St Stephen's Basilica

Me tucking into a three
flavoured, rose shaped, ice
cream- delicious!
After Vienna, we took our final bus journey to Budapest. The Vienna coach station was categorically one of the worst experiences of the trip. We set off in plenty of time but due to confusion over signs, terminals and much general running around in panic we only got to the bus about 1 minute before it was due to leave. Thank goodness it was a little late is all I can say!
     We arrived in Budapest and it was sweltering. We were nearing the end of July at this point but I don't think either if us were really ready to be hit by the heat. We trudged around for a while and eventually manages to escape the glaring sun, into the metro and off to our apartment. I was glad just to be able to put my bag down. Our apartment was small. Really small. There was a little bathroom, a sink and fridge under the stairs, a little fold out table with two chairs and then directly above us was the bedroom. It was very compact and unfortunately there was no air conditioning so we had t make do with a tiny miniature fan that we kept on above the bed. For the first evening we were so hot and bothered that all we did was find a little bar/restaurant round the corner from us and have a burger and cocktail. It was very welcome, I can tell you that! 
Ceiling of St Stephen's Basilica
    We organised a walking tour as we had in most of our other stops, it started in the main square and we quickly went round a little park, over the famous suspension bridge and up to the castle. It was extremely hot and lots of people lagged behind and really strugged. I don't think our guide was as informed as he could have been and neither me nor Molly really enjoyed the tour. I think perhaps because we were simply too hot and tired and there seemed to be a lot of walking for very little information. However it stopped outside St Mathias' Church high up on the hill and so we took the opportunity to have a quick look round and grab lunch. Despite the disappointing walking tour we were able to see a whole host of other attractions:

  • Buda Castle: The current seat of the Hungarian president and prime minister. Much of it was actually destroyed in WWI and WWII however the Fisherman's Bastion, a 19th century reproduction of traditional fortifications is really quite stunning especially during dusk when its lit in a hazy golden glow, it really is like something out of a fairy tale. To get to it you can either take a 30 minute walk up a steep slope with steps, or catch a public bus which are always packed to bursting. Neither is overly pleasant in the heat and we used both modes of transport. Despite the crowds, I preferred the bus I have to sya. One thing to note though is that you must buy your ticket before getting on the bus though it's easy to do with lots of ticket machines dotted about.
  • St Mathias' Church is also in the castle grounds and is a stunning, recently renovated 14th century royal church. The outside is striking with white stone and brilliantly coloured dirt repellent roof tile but the inside is even more sumptuous. At one point it was a mosque and the decoration confirms it. Richly decorated and brightly coloured with back walls and staircases. I thought it was wonderful and for a small price you can get a combined ticket to see both the bastion and church.
Hungarian Parliament Building

  • Hungarian Parliament: We didn't manage to go inside the parliament building because we missed the only English tour of the day. My advice to anyone is thoroughly check the website for tour details before rocking up or , as we were, you may be disappointed. Nevertheless, the outside is lovely and bares a striking resemblance to Westminster in its architectural style.
  • St Stephen's Basilica: Is a huge landmark right in the main square. A rather imposing cathedral built to honour the first Hungarian king it contains a reliquary containing a human heart, rather gruesome, but some lovely ceiling decoration. I wouldn't say it was a particular highlight but pleasant enough.
Fisherman's Bastion in Buda
Castle complex
  • Szechenyi Chain Bridge: We walked over this a number of times before properly realising it was the famous landmark. It's quite a nice bridge with good views over the city but it was always packed with cars and pedestrians so not relaxing by any means.
  • Central Market Hall: It is fit to bursting with traditional market stalls downstairs for meat and veg but upstairs is a tourist's dream with lots of stall selling souvenirs, traditional Hungarian clothes, trinkets etc and lots of other things too. Additionally are the food stalls serving traditional stews and dumplings and sweet treats. I had a goulash with dumplings for lunch; it was probably overpriced really but the stew was delicious, the dumplings were very unlike British dumplings and the texture resembles cauliflower crumbs. Nonetheless I was glad to have tried it!
  • Heroe's Square: We actually stumbled across the giant monument on the way back from a thermal spa. Its a selection of statues in a crescent surrounding a column. Apparently it's supposed to represent the founding tribes of Hungary but me and Molly were both a little unsure. It's very impressive and sleek but could do with an information board for tourists.
St Mathias' Church in Buda Castle Complex
  • Szechenyi Thermal Baths: This thermal spa is one of the most popular and i about a 30-45 minute journey out of the centre. We bought our tickets online the night before and I was glad we did! It was very packed. After navigating the maze of changing rooms, we popped out on top and went straight into the two main heated pools. It was very nice and I think we spent a couple of hours there. I did find it quite relaxing but at the end of the day you're sitting in a hot bath. We didn't opt for any massages etc though that might be something to try in the future. I got lots of lovely pictures of the 1920s building but I was over-awed.
  • Vajdahunyad Castle: Is a fake castle complex comprised of different elements of famous landmarks from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A peculiar, jolly little place with a fake moat outside. We didn't spend too long looking around but it was quite fun and not too far from the baths.
  • Gellert Hill: Houses a large communist monument thanking the Soviet soldiers for the liberation of Hungary during WWII. To get to the statue you have to endure a 40 minute climb up a very steep hill made entirely of steps. Me and Molly really powered through to get to the top and collapsed in a heap when we had done so. The views are really exquisite ad you can sport major landmarks. The statue itself is true to communist Russian style- quite brutalist and ugly. The views are sublime and quite pretty.
Me in Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Overall I quite enjoyed Budapest and reflecting back me and Molly saw a lot. I do think though that we could easily have knocked one day off and still seen everything we wanted to. I think Budapest is very nice and had some great attractions but I don't think it is worth the hype. I know that lots of my friends went to Budapest in the summer and really raved about it. I wouldn't go that far. It was nice but certainly not my favourite by any means. I think Budapest would a be a nice mini break if you wanted a little culture and a little partying but me and Molly had gone for all out culture and were left a little deflated by the end. Nevertheless I would recommend Budapest but add a caveat of only staying a couple of nights. For me personally I wouldn't go back at the height of summer simply because I found the heat quite debilitating and whilst we made frequent ice cream and lemonade stops, I still felt a bit of a sweaty mess and after a hard day of sightseeing we were both in need of a shower and a quick nap.

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

After Budapest it was time to go home so we hopped on the airport shuttle bus and went to the airport before catching a 3/4 hour flight home. It was a very stress-free journey but all I could think about was collapsing in my own familiar bed. I thoroughly enjoyed my travelling over the summer and was glad to have done it with Molly since we were both organised and wanted to see the same kinds of things and wanted to get the most out of it. I would highly recommend travelling in the summer or a gap year I certainly feel more confident now and more able to just plan a trip. It's set my imagination running wild and now I feel I have the ability to book a few days in Venice and jet off if I want to. It wasn't all easy of course; me and Molly never argued but there were certainly tense moments like in the Vienna bus station, and towards the end I was quite tired and missed sleeping in my own bed. But having said that, there were no catastrophes; no one was kidnapped or robbed, we didn't loose anything or fall out and we made it home in one piece. For my first go at travelling without my parents I think it was a huge success and I have lots of pictures and memories from it that I really cherish. Next solo travelling plan? Maybe some Italian cities... Next group trip? Maybe Split in the summer. I'll keep you posted!

What are your next travel plans? Let me know in the comments below...


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