More romantic than Warsaw and more beautiful than Prague, that’s the description of Budapest the guide book Lonely Planet gives us. Not having these cities to compare too, Budapest at least cannot fail in any of these categories.
Having arrived in Budapest and spent our first night at a worn down hotel close to the center of Buda, tips from friends and guide books lead us to the Pest side of the Danube and the Széchenyi spa, claimed to be the largest thermal bath in Europe. When walking from Heroes’ square, or Hösök tere, a large pond, covered in a blanket of white mist, comes within sight. You can almost feel the smell of sulfur, and to draw the conclusion that this water is connected with the healing water in the spa is easy when feeling the warmth of it. At the bath, after having figured out how to find the locker room in lack of signs, and how to use the lockers, the next step was to find the company waiting outside.
The steam rising up from where the hot water met the cold air, from the several heated pools, did not make it easy. With aching feet and a too cold nose, it was more than nice to get into the almost 40C water after spending a day in the below zero air. There were also several pools indoors, but to get in the supposedly healthy green water was more intimidating than tempting. The mixture of ice and hot steam on the outside was surely more refreshing, at least for funks. A tip when visiting the spa is to bring your own towel. There are towels for rent, but you have to remember to bring cash and the sheet-like quality probably made it no better than the paper towels from the bathroom that my partner used.
The view over Széchenyi Chain Bridge from the slippery stairs on the Buda Castle hillside may not be as spectacular as we imagine when we see all the cameras flash beside us, but still should not be neglected. Even when seeing the a little too hard traffic pass by on the side of the Danube, the green water of the river still has a certain charm.
On top of the hill, we see the majestic Fishermen’s Bastion on one side of the castle, and the soon to be mounted Gellért Hill, on the other. The cold wind outside creeps under the too thin layer of clothes, and at this time the typical eastern fur cap the castle guard wears is really wished for. The Buda Castle accommodates several museums, but at this visit they are only used as hand warmers.
When we have gone through the adventure of sliding down the icy hill in the Castle district, it’s time to climb Gellért Hill. The way up is winding, and not many people try to reach the top as tourists today, though sleighing down seem to be a popular choice. When reaching the Citadel on top of the hill, the spectacular view over Budapest and the Danube really strikes us. On the other side of the hill, we can see steam that rises from the well-known Gellért Bath.
After three days in Budapest that feeling of excitement you get when visiting a new city, still hasn’t shown up. It may be the grey and the cold that takes away the charm of the city. It may also be the fact that walking around both Buda and Pest on foot would make most people too tired to use their senses and grasp the intensity of the place. Next time, a note of the name of the bus stop will be made, and more time will be spent on the yellow trams.
There is a lot to see in Budapest, though most of the tourist attractions are probably better suited for the summer months. When visiting Budapest in the winter, a visit to one of the thermal baths is highly recommended, since it warms even the coldest soul. The great market hall with the smell of newly stuffed sausages and white paprika, and the legendary Gerbeaud café with its scent of luxury cakes and pastries, may also heat up a cold winter’s day. A tip is to walk across one of Budapest’s many bridges at night, when the parliament, the castle and all the great buildings are lit up; it sure is a magnificent sight.
It’s quite easy to get around the city on foot without using public transportations. Buses and trams operate in most of the city so tired legs might prefer this cheap way of getting around. Getting around by taxi is also an option since the prices are very low, but be sure to know the Hungarian name of the place where you want to go, and not just the English name, or you may be in trouble.
Whether you are looking for single night stay or wish to spend longer holidays, Budapest offers you everything at its best. But, for a perfect stay in Budapest choose a (self-catering vacation apartment ), which provide the guests with the highest levels of service in good availability and great rates for all sorts of travellers.
Note: don’t buy your postcards on the last day of your stay, because stamps are not to be found anywhere else than in a post office, which in turn may be hard to find.