After nearly two months on the road we were feeling a little burned out on travel. Packing, figuring out transport, checking into new places every few days, learning to navigate a new city. It gets tiring. Wonderful and rewarding, but tiring. We were feeling a little ‘travel burnout’. After visiting three cities in five days we were excited to get to Budapest and spend five nights in one place.
We arrived in Budapest in the late afternoon and after checking into our Airbnb we grabbed a kabob (the always available, cheap eats in this part of the world) and wandered down to the Danube riverfront. It started to rain, so we called it a night very early and prepared for a full day of sightseeing the next day.
On our first morning in Budapest we walked across the Chain Bridge and up to Castle Hill. We saw the Royal Palace, but did not go inside as it is an art museum and we are not big on art museums. We did however go inside Mattias Church, which is now tied for first place for my favorite church in Europe so far (with the Cathedral in Siena). The inside is beautifully (and uniquely) painted and the stain glass windows are incredible. The outside is almost as unique, with its colorfully and geometrically interesting roof.
Right next door to Mattias Church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, which is a really cool structure in itself along with having great view of the city. We decided not to pay to walk along the Bastion, as it was extremely crowded and kind of expensive for essentially a picture taking opportunity. We found a small stretch of the Bastion where you can go for free (I think it was part of a restaurant that wasn’t open yet). The views were really nice, especially of the amazing Parliament building across the river.
It started raining, so we booked it to the Great Market Hall for lunch and a beer. The market is HUGE!! On the top floor there are touristy stalls selling scarves, traditional clothes, dishes, egg ornaments (among other things) along with food stalls with traditional, and cheap, Hungarian food. The main floor was basically a giant farmer’s market, selling produce, meat, cheese, pastries and alcohol. They keep the stinky food (fish and pickled anything) in the basement of the market. I loved exploring this market and we bought fresh strawberries, asparagus, strudel, pickled peppers, and sausage. The rain started on our way back to our apartment, so we bought some meat for dinner (we thought it was chicken, but it was actually goose) and ate it with the asparagus we bought at the market.
The next day we walked to Parliament to buy tour tickets (you need to book ahead, but their website was down for the days leading up to our visit). Our tour was not until 5:45, so we took the metro to the sights around the Pest part of the city. We went to the Great Synagogue, which was beautiful and interesting. It was our first synagogue of the trip and we both loved to geometric art that covered the walls.
Next we walked to the Opera House, which is pretty ugly from the outside, but the lobby inside was beautiful. We had missed the tours for the day, so after snapping a few photos of the lobby we moved on to St. Stephan’s Basilica. The church is pretty, but not super special so we didn’t spend much time inside. It was almost time for our Parliament tour, so we made our way through the rain and wind that had kicked up. The tour was short, but beautiful. The chambers were stunning, and it is amazing to think that the Hungarian government functions surrounded by century old artwork and golden ceilings.
Our final stop of the day was a dinner cruise down the Danube river. We took the glass boat and sat on the top level, which gave us amazing views of the city at night. We ate a delicious 4-course meal (steak tartar, bone marrow soup, steak, chocolate brownie for Logan, shrimp, fruit soup, duck with cherry sauce, chocolate cake for me, plus champagne of course) while sailing up and down the Danube, taking in the beautifully lit buildings along the river. This was an expensive splurge, but was easily the most romantic thing we have done so far.
On our final day in Budapest we decided to experience the famous Szechenyi Baths. We rented a “cabin” instead of a locker so we were able to change in our own little room. We spent around three hours soaking in the baths, which range from 30 to 38 Celsius (86-100 Fahrenheit). Most of the pools are inside, but there are two outside with really cool views of the old architecture. It was pouring rain all day, so getting outside and into the water was cold, but worth it. It was like being in a giant hot tub while it’s snowing. It was a very relaxing way to spend the day. After soaking we went to restaurant with a delicious buffet, which featured traditional Hungarian food (venison, lamb stew, goulash, duck) and unlimited alcohol.
Despite the rain (and man did it rain and rain and rain) we LOVED Budapest. It was so beautiful and interesting and really gave us a renewed energy and passion for travel. We feel ready and excited to take on the next part of our trip, featuring heavy hitters like Krakow, Prague, Vienna and Munich.