After deciding to flee Paris for a few days with my chéri, the location that seemed to appeal to both us and our bank balances was the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Often dubbed as the “Paris of the East,” we figured we would slip into the local life with ease. Although we only spent 5 days in the capital, we had an amazing time exploring the city in superb sunshine, with our days filled with things to do. Completely enamoured with the city, I thought I’d share some reasons why you should definitely visit Budapest.
1. The Architecture
Budapest is a beautiful city, largely thanks to the grandiose buildings that line the Parisian-inspired boulevards. I had not realised before I arrived just how much the Enlightenment period had quite literally changed the face of the city. Almost every building we entered did not have a history before the 18th Century.
It is important to remember that the physicality of the city often emanates from its sometimes dark history. Stroll around Kossuth Square, look up above the cafes that punctuate the place and see the bullet holes that tell of a city under Soviet rule. However, it is this rich history that lends to the culturally diverse architecture in Hungary, of which Budapest is a definite microcosm. Look out for Turkish influences in some of the famous thermal baths, although one of the most famous spas (Gellert) is the pinnacle of art nouveau design. You’ll also be able to spot neo-gothic churches, the neo-renaissance style opera house and Roman architecture.
2. The History
As I have touched upon in the point above, the history of Budapest is rich, at times very sad, but always interesting. For a museum-buff like me, the city offers some great chances to dive into the art and history of Hungary. I also took a bus tour around the city which gave an interesting insight into Budapest. For instance, I was shocked to discover that Budapest has only been the capital of the Republic of Hungary for just over a decade and a half – since 23 October 1989!
I would also recommend visiting the memorial next to the Parliament, which will tell you about the awful events that took place during the 25 October 1956 massacre at Kossuth Tér.3. The Cuisine
3. The Cuisine
The Hungarians are quite heavy-handed with their paprika it would seem, but it works! I found the food to be hearty and homely in all the best ways. Although my boyfriend remarked, and I tend to agree, that the food is perhaps suited to a colder climate. The food can sometimes be spicy but often tempered with generous doses of sour cream. Yum. I was also quite impressed with the local wine (and to my surprise, so was my French boyfriend.)
4. The Price
We found Budapest to be a very affordable destination, mainly thanks to the fact that the Hungarian Forint is quite weak. We stayed in a wonderful 4* hotel (Hotel Moments) in the perfect location (Andrassy) for not too much at all- especially comparing it with London or Paris prices! Plus (a fantastic) breakfast was included with our room so we made sure to fill up every morning and eat something quite light for lunch. We also got to see most of the city on foot which saved on any transportation costs.
5. The Opera
We were lucky enough to get tickets to see Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty performed in the sublime Hungarian State Opera House. I would definitely recommend seeing a show if you get the chance as the stage, performances and costumes were sublime. It was a great opportunity to dress up! Also, there is a lovely restaurant right next door to the opera house, called Callas, that I recommend. When we went after the show they had live classical music that helped prolong the operatic experience.