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Budapest. Oh, My.

Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary
Chuck Tue, 2016-02-16 07:00

I’ve wound up in a “live blogging” mode where I wake up and realize a new blog is due out and I have to whip one up before my workday begins. Usually I’m a couple of weeks ahead of my blogs, which is why today’s blog is about Budapest, but it’s been two weeks since we were there. This is just another indicator that life is as harried and confusing for us as it is for anyone. I’ll just be glad to say I have managed to get my blog out on my self-imposed schedule; perhaps in another week or two we’ll be able to “get ahead” of the schedule.

So a couple of weeks ago we were in Budapest…

And oh my, what a city. Historically, it was the bookend capital with Vienna of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today this city of 1.7 million people is a sprawling megacity, one of the largest in the EU, and worthy of anyone’s top-5 list when visiting Europe. It lies along a north-south stretch of the Danube, with the ancient city of Buda on the west bank and her twin city Pest on the east bank. The two were unified in 1873 to form today’s Hungarian metropolis.

Our things-to-see-and-do map of Budapest was a busy Google map of virtual pins, but we managed to see and do almost all that we planned. Of course we had two weeks to accomplish it, but much of what a regular holiday visitor would want to see could be accomplished in 3 days, but not much less. We’ll have a couple of spin-off blogs for a couple of the more interesting things we did, but here’s an overview of what we saw in Budapest, in the order we saw them.

The Top Things To See And Do in Budapest

Dohány Street Synagogue – It’s the 2nd largest synagogue in the world, behind only the synagogue in New York. This grand place of worship is part synagogue, part museum, part memorial. Hungary lost more Jews in the Holocaust than any other country.

Basilica of St Stephen, Budapest, Hungary

Basilica of St. Stephen (above) – Budapest’s grand cathedral, this splendid (though dark) church is dedicated to an early Hungarian King, not Stephen the biblical martyr. Be sure to look for the relic chapel.

Cat Café – Ok, many people will argue with us that this shouldn’t be listed as a "top thing to see or do in Budapest", but it will be for cat lovers. Look for an upcoming blog on our visit here and the whole “cat café” phenomena.

Bridges of Budapest and Walk Along the Danube – Budapest has a few famous bridges connecting Buda and Pest, and pretty much in any riverside city, you have to take a stroll along its river. The Danube, by the way, isn’t exactly blue.

The Thermal Baths – Budapest is famous for its thermal baths. And yes, we indulged. Twice. Look for an upcoming blog on our Budapest thermal bath experience.

The Central Market – Regular readers of our blog know that we love local European markets. Budapest’s central market is a huge, frenetic mix of fresh produce, Hungarian sausages and meats, spices, souvenirs, and more. It’s a great place to grab a cheap lunch and people watch.

Coffee – Budapest borrows the coffee culture from former sister capital Vienna and delivers it with a uniquely Budapestian elegance. For a great coffee experience, seek out the New York Coffee House.

Hungarian Parliament building, Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Parliament (above and title photo) – This building is iconic, and fans of architecture should visit Budapest just to walk around the sprawling building. Tours are also available, but the real majesty is all on the outside and free to view.

Shoes on the Danube – A simple, stark Holocaust memorial an easy walk down the Danube from the parliament building. These bronze shoes left along the river evoke memories of the Jews of Budapest who were taken away and never came back. Particularly poignant are the children's shoes.

Buda Castle – This castle built on the Buda (west) side of the Danube offers the best views of Pest across the river. Take the funicular up and walk the entire Buda Hill complex back down for a great Sunday afternoon activity.

Matthias Church – This church on Buda Hill is a lovely church where the Hungarian monarchs worshipped. The admission fee is well worth it for the museum and views from the gallery.

Fisherman’s Bastion – This fortress-looking complex is adjacent to Matthias Church, and really could be considered part of the church grounds. It seems to shield the church from marauders on the river and offers great photo opportunities and views of Pest.

Lastly, a word about Hungarian cuisine: for this couple that grew up in Tabasco country, we loved Hungarian cuisine. It’s the comfort food, meat-and-potatoes with cabbage and gravy of surrounding central Europe, but with a generous dash of spice. Yes, the spice of choice here is paprika, but as with so many things we discover while traveling, genuine Hungarian paprika is not the bland red powder we tend to get at home. Hungarian paprika (which just means “pepper”, by the way) is varied—some hot, some sweet, some smoky—and, well, just better. It’s no exaggeration to say that we had one of the best meals we’ve ever had in Europe while in Budapest at the restaurant Hungarikum Bistro. When you go to Budapest, put this great little restaurant on your wish list and say hi to István for us.

 

Black Cab Burger, restaurant in Budapest, Hungary
Lori's favorite burger place in Budapest. We went 3 times.