The Pearl of the Danube(or Duna) lives up to its name. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have been to. Take into account the cheap cost of living and excellent exchange rate and it is easy to see why it is one of the best cities in Europe.
First I have to get my biggest negative out of the way. There is no main square for the city. I understand this is a personal preference, but this is my blog so everything here is my personal opinion. Where was I? Oh yes, a main square. One of the reasons I love Poland and Germany so much and dislike Vienna and most other cities is the having or not having of this wonderful area. A main street is so uninteresting, but a main square in the Summer time or during Christmas festivals is one of the best places to pass time on the planet.
With that out of the way let us proceed with Budapest proper. The main street, Vaci utca, is full of the usual shops, cafes, and restaurants with hosts trying to get you to sit down for a meal. This is where most tourists will spend their time. A shame really, but normal for tourists in every city to stay in the touristy areas. How easy it is to get the Hungarian culture and vibe by trying out a hamburger at McDonald’s, or a local coffee at Coffeeshop Company, or maybe purchase some locally made clothes at H&M. Okay, enough about international takeover of local business. Let us move on to some of the tourist attractions and a little geography lesson.
Budapest is actually a combination of two places separated by the Duna river. Buda covers the west bank and is built into hills. It is the greener and nicer area. Pest is the business district and contains most of the shops, cafes, and restaurants. Sitting atop Buda is a castle. While not too impressive in itself it does offer wonderful views of the city owing to its high location. Sharing this high ground is a Communist statue referred to by the locals as the giant bottle opener. You will understand why when you see it. The other main attraction in Buda is Fisherman’s Bastion, which is impressive. I will not try to describe it. You must go and see it for yourself.
Now over to Pest, which supports many wonderful sights. The most prominent being Parliament. A masterpiece of architecture, you must view it from the Buda side, the tour boats, and by walking around during the day as well as at night. Do all four mind you, not just one. Then there is Hero’s Square, which is an average giant Communist sculpture, the Basilica, and….you know what, just walk through District 5 and you will find unlimited sights to keep your eyes and mind occupied. There are also the spas which are a big deal and exactly what you expect. A bunch of different temperature pools, some looking and feeling like motor oil and others smelling of eggs. A great time all around.
I actually do have one more complaint to discuss and that is about the Hungarian people. Not a big issue in Budapest since there are so many expats and tourists, but quite annoying in the countryside. Scratch that. I will discuss the people in a separate post.
So let me sum up. Budapest is a stunning city with enough to keep everyone busy every single minute for weeks. It is many times cheaper than other European capitals in Europe. The airport is brand new and modern with excellent connections and some of the cheapest flights in Europe. Festivals happen weekly to keep you entertained and hydrated with the fantastic wine and decent beer. There are very few things better than spending a stint in the Pearl of the Danube.