Welcome to Budapest, Hungary’s enchanting capital city! 🇭🇺 In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know to have your own hassle-free Hungarian adventure.
In this video we’ll cover how to get to Budapest from the UK, how to get about the city, where to eat, how to make the most of your money, not to mention all the amazing things to see and do on your holiday. 😎
Many thanks to our tour guide Nora, who helped us get the most out of our trip. Check out her website here: http://www.foodtourbudapest.com/
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Welcome to one of the world’s grandest cities.
Do you know how Budapest got its name? The city as it exists now is pretty young as cities go – it’ s a spritely 146 years old. Before that, there were three towns here – Buda, Obuda, and Pest, which were unified in 1873. Today, although unified in name, the city is divided into two halves by the Danube river. The western side of the Danube is known as Buda – quiet and residential – where you’ll find historic sites like Buda Castle, and Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Eastern side is known as Pest – it’s lively and modern. It’s the hub of Budapest’s economy and culture – home to the Hungarian parliament, some of Budapest’s most famous thermal baths, Ruin Bars, and everything in between.
I’m here to explore where the boundaries truly lie in this beautiful city. Budapest is unified in name, but divided in nature – the East, the West. The Buda, the Pest. Two distinct identities on opposite banks of the Danube.
Would crossing the river really make the city feel so different?
And which side of the river would get me under the skin of the real, authentic Budapest?
We explore the hills of Buda. The streets of Pest. We meet local people. Visit amazing places, try Hungarian food, and a bit of Hungarian alcohol. We sample the weird and wonderful nightlife. We soak ourselves in the city, and get to the heart of Budapest.
I came here expecting to find a city divided. But what I found was so much greater – and so much grander – than just two parts of a whole.
Our journey begins at Heathrow Airport, and after dropping the car with a handy meet and greet service it was into a lounge for a light lunch before boarding. With unlimited food and free wifi I’d definitely recommend a lounge before a flight, you can book yours with the Holiday Extras app.
Soon enough we were on the plane, and after a two and a half hour flight we touched down in Budapest. To get into town from the airport I would advise pre-booking an airport transfer with Holiday Extras. The door to door service really is the most hassle-free option.
So after a good night’s sleep, we were ready to start exploring the city. Our first stop? The hills of Buda – which meant crossing the river Danube.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge is to Budapest what Tower Bridge is to London, or Brooklyn Bridge is to New York.
It’s still a major crossing for the city. But it’s also an iconic public landmark and a popular item on the tourist checklist.
Designed by Englishman William Tierney Clark, it opened in 1849 and was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in all of Hungary. In World War 2, it was destroyed by retreating German forces during the Siege of Budapest, and only the towers remained. However, it was rebuilt, and it opened again in 1949 – exactly 100 years after its inauguration.
If you’re walking across the bridge from the Pest side towards Buda, like us, you’ll arrive at the base of the Budavari Siklo funicular railway line, which takes tourists up the hill to the castle.
You can purchase tickets at the station, but be warned, in the peak summer season the queue can stretch back quite a way and there’s no shade to speak of. So don’t forget your sunscreen!
Cable cars depart every 10 minutes and take just a few minutes to reach the top.
So, we’ve just taken the funicular up from the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, up to the Castle which is great because it’s boiling hot and it didn’t mean we had to walk it. But it also means we get to enjoy the view from up here as well.
And what an incredible view it is. From this height, the walls of the castle grounds treat you to a spectacular look back across the Eastern side of the city. It’s a fact that’s not lost on Budapest’s tourist population. Every vantage point was packed with people hunting for the perfect photo of the city skyline. Don’t worry though. With a little patience, there’s plenty of opportunity to get yourself a great photo too.