wannabes like myself!):

  • A river cruise down the Danube – what could be more sophisticated than a sunset boat ride? There are several boats equipped with bubbly, string quartets, and fine dining ( and cheaper tickets for those of you, like myself who can only afford the view!), so you can sit back, relax, and take in the marvels of Budapest at sundown. As the city gets dark, many of the buildings on the embankment switch on thousands of twinkling fairy lights which is not one to be missed in my opinion!

Experience the Beauty of Budapest at Night...

  • The Budapest Baths-– If you enjoy sunbeds, spas, and swimming in beautifully warm water while surrounded by beautiful architecture, then this is for you! The baths are not one to be missed and can be a welcome wind-down if you're anything like me and spend most of the holiday storming around trying to see and do as much as possible! I'm not sure there's much I can really say to do these justice; my advice: just go and experience their delights for yourselves! 

Relax in true style at the baths in Budapest.

So, that's it, folks! My guide for those of you seeking more than booze and bars! I hope with this guide you'll get to enjoy this beautiful city as much as I did! 

Jessica French
Jessica French

Author of Travels of a Baby-Vet. Yorkshire lass, vet student and lover of tea and travelling! Check out my blog for tips on budget and ethical travel,adventuring and a sneak peak into the life of a vet student: http://travelsofababy-vet.com

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