We arrived in Budapest on Monday morning and easily found our way to the quite comfy apartment/hotel that would be our home for one night. This was a wonderful place to arrive after a bit of a loud night at the hostel in Vienna. We got ourselves situated, took showers, and then headed out to explore this beautiful city.
I must say that I am a bit in love with Budapest. This is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever visited and it now ranks as my second favorite place in Europe — bested only by Paris. The architecture is amazing, the food delicious, the city easy to navigate by foot or public transport, and the history so rich.
On Monday afternoon, we headed out on foot and walked all over the city, exploring some of the main avenues, the Market Hall, and walking along the Danube on the Buda side of town. We walked over the Chain Bridge back to the Pest side and decided to stop into a beautiful building just on the other side of the river. It turned out to be the Four Seasons Budapest, but was originally built in 1906 as the Gresham Life Insurance Company. The building sustained significant damage in Budapest’s 1956 uprising and then was pretty much neglected until it was rebuilt as the Four Seasons (finished in 2004). This is just one of the examples we’ve seen of old buildings being restored from a state of decay or extreme dinginess. We’ve noticed several other buildings in the central part of the city that are undergoing restoration. Additionally, there is a major project underway to expand the city’s underground system. We keep saying that it will be interesting to see what Budapest looks and feels like in another 10 years. Not to mention how fascinating it would have been to visit here 10 or 15 years ago.
So back to our living arrangements… After our one night at the schmancy place, we changed locations to the new place that would be our home for the remaining three nights of our stay in Budapest. We had found this place through HostelWorld and thought that we would be staying in a private double room in a hostel. Turns out that we have our own one-bedroom apartment — complete with kitchen and washing machine — in an old apartment building in Budapest. It is so cool! It is a classic Budapest building, where the main door on the street enters into a courtyard that is ringed by different apartments on all sides. We had read about this type of set-up in our handy Rick Steves guide and he even encouraged us to venture into a random building’s courtyard to experience it ourselves. And here we were being led into that exact type of building by the lovely proprietress, Georgie. The building is a bit rundown inside the courtyard and we weren’t sure what lay in store for us upon our first entry, but it’s a very nice apartment inside and we love the fact that we are staying in a building where real Budapestians live.
- The underground trains play a snappy musical tune for each arrival and departure, instead of the standard “mind the gap” or “doors closing” that you might hear in other cities.
- Paprika is actually the pepper itself, not just the spice made from grinding peppers. (I had a stuffed paprika for dinner last night.)
- The baths are amazing. We will write a whole blog post about those tomorrow. We spent this afternoon “taking the waters” at Budapest’s public Széchenyi baths.
Stay tuned for more detail from Budapest tomorrow! There is too much to capture for one sitting.