I was in Budapest in August and my visit was enthralling and inspiring.
Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if not the world. Sophisticated travellers know about Budapest and it is only starting to build an awareness amongst a larger audience across the world.
On the metro. You may not like this retro carriage, but I loved it. I also rode on the brand new ones. A photo further down.
I had been to Budapest before, but each time it was for half a day and I would travel with my colleagues in a car.
I had read I could take the airport bus to the metro, and was a bit nervous about venturing this on my own.
I went to the information counter at the airport and the representative showed me how I could do this and it was dead easy!
She also told me about the Budapest 24 hour card I could buy, which is about £12 only. By buying this card all public transport is free, free admission to museums, cut price tickets to concerts, and discounts on spas.
The metro we took as you can see from the picture is one from the Soviet Union, probably more than 30 years old. I just wished I had got a picture of the side of the metro with the Manufacturer Logo in Russian. Well next time.
The metro stock is being replaced with new trains similar to what is happening in London.
Here are some pictures of the metro for you to see. A bit retro, and some of you may consider it to be outdated, but I like it. Maybe this is because I am a bit of a history buff and love seeing things as they were.
I had booked a room at Garibaldi Apartments right next to the Hungarian Parliament.
I I got out of the metro at xxx and wow in front of me was the Hungarian Parliament, the largest parliament building in Europe. Renovations are underway as you can see from my photo.
It was a glorious sunny day about 30 c.
I found my way to the guest house which was just a few minute walk from the metro station. A grand ornate building probably built at the end of the 19th Century. The lift was one of these turn of the century iron lace work ones.
This Art Nouveau building I saw on my way to the main square where Cafe Gerbeaud is indeed typical of the plethora of iconic buildings in Budapest. I was inspired by it and hence took the photo.
rRight down the street from the Art Nouveau building was another beautiful building. I love the lamps on it. It is used as a Government Building. I looked in and the uniformed guard looked at me with quite a serious expression on his face.
II forgot to mention that Buda-Pest is two cities, but under the same muncipality. These photos here are on the Pest side which is generally newer than Buda.
As you can see from this photo, you could very well be in other sophisticated European cities. One of the advantages of Hungary is that it is so reasonable in price. I reckon about 60% less than in the UK. I bought a lunch for about £5 which would have cost over £10 in the UK.
And the food is delicious and cooked properly — not so much fast food.
You may wonder why I have taken this photo. I just loved it with its ornateness, style and the craftsmen who built this attention to detail. I always take photos of postboxes every country I visit as well as phone-boxes.
The square is replete with cafes, restaurants and food stands. Cafe Gerbeaud is one of the most famous restaurants/patisseries in Budapest housed in a fantastic Art Nouveau building with art nouveau interiors.
The shorts are on, people are out walking through the most famous square in Budapest.
Looking straight ahead is the shopping area and I was heading over there to the clothes shops. Prices are keen and the quality of good. David Hodgson who is a director of Saloc Spa & Golf Resort near Budapest loves this area of Budapest and seems to know everyone.
Indeed, there are over 80 thermal water springs in Budapest and many many spas. Hungary has more thermal spas than anywhere in the world so after a Sunday stroll, there is nothing better to do than go to the spa. And I was headed to the Kiraly Baths which dates back to the 16th Century (1570). The spa bath itself has a lovely domed roof in it.
I wondered through the main shopping street which is a mix of traditional Hungarian shops and European brands including H&M.
I turned left off the shopping street looking for food and I found this wonderful arcade. You can see the traditional Hungarian phones housed in a hand-crafted phone box matching the archicture of the arcade.
I could not help but take a photo of the guards. One is standing and the other is chatting to his colleague. And this is what is nice about Budapest – people are not so much in a rush. They take time to speak to chat; they are not being run by their mobile phones; they have community.
I am going to find out what the name of this arcade is and what street it is on so I can tell you where to find it.
What is also precious about Budapest is that it still has these architectural gems. They have not been torn down by developers in their quest for ‘progress’ and money.
This is a close up of the domed roof. Yes, it is a bit dark, but I have decided to include it anyway as this is the only close up photo I have.
I don’t know about you, but when I see such beauty I feel inspired and elated. Indeed, I felt very alive at every minute of my time in Budapest.
The Jegbufe Patisserie has been trading since 1950 and is right next to the ornate arcade. The metro stop is Ferenciek.
I received such fantastic service there. The lady helped me choose a cake — that was difficult as I wanted to taste every single one.
She sent me over to the other counter to buy coffee, and then directed me to the lady at the till to pay. Yes, this is very much Italian style and for that matter Russian style. You buy your food at the various counters and pay together.
The man who served me coffee engaged me in conversation and indeed after I was finished eating, I asked him how I can leave a tip. He responded saying they did not receive tips and it was their pleasure to serve me.
The delicious coffee cost me about £2.50. At Patisserie Valerie in London I would pay about £7.00!
And there was such good service at every counter. This is not a Tesco’s or WH Smith where you have to serve yourself and use self-serve to pay.
The couple sitting next to me were from France and at the other end there were two Germans. And of course, there were plenty of Hungarians in the shop.
I prefer Jegbufe any way to the Costas and Starbucks. I reckon they pay tax to the Hungarian government. too unlike Starbucks with all their sophisticated tax dodging schemes.
My Sunday stroll was very much a case of ‘serendipity’ — spontaneously exploring the streets and sites I saw. Standing across from Jegbuffe I noticed this lovely church and hence its conclusion in this blog.
Budapest is full of so many visual delights and I was in a state of ‘wonder’ when there.
Just down from the church was this lovely arcade, and Budapest is full of them.
There are so many lovely historic streets in Budapest. And a number of them still have brick streets which I always find so much more charming and beautiful.
At this point, I was not sure where I was heading. I was just experiencing every moment!
On my walk I then noticed this, the Petofi Literary Museum. It is a celebration of Hungarian literature and culture. How beautiful and inspiring.
There is a restaurant in the museum which you enter through the arcade. A lovely menu in a brilliant ambience. Literature and delicious Hungarian cuisine. I will stop in next time I am in Budapest.B
By the way, address is 16 Karolyi Mihaly utca.
Not a brilliant photo. I love these colourful artistic posters.
As you can see here, Budapest has really been revitalised and is indeed so vibrant. I would not have known it was under the cloak of grey, dark communism. This square is sophisticated chic and could have been in Spain (before its economic crisis) or in Berlin.
Budapest rivalled Vienna for being the cafe culture capital in Europe before the Second World War. With the arrival of the Iron Curtain, it saw the demise of the cafes. Gladly, they are experiencing a renaissance.
Another narrow street just off the square. Budapest has many of these lovely lanes. Whilst in Paris during the Third Republic (starting in the 1870s) a Grande Plan was devised to build large boulevards across Paris thus destroying much of Medieval and 17th and 18th Century Parisian architecture.
This plan devised by its master Haussmann is referred to as the ‘Haussmann Plan’. It encompassed all aspects of organised urban planning and gave a grandness to the city and an order it perhaps needed.
However, it was also devised to rid the city of the revolutions and uprisings which were in these smaller lanes. The authorities could not control its people.
I know I am off on a tangent a bit. Thank God this did not happen in Budapest!
This may not be your cup of tea, but I adore this. The first time I saw arcades of shops in the metro was when I was in Moscow in June 1999. I was amazed by the variety of shops from food to newspapers, to souvenirs and more.
And this shop reminded me of the Moscow Metro. I also like that it has not been taken over by the standardisation of shops which creates a monotonous and anonymous type of experience and transaction.
I as a shopper am not a person. I just go through the Tesco shop buy my food (all of which is the same across the UK) and then don’t even interact with anyone in the shop as I pay for my goods at a self-service till.
Whilst in these types of shops in Budapest people chat to each other and the shopkeepers are all too happy to help them. The shopkeepers know their customers and the customers know the customers. It is completely delightful.
Having staff in the Metro who checked passengers’ tickets added a warmth and engagement to taking the metro versus the anonymous and soul-less experience of the London underground where everything is automated. The London Underground does not even want you to top up your Oyster Card at the station telling you just how convenient it is to do online!
I love the trams in Budapest, particularly the older ones.
I was on my way to the famous Kiraly Baths.
The blog could not be a blog on Budapest without a photo of the Hungarian Parliament building. And I think the boat is a tour boat.
Yes, I get the exterior of the Kiraly Baths looks a bit tired. More on that in a moment.
The Kiraly Bath was built in 1570, about 50 years before Shakespeare to put this in perspective for you. It is a domed bath and my experience there was magical. I will be shortly writing a separate blog on this.
I toured ‘Europe’ with my parents and my two brothers when I was aged 15. I loved Switzerland because everything was so perfect. When we arrived in Italy I complained to my mother that the building exteriors had paint peeling off them. I said I much preferred Switzerland as there was not a blemish. My mother explained to me that the focus for the Italians was having a beautiful interior. And she liked the worn look of the exteriors.
I am signing off on this blog, and may add some bits to it. As I said, I will do a write up on my trip to the Kiraly Spa in the next week or so.
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