There was a lot I didn't know about Budapest before we went there. I didn't know that the city was once three separate cities (Buda, Pest, and Óbuda) unified in 1873. I didn't know that the correct pronunciation is Boo-da-PESHT. I also didn't know that I would fall in love with this city and make plans to comeback in the summertime during our honeymoon.
We arrived at the train station around noon and made our way to the hotel. The train station is on the Pest side which is the flat, more modern side of Budapest. We cross a bridge over the Danube to get to the hilly, Buda side and you catch a glimpse of the beautiful Buda Castle. Once you get across the bridge you get to look back at the Pest side and see the majestic Parliament Building. We got to our hotel, the Art 'Otel, which actually faces the Danube and the Parliament building. We actually had a sunny day and the forecast was for snow and clouds the other days so we made our way to the top of Gellert Hill which is supposed to have the best panoramic views of the city. The views did not disappoint as you get to see the full scope of Budapest's beauty. We took a cab to the top but I also went for a run up the hill which isn't that far from the city center. We walked down Gellert Hill and crossed a bridge to Pest. Immediately across the bridge there are a number of shops, restaurants, and cafes. We were getting hungry and picked a random spot that looked nice. One of the great things about Budapest is that it is inexpensive for the quality of life there. The food is delicious and hearty which I guess helps people survive the winters here.
The next day we took a boat tour along the Danube and enjoyed a couple of drinks while learning all about the history and sites of Budapest. After the tour we walked to our dinner reservations at Comme Chez Soi. It's a mixture of Italian, French, and Hungarian cuisine, but make your reservations in advance because it's a very small restaurant and is very popular. We booked a week in advance and had to eat at 4:30 PM but do whatever you can to eat there. It was a very close second to our pricey meal in Prague and was a third the price. The portions were gigantic and amazingly delicious (see right). I would recommend the foie gras with duck and potatoes, the single best bite of food I had over the whole trip. The service there is also great, our waiter was so nice, attentive, and funny.
It was tough to move after such a filling dinner, but we hobbled are way back to the hotel and took in some more sights. Budapest brilliantly lights up at night, especially the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle and the Parliament Building. If it wasn't so cold we would've stayed out all night taking pictures of the city.
The next day we hired a tour guide and driver to take us around the city. It was about $20 bucks for a 3 hour tour around the city and was definitely worth it. We started the tour by going up to Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion high atop a hill over-looking the Danube, Pest, and the Parliament Building. The building and statues there were striking and the views never got old. We only had 45 minutes but we wanted to stay longer. The driver though wanted us to see more of the city so we went along. Along the way he told us about an underground city on the Buda side that has beautiful tunnels and caverns. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see the underground city but when we come back in August/September.
We next went to the Pest side and stopped by one of Budapest's Turkish baths. Budapest has a number of hot springs around the city used by locals and tourists alike. We also went to the Vajdahunyad Castle and the Heroes' Square with the Millenary Monument. Both were really worthwhile but in the interest of keeping this post short I won't go into detail here. Budapest is filled with amazing sites and it was really hard deciding which pictures to include in this post. Please check out the full gallery here: Budapest, Hungary. I really could go on and on about this amazing city and we still have so much to explore. You really need to experience this city for yourself and if there's only one place you go to in Eastern Europe go to Budapest and stay for as long as you can!