Budapest is an absolutely incredible city, and is probably one of my favourite places that we visited during our 52-day adventure.
We started off with a driving tour of the city, with our tour guide Chrystle telling us a lot of interesting facts along the way. After the Mongolian invasion in 1241-1242 Budapest became the capital city of Hungary. Today’s Budapest was actually formed through the joining of three cities: Buda, Pest and Obuda (Old Buda).
Our bus took us up the top of Gellért Hill, which offers stunning panoramic views of the city. The Danube river, which you can see below in my somewhat blurry picture (it was cloudy and getting dark), separates Buda and Pest.
On top of Gellért Hill is the Statue of Liberty, which was built in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. The statue is huge – it is 14 metres tall and stands on top of a 26 metre pedestal, making it a very prominent aspect of Budapest’s cityscape.
We wandered around the viewing platforms on top of Gellért Hill – the view is absolutely amazing.
Budapest is brimming with beautiful architecture. The parliament building looks stunning lit up at night – more like a castle than a parliament if you ask me!
Fisherman’s Bastion is pictured below. When I saw it, my mouth dropped open. I literally thought we had stepped inside a Disney movie and were looking up at a castle. Budapest is seriously magical, guys.
That night we had a group dinner and met up with some new people who were just joining the tour in Budapest.
The next day we got up early and a group of us walked to the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to the fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century.
This was obviously a very solemn and sobering experience. The museum itself is very well put together and we found it all very fascinating – it probably took us about four hours to get through all of the displays (we spent a lot of time reading all of the fact-sheets, though, so it is definitely possible to do it a lot quicker than we did). The museum was a very humbling and eye-opening experience. The dark display that you can see in the picture below is a wall of candid photos of the faces of some of the many victims of the Holocaust.
The House of Terror was quite harrowing but definitely worth the visit for those interested in history.
After we had finished up inside the museum, we set off down the streets of Budapest in search of the markets – and lunch. We were all quite emotionally drained after the museum so it was good to enter into the markets (once we found them) for some more light-hearted sight seeing.
In the picture below you can see me embarrassing myself by thinking I could handle eating a Hungarian Hotdog all to myself. My friends all finished their lunches a looooooong time before I did, and they amused themselves by watching me struggle with mine. The photo doesn’t really do it justice.
I almost made it but couldn’t bring myself to finish off the last few bites – that thing was huge and I got a lot of odd looks from passerby’s as I tried to eat it.
After lunch we wandered around the markets and eventually headed back out onto the streets. We made our way down to the river Danube, where we admired the Chain Bridge and the lions that guard it. It is a widespread urban legend in Budapest that the lions do not have tongues. Apparently they do, but they can only be seen from above.
We then followed the river so that we could see what I think is one of the most moving and heart-breaking monuments I have ever seen; the Shoes on the Danube.
What you see is 60 pairs of rusty looking shoes. The shoes symbolise the people who were led to the Danube river by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. The victims were stripped naked, told to face the river – and shot into the water. The different sizes and styles of the shoes reflects the fact that nobody was spared from this atrocity -women, children, men, athletes, businessmen, anyone was taken. It is another example of the many horrific acts that occurred during the Holocaust.
After spending some time reflecting, we continued onwards. It was starting to get dark at this point and the city was lighting up magnificently.
We stopped by the incredible parliament houses for a look and snapped some photos outside.
After that we met up with the rest of our Topdeck group and walked together to the thermal baths. Budapest is also known as the ‘City of Spas’ so it would have been a shame to miss out on this experience! Bath culture in Budapest dates back thousands of years, and the water is filled with beneficial minerals.
We went to the Széchenyi bath, the biggest bath complex in Europe. The water in the baths comes from a well that is 1246 metres deep. It was such a relaxing experience, I’d definitely recommend visiting a bath in Budapest – actually, you HAVE to do it!
There is also a bar where you can buy some beverages – but you can’t take them back into the pool with you without running the risk of having the lifeguard blow his whistle at you (yes, we tried). Katie and I stood outside, shivering, under a little heater, sculling our drinks so we could get back in the warm water.
We stayed in the baths for several hours into the night – nobody wanted to leave. When it was time to get out we sprinted to the changing rooms and into the showers, it was so freezing outside! When we were dressed we ran outside and clambered into taxis. On the way home we discovered that taxi drivers in Budapest drive like madmen and they also take offence if you try and put your seat-belts on. This led to some awkwardness.
When we finally got to bed we were absolutely exhausted, but excited to head to Krakow, Poland, which was next on our itinerary. I absolutely adored Budapest, it was so beautiful and filled with so much history – I could have spent weeks exploring there and am keen to go back one day.
What are your most favourite sights in Budapest, or things that you would like to see/do?