Budapest – Beauty on the Danube

Budapest is a city that has been getting a lot of coverage in the travel press recently and I’ve heard good things about it from some of my friends who do a lot of international travel, so I was anxious to get the chance to check it out for myself and scheduled a little more time there than my other destinations.

The Royal Palace at Night

The Royal Palace at Night

 

Logistics

From Bratislava, the trip on the bus was only about 2.5 hours and only cost 7 euros. I again booked through Student Agency other RegioJet bus service with Wi-Fi, personal entertainment centers, and en route beverage service. On the previous bus trips, the termination of the line was at a bus station. In the case of arrival in Budapest, we basically got dropped off on the side of the street. I had not really planned my journey to the hotel, so I needed to figure it out. There was a tram stop right where we got off but, based on a quick internet check, the journey was a bit complicated with a connection and some walking between stations.

I was not really up to the challenge so I decided to have my first international Uber experience. I’ve only done Uber one previous time and still getting used to it but it worked like a charm every time I used it in Budapest. And, the prices were very low.

For my hotel, I stayed at the Hilton Budapest City hotel for 66,000 HHonors points. The location is not directly in city center but was within reasonable walking distance of major attractions and the Danube. It also sits next to a major railway station and tram stop. The room was a typical, nice room and the Executive Lounge served a nice selection of food and drink for the nightly happy hour at 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The Sights of Budapest

On Friday night, I decided to visit the original “ruins bar” that started a trend that continues today. The trend started around 2001 when abandoned and derelict properties were turned into what we would call dive bars. The original ruin bar, Szimpla Kert, moved around several times until finding its current home in 2004 in the Jewish Quarter of the city. As one can imagine, it was lively scene on a Friday night with large beers for about $2.50 each. A little more wandering around took me by the night time facades of the Opera House, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and through the nearby park where 100’s of locals were gathered to share some drinks on the lawn and relax.

 

On Saturday, I spent the first part of the day on foot exploring the city. What a gorgeous place! It must rank as one of the prettiest cities I have ever visited. When you arrive downtown by the Danube, you can see the royal palace and Castle district perched on the opposite hills, see the citadel looking down on the city, and see the spires of Parliament and various churches dotted along the river and hillsides.

The Chain Bridge across the Danube River

The Chain Bridge across the Danube River

 

After walking across the Chain Bridge, a site unto itself, I was faced with the question of whether to walk the stairs up the hill to the royal palace or take the funicular. I went with option 3 – a sightseeing bus tour. I don’t often do these types of tours but they are a good way to cover a lot of ground and learn a bit more about the city than I would glean from simply walking around. I went with the BigBus tour and was very happy with it. The audio was well done – that is not always the case (think the Bateux Mouches tours on the Seine) – and also included night tours, river cruises, and walking tours, none of which I actually availed myself to on this trip.

 

For three hours I rode the complete loop of Budapest while only stopping to get off for about 20 minutes at the Citadel. Note to any readers who do the same and think it might be a good place to buy a sausage from the food stand: don’t do it. It was awful. I mean really awful. Not edible. So, other than my bad culinary experience that the BigBus company has no ownership of, it was a great way to see the sights.

I wrapped my night up by finding a pub to watch the Copa del Rey final between my team – Barcelona – and Sevilla. Finally, after extra time, Barca clinched yet another trophy helping to cement the claim to best team in history of club football.

While I was very happy with my Uber experience in Budapest, I felt I could not leave without interacting with their massive public transportation system. From the hotel, a tram ride and the a change to the Metro got me to Keleti train station for 300 florints ($1.07 USD).

As you can probably tell, I loved Budapest. I look forward to coming back in the future and spending a few more days here getting to know it a little better.

 

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