The weekend passed like a dream again, a very nice one, such a good dream that this girl was very sorry to wake up to the reality of office work, this morning. For you see, weekends have always been a pleasant escape from day to day, real and cruel life. And now, even more so than ever because I have to keep my dreaming and wandering only for weekend getaways. That's why I wanted to take advantage of the Bank Holiday we had here last Thursday. And so I managed to transform an ordinary Wednesday in a Friday, turn the Thursday into a lazy Saturday as for the rest of the weekend, I lost track of time.
Well now, let's not get melodramatic. Here is my little guide for a romantic weekend discovering Budapest on a low budget. Since I live in the Czech Republic, I have easy access to almost all corners of our continent, thus, I took the bus, Orangeways, excellent coaches, very comfy, wifi and hot beverages included, toilet, all services for just 80 euros both ways for 2. But you can also come to Budapest by plane, there are many cheap flights and the airport is well connected to the city.
I was staying at a friend's flat. But if you don't have the pleasure of having a Hungarian friend, you can make one on couch surfing or try one of the many hostels. I recommend visiting with a local: this is my advice for any travel of course. Our friend lives in Paris but she was arriving in Budapest on Friday. We came first, about an hour and a half before, her so we sat down in a park, near the rendez-vous spot, munching on a sandwich and enjoying the good weather by making plans for another weekend. I told you: weekends are big for me.
Our friend came and she dropped us off at a flat in Buda. You should know that Budapest is basically 2 towns: Buda on the West of the Danube and Pest on the East side. In Buda you will also find the Castle Hill neighborhood, the oldest settled part of the city. Pest is the flat side of town, the financial center, the party spot and the place to shop.
From our flat, we took a hike up the hill to the Citadel. It's quite a long winding way up but you get to see Art Nouveau mansions on the way and the view on top is wonderful, especially at sunset. Somewhere in the area, the Hungarians put all the statues of the communist era, a funny view of the system. I had forgotten my camera, sorry, but no pictures were taken.
On Friday night we went out, partying with our friend and her friends. Hungarians are great party people, there are many pubs and clubs, quite cheap and I found them to be rather safe. There are many expats, either just passing by or living in the Budapest, we got to meet a colorful crowd and had a great time. There is a night service bus but be careful, you must have tickets in advance, or else you have to buy them on the bus and they are more expensive. And it's full of guards checking for your ticket: you cannot escape the power of the Revizor.
The next day, we woke up late of course, we had a brunch made up of local products such as croissants (yes, Hungarians claim this invention), some local bread specialties and sausages, another famous local brand. There are many supermarkets around town so you can get what you need for a cheap meal and some souvenirs such as wines and sausages. By the way, I had this great Merlot that made me take a closer look at Hungarian wines, they are so diverse, don't be fooled by the Tokaj, there are red's as well.
The best way to explore Budapest, and any city, is to take a map, mark all the places of interest and just set your itinerary from there. You'll find that Budapest has a good transport network. For the tickets it's a bit more difficult: you can have about 10 tickets from any newspaper stand, but they are valid only for one bus/tram ride or one day passes. We took the 10 tickets and it was a good deal, there were no stands to buy one day passes around anyway. I am a map lover, I took out my map of Budapest, checked the itinerary of buses and trams and made my own itinerary based on these and our personal POI.
And so we started our visit by taking a tram along the Danube to Adam Clarke sq. which is right at the base of the Chain Bridge (or Lanchid). From there, I was planning to go up to the castle on foot but that's only because I had forgotten all about the funicular which runs fup to the Castle. The queue is long and the price quite high, 840 forint for a one way, but I always wanted a ride on a funicular so I indulged but I have to warn you, the view is not as awesome as I would have thought. From up the Castle though, you can see the whole of Pest, and the bridges on the Danube. We walked around a bit but if you want, there are other options such as taking the public transportation buses and exploring the grounds and the neighborhood this way.
Next, we took the Chain Bridge and crossed the Danube. I found Pest to be busier and more posh, lots of brand shops everywhere. We stopped for a coffee on Andrassy utca, it felt a bit like being on the Champs Elysee. In fact the streets in the area seemed to me to be like a mix between Paris and London, I quite liked it.
We visited the St Stephan Basilica and then took some pictures of the Opera House, before strolling around the streets towards the Parliament. Budapest has large avenues lined with trees, it resembles the grandeur of Vienna in some way but there are also smaller streets, with shops and cafes, it was a very pleasant walk on an autumn day.
Unfortunately I did not visit the Parliament either; it was closed by the time we got there, be warned, it closes quite early, we were not the only disappointed tourists.
Next we took a bus ride across town (we saw Vaci utca, the shopping street, on our way) and arrived at Keleti pu, which is a very beautiful train station in my opinion. What do you think? We walked a bit more in Pest before catching a bus back to Buda.
Dinner was had in a pirate ship. Well, a restaurant decorated as a pirate ship. I had these ribs in sauce with home made potatoes and a glass of good but not exceptional wine. The bill for two, including drinks was around 20 euros, quite reasonable I'd say. We spent about 100 euros each for this trip, without accommodation, just transportation, food, going out and some mementos.
I didn't have a lot of time and also because of some unexpected issues I couldn't visit as much as would have wanted. But I'll be back.I know I've missed some spots, such as the Gellert spas or the Margit Island. Please give me some more tips, I want to come back, that's for sure. Because you know me to be a freak, I searched for information and I found this guide to be very helpful, I forgot my notes, of course, so I had to rely on memories and a map. But you can also ask locals on the street, they are very friendly.
All in all I spent only one full day in Budapest, wandering the streets, looking at shop windows, taking pictures of quiet streets, taking in the beautiful sights of the city. But what a great day it was. At the end of it I was happy and exhausted and happily exhausted.