(First published on We Love Budapest, 23 January 2015)
Walking across a Danube bridge
One of the most awe inspiring experiences in Budapest is walking across one of the central Budapest bridges at dusk on a warm summer evening or a crisp morning at dawn. Every bridge has its own unique view over the Danube river, the Gellért Hill, the Hungarian Parliament building, the buildings along both banks of the Danube and of course Buda Castle. It’s no surprise this whole area is UNESCO World Heritage Listed. For those busy with work or study, tramming across the river on Petőfi Bridgeor Margaret Bridge can be the perfect reminder of the beauty of the city, that continues even if you haven't had a chance to enjoy it in a while.
Weekends spent at a festival
There is no city like Budapest when it comes to the number of food and cultural festivals. There’s everything from fish and mangalitsa festivals in winter to beer, wine, street food, craft and music festivals in summer. One of the nicest experiences is enjoying a long afternoon with friends, trying good food and enjoying various cultural experiences. We also have to mention that one of the most iconic and much-loved experiences is partying with friends from all over the world at Sziget Festival – while this isn’t restricted to weekends, it certainly is one of the biggest parties in Europe…and that’s why we love it!
Winter bathing at Széchenyi Bath
Széchenyi Bath is beautiful any time of year, but there’s something enchanting about bathing in its hot thermal waters – outside – when it’s winter. It’s even more memorable if it’s snowing all around, while you're warm in steamy waters. If you ever have the chance to go swimming in the snow, then we promise it’s something you won’t forget as long as you live.
Running on Margaret Island
There’s plenty to do on Margaret Island, but anyone who’s even remotely interested in fitness will find joy in jogging the 5.8 kilometers around Margaret Island. There’s a rubberised track, to share with fellow runners, that goes right around. You’ll forget that you’re exercising because you’ll be too busy checking out the banks of theDanube, enjoying the sound of the giant swaying trees and then on the last stretch watching Margaret Bridge get closer and closer with each pounding of pavement.
A bottle of wine by the Danube
Most people who have spent time in Budapest have a memory of enjoying a bottle of wine with friends or a date along the Danube. Whether sitting on Liberty Bridge, on one of the piers, or at a riverside bar like Raqpart these are the times worth living for in Budapest. Peacefully watching the world go by as the water flows by is a chance to spend happy hours, while laughing, chatting and reflecting.
Cycling in Budapest on warm days
Budapest was recently selected as the 3rd city in Europe in terms of regular cycling. Locals, foreign students and tourists all love grabbing a bike and exploring the city on two wheels. We especially love cycling along the Danube to the Roman Banks ("Római-part") where we're rewarded by an afternoon chill session at Fellini. Fellini is the epitome of la dolce vita with deck chairs, live music, beer, grilled food and other snacks. Here you can laze around, sunbathe and relax. There's also a bike-repair if you happen to need it!
A delicious cake with a close friend
Hungary is known for its delicious cakes and sweets. There are many “cukrászda” (cake shops) to choose from, from the posh to the sweet local shops - both are likely to have yummy desserts to choose from. But one of our favourite Budapest experiences – and one of the top reasons we love this city – is enjoying a krémes at a confectioner like Ruszwurm in the Buda Castle district. They’re known for these creamy cakes and taking a friend to share one - or two - is bliss.
Looking up to find beautiful buildings
Much of the inner parts of present-day Budapest were built in the late 1800s and many of these grand old buildings remain to this day. While many old building show signs of 20th century conflicts and more than 100 years of wear-and-tear, a huge number of buildings are undergoing renovations. One of the most special things about Budapest is that you can be going about your day, busily rushing around, when suddenly you look up to find an incredible façade or design feature.
The city's night lights
Budapest is arguably one of the prettiest cities in the whole world, and this seems even more true at night when the city lights illuminate the inner-city stretch of the Danube. Budapest really brings it at night. The Chain Bridge lights are like fairy-lights tying a bow on the city, while the Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament building are nothing short of magical. The Liberty Statue atop Gellért Hill is like a shining beacon over the city, while from certain vantage points we can see the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is beautiful during the day but even more so at night with the night lights shining on it.
Skating in front of Vajdahunyad Castle
Whether you’re an iceskater or not, skating at the City Park Ice Rink, which is flanked by Heroes’ Square on one side and Vajdahunyad Castle on the other is like being a princess or prince in a real-life version of Disney on Ice. There are two sets of opening times - a morning and evening session - and night skating is particularly fun part of city life with the Vajdahunyad Castle lit up in the background. If you want to take a break from skating you can sip some mulled wine, relax your feed and enjoy the view.
Climbing Gellért Hill for the view
Gellért Hill is a kind of challenge… although it doesn’t take too long to get to the top it’s a bit of a hike up compared to the mostly flat Pest side of the city. The reward at the top, however, is oh so sweet because the view over the city is incredible. While we love the view, we must say that the hill itself is worth mentioning. Where else can you find such a majestic hill right in the middle of the city-centre, right alongside a river? Surely, there aren’t too many cities like that! If you’re happy to climb a few steps we can also recommend the viewing platform at the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica. It has got to be one of the best views of the city.
Playing in the snow at Normafa
If we're lucky and it snows in Budapest, one of the nicest places to head is Normafa. Here the snow can pile up among the hills and trees, and it’s a favourite place for families to go sledding. Some here at We Love Budapest say it’s a great place to go snowboarding too! But no matter if you’re a young person or simply young at heart it’s a great place to have a snow fight, build a snowman, or just check out the view of the city.
Gyros when you need it...usually 2am
Whether it’s a leftover of the Ottoman Empire or some other strange phenomenon,Budapest is filled to the brim with gyros and kebab shops. One thing we love about this city is that no matter when you're in dire need of a hearty, greasy, meaty meal - usually at 2am - there is a gyros or kebab shop in sight. We wrote about the best gyros and kebab spots in town should you need it! Happy days.
Uncovering hidden courtyards
It seems half of Budapest’s beauty is hidden. Behind all of the inner-city apartment building doors are gorgeous courtyards, ornate lifts and grand staircases waiting to be found. While the beauty of these old buildings is easy to see from the outside, one of the best things about Budapest is getting invited to someone’s apartment and taking a look around the central areas. It’s incredible how much effort went into design and finish during the late 19th century, but these inner-courtyards help us imagine life in bustling Budapest back then.
On some warm afternoons, nothing else will do. A picnic in one of the city’s parks likeKárolyi Garden, City Park or Margaret Island with some snacks, a bottle of wine and some friends is one of the loveliest shared experiences in the city. The holiday feeling, the heat of the city, the sound of laughter and chatter, bicycles strewn on the grass and dogs playing - this is one of the best parts of life in Budapest. Warm afternoons seem like they will never end and that feeling of summertime freedom - in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities - is simply the best. And that's why we love Budapest.
+ 1 Cultural programs galore
We couldn't resist adding just one more. Budapest is an incredible city for all kinds of cultural programs. From galleries and museums, to the opera and theatre, to live music, folk dancing, movie screenings and special events, it seems that any day of the week it's hard to pick from all of the cultural offerings. In case you need some inspiration, here are the top 15 museums and galleries we recommend. So, for all the reasons above and because Budapest is constantly buzzing with activity... THAT'S why we love Budapest.