Next stop in our European trip: Budapest.
The country was created in 896 and since then they started a lot of revolutions against Ottoman Empire, Tartares, Austrians, Nazis, Soviet Empire across the years but never won!
In 1990 it finally became independent and they removed for a day the Statue of Liberty built by the Russian who freed Hungary from Nazism, put it back and this is now the symbol of Hungarian independence. The view from the top is quite nice.
The city has always been split in 2 : Buda the richest and most powerful part of the city and Pest where the workers and Jews were allowed to stay. The two cities are linked by many bridges, the most famous one being the Liberty Bridge with its lion statues. Similar to Copenhagen, locals come by night to enjoy a picnic or just relax and hang out.
We recommend staying in Pest, way more alive and trendy than the rich Buda invaded by tourists bus.
Our favourite visits:
- St Matias church with its gothic towers. The church was much loved by Sissi and she loved staying in the Castle (which is not really a castle !). From there we loved watching Pest and its Parliament especially from the Fisherman’s Bastion.
- St Stephen Basilica that dominate the city and is considered as the most important church of Hungary. Inside is kept one hand of a previous religious or soldier I can’t remember , a bit creepy. The dome is spectacular as well as the paintings and the stained glass window.
- The Parliament is sublime inside and out. The Neo-gothic building is impressive from across the river but even more spectacular up close! It’s home of 20kms of stairs, the politicians must be quite fit!
- Close by is a memorial “shoes on the Danube Bank” to commemorate Jews shot after being robbed and asked to leave their shoes, during WWII.
- The Thermal baths. We got into the building of most famous one (Szechenyi) but didn’t go further as it was 35 degrees and we didn’t feel like boiling into 40+ degrees water ! But it’s worth it during winter and the building is still quite nice to visit.
- Close to the bath is the Vajdahunyad Castle (thanks Wikipedia for the spelling!) built to celebrate the millennial of Hungary (in 1896 then). Strolling around the park with Hungarian music is cool.
- Close by is the Place of Heroes with many impressive building where locals gathered when they have to protest against something or start a revolution (and they did try many times to start a revolution!)
- The Biggest synagogue (dohany street synagogue) which looks like a basilica and takes it name after the street name meaning “tobacco”, named this way as it used to have a tobacco factory in the street. The Synagogue was built in 5 years by the neo (progressist group of Jews) who wanted to build something looking like Hungarian and modern to show their open mindedness as opposed to the other groups of Jews. It’s today the largest synagogue in Europe and Listz was playing the organ in it at some point. We also visited the cemetery and the museum located inside.
- Finally we spent many hours just walking around Pest, stopping by ruin bars (pubs located in building ruins with funny decoration and many exhibitions), the most famous one being Szimpla Kert where we spent an afternoon.
End of our 25 days in European Capitals! Now time to go green with the Bavarian Alps!
# as usual we started our stay with a free walking tour starting in Pest and going to Buda up to the St Matias church (1500 forint)
# st Stephen Basilica: entry is by donation (around 200 forint per person)
# don’t miss the St Stephen Basilica, the Main synagogue and the Parliament. All worth it
# spend an afternoon or night at Szimpla.
# take the tram 2 that takes you around all the tourists places and makes it one of the most scenic tram journey in Europe!
# stay in Pest and not Buda. Way more authentic and alive than the rich Buda.
# 3 hours by Flixbus from Vienna, 10 euros.
# we did 2 tours: one about Hungarian/Budapest history and one about Jewish History of Budapest. Both were worth it. http://www.triptobudapest.hu/