It’s the Paris of the East! It’s small enough to walk and large enough to live in for a few days. It’s Budapest, a city that came into my radar two years ago and now I can say ‘Been there, done that’! It’s not easy to get direct flights into Budapest and I flew Austrian from India, giving me a good connection to Budapest. This was really a holiday…no art galleries, no museums and no touristy things to do but one still had to!). I had a lonely planet guide but I didn’t follow it. I took it, literally, a step at a time, to experience the city. I was halfway around the world and it felt great!
I chose to stay at Zara Continental Hotel in Budapest. I chose this hotel after a lot of research and of course keeping in mind a budget. My preferred stay in Budapest would be the Sofitel, as it has a superb location! The Zara offers comfortable rooms, good and polite service, great breakfast, a pool on the terrace and a massage center. It is also near to a Metro station, giving us access to the city sites within minutes. Overall, it is a good hotel to stay at and I recommend it to all my readers.
My first day in Budapest was S-L-O-W. It was a Sunday and most of the areas around the hotel were closed and looked deserted. I think I can even blame it on a 12-hour journey from India but not completely. To make the most of it, I decided to visit the Keleti Railway Station to book tickets for my trip to Eger and my return to Vienna. Compared to the city, the station was lively and it took me an hour (yes, that long!) to get a ticket. Since it was very hot to do anything, I landed up at a nearby hotel to have a chilled beer (but then I never needed an excuse to do that!)
I was finding Budapest hot…it was 41 degrees Centigrade and Hungarians couldn’t believe that an Indian would find it hot. Someone said…’It’s winters for you guys in this temperature!’ No, Sir, it wasn’t! In the evening, it was a nice walk through Budapest to the Andrassy, the shopping district. Though it was closed, my intention was to see a flea market in the nook and corner of it, which was known to find some hidden gems. By the time I reached there, it was already closing time and everyone was preparing to watch the Euro final…Spain vs Italy. We followed suit and found ourselves outside the Basilica, with a giant screen and lots of beer! Go Spain!
The Basilica od St.Stephan is the largest Basilica of Hungary and was opened to the public in 1905. It took almost 50 years to complete the structure and it wasn’t because the architects or the workers were slow, but because the dome of the Basilica collapsed during a storm in 1868. It was decided that the basilica be rebuilt from start after that incident. The Basilica is a major tourist attraction of Budapest and the square in front of it is always busy with events, including my Euro FIFA Final. Make sure you climb to the top to get fantastic views of the city. Don’t worry, there is an elevator that takes you almost 3/4th way up!
Spain won 4-0 and after partying with fellow strangers, I reached the Danube and the Chain Bridge. If you want to see Budapest, step out at night…it’s beautiful. Right next to me was the Sofitel Hotel with its casino, and though I was tired…I decided to try my luck! I don’t remember what time I went back to the hotel!
After a heavy breakfast at Zara Continental, we decided to head to Vaci Utca, the shopping street of Budapest. Packed with brands like Zara, H&M, and restaurants including the Hard Rock Cafe and the popular Gerbeaud, the Vaci Utca is a place to sit, eat, drink, buy souvenirs and watch the world go by. After a bit of window shopping, trying out a few cafes, getting a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe, I decided to walk the length of the street, which ends at the Central Market. The Vaci Utca looses its glamour closer to the Market, and I would have turned back if it wasn’t for the delicacies in the Central Market! You must go there!
P.s. Food at the Vaci Utca is expensive and you may want to try other places!