Budapest has been high on our list of must see places for a long time…So finally getting there felt somewhat surreal. We had 4.5 days to explore this vast city during a heat wave which saw temperatures hitting the 40 mark. Joy.
As with any touristy city, the ‘tourist bubble’ was very noticeable. When we walked 1 street away from the crowded tourist trail, we were greeted with empty streets, local cafes, and locals abound.
We started by exploring the Pest side of the river as that was where our hotel was situated. The large park, Hereos’ Square and the city park was up first and provided many photo ops and a relaxing atmosphere (except for the several stag parties riding the beer bikes around the park which provided for some amusement!). We would end up back at the park several times during our stay.
Following a walk into town in the baking sun, we were pretty had it, and spent the rest of the afternoon slowly wandering around the beautiful old town.
The following day we headed to Buda for many culturalness, oohs, aahs, and to see many sights using our eyes. The Mattias Church and surrounding area was first on the list. After paying a rather exorberant ticket fee, we entered into the pretty unimpressive church. Really. It was kinda shite compared to others in Europe, or even others in Budapest (such as the amazing St. Stephen’s Basillica). So upon leaving we beat a hasty retreat from it and the hordes of people.
And St. Stephen’s…
The castle was next. Now, perhaps it is because I grew up in Belgium, but I have a distinct definition of the word “castle”. Buda castle looked more like a dull big building to us, and so after walking around it, we beat yet another hasty retreat. (We would later discover that the castle is like an old photograph: impressive from a distance, but pretty manky and disappointing when viewed up close.)
The following 2 days saw more of the same wandering, albeit at a greatly reduced pace on the third day thanks to the unrelenting heat. The parliament building was a particular highlight with incredibly ornate decorations on a mammoth scale.
Also, a cruise along the river provided a superb view of both sides of the city. …Well, by cruise I mean taking the public boat up river as opposed to a bespoke tour. The downside of that, aside from being a fifth of the cost and slightly longer, is that it was nearly empty compared to the tour ships that we saw which were packed to the gills. What a pity (he says, dripping with sarcasm).
In all honesty, the heat did dent our enjoyment of Budapest slightly. Even though our hotel room had Aircon, it was too hot for it to work, and so we found ourselves looking for cold places for drinks several times (only a handful existed as we discovered). But it is a nice city even if, as usual, we preferred the local areas to the tourist spots!
Next up, Bratislava in Slovakia- our 50th country travelling together!