Seeing The World In Steps visited his 30th country here when he arrived in Budapest, Hungary! I have finally made it to Hungary after mentioning it for so long. One more country to the list. We were also here during my mum’s birthday which makes it even more magical in addition to the festive vibes all around the city. Budapest is known as the tale of two cities with the Danube River separating Buda and Pest. The leads to many charming bridges as well including the most famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Follow me in checking out this charming city.
Budapest is a huge city and you will definitely cannot rely on just your legs to explore the city. Thankfully it has a well built public transportation system consisting of Trams, Metro and Buses. The trams are my favourite way to get around! The public transport system in Budapest is based on honour system, like many European cities but they do have tickets checks sometimes and I saw them usually on the metro. Tickets are affordable and the best way for tourists will be to get the 24 hour day ticket which cost 1650 HUF which is about 7.50 SGD. You can then take unlimited rides during the period. A tip would be just getting the ticket right before your ride so you maximise the time. This came in useful for me since I was staying in the castle district and the castle bus that runs in a loop to the Mammut area is super useful. You can then connect to trams and metros from there.
If not Budapest taxis and ride-hailing apps are widely available. Sometimes we just got a ride from apps like Bolts around town. They are a good and affordable way to travel.
Let’s start things with a bang and I will share with you first up, my favourite attraction in Budapest, the Fisherman’s Bastion! This is one of the most popular spots in town and it is mainly free to visit. The Fisherman’s Bastion is located in the castle district and just next to my hotel, the Hilton Budapest! This place used to be part of the city wall and it is said that this particular section was left in the trust of the fishermen, which is how the name is derived. Construction of the place started in 1844.
It is free to visit the lower terrace and towers which already offers amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropping views. Adjectives overload here because words simply couldn’t explain the beauty of this place. You do have to pay to visit the upper viewing decks although I lucked out on free entrance on one of the days as there was a VIP visiting. Check out the pictures here. The views were impeccable, especially during sunsets and that colour of the skies. This is one of life’s greatest views and a highlight of my travel over the years.
Besides the Fisherman’s Bastion that I shared earlier, the rest of the Castle District is equally lovely as well. You have to check out the Funicular as well as the Buda Castle. Simply wander around the area and the viewing spots surrounding the castle. It offers amazing views of the city and the Danube River. A pleasure stroll.
Margaret Bridge & Margaret Island is another popular spot in town. Budapest is a tale of two cities and it goes without saying that due to this, bridges are a crucial part of the whole set up as well. There is numerous iconic bridges in town with the most famous being the iconic 19th-century Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Another lovely one is the Margaret Bridge or also the yellow bridge, connecting it is Margaret Island, a lush patch of greenery in the middle of the city.
Making my way across the banks to Pest, the best way to see it is to start with a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Danube River, now you get to see the views of Buda. There are a lot of prominent sites along this stretch as well, consisting of the Hungarian Parliament Building! I am sure you can recognise this iconic building. It is even more charming in the evening when the lights are on.
The Kossuth Lajos Square!
Another important place along the river is also the Shoes on the Danube memorial. This is a mark of the horrible time in the past, the uncountable number of Jews that were shot and executed on the banks of the river. It is said that at that point in time, shoes were precious asset and they were forced to remove their shoes along the banks before being shot and with their bodies washed away by the river.
I also managed to check out the Liberty Bridge aka known as the Green Bridge during the last day of my stay when making my way to the Central Market Hall. Another popular spot for pictures!
When visiting a place, I love to check out the local markets and this is by far the best way to learn and be immersed in the local’s culture, seeing their way of life! The Central Market Hall is undoubtedly the most famous market in town. There are plenty of stalls selling all sorts of stuff and locals going about their day at their usual butcher stalls. You can also see why a majority of the stalls are selling meat as such is their cuisine focus and influence from being a landlocked country.
Last but not least, you cannot leave Budapest without seeing Heroes’ Square! The iconic square with the statues of the 7 founding tribe leaders! Without them, there might not even be a Budapest for you to visit today!
Having visited in the days leading up to Christmas, it goes without saying that the entire city was bursting with festive vibes. Together with the crowd and the cold weather, you are definitely in for a treat. The only thing that was lacking was a hint of snow! That would be magical. As with European Cities, in the weeks leading up to the holidays there are Christmas markets all around the city and definitely in the city centre. They are fun to visit and in these markets, you can get food and souvenirs. Simply soak in the vibes with your loved ones and friends.
The main one is around the area neat St Stephen Basilica and this is by far my favourite one. As a point to note, you will have to provide your ID and a vaccination cert or proof of testing before you are allowed entrance. There was a huge Christmas tree and during my visit, a lovely lady was serenading right in front of the basilica making the entire vibe even more magical. Life was good here and it is as if all your worries are kept away.
I am not a huge fan of Hungarian food since they tend to be heavy on meat oriented dishes but I do love to try the local food and dig my heels into the culture when I am in country. There is no better way to do this than the local cuisine. You can see it from my trip to the Central Market, there are mostly no stalls selling seafood but tons of them selling meat. This is also partly due to the geographical consideration with Hungary being a landlocked country like many other central and eastern Europe nation. With that being said, I do love a good Hungarian Salami and Chorizo! They are so good when you pan-fry them and the oils, perfect with eggs. I had them everyday at my hotel for breakfast!
One of the best things that you can do when in Budapest is to visit a local butcher shop and some of them are like a cafe or restaurants. The food is cooked to order and as fresh as you can get. They are also well priced, in fact, these are the places that the locals love to visit. One popular place would be Belvárosi Disznótoros. You have your assortments of meat by the counter and you can point to them to order. They are well priced and good. Service and politeness are not a thing here though. We ordered a chicken and pork and it cost us 14 bucks with sides and drinks.
When in the city you will always see popular street food like bread dough being cooked or baked on top of charcoal by the streets or in a restaurant. These are known as Kürtőskalács. It is a spit cake that was popular in Romania and then spread around the reason. They are freshly made and rolled in cinnamon sugar. It is a lovely treat and especially nice to have them to warm you up on a cold day. We got one from an ice cream store that came filled with ice cream too.
Borkonyha Wine Bar One Michelin Star Review
I was here to celebrate my mum’s birthday. We wanted to try out Salt after hearing so much about it but it was closed on the day that we wanted to visit. Borkonyha is awarded One Michelin Star and it is located right in the city centre, just off St Stephen Basilica. This place is perfect for a night out and it was packed out. Do make your reservations way in advance. Prices are very fair and affordable. It is more of like a gastro bar. They have more than 200 Hungarian wines on offer as well and this is a good place if you would love to try some of the local wines.
They do have a set menu but I would rather order from the a la carte menu to choose dishes that I like. This might still be the first time that I am having Michelin food from the a la carte menu. Usually, I will go for lunch prix fixe menu since they are more affordable. Check out the menu and wine list on the day of my visit. The dishes do change from season to season and you can check them out here. Main course range from 20 to 30 SGD. We order a couple of dishes to share and also got a local Hungarian Wine as well as one of the speciality sparkling apple juice. The Hungarian wine was really good and so affordable as well.
The meal started with some bread. It came accompanied with a homemade Zacuscă spread as well as butter. The Zacuscă spread was lovely and we couldn’t get enough of it and asked for seconds. Zacuscă is a vegetable spread popular in the region made with roasted eggplant and paprika. Yummy.
This was followed by the chef Amuse-bouche.
We then got an assortment of dishes to share which consist of scallops, onion soup, trout as well as iberico pork. The main course are the standout dishes and the portion was great. I love the pork which was flavourful, tender and well seared.
The whole meal came to around 113 SGD which was very fair for a Michelin quality dinner with drinks. We had a nice time here.
It is regretful that the Szechenyi Chain Bridge was closed during the time that I was there. That is one main site that I miss out in the city. Doubtful that I will ever be back to Budapest since my mandate is to visit new places but if I ever pass by once again, I will definitely be back for you. I am sure that I have barely covered Hungary so do offer me some recommendations on where else I have to go in the country and hopefully one day, I will be back. Country No.30! Checked! Stay tuned for the next episode of my adventures!