Budapest is paradise!
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was created in 1873. The city name is a combination of Buda on the right bank of the Danube River and Pest on the left bank. The metropolitan center is 2,944 square miles and offers so much to explore in the arts, design, fashion, history and of course, architecture. It is one of the largest cities in the European Union!
When traveling, I prefer to think of myself as a local by discovering the culture and beat up old dives behind the scenes. In Budapest, I was able to do that but could not ignore the brilliance all around. The most popular reason people visit Budapest (City of Spas) is to see the famous thermal baths. Century's old, there are over 1000 natural spring water sources in Hungary. I did not visit one spa.
A preview of the gorgeous details in art/architecture throughout the city.
The Parliament Building
It's hard to believe your eyes when you first see this iconic eclectic, neo-gothic building. Built when Hungary was still under Austrian influence, this magnificent structure is a symbol of Hungary's independence. The facade is decorated with eighty eight statues of Hungarian rulers, gargoyles, spires and gothic ornaments. The interior is as stunning as the exterior, decorated by some of Hungary's best artists. In addition to gothic, there are elements of renaissance and baroque. For example, the magnificent main staircase.
The Shoes on the Danube
Along the Danube, in front of the Parliament Building, is a reminder of the atrocities during WWII. Shoes commemorate those who were shot into the river by the fascist Arrow Cross during a time when shoes were worth more than a life. It’s an emotional installation and common to see relatives visit this memorial. I watched a young girl lean down to touch a pair of shoes and sit with them for a while. Along the bank there are cast iron plaques that say "To the Memory of the Victims Shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45".
The Buda Castle
This castle is considered by many to be the city's crowning jewel. Inside you will find the History Museum filled with exhibits relating to Hungary's rich history. First completed in 1265, the massive Baroque palace today was built between 1749 and 1769.
This is another top attraction built in the 19th century to serve as a lookout tower. The building was inspired by the architectural style of early medieval times but really looks like the logo of Walt Disney films, only nicer. This is on the Buda side of the river which is filled with stunning houses, cobble stone streets, and cafes.
St. Stephen's Basilica
The architecture is stunning inside and out. The first night in Budapest, there was an organ/opera concert that was pure magic. The acoustics were perfect and the exquisite interior walls are adorned with beautiful Hungarian art. The Basilica is the largest church in Budapest and was finished in neo-classical style in 1905, following 54 years of planning. It is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c975-1038).
The river Danube is Europe's second longest river, it runs through ten countries from Germany to Romania and Ukraine. Many of the finest attractions along the Danube are located in Budapest and are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
This is the main bridge that connects Budapest (Buda to Pest). The walk across this bridge is dramatic with Lion Heads staring you down from start to finish. The Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge of Budapest opened in the mid 19th century, named after the "Greatest Hungarian" Count Szechenyi.
Sometimes it’s more interesting to go off the beaten path to discover buildings that nobody pays attention to. These were undoubtedly Budapest’s most spectacular hidden gems. I have to admit that it was a bit frightening wandering around the stone cold halls of these empty buildings, but it's the thrill that counts.
Although beautiful architecture is everywhere you look, WWII still remains visible on the war torn walls of many buildings. Budapest had several setbacks in the years between wars. In the 1960s and 1970s much of the reconstruction took place in the center of the old city. The revolutions of 1989 brought the end of Soviet occupation and the end of Communism in Hungary.
In 2002, a group of young people wanted to drink somewhere other than the fancy bars and bistros in the center of town, so they bought abandoned buildings in the historic Jewish District neighborhood and turned them into bars. With little money to spend, they were filled with furnishing from attics and basements and decorated by local artists.
The Hungarian capital is in a major period of transformation. This is a city that is proud of its rich heritage and inspired by the possibilities of the future.
Budapest is paradise! You are sure to discover something amazing at every turn.