When many people learned of my wish to see Budapest, they invariably gave me the same response: “You’ll like it! It’s the next Prague!”
(I’ve also heard this about both Krakow, Poland and Ljubljana, Slovenia, however).
So, of course since I adore Prague, I wasn’t surprised to love Budapest. On the surface, it is similar to Prague–a river with a famous bridge, a castle overlooking the town, gorgeous churches and a lovely castle district. Yet, I found Budapest completely different from Prague and a destination in its own right.
We arrived in Budapest after a long, somewhat horrible night bus (I’ve only been on two night buses that weren’t terrible, so I don’t know why I’m always so positive about this mode of travel) to find the city completely shut down. I guess Budapest is a party city, as they say, and in fact most places we saw were just closing down at 6 a.m., not opening. Alas, we had until 8 a.m. before we could check into our AirBnB. Eventually we found a McDonald’s–which actually turned out to be a historical one, as it was the first to open under the Iron Curtain–and I desperately gulped some coffee. We had our hash browns (!!) by the river and made our way slowly to our flat.
Our flat had the most amazing views–and unbeknownst to us, we were in Budapest on a national holiday which included everything being closed down, to our dismay. However, to our delight, an air show was visible from our balcony! Talk about a fun travel surprise. We drank the wine our host had left and watched planes all day as we waited for our friends to arrive on their delayed flight from the States. We walked around the get the lay of the land, but almost everything was closed that day and everyone was either watching the air show or some car races (definitely not something that would happen on the streets of Prague!).
Our friends arrived that evening and we had a wonderful time exploring Budapest. Budapest felt so different from other parts of Eastern and Central Europe that we’d previously traveled to. Partly because, we discovered, the Hungarians are thought to be more closely related to Estonians and Finns than their own neighbors. Another big surprise? The cuisine in Hungary! We ate so, so well there and the food quickly climbed to the upper regions of my best-in-Europe list! Who knew?
We had breakfast omelets at Gerloczy Cafe and incredible coffee and cake at the gorgeous Alexandra Bookstore. We wandered by the river, swam in the Szechenyi Baths, ate one of the best meals ever at Menza, and took a starlit stroll to the Parliament buildings, which ended up being about a block away from our flat. We gazed at the views from our apartment, had about six different kinds of crepes at Granny’s Pancake House, and took in the incredible sights of the whole city from Fisherman’s Bastion. We squeezed in one quick coffee break at the one of the oldest cafes in town, Ruszwurm, before hopping on a train back to Prague (no night bus this time, thankfully!).
Even with our jam-packed itinerary, Budapest is full of more to see (and eat!). I now sing the praises of this city to everyone I meet–and tell them it’s not the next Prague, it’s simply the only Budapest.
Linking up with Travel Tuesday.