In the summer of 2017, I planned a Mini-Tour of Europe with my boyfriend at the time. We decided to do 4 European cities over 2 and a half weeks, mainly travelling by bus between these capitals. This mini-series of blog posts focusses on the four cities we visited, and my personal recommendations and highlights! I’ll delve a little bit into travel options along the way too.
Incase you missed it, our first stop on the trip was Prague, and you can read all about that here. We then hopped on a FlixBus from Prague to Vienna; you can read all about Vienna here. From Vienna, we again hopped on a FlixBus from the wonderful Austrian capital to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, which you can read about here.
If you want to know all about FlixBus, and my experience with the company, you can read about what I thought here.
This is the last blog in my mini-series, focussing on our last European capital: Budapest, Hungary!
As this was our last stop, we decided to go for an Airbnb again, except this time we opted for a full house to ourselves, as a treat given we’d be sharing all our apartments so far. We found a well-priced, cute one floor apartment, only a short walk from all major attractions on the Pest side of the river. For those of you who don’t know, Budapest used to be separated into two towns: Buda and Pest, before they were unified in 1873, giving the name Budapest! Our flat was on the Pest side, along with a lot of the nightlife and tourist attractions, but crossing the river to Buda is easy enough, and that side is host to a lot of wonderful landmarks too. I’ll try and mention which attractions are on each side for ease of understanding throughout this post!
Day One –
We arrived by bus quite late in the afternoon, so went straight to our apartment and settled in. We decided to go for a wander to locate somewhere to have dinner, and ended up at a famous street food court called Karavan, located next to some famous Budapest nightlife which I will get to in a second. There were a huge variety of stalls selling all different sorts of food, but as it was our first night in Hungary, I opted for some traditional goulash. It was delicious and there was plenty of seating in amongst the stalls, so we stopped and ate in the open air. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be the last time we would eat here.
Then we headed to the bar right next door, a very famous ruin bar called Szimpla Kert. This is the epicentre of Budapest nightlife, on the Pest side of the river, and was the very first ruin bar to exist in Budapest, with many other places following suit afterwards. There’s a lot to take in at Szimpla, with amazing decor and nooks and cranny’s everywhere for you to nestle into and enjoy some food or a drink. We opted for cocktails here, and they did not dissapoint. We enjoyed just looking around and exploring new parts, with such an awesome, warm and exciting atmosphere. Whether you’re a hard core party goer, or just fancy a drink or two before heading home, this is the place to be.
Day Two –
We caught quite an early night our first day, as we knew we had a busy day of sightseeing the next day! Our first stop on the tour was St Stephen’s Basilica. This is the third largest church building in Hungary today, and is the co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest. It is one of the two tallest buildings in Hungary, and is in a Neo-Classical style and is home to a lot of fine arts. The building is truly beautiful, and a very popular tourist attraction and definitely worth visiting to check out its phenomenal beauty as one of the most important religious buildings in the country.
After this our plan was to catch the metro to the Szechenyi Baths, a must-see attraction in Budapest. Szechenyi baths are the largest medicinal baths in Europe, and is supplied by two thermal springs. They are in a Neo-Baroque style, and there are 18 pools of varying temperatures, 10 saunas/steam cabins and plenty of opportunities for spa treatments. The baths are well worth a visit to relax and get your fill of the thermal water. You could spend forever exploring and trying out the different pools, with the outside pools having temperatures of 27-38 degrees and the indoor pools varying between 18-38 degrees. Again, the architecture is also a sight to behold, and childish though it is, we really enjoyed the lazy river whirlpool in the outdoor baths that carries you around the circle! It’s also super affordable and makes for a really good day out, so don’t miss this historical and cultural attraction when visiting Budapest!
After we had finished up in the thermal water, we decided to walk along Andrassy Avenue to Heroes’ Square. Andrassy Avenue is a boulevard that dates back to 1872 and is lined with Neo-Renaissance mansions and townhouses. It is one of Budapest’s biggest streets for shopping, with lots of cafes, restaurants, theatres, embassies and boutiques dotted along it too. It was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002 and made for an extremely interesting walk through the street, to see what we could see spot along the way. At the end of the boulevard there is Heroes’ Square, one of the major squares in Budapest, featuring a statue complex of important Hungarian national leaders. It’s a great spectacle with lots of opportunities to learn about history, and the walk was a lovely way to arrive too!
If you’ve read my blog post about Prague, you will already know about my obsession with Chimney Cake, and this was EXACTLY the same in Budapest. Chimney Cake stalls were everwhere, and we sampled a lot of it. And this is exactly what we thought we deserved after our walking and swimming!
We took it pretty easy for the rest of the day, then headed to dinner at Black Cab Burger. We were really fancying a big, burger meal, and Black Cab Burger really lived up to that. Not traditional, not local, but damn good anyway! After that we headed out again for some beers at a bar called Galleria, and our new favourite, of course, Szimpla!
Day Three –
We decided to start out third day with a walk to Great Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. Located on the Pest side of Liberty Bridge, this wonderful building is home to a huge variety of stalls, spanning over three floors. There are food items on the ground floor, with many amazing meats, pastries, sweets, spices, and other types of produce. On the second floor there are eateries and souvenirs, and the smells coming from those eateries are more than enticing! In the basement are fishmongers, butchers and vegetable stalls. There’s a lot to see in Great Market Hall and it’s a great place to scout for souvenirs for friends and family too! We could’ve spent an age here looking around, but we moved in due to our next booked activity!
Our next activity was a tour of the Houses of Parliament in Budapest. This was an activity we had to book online in advance, and were given a time slot, and it was one of our more pricey activities too! The building is absolutely beautiful, as pictured below, and if you’re interested in history and politics, it is absolutely not one to be missed, however you can probably skip it if those things don’t interest you and you’re travelling on a budget! It is located on the Pest side banks of the Danube, and is designed in a neo-gothic style, which is extremely interesting. It is also the largest building in Hungary, and certainly worth seeing from the outside even if you don’t venture inside for a tour!
After a morning of sightseeing we started to get peckish, and today we opted for lunch back at the Great Market Hall. We had Langos, a traditional deep fried flatbread, and can be topped with many things or eaten plain! Super delicious, and definitely worth trying as it’s historic local cuisine dating back to the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
Our next place to visit was the House of Terror, a museum about the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary. The building itself belonged to one of Hungary’s far-right nationalist parties, which is why it was chosen as the sight for this museum. The museum is also a memorial to those who fell victim to these regimes, and especially to those who were tortured, killed, or detained in the actual building itself. This museum is incredibly informative, and emotionally stirring, and I learnt so much about the history of Hungary. It is definitely worth a visit to understand more about the country’s history, and make sure you give this attraction plenty of time to truly appreciate all the exhibits.
This evening after a day of history, we decided to eat at home for the first time during the trip! Definitely a good way of travelling on a budget, and nice to have an evening to yourself after lots of excitement!
Day Four – (our last day of the trip)
The sunshine came out for our last day of the trip, and that meant it was time for all the outdoor activities we’d been waiting for, and head over to the Buda side of Budapest! We started the day by walking across the Liberty Bridge and up Gellert Hill. Gellert Hill overlooks the Danube, as is a sweaty walk in the blaring sun, but is definitely worth it for the views!
Located at the top of Gellert Hill is the Citadella, a fortress with important military history in Budapest, however we kept walking because we wanted to see another attraction: Fisherman’s Bastion. Located near Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most popular attraction in Budapest, due to its Neo-Romanesque lookouts where you can see panorama’s of the city. We spent a long time walking around Fisherman’s Bastion seeing the views, and even opted to have lunch in on of the cafe’s within the complex, so we could enjoy the views some more.
After our lunch with a view, we then ventured on to Buda Castle and the chain bridge. Buda castle is the historical castle of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, and is a beautiful Baroque structure. It is now home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, but we just decided to walk around the castle complex and take in the architecture. Nearby to the caste is Szechenyi Chain Bridge, an modern engineering wonder, which we walked across too, as it has massive significance in Budapest; it is a symbol of national awakening, the linking of East and West and advancement.
For the rest of the afternoon we took a leisurely walk around Budapest, really enjoying our last day in this wonderful city. We visited Liberty Square, returned to Vaci Utca, went back to Great Market Hall to grab some last minute souvenirs and gifts, and really took in the city and its wonderful atmosphere. Then, of course, it was time to pack up and get ready for our early flight the next morning.
For dinner, we headed back to the street food stalls at Karavan, really taking us full circle, as we had been here on our first night too! This time, we had vegan burgers and Mexican food. As I said before, there are so many options here and the food is really delicious! The vibe is also super cool and a really enjoyable place to sit in the open air and eat.
We couldn’t spend out last night in Budapest without returning to our favourite bar for a last cocktail. So, of course, we headed to Szimpla to discover more weird and wonderful places to sit and enjoy a drink.
And that was it! Our two and a half weeks in Europe had come to an end! We visited four amazing cities, and I would love to go back to each and every one of them again, as there’s so much to see and do, and we only scratched the surface!
I hope this series of posts has given you ideas of things you would like to do and places you would like to visit across Europe. As usual, is you have any questions or want more information about my experience in any of the cities I’ve written about, or anything else to do with travel, you can always contact me here! Hope you enjoyed reading and look out for new posts coming soon, or head over to my Instagram for more travel related content.
Love, Amy @thisgingertravels x