I have always wanted to visit Budapest. Somehow I had got a feeling that I will fall in love with this place. In my country they say ‘Polak – Węgier, dwa bratanki, i do szabli, i do szklanki’, it means ‘Pole – Hungarian, two cousins be, together they fight, together they drink’. This old proverb, both in Polish and Hungarian language, speaks about long existing friendship and special relations between our two nations.
In 2007 our parliaments even declared 23 March ‘Polish – Hungarian Friendship Day’. I did know about it but believe me, I was really surprised that even though it was my first time in Budapest I didn’t feel like stranger there. For me visiting Hungary was like visiting an old friend, it’s hard to explain but somehow I felt really good and happy there.
First I have to tell you that we haven’t planned this trip at all. It was totally spontaneous, we booked an apartment and next morning we were driving to Hungary. When we passed Slovakia and crossed the Hungarian border in Parassapuszta, my first impression about this country was that it’s really beautiful, green and peaceful place.
And when I saw the Danube in Vác I was really excited! Living for one year as an expat in Vienna, I really liked to spend my time by the Danube and I was always wondering how it looks in other European capital cities: Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade… I missed the view of this beautiful, wide river when I came back to Poland and you cannot imagine how happy I was that I could see it once again, at last!
The Dock Apartman where we were staying was located very close to the river, only 5 minutes walk to the Hungarian Parliament and the Chain Bridge. It was a historical building with high vaulted ceilings and beautiful inner courtyard. I was really surprised when I saw it, I always wanted to take a picture of place like this and I wasn’t even expecting that it’ll be my home for a couple of days. It was so charming and full of atmosphere, I could feel Budapest living there.
What is Budapest like? First of all it’s intriguing, fascinating and full of hidden treasures. There is lots of history around every corner, sometimes I have got a feeling that I travel back in time and I’m in the ‘Old Europe’ now. If you have seen ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, you know what I mean. I had such impression especially when I was visiting some charming cafes and walking around the railway stations Keleti and Nyugati pályaudvar – once I was even lucky to see as they were making a movie there.
Comparing to Vienna, some parts of the city looked quite similar, for example the Várnegyed district was a little bit like Spittelberg, although the atmosphere of Budapest is completely different, I would say that it’s more laid back and friendly, while Vienna is more flawless and sophisticated. In my opinion both cities are worth seeing, but if you have to choose between them two, I think Budapest is a better option for young people – it’s cheaper than Vienna and more fun.
Top 25 must-see attractions in Budapest:
- Hungarian Parliament Building
- Chain Bridge
- Buda Castle
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Matthias Church
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
- Hungarian State Opera House
- Heroes Square
- Central Market Hall
- Liberty Bridge
- Vaci Street
- Music Fountain on the Margaret Island
- Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- Gellert Hill
- Cafe New York
- Gresham Palace
- Historic metro line M1
- Buda Hill Funicular
- Margaret Bridge
- Hungarian National Gallery
- Andrassy Avenue
- Nyugati Railway Terminal
- Dohány Street Synagogue
Top 12 local things to taste in Budapest:
- Gulyásleves – goulash soup with meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices.
- Tokaj – sweet Hungarian white wine.
- Dobos torta – sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
- Gundel palacsinta – pancakes stuffed with a sweet walnut filling and drizzled with a sweet chocolate rum sauce.
- Pörkölt – meat stew in a thick paprika-spiced sauce.
- Halászlé – Fisherman’s Soup, traditional red fish soup spiced with hot paprika.
- Paprikás Csirke – creamy chicken paprikash with red spiced paprika and stewed chicken leg.
- Lángos – fried bread dough, often served with sour cream, garlic and cheese.
- Lecsó – mixed vegetable stew, the Hungarian ‘Ratatouille’.
- Local beer – Arany Aszok, Soproni, Dreher. I suggest you to try also dark lagers.
- Kürtőskalács – a chimney cake made from sweet yeast then spun and wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar.
- Kolbice – local street food, grilled Kolbász sausages in a cone-shaped bread.
Top 8 souvenirs to buy in Budapest:
- Hungarian Paprika – dried, packed in bags, pretty little cans, ceramic jars or in tube as a paste it’s cheap and appropriable souvenir. You can use it at home when you will be cooking a goulash soup or gift your family and friends.
- Tokaji Wine – with its slender, elegant bottles it’s a beautiful and delicious gift. Tokaji wine comes in a variety of different tastes including dry, Szamorodni, Aszu, Maslas, Fordiatas and Eszencia.
- Palinka – a traditional fruit brandy made of plums, apricots, apples, pears or cherries.
- Pick Salami – original Hungarian salami sausages that come in a variety of different types, flavors and levels of spice. If transported and kept unopened, it will last a long time.
- Handmade Hungarian Lace and Embroidery – for those who like traditional folk souvenirs.
- Unicum – a Hungarian herbal liqueur that is made of a mixture of over 40 different kinds of medicinal herbs and spices.
- Gyulai or Csabai Kolbasz – Hungarian spicy sausages with a lot of red paprika.
- Postard – if you are looking for something cheap and weightless, a postcard with Hungarian Parliament Building on it is always a nice Budapest souvenir to bring back home.
The view of Hungarian Parliament Building from the Danube Promenade was the most outstanding thing in Budapest for me, especially seen at night it was really impressive. I also liked the yellow trams and beautiful bridges on the Danube – Chain, Liberty and Margaret. More than a hundred years ago they connected two cities – Buda and Pest, that were united into a single city, Budapest. The interesting fact about Budapest is that the oldest subway in the continental Europe is located there. The historical M1 ‘yellow line’ with its elegantly preserved stations still serves as a remarkable moving monument of downtown Budapest. It’s definitely one of the must-see attractions in the city. See also: 10 things to do in Budapest
Budapest is not only wonderful architecture and thermal baths, it’s also worth visiting for its delicious cuisine and great wine. Hungarian specialties like Lecsó or Gulyás are also very popular in my country, I often cook at home so I have bought some ingredients as souvenirs. At the Central Market Hall I’ve found pretty little cans with sweet and hot paprika. I have also bought Gyulai and Csabai Kolbasz, paprika paste, Tokaj wine, Dobos tort and some other sweets in a supermarket.
Everything was really great and the only thing we regret is that we didn’t bring back home more of these delicacies and we haven’t got too much time to see everything we wanted, but on the other hand it’s always a nice excuse to visit Budapest once again. We have spent a wonderful weekend in this city and we really liked its atmosphere. If you are interested in architecture, you like exploring the city and looking for hidden gems, and after all relaxing in thermal bath or with a glass of good wine sounds like a nice idea, you should definitely visit Budapest.