So back in December Jonny and I headed for a winter break to Budapest, it was actually my Christmas present from the year before but it was well worth the wait. It was the perfect christmas get away for us both having only moved into our first home the day before plied with only 3 hours sleep we headed to the pretty chilly city to enjoy some time together before we become well and truly broke trying to pay for a house. Just so you know too, I am splitting our Budapest break in to two posts the other will also be live later this week and will be on where to stay and what to eat while in the Budapest, but for now it is about things to see and do by day, dusk and night.
We hit the city running knowing we only had 3 days 2 nights to pack in a lot, our base was close to most things so we walked everywhere, with regular breaks for coffee and drinks in between of course. It was -5 degrees on the Saturday though it felt colder and the mist eerily covered the whole of the city that just the day before was bathed in a winter sun the Danube house prior glistening now looked mysterious yet alluring though the wind chill by the bank left my face numb and my fingers well and truly frozen even in gloves.
It was the perfect setting to go and view the Shoes on the Danube this memorial is so simple yet utterly moving and heartfelt though you have to read up about the history and meaning first as there are no plaques etc. around, which to be honest I was surprised at. It was created to to honour the people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militia men in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank, it is a real moment of humanness to be stood where they stood.
Getting around the city is easy by foot but their trams go all around and I do believe are very cheap I mean 500 forint is roughly £1.32 and you can get a beer for around 300-400 forint so as a city it is very affordable everywhere really.
It sadly didn’t snow properly while we were there but it felt some days about -12 so walking was a way to warm up but oh wow my legs have never felt cold like it and I did not prepare myself for it either. The streets were such a mix of sights old shops that look like they hadn’t been occupied for years, to modern unique bistros and eateries of all kinds. The long walk down to Hero’s Square was paved and arched with bare but beautiful trees with all the embassy building lining each side.
Hero’s square itself was bustling and full, it is also where I do believe Europe’s biggest ice skating rink is we sat and drank coffee and homemade lemonade at Varosliget Cafe & Restaurant where we watched young and old glide around the ice from the window. We did this on our last day with only a few hours to spare so sadly we opted not to skate ourselves nor do any of the thermal baths but the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath is also right near to here but if you are looking for others many line the bank of the Danube on the other side in Buda though with little time we stayed on the Pest side which is the flat side of the city, so no hills for me that holiday.
The city by night is really something special our hotel was located just by Parliament which was so grand and pretty both by day but really something spectacular at night as you can see it illuminated the streets and was bathed in such a warm glow such a contrast the the weather.
I love that Hungary has a national Christmas tree which sands in Kossuth Square in front of Budapest’s Parliament building it is really beautiful it is there from 8th December – 6th January I am unsure of why the tradition started but it really is lovely and it is absolutely huge! A must see on your travels if going at that time of year, it made me feel so festive.
We wallked so much and in between stopped at many a Christmas market though hard to snap a good picture because as you can imaging the week before Christmas they were so packed it just was ridiculously hard! They were stunning though there are two we would say main ones The Advent Market at St. Stephes Basillica which was our favourite and the Christmas market on Vorosmarty Square – organised by the Hungarian Tourism Office so a lot more tourist focused. Both packed with great food and tons of stalls selling trinkets and mulled wine but I will tell you some of the best eats to be had at these in my next post so I won’t spoil that.
Across the river is Buda Castle Buda and palace that housed Hungarian kings in Budapest, and was first completed in 1265. In the past, it has been called Royal Palace and Royal Castle. While I am not sure what goes on there not it is a sight to behold and dominates the river bank!
The main bridge although there are a number in Budapest is the Chain bridge – designed by an english engineer, this is the main bridge connecting Buda and Pest it also adorns bronze lions just like you see in Trafalgar Square here in London. I think by night this bridge looks so elegant and grand, It is a really lovely piece of architecture.
While walking down Fashion Street a hugely popular street housing your regular favourites such as Starbucks, Zara and Tommy Hilfiger amongst your higher end brands too, the markets line the centre also but as dusk fell on the Saturday the most beautiful sunset filled the city. It was just so breathtaking and no filer on these is needed at all we strolled and made our way back to our room basked in the last light of the day to have a nap before heading back out for an evening of festivities.
If you are after something a little different just keep walking around, we went to many back streets and ended up down a lovely little arcade full of bars and restaurants that we hopped between on our way to the Ruin Bars. There are so many hidden gems that are on every road, little doughnut shops down a back street to benches created in doorways just to stop off for a break. It is a city full of treasures and it is one that has so much to explore.
If you are after somewhere to lay your head or grab a bite or two to eat then my next post will be up this week so make sure to check that out too!
Have you been to Budapest? What was your favourite thing to do or see?