On this eastern Europe trip, me and my friend went to 7 countries for 17 days as part of New Year Celebration. We arrived at Warsaw (Poland) and then celebrated New Year at Prague (Czech Republic) for three days. After Prague, we hit Bratislava (Slovakia) for a day before moving to the next City, Budapest (Hungary). During the trip, we learned our ups and downs in exploring new places. Well, not just on that trip, but almost all trip has its own ups and downs.
I realized that my spirit hit high on the first place I visited. In this case, it was Warsaw. After Warsaw, the energy was still all time high considering I celebrated New Year in Prague. So, that was five days in a row with the over-the-roof energy of exploring new places.
Then came Bratislava. I have to admit that I was pretty exhausted after few days of non-stop walking and exploring. Bratislava was a low point where me and my friend would just give it up when we got lost direction. Had it been the first day, we would’ve given our best to find the direction of the places we go. That was why now I find it silly that we could not find Bratislava Castle, though it was just few meters away from where we stood and made decision to turn back. We simply tired and decided to take it slow by just exploring the old town Bratislava.
However, Budapest was our turning Point. Right after we arrived at Budapest, we felt our energy was recharged and ready for the exploration. In this blog, I will share how to explore Budapest and what places should be visited when you have short or limited time of exploration.
Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. Hungary has by Slovakia on its North Border, Ukraine and Romania on its eastern border, Serbia and Croatia on its Southern Border, and Austria on its western Border. The lowest point of the City is Danube River and its highest point is Janos Hill. Its population is over 1,7 million people.
This city is a merger of three cities: Buda, Obuda, and Pest. Nowadays, Buda is associated with stately quarters and high class (the western side), and Pest is where we find the urban living (eastern side). Szechenyi Bridge connects Buda and Pest, and it is also known as Chain Bridge.
Surprisingly, Budapest is the Thermal Bath capital of the world, even the hippos in Budapest Zoo are bathing in the thermal waters. In Hungarian, laws regulate the names. Children name must come from pre-approved list and any deviations must be approved by the application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. (source: Meininger Hotel)
How to get to Budapest by Train
There are three main train Station in Budapest, They are Budapest Nyugati, Budapest Keleti (Keleti Palyaudvar), and Budapest Deli (Deli Palyaudvar). Budapest Deli stands on the Buda Side. So, if you want to stay near to Buda Castle, Arriving through Budapest Deli is the solution. Meanwhile, both Budapest Nyugati and Budapest Keleti are on the Pest Side (eastern Side). If you want to stay near to cafes and urban living, as well as Parliamant Building and Széchenyi Thermal Bath, these stations would be the best arrival point.
I arrived to Budapest Nyugati from Bratislava Hlavni Staniva (Bratislava Hl. St.) using regional train (214 km ride) with no stoppage (EC 275 Metropolitan). At that time, I bought the ticket at Bratislava Train station. But, you can also buy the ticket online at Slovakian Railway website or at Hungarian railway website. The direct train ride takes about 2,5 hours and costs EUR 28 for the economy class and EUR 40 for the first-class ticket.
How to get around Budapest
Budapest has buses, trams, trolleybus, and metro (Subway). The metro has 4 lines with the new line M-4 links the kelenfold station in south Buda with the Keleti Station. This train also stops at the Great market Hall and Gellert Thermal bath. M-1 (Yellow line), the Europe oldest underground line starts from Vorosmarty Square and ends up at Opera House. M-2 (Red line) connecting the eastern part to the western Part, and M-3 (blue line) goes from North to South in Pest (between Ujpest-Kozpont to Kobanya-Kispest).
I used trams most of the time and walk. There are 30 tram routes and the earliest start at 4:30 am. Here’s the most useful route of tram around the city:
No. 2 – runs along the Pest riverfront connecting Margit hid and Petőfi hid. It’s a picturesque route passing River Danube, Castle Hill, Szechenyi chain Bridge, and Hungarian Parliament.
No. 4 – runs on the Grand Boulevard connecting Széll Kálmán tér (formerly Moszkva tér) and Október 23. utca
No. 6 – runs also on the Grand Boulevard connecting Széll Kálmán tér and Móricz Zsigmond körtér in Buda
No. 19 – runs along the Buda riverfront connecting Batthyány tér and Gellért tér and continues on to Kelenföld
No. 49 – runs between Buda and Pest connecting Kelenföldi Pályaudvar in Buda and Deák tér in Pest
As for Buses, there are 200 routes with red buses serves the busiest route in the city. There’s a Hop-on Hop-off bus tours, they are Big Bus Budapest Tour and the City Sightseeing Tour.
One ticket is valid for all type of transportation that includes metro, buses, trams, trolley buses, cogwheel railway, and suburban HEV line. Visitor can purchase the tickets at street stands, news agents, ticket machine in any tram or metro stops.
Single ticket is valid for single journey. If you need to make transfer, you need to validate a new ticket or use a transfer ticket. Visitor need to validate the ticket at the beginning of the journey in the punching machine available at every stops or inside tram/buses.
Single ticket costs 350 HUF, and daily ticket (24 hours) costs HUF 1650. There’s also 24-hour group travelcard (for 1-5 people travelling together) and it costs HUF 3300. The 72 hours card costs HUF 4150 and the 7-days card costs HUF 4,950. The other alternative for ticketing is Budapest card. The 24 hours Budapest card is the official city card that offers free public transports, 20 museums with no entry fees, free walking sightseeing tours, a cave tour and free entry to various visitor centres. The 24 hours card costs EUR 21,99, the 48-hours card costs EUR 32,99 and the 72-hours card costs EUR 42,99. For more information, you can visit it here.
Wonderful Places in Budapest for One Day
These are places that we visited on that day, including a day before, the night we arrived at Budapest.
1.Parliament Building (During the night)
It started as a great idea, to get a night photoshoot of Parliament Building, then it got worst as the night get colder and darker, but it finished out as one of the best night on that trip. We took a walk from our hotel, passing Margaret Bridge to get across to the Buda side so we could get a picture of Parliament Building from Buda Side.
Soon as we passed the bridge, we realised it was still a long walk to get to the point right in front of Parliament Building. Then, we realized the path was rocky and boat ropes line was tied along the Danube River banks, practically hampered the view from the best spot pointing at Parliament Building. Luckily, with a few more walks we found a nice spot, free of obstruction with direct view of the majestic Parliament Building. With all that lights shone from the building, it was like finding a gold in the dark.
I took my time photographing the building until my feet got cold and I could not stand it anymore. It was around an hour later before we decided to call it quit and back to the hotel. It was a very memorable first night in Budapest.
Margaret Bridge shone bright that night from all the street light, and it vibrated as the tram passes the bridge. The bridge is a three-way bridge, connects Buda side to Pest side, as well as connecting Margaret island to the banks. It was built on 1872-1876 by French architect with the total length 50 meters and width 25 meters.
3. Parliament Building (during the day)
The next day, we went early with a clear plan in mind to get a morning shot of Parliament Building. However, the weather said otherwise. That day started with a heavy cloud, intermittent rain and heavy snow throughout the entire day. But, like I said before, our spirit was recharged after Bratislava and somehow we managed to visit several places that day despite the bad weather.
While waiting to get inside the Parliament Building, we walked around the complex a bit and started the queue to enter the building. Hungary Parliament building is a combination of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance style. Both its interior and exterior are otherworldly and it’s my favourite building on this Eastern Europe trip. The building faces Danube river and built from 1885 to 1904. It has four floor, 691 rooms, 268 meters in length, and 123 meters in width. Be it during the day or during the night, from afar or up close, the building stood perfect and majestic. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Parliament Building opens from 9 am to 4 pm, and the admission fee is HUF 6700 for non-EEA Citizens (adult), and HUF 3500 for EEA Citizens. Same day ticket can be purchased in limited number directly at ticket office in visitor center. Visitor Center is located on the lower ground. Online purchasing can be done at this website. The ticket entry is organized in time slot, so visitors need to be ready about 15 minutes before the allocated time. The tour guide will accompany and direct visitor groups from the beginning till the end include the commentary.
The moment I came inside the building, I just couldn’t stop dropping my jaw. We were let into the hall, then the famous assembly hall of the National Assembly of Hungary. It was truly an unforgettable experience ever! The room was bright from the gold colour of the interior, and the ceiling design was outstanding. I wonder how the parliament members keep their composure during the meeting in that beautiful hall.
4. Buda Castle
After visiting Parliament Building, it snowed pretty hard. We passed the Szechenyi Bridge hurriedly and hopped on funicular up to the Buda Castle. The Funicular costs HUF 1200/adult one way and HUF 700 for children (between 3-14 years of age). The Return ticket costs HUF 1800 for adult and HUF 1200 for children (between 3-14 years of age). The funicular operates from 7:30 am to 22:00 pm daily with 10 minutes intervals.
Since the castle complex are really vast, it houses many sight such as The Royal Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and the Labyrinth.
When we arrived, we saw The Royal Palace first. King Bela IV built the Royal Palace in the 13th century after the Mongol invasion. The present Palace house the Budapest History Museum, Hungarian National Gallery, and National Szechenyi Library. In front of the Royal palace is the Savoy Terrace. From this terrace we could see the Parliament Building and Szechenyi Bridge.
Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion
We headed to Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church without entering the Budapest History Museum. With the heavy snow outside, people marched inside and the museum queue was quite long. So, we went to the church instead.
The Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle is the other name for Matthias Church. It is located in the front of Fisherman’s Bastion and built at 1015. Entry to Fisherman Bastions Upper level lookout was quite long. So, we decided to pass it. It cost HUF 800 to enter the Upper Level Lookout Terrace. (source: Budapestbylocals)
5.New York Café /Anantara New York Palace
My friend insisted that we should visit this popular café in Budapest. We didn’t even make any reservation ahead of the trip and had to wait for one hour and a half just to be seated. The queue started from the outside restaurant, and we slowly made it inside when the interior became apparent. First glance at the interior was all I needed to power my feet and stood nicely in the queue. For THAT view, I didn’t mind standing for few more hours.
Yes, the palace or Cathedral like design is actually a café. Imagine being in the Sistine Chapel, accompanied with hot Chocolate and sweet cakes! This famous New York Palace/Hotel/Restaurant was constructed at 1894 by New York Life Insurance Company as local head office. The architect of the building was Alajos Hauzmann.
Once I was seated, I couldn’t take my eyes of the ceiling and the stucco. I wish I could take three meals on that day there. We bought heavy meals in the hope we could prolong our seat there. The meals were delicious as well, and I couldn’t tell if it was actually the meal or the decoration that somehow manipulate my taste bud. However, it was the BEST meal that I had in Europe. I’m wondering why.
Although it was a short one and a half day trip in Budapest, surely it was a beautiful memories that we had. Short enough to wanting more Budapest.