Three Days in Budapest: Our Itinerary

Every month Tyler is given a four day weekend – the army’s attempt to make it a bit easier to travel while stationed in Germany. The four day we had in June we decided to spend the weekend in Budapest. Last year, Tyler had a month of training in Hungary and towards the end of his deployment they allowed all soldiers a “culture day” in Budapest. He got to tour the city, learn the history, and see all the sights. Safe to say, I was jealous. While I’m stuck at home, he gets to explore another country. (Granted he did have to train for a whole month, and I’m pretty sure his showers were minimal – yuck!) Anyway, Budapest was on my must see list so I picked the dates, wrote up an itinerary, and we went on our way!

Day 1

We left our house around 6:30am on Friday with the goal of arriving in Budapest in the early afternoon. While we didn’t pay any tolls, vignettes are required for both Austria and Hungary. Not to worry though, you only need to pay for them on the way there as they last 10 days! We checked into our hotel a few minutes before 2pm. We stayed at Esprit Hotel, which was reasonably priced and has a gated entrance. Our hotel was located in the Jewish Quarter on the Pest side of the river and once we got settled in we began exploring.

Dohány Street Synagogue

Dohány Street Synagogue.

Also known as the Great Synagogue, this beautiful religious building was first on our list of things to see. A place of Jewish Worship, the Dohány Synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 and is currently the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. In 1939, the synagogue was bombed by Hungarian Nazi sympathizers and suffered severe damage during numerous air raids. During the remaining time of World War II, it was used as a stable and a base for German Radio. Restoration of the synagogue commenced in 1991 and was fully completed in 1998, leaving us with the amazing architecture we saw on our trip. Around this area of Pest, you can find a lot of memorials and tributes to Jewish lives lost during the war.

Jewish memorial around the corner from the Dohány Street Synagogue.

By the time we arrived at the synagogue, tours had ended for the day. However, it is 4000 HUF per ticket, which converts to approximately $14 a ticket.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Side angled view of St. Stephen's Basilica.

A short walk past the Dohány Street Synagogue is St. Stephen’s Basilica, named after Hungary’s first king who shares the same name. It is said that the mummified hand of the king resides inside the basilica. Unfortunately, we were unable to take a look inside – due to a wedding! – but Tyler confirmed he saw the hand when he was in Budapest the first time.

Glowing St. Stephen's Basilica just after a rain storm.

In the area surrounding the basilica, there are several restaurants and cafes making it a great place to stop off for a bite to eat with an incredible view. Which is exactly what we did! We put our backs to the basilica and walked until we found a restaurant with a good menu. I can’t tell you the name of the restaurant, because I’m 99% sure I wrote down the wrong name. But it is just two blocks away from the basilica! And it was so delicious. Tyler and I both got a beer each, I ordered gnocchi with tomato sauce and salmon, and he had the steak with grilled veggies.

Bowl of gnocchi with vegetables on a red placemat.

Surprisingly, this dinner was the most expensive meal we had our entire trip and the check was just shy of $50. They’re not lying when they say Hungary is cheap! After we finished up, we continued tripping around the city.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

View of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge over the Danube river.

The Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting the Buda and Pest sides of the city by crossing over the Danube River. It’s truly a beautiful piece of architecture and the easiest way to cross the river to Buda Castle. Both sides of the bridge have sidewalks for pedestrians and both entrances of the bridge are adorned with stone lion statues.

Lamp post at the start of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Right after we stopped to take a few pictures of the bridge, the sky opened up and began pouring rain. We continued on for all of ten seconds before Tyler suggested we just head back to the hotel. I was not having that! We still had several things to see and the sun began peeking out, so we hid under a tree for ten minutes until the rain let up.

Shoes on the Danube

Jewish memorial of the Shoes on the Danube with Israel flag.

Between the Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament building, there is approximately fifty feet of shoes lined along the edge of the river. In 2005, a sculptor created this memorial in honor of Jewish victims from World War II. During the war, Jewish and Jewish sympathizers were lined up along the river’s edge and asked to remove their shoes. They were then shot into the river and carried away by the current. This was the most sobering part of our trip. The amount of shoes in the memorial probably don’t even make up one-sixteenth of the amount of victims taken away on the river’s edge. Children’s shoes were included in the memorial and that was what affected me most. As soon as I saw the tiny, little shoes I almost began to cry.

Shoes on the edge of the Danube, the Jewish memorial.

Behind the shoes is a plaque, written in both Hungarian and English, which reads, “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militia Men in 1944-1945.” Two years of victims and all that is left behind are their shoes.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building across the Danube river.

On to happier things! After we left the memorial, we continued on to the parliament building. The area around the parliament was almost completely void of people due to the crazy rain we had just experienced minutes before. You can tour the parliament for 6000 HUF – or $21 per person – but we opted not and instead just took in the scenery around us.

Man riding horse statue with the Hungarian Parliament Building in the background.

Beautiful pink flowers with the Hungarian Parliament Building blurred in the background.

After taking several shots of the parliament, Tyler and I spent the rest of the evening exploring the area near our hotel. The architecture was truly amazing and the people were extremely friendly. Along our walk, we came across several more memorials.

Statue of Imre Nagy

Statue of Imre Nagy on a bridge.

Imre Nagy was the 44th Hungarian Prime Minister as well as an advocate for the Communist Party. In 1956, Nagy withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact – a treaty between the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states in Europe – seeking help from the United States and the United Kingdom to recognize the country as a neutral state. Shortly after, the Soviets crushed the revolution and took Nagy down with it. He was given sanctuary in Russia, only to be tried and executed two years later for his dealings with the revolution. This memorial is a symbol of freedom for many Hungarians, and he is located halfway along the bridge to commemorate his help in getting Hungary halfway to freedom while he was alive.

Floral wreaths with the Hungarian colors.

Our wandering evening eventually brought us to a beer fest taking place in the middle of a park. We thought it was a good place to sit down and have a cold one before calling it a night. Unlike the beer fests we’ve attended in Germany, this one was a little pricy and they used a weird card system for transactions. It was almost $10 for one beer! Granted, about $4 was a deposit for the cups which would be refunded upon returning our cups. But we decided to keep them as souvenirs.

Our friends also spent that weekend in Budapest, so we met up with them at the fest for some after dinner street food. We loaded up on Hungarian sausage and some delicious grilled chicken and spent the next 30 minutes catching up. Until the sky decided to open up once more and pour down on us. It was then that we thought it was time to call it a night.

Day 2

Our second day in Budapest started early, with us making our way further into the Pest side of the river. We were spending our morning at Városiglet – or City Park – and exploring some of the sights within. It was just shy of a 45 minute walk from our hotel, and as we got closer there was a lot of construction going on along the street.

Heroes’ Square

View of a crowded Heroes' Square.

Heroes’ Square is just like it sounds: a square! At the far end of the square are several statues and monuments, including the tomb of the unknown soldier. The square also hosted the reburial of Imre Nagy in 1989, where over 100,000 citizens were said to have attended. The large column in the middle has the Archangel Gabriel mounted atop holding the Hungarian Holy Crown and the apolistic double cross. But, if you’ve ever seen Supernatural, this could all just be a trick. 😉 The bottom of the column is surrounded by statues of the seven Magyar chieftains and to the left and right of the column are several statues depicting important people from Hungarian history.

After spending a little bit in Heroes’ Square, we went off to find a place to eat lunch. There were a few restaurants near by close to the edge of the lake, and we ended up stopping in at Nyereg az Itató. We had a beautiful view of the water and the weather was almost perfect – just a bit chilly when the clouds hid the sun. I ordered the Hungarian sausage with potatoes and bread and let me just tell you, Hungarian sausage is the BEST FREAKING SAUSAGE I have ever consumed. Tyler ordered the Nyereg burger with potatoes and he said it really hit the spot.

Hungarian sausage, potatoes, bread, and a burger.

Vajdahunyad Vára

Vajdahunyad Castle between two trees.

Vajdahunyad Castle was next on our list, and yes, it was just as breathtaking – if not more – in person. This castle was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition, paying tribute to the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin over 1,000 years prior. Vajdahunyad Castle was originally built out of cardboard and wood, but due to it’s popularity was reconstructed with cement and bricks between 1904 and 1908. Can you imagine visiting a castle made out of cardboard?! The castle also houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, which is the largest agriculture museum in Europe. The surrounding areas of the castle are just as impressive as the castle itself.

Grassy field and trees, with Vajdahunyad Castle hidden behind them.

Ivy covered walls of Vajdahunyad Castle.

Lake surrounded by lush green trees.

Our Saturday exploring was cut a little short, because that night we had a rock concert we were going to. So, we left the castle, headed back to our hotel, and got ready for the night! Keep an eye out for a post on our concert experience!

Day 3

After our crazy concert night, we woke up pretty early to start our Sunday with a full day of exploring the Buda side of the river! The morning started out a bit gloomy in the morning, but thankfully cleared up as the day went on.

Budapest Castle Hill Funicular

View from one of the bridges overlooking the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular.

Budapest Castle is up on a hill, which means a whole lot of climbing to get to the top. That is unless you utilize the funicular railway! These cute little cars will carry you up the side of the hill and deposit you right outside the castle. It costs around 1200 HUF (about $4) per person, so the ride is fairly inexpensive. But beware, the line to ride is ridiculously long so you might be waiting a while. That’s why we opted to walk up the path instead of spending an hour in line.

Budapest Castle

Budapest castle as seen from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

When you arrive at the top of the hill, you’re greeted by Budapest Castle – Buda Castle for short. This large building is the historic castle and palace for all the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, but the majority we see today was added between 1749 and 1769. The castle has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is free to walk around the courtyard of the castle, but entry into any of the seven museums inside do cost a few bucks each.

Entrance to Budapest Castle.

A fountain on the Budapest castle grounds.

We were also lucky enough to be passing by during the Changing of the Guard. This happens every hour on the hour between 8:30 and 5:00pm.

Changing of the guard at Budapest castle.

Changing of the guard at Budapest castle.

By the time we made it up the hill and walked through the castle courtyard for a bit, it was lunch time. Since Tyler had been to Budapest before with his unit, he knew of an area near by with a lot of restaurants just a short walk from the castle. We stopped at Ösbudavár Pizzéria and I finally got the one thing you cannot leave Budapest without trying. Goulash. This is the Hungarian dish everyone tells you to try when you’re there. I got mine in a bread bowl and it was fantastic. Tyler got spaghetti carbonara because he’s predictable and it’s his favorite pasta dish.

Goulash in a bread bowl on a red tablecloth.

Matthias Church

Matthias Church behind trees.

I’ve got one word for you: C O L O R S. This church is so colorful it’s not even funny; and the way the sun hits the roof really makes it shine. Matthias Church was built in 1015, originally in the Romanesque style. But, after being destroyed by Mongols, it was rebuilt in the late 13th century in the Gothic style. Matthias Church was the second largest church in medieval Budapest and the seventh largest out of medieval Hungary. The church is open to the public Monday through Saturday, and closed to everyone but worshippers on Sundays. It costs 1500 HUF (around $6) per person to enter.

The front of Matthias Church.

The side of Matthias Church.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion.

Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace comprised of seven towers on the edge of Castle Hill and surrounding Matthias Church. The seven towers are said to represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in Carpathian Basin. The fisherman’s guild had the honor of protecting the Buda side of Castle Hill, thus the name of Fisherman’s Bastion. By entering the terrace and towers – for just 800 HUF (or $3) – you can get panoramic views of the Pest side of the city, the Danube river, the Parliament building, and Gellért Hill.

Hungarian Parliament Building through the columns of Fisherman's Bastion.

Outer walls of Fisherman's Bastion.

Side note: Have you played the new Legend of Zelda game? Breath of the Wild? Well, if so, and you’ve gotten to the part where Link gets fragments of his memories back, tell me Fisherman’s Bastion does NOT look like the image of Hyrule Castle. Because it so does. Maybe I’m just a nerd, oh well.

After exploring all that we could of Castle Hill, we made our way back down to the river and explored a little bit more.

Old church along one of Budapest's streets.

Gelarto Rosa

Rose shaped gelato in a cone in front of St. Stephen's Basilica.

Okay, this is a MUST if you ever go to Budapest. This cute little shop is just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Basilica. They make flowers out of gelato and they’re the most beautiful and delicious things ever invented. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. I got a cone with two flavors: strawberry and Nutella. Best combo ever! And the best part – aside from, duh, gelato – was that you get such an awesome view while you eat! Not to mention this is Instagram worthy. 😉

After our quick cone, we ended up back at our hotel for about an hour to rest our poor, little feeties before meeting up with our friends for dinner on our last night in Budapest. We settled on a burger joint called Bamba Marha Burger Bár and we each got a burger plus a side of fries. I can’t remember what I ordered – and I’m silently kicking myself for not writing it down – but it was like a Mexican burger with jalapeños, nacho chips, extra cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and oh my goodness: it was so delicious. And the price made it even better!

Jalapeño burger on a cutting board.

We retired to our hotel after dinner and slept like babies since we were so exhausted. The next morning we hit the road to return home. Budapest was so much fun and I honestly didn’t think I’d love it this much! We didn’t get a chance to relax in any of the thermal baths or drink at a ruin bar, so I guess that means we just need to visit again!

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Follow our three day adventure as we soak up all the history and culture of beautiful Budapest!

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