I planned a day in Budapest before moving on down to Slovenia for the first real leg of my journey, and honestly, this city is just as beautiful as I expected.
I arrived yesterday evening around 7pm, and lucky me had a window seat on the plane so I got a great aerial view of the city before I’d even touched down. Flying over Margaret Island I could just make out Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament building, and it was safe to say that despite the fact it was raining, I was already buzzed.
My transfer from the airport was brilliantly streamlined, from Rideways, which I booked in advance before I left through booking.com. It was all prepaid and a route organised and all I had to do was find my name, get in the car and get out again at my destination. Definitely a type of travel I’d recommend.
But that was just arriving last night. The real treat was today. I woke up bright and early, especially for me, and stocked up on plenty of yummy fresh bread and fruit before leaving to try and suss out the Metro. The actual trains are very well signposted and they inform you of what stop each stop is. Getting a ticket though was a slightly trickier affair. I saw no ticket desk, no machine, nothing. I found myself wandering idly down to the platform and eventually managed to buy a ticket off a woman down there and get it validated.
The first thing I saw stepping out of the underground was the magnificence of the Parliament Building, and I timed it great too as a parade of men in military uniform appeared to raise the flag half mast. A short walk and I soon found myself at St. Stephen’s Basillica, before making my way across the mighty chain bridge to Buda.
The Buda side is probably the more interesting, thanks mostly to the Castle Hill. Pest, while harbouring pretty streets that are so typically European, is much more city-like. I began my tour heading away from the castle that stands proudly opposite the bridge and up to the Fisherman’s Bastion, which is like something out of a fairytale and offers the most stunning views. You can definitely spend some time recovering here as there is plenty of seating and gorgeous vistas at almost every angle.
Working my way to the Castle was interesting, as once I got walking down a wooded path in the general direction, there were no more signposts. Still, the scenic route felt far more exciting than following a wide road round, and I did eventually find the place. I never really saw much of the castle, but was instead introduced a slightly different treat, in the form of a market oriented festival.
With countless varying stalls and street entertainment, the vibe was awesome and you just couldn’t help but be happy as traditional music played, children danced and you were hit with a vast array of colourful crafts and culinary smells. Luckily, the best views of the castle are from the river below anyway, so it wasn’t too much of a nuisance.
All of this and I’d only spent half my day, and so I decided to get in the shade for a bit, rest my feet and grab lunch. On most travel blogs and guides, I’d now talk about the delicious Hungarian quisine on offer, but I won’t do that. If, like me, you are very English and pretty fussy with your food, there’s a great little pub just off the Elizabeth Bridge on the Pest side of the Danube called The Pointer Pub. Grilled chicken with chips and Tequila Sunrise to wash it down (2 for 1 on Monday and Tuesday!) and I was sorted – and the girls in there were all super friendly too! It’s not much, but it beats settling for Maccies.
Refreshed, I continued my exploration to the famed Market Hall to see what all the buzz is about. Long story short, it was closed. Not that it mattered, mind you, because the street leading to it has everything for your retail therapy and hunger needs.
I finally reached an unfamiliar square, and as I had time by skipping the market, I made a split second decision to ride the Budapest Eye. It does offer some different views over the city, but it’s nothing like the one in London, for example. Worth doing if you have a little time and cash to spare, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of your list.
I walked some more and before I knew it I was back at St. Stephen’s. A pro of Budapest is that most of the immediate sights are close together, and you can walk my route today in just a couple of hours if you don’t stop anywhere. Therefore, I still had a bit of time to kill before my evening entertainment, and so I quickly made the obligatory stop at the cutest ice-cream shop nearby, Gelato Rosa, to sample their famed rose-shaped gelato cone (tastes pretty good, but worth the queue anyway just for how adorable it is), before heading briefly back to my hotel to freshen up.
I still can’t believe where the day went! My final call for my whistlestop tour of the Hungarian capital was an evening cruise along the River Danube, with yet more cocktails included and yet another Metro journey. A great way to wrap up my visit and much like my airport transfer, it was well organised.
Now I just have to wait until tomorrow when I meet the Contiki group for my Mini Balkan adventure to Croatia. If I’m going to take anything away from Budapest, it’s that it’s a gorgeous city filled with lovely people and plenty to see even if you’re short on time.
What I take away from my first experience visiting a foreign country alone, it’s that while it is intimidating in the beginning, you soon ease into it. Things can get a little lonely on an evening unless you just so happen to meet some cool new friends, but other than that it’s not nearly as difficult as the anxious pessimist in me expected. The thought of what might go wrong made my heart race, but if I can do it, so can you x