Budapest, Hungary, 22nd - 26th December 2019
After a long and tiring 9 day travelling to 3 different countries, it was time for our final leg of our journey, Budapest. For this trip, we are joined by Zhi Quan from University of Manchester. We arrived in Budapest at late evening, and being famished after hours of not eating anything, we checked in to our accommodations at Corvin Plaza’s Apartments and Suites, before making our way to Stex Haz. At this point in time, we were quite used to the large portions of meat that were served by Eastern European Countries, so we ordered a bit less. With prices of beer in Budapest possibly being one of the cheapest in the EU, I ordered 2 pints for merely 3 pounds. After a few games of pool, we felt like we were done for the day, and headed back to our apartment for the night.
We covered most of the attractions we wanted to see on the 2nd day. We started out the day at the Central Market Hall, a well-known market in Budapest that sold all sorts of stuff, very much like the wet markets you see in Singapore. Not being too interested in the items being sold there, we quickly headed on to the Liberty Bridge, a short 200m away from the market.
Central Market Hall
The Liberty Bridge is the shortest bridge in Budapest's center. Initially built as part of the Millennium World Exhibition at the end of the 19th century, the bridge features art nouveau design, mythological sculptures and the country's coat of arms adorned on its side. With strong winds blowing across the Danube Straits, we felt that staying on the bridge wasn’t exactly the wisest thing to do, so we quickly moved on to the Gellert Hill Cave.
The Gellert Hill cave is a part of a network of caves within Gellert Hill in Budapest. The cave is also referred to as ‘Saint Ivan’s’ cave, regarding a hermit who lived there and is believed to have used the natural thermal water of a muddy lake next to the cave to heal the sick. The cave is now a church, and was indeed one of the more unique churches that I have visited since it was underground.
Gellert Hill Cave
Following the church, we headed up to the Liberty Statue (not to be confused with the Statue of Liberty), which was erected in 1947 (after WWII), commemorating those who lost their lives for the country.
Statue of Liberty
From the top of the Gellert Hill, we could see most of Buda and Pest, and despite being quite similar to Prague, we were still quite impressed by the beauty of the city itself. With still quite a bit of daylight left ahead. We decided to move on to the nearby Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Located in the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion provided a unique panorama of Budapest from the Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces. However, the main highlight of the day was the tea-break at Ruszwurm Confectionary. The shop sold confectionary since 1827, and their cakes are honestly really good. What was better was the service provided by one of the waiters. From a range of humorous jokes, to printing a 2-meter-long receipt for us, we were thoroughly impressed by his service, and Yan Yi and I ended up visiting the shop again on our last day.
With night falling, we dropped by the Shoes by Danube bank before having dinner. The shoes represented the jews that were killed by the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, before they were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies would fall into the river and get carried away. With the strong rain pelting on our face, we headed to a nearby restaurant that sold Budapest cuisine (in pretty large portions), before going back to our accommodation.
Day 3 (Christmas Eve)
Knowing that many shops will close early, and most services will not run on Christmas Day, we headed off to Lidl to stock up on food. What we noticed was that the prices of groceries in Budapest were really cheap (about half the price of that in London and SG), and that it is really affordable to live in Budapest if you were to cook you own food. After securing our meals for dinner and the next day, we headed off to the Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Szechenyi Thermal Baths.
Being one of the major squares in Budapest (noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders), it was a tourist attraction and we could spot many tourists around taking pictures of its magnificent architecture. The Vajdahunyad castle was equally beautiful. Despite not having the size and grandeur of the Prague castle, it provided a quaint feel, and a sense of serenity around the castle grounds.
I initially wanted to visit the House of Terror (which documented the effect of Nazi and Soviet on regimes in Hungary, and memorial to victims). However, it was closed since it was Christmas, so I took a long walk back to my accommodations to cook some dinner for the night.
Day 4 (Christmas)
With most things closed during Christmas, we were pleasantly surprised to find some thermal baths still opened. Jia Wang and I decided to try the public e-scooters (called Lime), and we rode our way to the nearest bath at Gellert Hill. For an entry fee of about 16 pounds, we rented a cabin each and proceeded to soak ourselves in the baths for a good 2 hours. It was a lovely experience, especially in the cold weather, and it was a good end to our 12/13 day trip. We e-scootered back, did some studying and played some games till the day was over. One of the reasons why I decided to stay 2 more days in Budapest was because absolutely nothing would have been open in London (not even transport) during Christmas.
Gellert Thermal Baths
With Jia Wang, Sheryl, and Zhi Quan’s flights being in the afternoon, and Yan Yi and mine being at night, we decided to walk through our day 2 itinerary again, visiting the same café. It was a day of much walking, and more walking (we probably walked more than 30km in Budapest alone), before it was time to head back to London.
This 13-day trip was planned way back in September, and I’m glad that it didn’t burst a hole in my pocket (The total flight cost was about 70 pounds per person in total (that’s across 4 countries!)). As my next trip being 3 weeks later, I was glad to finally have some rest and time to catch up with my schoolwork. With great architecture, really cheap prices, and an informative history, I would definitely recommend Budapest to anyone looking for a travel destination over the holidays.