Spring is a great time to visit Budapest – not too warm, not too cold. We stayed there for a 4 days weekend, good duration to enjoy and discover the city. Originally the city was two: Buda on the hilly side of the Danube with its rich castles and fortified old town; and Pest on the other side. Paprika is widely used in Hungarian cuisine and you can find the spice in different shape and flavours in markets or tourist shops.
We had a very early start (5am) to catch our plane so we didn’t do that much on our first day. You have a couple option from the airport to get into the city center: taxi (~ 24€ depending on location), pre-booked transfer via buses or 200E bus (25min) + tube (25 min). Our airbnb (Link) was really well located near the Liberty Bridge, which takes its name from the Budapest “Liberty Statue” erected when the country was part of the soviet union.
The view on top of Gellert Hill (where the Liberty statue presides) is well worth the stairs. The path will lead you to the citadel, built from fear of Turkish invasion but never used, and the Liberty statue. From the top you have different options down, one being a sloped path to a modern chain bridge.
We chose a restaurant close to our flat and tried out some Hungarian food (Crepe stuffed with veal stew and Pork paprika with some Hungarian noodles).
There is a big selection of restaurants and souvenirs shops in Vaci Utca (although the prices are a bit higher than everywhere else).
We started our day with a nice walk on the riverside from the Liberty bridge to Parliament. You get a better view on the castles and old fortified city on the Pest bank of the river.
The Parliament building is incredibly big and white and the architected was apparently inspired by the London Parliament. You can visit the rooms inside providing that there isn’t any important political meeting held.
Nearby is the famous “shoes on the Danube” memorial, which attires more photographs than the Parliament itself! This sculpture was made in memory of the Hungarian Jews who were deported during WWII.
From there, we crossed the one and only official “Chain Bridge” famous for being the first permanent link between the two cities of Buda and Pest. Most iconic landmark of the city, it was actually build by a Scotsman in the 19th century. Once on the Buda bank, you can reach the fortified old town via a funicular (expect queues) or choose the heathy way, and climb up via the serpentine path. Once at the top, you will enjoy one of the best view of the city.
The palace now houses two museums, however you can walk around and enjoy the courtyard and its numerous sculptures for free. There are numerous restaurants in the old city around Mathias Church – we tried Budavari which was good value for money. We tried the famous goulash and again the stuffed crepe with paprika sauce. After a little wonder (don’t miss the tilled roof of Mathias Church and the view from the Fisherman bastion).
Back down on Pest side, we visited St Stephen (King who brought Christianity into the country) Cathedral. The interior is richly decorated and reminded me of the Russian orthodox churches. After a rest and a few beers, we enjoyed the Danube views by night before eating a chicken paprika and Schnitzel.
We started the day with a freshly prepared bagel at Budapest Bagel before heading to Heroes Square via Andrassy Utca. On this street you will find the Opera House, House of Horror, but also all the expensive boutiques (Vuitton, Burberry etc.).
In the park behind Heroes square you will find the Szechenyi Baths, build in the 19th century following the discovery of a hot source (it is apparently the warmest of all Budapest baths). You’ll also find the museum of agriculture housed in an amazing Transylvanian style castle. Even if (like us) you are not really interested by the museum, you should venture in the castle courtyard to truly appreciate its architecture.
Our guide mentioned some Art nouveau style houses at the other end of the park – really not worth the walk near the highway…
We then took the tube back to the city center (you’ll need to buy tickets beforehand at one of the little purple machine in the street) to eat in the Jewish district. We were a little bit disappointed, a lot of restaurants were closed – the ones open were (we found) expensive and no Hungarian food on the menu. The atmosphere is probably nicer in the evening when all the bars/clubs are open (and probably busy!). We treated ourselves with a “chimney” (typical Hungarian pastry in a chimney shape) to alleviate our hunger. We recommend buying them outside the “touristic” areas. We got our at Fragola near Astoria Station (750HUF instead of 2000HUF in the castle district in Buda).
After a snack at Zappa Café (great food and great staff), we enjoyed our last evening in Budapest: sunset on the river, and dinner at the same restaurant than our first evening (closing the loop I guess).
We could be bothered to go back to the Jewish district to check it out at night, so we had drinks at Puder in Raday utca (nice street with lots of restaurants and bars).
On our last day, we had just enough time to wander around the Central Market and buy some paprika (exactly the same packs than anywhere else but way cheaper).
Thank you Budapest! Amazing city, great people and nice weather, we couldn’t ask for more!