Last week I was lucky to have a totally flying visit to Budapest, Hungary. In between various work commitments, I worked out that I had a total of four hours to get as much sight seeing done as I could in that time. Having never been to Budapest before, and never even looked at a map of it before last week, I decided to get on the Google and look up the top sights to see. Also shout out to Queen B for posting about Budapest *just* as I looked it up. Good timing!
So what did I get up to in four hours?
First Stop – St Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István-bazilika, Hungarian fans)
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic church that sits centrally in Budapest. It houses the ACTUAL right hand of St Stephen (creepy) that is in a side chapel where you have to pay 200 Forints (about 50p) to light up a random box containing the shrivelled, blackened relic. Needless to say I didn’t do that!
It is worth going to have a nosey around the chapel where the hand resides though, because the stained glass windows in there are gorgeous.
I had a lovely walk around this ornately decorated yet wonderfully peaceful building and lit a candle for all those I have loved and lost. A nice break from a hectic few weeks in the run up to Christmas.
They were sticking some Christmas market stalls and a big tree up outside when I was there so unfortunately my piccies of the building itself all had a big crane in the way. But you get the idea – it’s very, very beautiful, as is a lot of architecture in Budapest.
Speaking of architecture, on to my second stop – Parliament Buildings (Országház)
I forged onwards from St Stephen’s Basilica and headed down to the banks of the Danube, aiming to walk along to the Parliament Buildings (I’m not even going to attempt to say the word in Hungarian – but it looks like fun). On the way, I happened upon a poignant and distinctive memorial called Shoes on the Danube Bank.
The piece of art is a war memorial – dedicated to Jews who were murdered by a fascist mad man in World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes and face the water so that when they were shot, their bodies were carried away down the river. Their shoes still stand there, cast in bronze, as a tribute to their lives lost. Very sad, but a very touching tribute.
A really interesting unplanned diversion.
From there it was just a short walk further North to the Parliament Buildings – a stunning white brick building right on the water’s edge. There didn’t appear to be much going on – I think you can get a tour around here, but with only four hours to dash through the city that certainly wasn’t an option.
[Damn you street light.]
Third Stop – Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya)
This was probably my favourite part of my trip around Budapest. I was debating whether to trek up there as I didn’t think I’d have enough time, but I am so glad I bothered my arse – yes it might be a pretty steep climb uphill with lots of steps to get there, yes you have to walk across the bridge and through some less salubrious looking areas, but it is so worth it. Not only are the buildings up there magnificent, you also get a cool panoramic view over Budapest and the river.
The Bastion itself is like a fairy princess castle and military defences rolled into one. It looks like a military stronghold – I wouldn’t want to attempt to storm those walls – but done in such a beautiful way you can easily play Rapunzel sitting on the balustrades.
I also stopped off for lunch here at one of the restaurants – three courses and a glass of mulled wine for £11.30. Can’t be bad. Of course I had onion soup, goulash and a doughnut for dessert. When in Rome!
After warming my cockles over lunch, I headed back down the hill, across the bridge and to the Christmas markets. I must admit I got a bit lost on the way – I got distracted by some random market stalls on a main road – but I soon found the more modern part of town, with some pretty cool shops (I spotted Bershka!).
From there it was a short walk down a busy pedestrianised area to stop number four.
Stop Four – Budapest Christmas Markets
There are lots of lovely stalls in the Budapest Christmas market with traditional Hungarian wares – gingerbread, ceramics, candles, pottery and some lovely smelling Christmas decorations. This stall was my favourite – decorations made from dried, scented fruits. I ended up buying a wreath for the house this winter!
Last stop before I headed back to the hotel was treating myself to a krampampuli in my Christmas markets mug. If you’ve never had it, krampampuli (so fun to say) is a hot drink of Christmas deliciousness made with mulled white wine, dried fruits and a sugar loaf soaked in rum burnt over the mix that slowly drips into it. It is YUM. I could easily have drunk a whole barrel of it.
Sadly after that, my time was up and I had to head back to the hotel to do more work. But my four hours in Budapest were good fun and that time actually gets you pretty far in such a compact city where some of the best sights are within close walking distance of each other.
Have you been to Budapest before? If you’re going, I hope you get longer than I do and also get to see everything I did!