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  • Immagine del redattoreVanessa Valenti

BudaPest: two cities in one on the banks of the Danube

For our long weekend of December 8th we wanted to take a little trip, and after excluding several destinations, we found a very convenient offer for Budapest. I had already been there years ago with my parents, always during the Christmas period, and I have wonderful memories of it, while Enri had never been there, so we didn't think twice and we booked a flight for the Hungarian capital.

Budapest: two cities in one, Buda and Pest

The Hungarian capital is usually divided into two: Buda and Pest, traditionally separated by the Danube River. The two are very different: Buda is generally considered the higher-end area, boasting richer neighborhoods and luxurious residences, much quieter. Pest is the flatter and more urbanized half of the capital, more populated and with a lively nightlife.


Hotel SOUS44 ☆☆☆

HOTEL SOUS44, Budapest, Ungheria

As always, we relied on booking.com for the hotel; we chose the SOUS44 for 3 nights for € 132 in total, with breakfast included. At this price we didn't have high expectations, instead the hotel is located in a historic building in the center of Budapest, with a delightful inner courtyard and terrace. The room was huge, well heated, with a flat screen TV, private bathroom, hairdryer and towels and sheets. The location is excellent, in the center, right in front of one of the main metro stop, and a few steps from the Jewish ghetto, where you will find many restaurants and clubs. The included breakfast was not the best we had tried: there was a lot of choice of salty, little sweet, but honestly for the price we paid, it was more than excellent.


Here is the itinerary of the 3 days we spent in Budapest:

Day 1

  • New York Cafè

  • Andrássy Út

  • Sziget Eye - Budapest Ferris Wheel

  • Vörösmarty Tér: Cafè Gerbeaud and Christmas Market

  • Fashion Street

  • Vaci Utca

  • Szimpla Kert

Day 2

  • Batthyány Tér

  • Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church

  • Buda Castle

  • The Dohány Street Synagogue

  • Gozsdu Market

  • 360°BAR - Igloo Garden

  • St. Stephen's Basilica and Christmas Market

  • Hungarian Parliament and Shoes Memorial

  • Karaván Street Food

Day 3

  • Heroes' Square - Museum of Fine Arts

  • City Park Iceskating

  • Vajdahunyad Castle

  • Metropolitan Szabo Library

  • The Great Market Hall

  • Liberty Bridge

  • Cave Church

  • Gellért Bath

  • Gellért Hill


BUDA

Chiesa di Sant'Anna, Batthyany Ter, Budapest, Ungheria

Batthyány Tèr

Batthyány Tér is a Budapest square in on the Danube, on the bank of Buda, right in front of the Hungarian Parliament building. We got there by metro, leaving directly in front of our hotel and coming out on the square which is, without a doubt, the best place to photograph and admire the Parliament, both during the day or night. Batthyány Square is also famous for St. Anne's Church (Hungarian: Szent Anna-templom), a stunning Catholic church built between 1740 and 1762 and one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Budapest.



Hungarian Parliament, Budapest, Hungary

Il Bastione dei Pescatori, Budapest, Ungheria

Fisherman's Bastion

Halászbástya or Fisherman's Bastion is the ideal place to admire the whole of Budapes. We easily got there in about 10 minutes on foot from Batthyány Tér. The building was rebuilt in place of an ancient fortress, and the seven towers symbolize the seven Magyar tribal chiefs who settled in the area in 896; it's located on the hill of the Buda palace, next to Matthias Church. At the center of the Bastion court, there is the statue of King Saint Stephen and walking along the ramparts you will enjoy a spectacular view of the city, the Danube and the Parliament; definitely one of the unmissable destinations if you are in Budapest. Access is free.


Matthias Church

La Chiesa di Mattia dal Bastione dei Pescatori, Budapest, Ungheria

Matthias Church, also known as the Church of Our Lady, is one of the prides of Budapest: built in the 13th century in the Gothic style, it has undergone several renovations, including very recent ones. Admission costs 2000 HUF and you can add access to the tower for another 2200 HUF, to enjoy a splendid view of the city. We are not particularly lovers of churches, but this really deserves a tour: it's very special, nothing to do with the usual Christian buildings. You can actually see the Ottoman influence, which in the past converted the church into a mosque. Numerous Hungarian kings were crowned in the Matthias Church, today it regularly hosts concerts. Along the climb to the tower, from which you will enter to the left of the entrance, you will have included the guide, who will explain many curiosities about the church and its history.


Buda Castle The imposing Royal Palace (Királyi Palota) rises on top of Várhegy, the Budapest hill above the Danube and offers a wonderful sight both from near and far. You will reach it in about 15 minutes on foot from the Fisherman's Bastion. The entire district of the Royal Palace is part of the Unesco World Heritage and if you want, the Palace can be accessed directly from the bank of the Danube with a period funicular. Today the Castle, often referred to as the Royal Palace, houses a number of cultural institutes, including two museums: the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.


Liberty Bridge The Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) is a bridge in Budapest that crosses the Danube connecting Buda and Pest, built in just 2 years, between 1894 and 1896. It is somewhat reminiscent of the famous San Francisco bridge, splendid and imposing; be prepared for the strong wind during the crossing!

Il Ponte della Libertà, Budapest, Ungheria

La Chiesa nella Roccia, Collina di Géllert, Budapest, Ungheria

Cave Church

At the base of the Géllert Hill there is a church carved into the rock whose entrance costs € 1.72 with an audio guide included. The Cave Church was built on the hill by the Pauline monks following a pilgrimage to Lourdes and consecrated in 1926; in 1951 the Hungarian secret police arrested the Pauline monks in the church, killing their leader and blocking the access to the church, which was forgotten until 1989. The church is small, you can visit it in a few minutes and honestly it's nothing exceptional, but it costs so little, and it is a quite particular place that, if you are nearby, you can stop and take a trip.


Gellért Hill Gellért Hill it is one of the hills surrounding Budapest which with its 230 meters high allows you to have one of the most beautiful views of the Danube and the whole capital: truly breathtaking, especially at sunset and at night. In addition to the view of the city, on Gellért Hill you will have the opportunity to see some really interesting monuments and a Citadel, dating back to the Hapsburg period, a real fortress above the city.


Gellért Baths

Gellért Bath, Budapest. Ungheria

Budapest is a famous destination for spa and wellness lovers as it abounds in thermal springs, as many as 118 natural springs that produce 70 million liters of thermal water per day. The Gellért Thermal Baths and the Hotel opened their doors in 1918 in Buda, in front of the Liberty Bridge and at the foot of the Gellért Hill. They have been extended and renovated several times and now combine historical traditions with modern technical preparation. From the outside you will have a hard time identifying it, but once inside you will be breathless: the building is splendid and imposing, and will immediately catapult you back in time to the full twentieth century. Access is daily, and during the week it costs around € 18 each and included there is the access to the changing rooms (strictly mixed), showers and a locker with padlock connected to the bracelet that will be given to you at the entrance .

Gellérth Bath, Budapest, Ungheria

To access the Thermal Baths it is mandatory to have slippers, swimsuit and towel, which you can rent for a fee and spend a lot, otherwise you can buy it in the internal shop. Pack everything in a backpack when you go! Slippers and swimsuit from home, take the towel up from the hotel: we forgot it and we had to buy it for the modest sum of € 15 each !! Baths can be accessed without a cap, while for the splendid central swimming pool it is mandatory (this too can obviously be purchased on site). If you wish, you can purchase various extra treatments, while the outdoor pools, sauna and Turkish bath are included in the price of the daily entrance. We chose the Gellért Thermal Baths because it's less frequented than the very famous Széchenyi Baths, located behind Heroes' Square, on the other side of Budapest, and I must say that we were not disappointed. The Gellért Baths are certainly quieter, less crowded and less touristy, so an excellent alternative, definitely recommended.


PEST

Andrássy Út Named after former minister president Andrássy Gyula, it connects Deák Square to Heroes' Square. It is 2.5 km long, full of imposing and splendid buildings, luxury shops and cool clubs such as the 360 ​​Roof Top Bar (click here for my Budapest food post).. On this avenue there is a nice North Face store, beautiful, the only shop we visited, since Enri, on the outward journey, broke his backpack, and as soon as we arrived we immediately had to buy another one. We walked Andrássy Út far and wide, being a few hundred meters from our hotel, and by road to many of the places on our itinerary. On this boulevard you will also find the Budapest Opera House, which was unfortunately being renovated.

Sziget Eye - Budapest Ferris Wheel Sziget Eye is the ferris wheel in the center of Budapest, also better known as Budapest Eye. With its 65 meters in height and 42 cabins, it is a recent work, located in one of the most popular squares of the capital, in the center of Pest, precisely in Erzsébet tér. The ticket price is 3000 HUF.

Sziget Eye, Budapest Ferris Wheel, Ungheria

Vörösmarty Tér Vörösmarty Tèr is the central square of Pest, huge and very elegant, often animated until late at night, where shops, cafes, offices overlook and hosts street artists and during the Christmas period a nice Christmas market. One of the cafes overlooking the square is the famous Gerbeaud which has enjoyed international fame since the 19th century. From the square starts the Váci utca, the long pedestrian street of the city, also full of shops.

Vorosmarty Ter, Budapest, Ungheria

Váci Utca Váci Utca is located parallel to the Danube, between Vörösmarty Tér and the Great Central Market: it's one of the most elegant shopping streets in Budapest, both during the day, with its shops and cafes full of people, and at night, illuminated along the way.

Fashion Street Fashion Street is also a street that starts from Vörösmarty Tér and is home to many very famous brand shops in the heart of Budapest. A must for shopping in the capital.

Budapest Fashion Street, Ungheria

The Dohány Street Synagogue

La Grande Sinagoga di Budapest, Ungheria

Hours: 10-16 Ticket cost: 5000 HUF (about € 15) and includes: the Great Synagogue, the Small Synagogue, the Jewish Museum and Archive, the cemetery and the photographic exhibition + guided tour in English (every 30 min) and in Italian every hour. Also known as the Tabakgasse Synagogue, it is a building of great historical importance in the city: it is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world and it's located in the Jewish quarter in the Pest area. The complex in addition to the Great Synagogue includes the Temple of Heroes, the cemetery, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum. The street that the building faces is Dohány boulevard, that outlined the boundary of the Budapest Ghetto. This is one of the few places I remember perfectly from my trip with my parents years ago. I remember that I was literally fascinated by the history and meanings of these places, and I must say that the sensations were the same this time too. It is truly an essential stop in the city, also for its historical and cultural value: the guide was a fantastic lady, truly expert and good at explaining and transmitting the history of the Holocaust during the Second World War.


St. Stephen's Basilica

St. Stephen's Basilica, in Hungarian Szent István-Bazilika, it's a Catholic church located in the center of Budapest and baptized with the name of Stephen, the first king of Hungary, whose presumed relic of his right hand is inside. Today, the Basilica of Santo Stefano is the third largest church in the country. The Church is open from Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 17.00, on Saturday from 9.00 to 13.00 and on Sunday from 13.00 to 17.00. The entrance to the building is free, and if you are nearby it is certainly worth a short visit: it's impressive, opulent and very rich, perhaps a little dark, but with wonderful golden details. During the Christmas period, the most beautiful Christmas market in Budapest takes place in front of the entrance to the Basilica.


Hungarian Parliament The Hungarian Parliament is located in Pest on the east bank of the Danube, and it's one of the most important symbols of the city. The best spot to see it is across the river, in Batthyány Tér, but up close it is also spectacular, especially in the evening, when it lights up beautifully. During the Christmas period a splendid Christmas tree is placed in front of the Parliament, thus making it even more beautiful and impressive. It can also be visited inside with guided tours that cost around € 7: tickets can be purchased at the cash desk outside the building or via the official website. The guided tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.

Hungarian Parliament, Budapest, Ungheria

Shoe Memorial

Shoe Memorial sul Danubio, Budapest, Ungheria

On the bank of the river, just behind the Parliament, there are the Shoes on the Danube Bank (in Hungarian: Cipők a Duna-parton). It's a Holocaust memorial, the work of director Can Togay created together with the sculptor Gyula Pauer. The art installation was inaugurated on April 16, 2005 on the Hungarian Day of Remembrance for the 60th anniversary of the Shoah. The piece of art consists of shoes placed on the edge of the quay of the Danube bank and recalls a massacre of Jewish citizens carried out by the militiamen of the Arrow Cross Party (the militia that collaborated with the Nazis for the deportation and extermination of Hungarian Jews) during the second World War. After imprisoning them in their own homes inside the Budapest ghetto, the militiamen decided to assassinate them by dragging them along the river, tied in groups of three and killed with a blow to the back of the head; their corpses were thrown into the river. Heroes' Square Heroes' Square is one of the most important squares in Budapest with its impressive statues commemorating the leaders of the seven founding tribes of Hungary. Located in the less central end of Andrássy Út, it's well connected by the Budapest Metro. Heroes' Square forms, together with this street, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most beautiful building on Heroes' Square is the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the best museums in Budapest and houses some of the most important collections of paintings in the world.


Vajdahunyad Vár Vajdahunyad Castle, or Vajdahunyad Vár, is a castle located in Városliget, Budapest's city park just behind Heroes' Square. It was built between 1896 and 1908, and is a partial copy of a castle in Transylvania, Romania. It was originally made of cardboard and wood for the millennial exhibit in 1896 but became so popular that it was rebuilt in stone and brick. It is splendid, truly characteristic, so if you come as far as Heroes' Square, drop by while taking a walk in the park, access is free.

The Great Market Hall

Spezie e Paprika nel Grande Mercato Centrale di Budapest, Ungheria

In Hungarian Nagy Vásárcsarnok, the Central Market Hall of Budapest is the largest of the five markets that opened in the city at the end of the 19th century. The property is located in front of the Liberty Bridge, and it's truly splendid, and it's worth a visit even without having to buy anything in particular. On the ground floor you will find many food stalls, from meat to vegetables, as well as spices, liqueurs and typical Hungarian foods, while on the first floor you will find many souvenir shops and typical Budapest handicrafts. I recommend that you keep the souvenir purchases for this market: here you will find everything from spice bags, preparations for goulash, magnets, T-shirts, and all the handicrafts you can imagine at much cheaper prices than the souvenir shops in center!


EXTRA

Ervin Szabò Metropolitan Library It's an immense library, on several floors, to which access costs around € 3, and is located a few meters from the Great Central Market. The Erviz Szabò Metropolitan Library is housed in a modern building, but on the fourth floor it hides a splendid neo-baroque part. I had included it in our itinerary, and I literally chased on Enri for three days to go there, but once we arrived, we discovered that it was under renovation until December 8, the day of our departure, so we were unable to enter. If you go to Budapest and go there, please let me know how it is!


The Chain Bridge The Chain Bridge (in Hungarian: Széchenyi lánchíd) is a bridge that connects Buda and Pest and was the first permanent bridge over the Danube in Hungary, inaugurated in 1849. Unfortunately we were unable to cross it as it was being renovated, but it is certainly one of the must in Budapest.


Finally, here are some useful tips if you are planning a trip to Budapest!


CURRENCY Before leaving, it's good to remember that Budapest, despite being within the European Union, does not use Euros. In fact, the currency in Budapest is the Hungarian forint and 1 € is equivalent to about 367HUF. As in Copenhagen, we never changed a single euro, we always paid without cash: even in the markets and stalls you have the chance to pay by card.


FLIGHT

We booked with Ryanair, as always, taking advantage of an excellent offer: € 50 each round trip, departing from Venice Treviso. Also this time we traveled only with the small bag: in Copenhagen I was happy and the space was enough, so, this time also being a mini-trip of only 3 nights, we chose to save by making full use of the low price flight.


TRANSFER FROM/TO AIRPORT

There are several airport-Budapest center connections: we chose to take bus 100E - up to Astoria M. In about 35 minutes we are just 800 m from our hotel, paying € 2.4 (900 HUF).

METRO

The Budapest metro is well connected and branched out along the city, we only used it twice to reach the ends of Buda and Pest, otherwise we always walked. A single ticket will cost you 350HUF.



Here we are at the end of our trip to Budapest, a real pearl on the banks of the Danube. This city will certainly not disappoint you, from beautiful buildings to delicious food. An excellent city for a low-cost weekend getaway.

To find out what and where to eat in Budapest and have some ideas on your list of places to absolutely try, here is the link.


Soon the insights on Christmas in Budapest. For any other advices do not hesitate to write to me, in the meantime, have a nice trip!

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