Category Archives: Hungary: Budapest 2015

Budapest: Vienna, Austria Day Trip

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During our five days in Budapest we found out we could hop on a train (5am start, on the train at 6am) and spend a day in Vienna, Austria! Arriving in the city at 9am we had until the last train of the day (9pm) to cram in as much site-seeing as we possibly could. The train ticket for the three hour journey cost about 13 euros which is just over £10. I am unsure if prices change or have changed since we visited but at least this gives you a ballpoint figure. Prices may also vary depending on the time you go and if you want first class, I am pretty sure we booked a generic ticket as we don’t mind sitting in the cheap seats, all you need is a good book, music and good company and you are all set!

Vienna is very elegant and pristine. You can see that the locals are extremely proud of their city. It feels safe, very well looked after and very sophisticated. All the buildings and streets are flawless and many Viennan’s can be seen walking out of opera houses, theatres and concerts in their luxurious cars and stylish clothing. This city is needless to say, expensive to live in, let alone visit but if you are someone who enjoys culture, history and opulent lifestyle then Vienna is for you. Although I am glad I visited Vienna, I did not like the aloof atmosphere and it felt almost too immaculate to enjoy, whereas Budapest had a slightly grungy, boho vibe that implied the lifestyle was down to earth and vibrant, Vienna felt like I was walking around a huge exhibition I was not allowed to touch.

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Walking around Vienna and you can’t help but marvel at the grand architecture. Vienna, the capital of Austria, lies in the country’s east on the Danube River. Its artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. The city is also known for its Imperial palaces, including Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence. In the MuseumsQuartier district, historic and contemporary buildings display works by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and other artists.

Vienna is packed with imperial history; at the same time it has exciting contemporary museums, lively eating and nightlife scenes, and many quiet corners to explore. The city boasts an imperial pomp like no other and whilst some enjoy environments like this, it just wasn’t for me, although some parks within the city looked and felt like you had stepped into a romance novel.

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If Budapest is the city of contemporary arts and urban life, Vienna is the city of classical music and in fact is one of the most musical cities in the world. You can experience the works of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Johann Strauss (both father and son), Liszt, Brahms, Bruckner and many others in venues like the Staatsoper and Musikverein. The music of Bach and Händel continues to be performed in Vienna’s historic churches today, and Vienna’s Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, paired with a visit to the Haus der Musik, takes you deeper into the texture of music and how it is created. Venues for classical music are augmented by some great clubs and live rock and jazz places.

Some of the most amazing sites to visit are the city churches, especially in winter to keep warm and dry! The churches are awe-inspiring and so grand you feel engulfed by the high stone walls, the magnificent interior and austere atmosphere. Other sites I recommend include the Schönbrunn Palace. It offers a 30 and 60 minute tour, but go for the shorter one and spend the rest of the time walking the beautiful gardens. A little secret about the palace is that it has the world’s oldest zoo on its premises and is a great treat for families.

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The other sight is the Giant Ferris Wheel at the Prater. Lines can be long and to be honest, it isn’t worth the wait. Photo opportunities from the ground looking up at the wheel can be really nice though. You can even buy a Vienna 2, 3 or 6 day pass that gives you free entry to the likes of the aforementioned Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palaces, plus the main venues in the Museum Quarter, like the MUMOK and the unmissable Leopold Museum, often with “skip the lines” entry. It will save you a fortune! (You can even hop on and off the tourist buses for free).

Vienna is also the birthplace of the coffeehouse and The Sacher Café is the most prominent with its famous Sachertorte. Pair the sweet torte with a strong cup of Viennese coffee and the sugar and caffeine rush will keep you buzzing for hours. To see all the other sights ride the Vienna Ring Tram which is a good value or do what Jon and I did, wear a good pair of walking shoes and walk around all the sites to really get a feel for the place.

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Walking through Vienna is a bit like walking into the pages of a fairytale, as a horse and carriage trots past one ornate palace after another. The Austrian capital is bursting with Imperial history and Baroque architecture, with a musical accompaniment by Mozart and Strauss. But there’s also a more modern side, with Art Nouveau and modernist art.

This hasn’t been a favourite destination but I definitely urge you to visit and experience the grandeur Vienna has to offer. If you are a history buff, music student or someone who can and does enjoy visiting places of a higher budget then Vienna is perfect for a long weekend city break. Steeped in majesty and a pompous attitude, Vienna is a touch of class within Europe.

To see more posts about Budapest mini break click on the links below:
Budapest: Buda
Budapest: Pest

To see more travel write-ups click on the links below:
16 days traveling around Morocco
10 days traveling up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia
Excursion from Croatia to Montenegro
21 days backpacking around Nepal
Random places in the UK

I am also on TripAdvisor
and Instagram

Budapest: Buda

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The Buda side to Budapest is just across the bridges and is very accessible to get to.
Buda is small and very elegant. You can opt to stay on this side of the river but it will be more expensive.
Buda is the higher-class part of town, where you’ll find million dollar homes and Bentley’s gracing the quiet tree-lined streets. You’ll also find a lot of beauty and history too, including many of the famous landmarks that make Budapest the beautiful city it is today. Walking the cobbled streets lined with sweet trees and beautiful fountains gives you a sense of peace and it is probably best to go during the shoulder season or off peak to miss the crowds of tourists, you need to see this place when it is quiet and just marvel at the beautiful architecture without too many people around ruining your view.

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Although there is not much to do in Buda in comparison to the bohemian flare of Pest, you can’t help but adore it’s opulent splendor, quaint coffee shops, lace boutiques and classy restaurants situated between stunning baroque sandstone and white wash classic monuments and buildings and offers magnificent panoramic views of the Danube as you look towards Pest. The Fisherman’s Bastion boasts the best views up on Castle Hill and the Citadel Fortress also offers some fantastic views, both require a ticket but both are great for photography enthusiasts so don’t miss out!
I was a bit cheeky in this photo below, I felt playful, much like vistors who pull faces at the Palace guards in London I wanted to be captured striking a Warrior yoga pose near a Budapest Guard, soon after I walked away Jon & I caught him laughing with another guard and he cheerily gave me a thumbs up! It’s small interactions like this that will have made his day and he’ll have gone home to his family to talk about the strange girl in leopard print leggings who did yoga as he was on guard. I like to do these small gestures to let locals know I am approachable and to make them smile.

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Buda is very romantic and it almost feels like you are walking around a film set. It is definitely a place to take your partner for a romantic mini trip and the entirety of Budapest looks magical at night. Buda also offer walking tours so you can learn more about the history of the area and it’s buildings and you can even attend a concert at the Mattias church. Do visit the Gellért thermal Bath spa with your loved one for a pamper and a luxurious soak whilst you marvel at the gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture. There are also two Turkish Baths named Rudas and Király which you can also enjoy if you fancy something a bit different? For those with families there is also a children’s railway tour and plentiful gardens to run around in.

For my Muslim friends and those who love learning about history and culture you can visit the tomb of Gul Baba. This tomb is the northernmost holy place of Islam. Gül Baba, Father of Roses, was a Turkish dervish who came to Hungary during the Turkish invasion, led by Suleiman I in the 16th century. He was honored as a holy man, and died in Buda in 1541. He was a talented horticulturist and introduced cultivated roses to Hungary, that’s why this part of Buda – today an exclusive residential area – is called Rózsadomb (Rose Hill). Although it is said he died of over excitement during an orgy!

The rose bushes in the garden commemorate this fact. His sarcophagus lies in the octagonal-shaped, domed tomb built between 1543-48.

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Of the five days we stayed in Budapest we spent only one day on Buda side because unless you are staying in a hotel in Buda, one day is all you need for a visit to see everything. Three days were spent exploring the streets of Pest and we also ventured on a day trip to Vienna, Austria before we flew back home. Visiting Buda during the week and in the colder months guarantees a quieter time and you feel like you have the place almost to yourself, it also means flights to Budapest are cheaper. Buda is the perfect place to propose to the one you love as a violinist serenades you during a candle light dinner as you look back over at Pest and the Danube river under the starry night sky.

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Buda is a magical little city reminiscent of days gone by and reminds me of epic and grand places in sweeping romantic novels of star crossed lovers and Gallant knights, in fact this could be a great place to film for Game of Thrones.
It’s a picturesque site of beauty on top a hill side and adds a state of grace to the urban aspect to Pest, it is like visiting two very different countries all in one city harmoniously connected and separated by the eight bridges.

Missed the previous blog post about the Pest side of Budapest? Click here.
Here are our other destinations we’ve traveled around:
16 days traveling around Morocco
10 days traveling up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia
Excursion from Croatia to Montenegro
21 days backpacking around Nepal
Random places in the UK
I will be writing up about Bulgaria over the summer so stay tuned for that too.

I am also on TripAdvisor
and Instagram

Budapest: Pest

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For my 30th Birthday in 2015, my partner Jon surprised me with a 5 day mini break to Budapest, Hungary!
Being totally gullible, I actually thought we were having a mini break in London and Jon wove this whole story of how we are going to be using his friend’s apartment who is currently away in Europe with work, which means that will help keep costs low (London hotel prices are fucking ridiculous!) and how he’d like to take me to Camden market because I have never been. Even when we got to the airport I still hadn’t clocked what was happening because Jon told me we had to meet his friend at the airport to pick up his apartment keys before he boards his flight. This story seems plausible right?

So we sat on the floor “waiting” for his friend to show up and Jon says “I’ll give you one of your birthday presents now and you’ll get the second one later.” He handed me a little rectangular gift that I opened to discover I was holding a Lonely Planet guide book of BUDAPEST! It took 20 minutes for me to realize this was real and I kept repeatedly saying “So…We are not meeting your friend then?” and “Are we really going to Budapest?”. My puzzled face was a picture and my emotions were a mixture of excitement & confusion. I just couldn’t believe I was getting on a plane to another country for my birthday! How romantic and how special?

I am not usually one for city breaks but I did fall in love with Budapest because it was just so quirky. This is actually a city I could live in and if I was offered the chance to perform or teach a workshop there, I’d go back in a heartbeat. Budapest has much to offer and because it’s a little hidden gem in Europe it is still cheap to fly to at only £58 return. Unlike Prague and even London( which are both extremely expensive thanks to tourism and over-popularity), Budapest has the Prague-like charm and whimsy and the London-like elegance on a cheaper budget.

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We stayed at a hotel that was literally across the road from the main train station which would come in handy later on when we decided to go on a day trip to Vienna, Austria towards the end of the holiday. From our hotel it’s a 20 minute walk (or 5 minute bus ride) to the city centre. We opted to walk because on the way you find hidden little churches and beautiful statues or water fountains dotted about, not to mention a lot of the buildings along the way are also worth stopping to marvel at. Budapest is an architect’s dream because you are surrounded by such beautiful designs and interesting sculptures.

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Budapest has a long and varied history but most of the buildings that can be seen today date from when the cities of Buda and Pest expanded and were merged into Budapest in 1873, followed by a grand building programme in 1896 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars in Hungary. Every architectural style is covered, including some beautiful Gothic designs and “Szecesszió”, Hungary’s very own interpretation of Art Nouveau so we will certainly have a busy time exploring.

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During your stay you can also visit the numerous thermal spas for a healing soak which is part of most Hungarian’s daily routines, relax on a boat trip across the Danube river, enjoy a chimney cake or Langos and listen to a Gypsy musician busking in the subway. The beer is also very cheap.

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What I loved most about the Pest side to Budapest was the bohemian energy it exuded, many people here cycle to where they need to go, there are statues and monuments galore, hidden gardens, secret water fountains, plentiful art galleries, pop-up art shows and gorgeous fashion boutiques situated in the heart of the city.

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Pest is the eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest, Hungary, comprising about two thirds of the city’s territory. It is separated from Buda, the other part of Budapest, by the Danube River. Among its most notable parts are the Inner City, including the Hungarian Parliament, Heroes’ Square and Andrássy Avenue. In colloquial Hungarian, “Pest” is often used for the whole capital of Budapest.

The name Pest comes from a Slavic word meaning “furnace”, “oven” and related to the word пещера (meaning “cave”), probably with reference to a local cave where fire burned.

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Much like London, Pest has an underground, however unlike London it’s a lot easier to grasp, even if you can not speak Hungarian, the train system in the underground is much more simpler and airy to navigate and people are more approachable in case you need help. Most of the time Jon and I opted to walk around but when it rained it was good to know the option of using the underground was available.

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Budapest as a whole is a must for the history buff and travel geek and we felt like we didn’t quite get enough time to squeeze in visiting all the grand buildings and picturesque chapels. Do make sure you have a wander over to the majestic parliament building which will envelop you in days gone by with changing of the guards dressed in their fine, regal uniforms. For anyone interested in a romantic afternoon stroll, you could opt for a walk to Gellért Hill where the Statue of Liberty (yes there is more than one) was first erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II.

Along the Danube riverbank you can visit the shoe memorial exhibition just outside Parliament building, a very poignant reminder of the Holocaust and the horror faced by many. The children’s shoes were the hardest to digest.
We spent quite a while here, just looking at the shoes, and the Danube, and imagining what these poor desperate people must have felt, not being able to protect themselves.

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Pest is the art centre of Budapest, many artists have designed huge metal sculptures throughout the city and on a warm summer’s day, parades, bike races & performers are plentiful along the cobbled streets. Budapest also boasts eight stunning bridges that span the Danube river, all of them have their own characteristics and all eight link Pest to Buda. Each one is walkable or you can cycle or drive across. Every tourist visiting Budapest needs to cross the renowned Chain Bridge at least once and most people stand amazed at the front of the enchanting Elizabeth Bridge or become entranced by the mythical falcon-like birds on the top of the Liberty Bridge. Take your pick, all are magnificent in their own way.

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Budapest is one of those cities that constantly ranks in various Top 10 lists, yet it’s still hardly visited by many travelers. Many travelers have yet to commit to Budapest due to old fears. Its part of Eastern Europe so people tend to have misconceptions of what to expect. English is very commonly spoken, and I assure you there is no communism here. It’s a must visit for tourists looking for something a little off the beaten path.

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Hungary and therefore Budapest are serious Roman Catholics so please do be respectful when visiting a church or cathedral, they are open to the public but Mass is delivered daily. Budapestians are largely quite open minded and happy to receive tourists from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. So much so, there are quite a few restaurants that offer Halal food such as the Szeráj Török Étterem which is Turkish Cuisine, Kohinoor Indian and Pakistani restaurant and the Al Amir Restaurant. There are also three known Mosques, three Hindu temples and the eye catching Dohány Street Synagogue.

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Cultural influences from both East and West have left their mark on Hungary’s capital, from the grand cafes of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire to neglected statues of one-time Soviet heroes. Budapest is a city which exudes a heady mixture of Vienna’s elegance and boho coffee-house culture and Berlin’s rough-edged contemporary art scene, Budapest is a delicious fruit salad and leaves you reeling with options for exploring, starting from its world-famous baths right down to the kerts, picnic areas in ruined courtyards, and the much loved Goulash, a world famous local dish which you can enjoy at the main market.

The central market was a favourite destination of mine because I just love bustling market places of vendors selling local produce, we tried Ghoulash in the food court and some home made cinnamon swirls in the bakery (although Chimney cake wins hands down in regards to dessert and I wish it was sold/made here in the UK, it’s the same texture as a doughnut but is in the shape of a funnel!) and at home in the UK my favourite part of grocery shopping is the fruit and veg aisle! I love the smell of market places, I love the cheery sellers and I love that it is a social gathering offering areas to meet and greet over a hot beverage and even shop for unusual gifts.

The city has a remarkable multi-faceted nature; it really does seem to have something to offer everyone from history and culture buffs and fans of architecture to beer-guzzling hedonists and all-night ravers.

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Pest is simply spectacular and there is much to do and see here, so much so that within the few days we spent on this side of the city we had to try and cram everything in as we whizzed around each area. We sadly didn’t get to experience the thermal baths but we did venture around the botanical gardens and local park the main baths were featured on and a Hungarian friend of mine living and working in the UK has offered to take me back to Budapest to explore more within and beyond the city. I instantly felt at home here, even though Hungarian is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, I could still live here, I loved the variety and the artyness, I loved the elegant hipster fashion and I loved the welcoming atmosphere. Pest you have stolen my heart because you are the only city in the world I feel at home in.

Stay tuned for the next post about the Buda side of Budapest!
Until then here are other travel archives that may tickle your fancy:
16 days traveling around Morocco
10 days traveling up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia
Excursion from Croatia to Montenegro
21 days backpacking around Nepal
Random places in the UK
I will be writing up about Bulgaria over the summer so stay tuned for that too.

I am also on TripAdvisor
and Instragram

Budapest for my Birthday!

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Apologies to everyone who reads my blog, I am pretty sure you were all wondering where I have been! For about a week before my birthday I was under the assumption that Jon & I were going to spend a few days away in London to celebrate my 30th birthday on the 11th October just gone, turns out Jon had other plans and the moment we got off our coach and stood outside Luton airport Jon presented me with a Lonely Planet guide book to Budapest and told me he had booked a 5 night stay plus a day trip to Vienna, Austria was also on the cards. I was super stoked! I mean I would have been happy to go to London but this was magical! Above is a photo of me doing Dancer Pose just outside Budapest’s inner city church.

Needless to say Budapest is stunning as is Vienna and I can’t wait to do a travel write up about these places!
Over all I had a beautiful 30th birthday and the amount of love I received from friends and family was amazing. Before the trip to Budapest a group of friends took me out for a meal and cake and another lovely friend bought me healing crystals and we enjoyed herbal tea & tarot at a bohemian cafe.
This Sunday coming I am hosting an evening of tea, tarot, pizza, henna and Indian head massage as the 4th installment of my birthday as well as celebrate the coming of Halloween.
30th birthday are mile stone birthdays and usually I enjoy a quiet day out and a pub lunch for most of my birthday celebrations but this time I was glad that my big three zero was not only a long drawn out birthday but also an unforgettable one.