A weekend in Budapest

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.
Budapest-street

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.

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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.

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Top 25 must-see attractions in Budapest:

  1. Hungarian Parliament Building
  2. Chain Bridge
  3. Buda Castle
  4. Fisherman’s Bastion
  5. Matthias Church
  6. St. Stephen’s Basilica
  7. Hungarian State Opera House
  8. Heroes Square
  9. Central Market Hall
  10. Liberty Bridge
  11. Vaci Street
  12. Music Fountain on the Margaret Island
  13. Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial
  14. Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  15. Vajdahunyad Castle
  16. Gellert Hill
  17. Cafe New York
  18. Gresham Palace
  19. Historic metro line M1
  20. Buda Hill Funicular
  21. Margaret Bridge
  22. Hungarian National Gallery
  23. Andrassy Avenue
  24. Nyugati Railway Terminal
  25. Dohány Street Synagogue
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Top 12 local things to taste in Budapest:

  1. Gulyásleves – goulash soup with meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices.
  2. Tokaj – sweet Hungarian white wine.
  3. Dobos torta – sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
  4. Gundel palacsinta – pancakes stuffed with a sweet walnut filling and drizzled with a sweet chocolate rum sauce.
  5. Pörkölt – meat stew in a thick paprika-spiced sauce.
  6. Halászlé – Fisherman’s Soup, traditional red fish soup spiced with hot paprika.
  7. Paprikás Csirke – creamy chicken paprikash with red spiced paprika and stewed chicken leg.
  8. Lángos – fried bread dough, often served with sour cream, garlic and cheese.
  9. Lecsó – mixed vegetable stew, the Hungarian ‘Ratatouille’.
  10. Local beer – Arany Aszok, Soproni, Dreher. I suggest you to try also dark lagers.
  11. Kürtőskalács – a chimney cake made from sweet yeast then spun and wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar.
  12. Kolbice – local street food, grilled Kolbász sausages in a cone-shaped bread.

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Top 8 souvenirs to buy in Budapest:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Palinka – a traditional fruit brandy made of plums, apricots, apples, pears or cherries.
  4. 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.
  5. Handmade Hungarian Lace and Embroidery – for those who like traditional folk souvenirs.
  6. Unicum –  a Hungarian herbal liqueur that is made of a mixture of over 40 different kinds of medicinal herbs and spices.
  7. Gyulai or Csabai Kolbasz – Hungarian spicy sausages with a lot of red paprika.
  8. 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.
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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

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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.
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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.

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  • Great blog post about Budapest — very thorough and informative for visitors!

    Michelle
    americaninvienna.com

    • Thank you Michelle 🙂

  • Alicja Kam

    Przepiękne zdjęcia! Nie mogę doczekać się, kiedy odwiedzę Budapeszt!!

    • Spodoba Ci się, to miasto ma klimat 🙂

  • Venegoor

    Could you tell name of hostel/apartament, which you rent?

    • Sure, it was Dock Apartman in Lipótváros district – perfect localization and really nice price 🙂

  • Basia Budzisz

    Amaizing photos !!!

    http://wear-owska.blogspot.com/

  • Gazco

    A nice post and a good blog. But I have to ask, why in such a beautiful city do you have to “white wash” every photograph? I live in Budapest and your pictures look good, but they hide the character of the city. Budapest is not a clean, heavenly place. It is a grand historical city that bears the scars of a thousand stories.

    • It’s not a reportage, it’s a subjective blog post. It’s my style of photography (check my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/epepa.eu/ ) and what I want to do here is to show the world from my point of view: romantic, bright and even little bit fairy-tale. I’m just realizing my own vision, you don’t have to like it although.

      • Gazco

        Please, I hope you don’t think I was being critical. As I said, I like the blog and the photos but I was really intrigued by the ideas behind your style and what you were trying to reflect. Every artist has their own styles and methods and they shouldn’t have to justify such things. But, it is pleasing to hear the inspiration behind it. I looked at some of the other city blogs and the pictures had a lot more colour involved, so it just made me wonder about your personal reasoning in depicting Budapest in this way.

        • Well, to be honest I’ve always knew what effect I want to achieve, but I still learn how to do it so I experiment both with my camera settings and post editing options. Every blog post is a step forward to me and since my post about Spittelberg I use also a new lens which allows me to do brighter and softer photos. So the truth is what you see there is the progress of learning. I know that Budapest looks there like a city of dreams, but this weekend was a wonderful, magical time for me and I wanted to show it through this post. I suppose for someone who lives there Budapest looks completely different. I’ve been living in Vienna as an expat and for me the ‘real, everyday Vienna’ looks completely different than on the tourist’s pictures: my flat was in the non-touristic bezirk, the streets were dirty, people drunk, everyone smoked cigarettes in the restaurants and bars and sometimes I was the only woman in the shop or tram stop without burka on my head. It’s not what we see on the photos of Stephansplatz and Schonbrunn, but… somehow I don’t want to show it. Everything depends on the point of view, every city has its dark and bright side, and I’m trying to see the beauty everywhere and focus on good things. That’s why.

          • Gazco

            Thanks. That’s interesting and you are so right. As I said previously I really like the photos, just for me they didn’t represent what I see day to day. But, I completely agree, everything looks different through other eyes, and it is beautiful to see Budapest through yours.

          • I know it’s not Budapest that you see everyday, because it’s a part of Budapest and part of me here. It”s very personal, subjective and not for everyone for sure. It’s for dreamers like me. I cut the reality to pieces, choose the ones I like and I match them together making my romantic and bright collage. The great thing about photography is that you can create your own world and show the others a piece of yourself, it’s fascinating and it’s a kind of magic.
            I’m curious how this city looks for someone who knows is better although, to understand. I grew up in an industrial region of Poland, I lived in a grey post-communist block of flats, and to be honest everything was as grey and ugly as this building. Walking on the coal heaps and looking at the smokestacks on the horizon, I wanted something different than dirty buildings and grey stinking river, something bright, clean and beautiful, so I was dreaming.
            In my hometown people are making HDR-s of post-industrial abandoned plants or black and white, high contrast photos. It’s interesting and shows the character of this region, although I prefer taking pictures like this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDD0F3pBdfD/?taken-by=epepa.eu . Could you believe it’s the city I’m writing about? People also don’t believe, they are asking me where I took my photos and… finally, they raise their heads up and open their eyes for beauty. It’s what I want to achieve.

  • Jennifer Morrow

    Great lists! I still have not been to Budapest, yet. This will certainly help planning, when I do make it over there.

  • Awesome post about Budapest! I live in France, and Easter Europe has never been that attractive for me. I’ve been to a a bunch of southern countries, but now I definitely want to visit Budapest. Your photos are just incredible, and you make it justice… it seems we’re just living your visit through it! x

    http://tomboychronicle.com/

    • Well, Eastern European countries are still a kind of ‘terra incognita’ for some tourists and I think it’s an advantage, most of them is not spoilt yet by tourism industry so you can have some kind of authentic experience traveling there.

  • I wish I had this post when I was traveling through Budapest – especially the list of foods to try 🙂 Again, you’ve captured the vibe of a city beautifully with your pictures — and I’ve just read through the comments, I love that you explain your POV when taking pictures and it’s inspired me to get more creative with my own instead of approaching everything from a “documentary” standpoint.

    • I’m glad it inspired you, I just wanted to show Budapest through my eyes. I have met a man once in Barcelona who was laughing at me saying ‘Why do you take all these pictures? Everything had been already photographed. Everything’s on Google Maps. There’s no point in it’. I tried to explain him that they are different because it’s my point of view, my perspective… but he answer me that it’s only my thinking. All in all this little conversation made some influence on me and since then I’m trying to show something more personal, something more ‘mine’.

  • Bernard Tan

    This is such an informative post about Budapest! I would totally keep this in mind when planning my trip. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome 🙂

  • That all sounds fantastic. I love how white the buildings are in your pictures. It truly looks like a fairy tale city. And I want to try the Hungarian food–especially the Dobos Torta! Thanks for the suggestions!

    • Dobos Torta is delicious! To be honest it’s the best piece of cake I have ever had, I really liked it!

  • I have yet to visit Budapest. But it looks beautiful, especially the architecture. I would definitely take home a bottle of palinka with me, it sounds good 🙂

    • I didn’t try it to be honest, but we bought some for my fiance’s Gradpa. He liked it! For me Tokaj wine was number 1.

  • Jona Branzuela Bering

    Wow! My god, I just glazed through till the end! Your blog is so clean. The tone is so nice. I love the framing of the photos a lot! You have a great eye!

    • Thank you Jona, you made my day!

  • Wow I loved your post and am so happy that you felt so happy and welcome there! I love how clean it all looks, with very white buildings and gorgeous little side streets to explore. I loved the 3 lists you made too, will definitely book mark for future use!

    • Thank you Sarah 🙂

  • wow you took some gorgeous photos! i love all the architecture and the doors

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

    • There is much more wonderful architecture and doors like these in Budapest. If you are interested in art nouveau architecture, check this instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fluteric/ – I think his pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

  • I was in Budapest last year but the incessant rain and wind put a damper on the trip. I wish I had explored and tasted as much as you did! I’m definitely going back!

    • Sometimes bad weather can change the way we see the place. When I was in Budapest it was ‘half and half’, some sunshine and some rain too, but I bought a big red umbrella in the nearest shop and I enjoyed my time in this amazing city even when it was raining. Walking in the rain was also a nice experience and had its charm.

  • Jessica Friend

    What a lovely post and some great photos that really show off Budapest. We did try Unicum and quite frankly it was disgusting – and in English it does have an unfortunate name ;-/

    • And did you try Tokaj wine? Unicum is quite specific, but I think everyone will appreciate the taste of Tokaj.

  • iWitness

    Posts like this make me always happy 🙂 When someone visits my home as tourist and finds it amazing give me such a feeling that I need to hug everybody around me :))) thanks for this post and I hope you’ll come back several times to enjoy the hungarian dishes and hospitality. 🙂

    • Definitely I will! I fell in love with Budapest and its unique atmosphere, I wish I could see it once again… or even more than once 🙂

  • Thanks for listing the must see places and the food list for Budapest. This is the only way I am able to know such information that is not geared on being “commercial.” I havent traveled outside of my country and yet, this is where I wanted to go when I have the resources 🙂

    Jeane Louise
    viajeracebuana.com

    • You’re welcome. I hope you’ll have a chance to visit this city by yourself soon 🙂

  • I used to live in Budapest for 9 years and all I want to say is thank you for such a perfect representation of my second home. Honestly you have nailed it. I always keep a glass of paprika powder on hand to season literally everything and I just asked my dad to send me some salami when he last went to visit this week. The city, in my opinion is absolutely stunning but you can see a lot quickly. If I may give you just one recommendation for your next visit it is to go and eat at KönyvBár http://konyvbar.hu/ where they base a menu around a book chosen for only a couple of weeks and the food is absolutely fantastic! I hope you will enjoy it!

    • Oh this paprika is absolutely great! I use it at my kitchen all the time. Even yesterday I added some when I was cooking lesco :). I still have some Gyulai Kolbasz so I added it too and well, it was absolutely delicious. I have to visit Budapest once again, and next time I will definitely bring back home more souvenirs like these. Thanks for recommendation, sounds nice.

  • Pingback: 10 things to do in Budapest | ePepa.eu()

  • Elizabeth Allcock

    Great post and beautiful pictures! I am going in 2 weeks so excited! http://www.callmeliz.co.uk

  • z Alicją przez Wiedeń

    Lal! Swietny post! Dawno mnie u Ciebie nie bylo a tu sie tak duzo zmienilo! Rewelacja! Bede zagladac systematycznie 🙂 No i mam juz gotowy przewodnik na kolejna, po latach, wizyte w Budapeszcie 🙂 Dzieki! 🙂

  • Mariana Fourie van Aswegen

    What a wonderful blog post! Not just the wonderful photographs, but I like the way you outlined the blog. It is always so hard to decipher blog posts for what to see, what to eat and what to buy. This will be my go to lists when I visit Budapest one day!

    • Thank you very much Mariana 🙂

  • Your trip looks amazing! I visited Budapest five years ago and fell in love with the city too!

    Allegra xx

    http://www.allegraghiloni.wordpress.com

    • Thanks so much Allegra!

  • I also want to go back there. It would be nice to swim in hot thermal baths right now 🙂

  • Thank you so much Sheri!

  • Ashley

    Thanks for the info! We accomplished a lot of the things on your list and had a blast! May I ask where you found cheap Hungarian cuisine? We tried to eat away from the touristy areas but it was still a bit pricy. I’d like to know for a future trip. Thanks!

    • They say that in the Central Market Hall you can try local specialties in reasonable price, but I think it’s also little bit touristy… Did you try Kolbice? It’s not typical Hungarian cuisine but local street food. It’s really tasty and cheap 🙂