Budapest – The Heart of Europe

By: Sindhuja Kodivalas, Staff Writer

Photos Courtesy of: Kaladhar Rachabathuni

The ‘Heart of Europe’, Pearl of the Danube (river) – Budapest is definitely a place everyone must visit. “Buda” and “Pest”, the two cities stand magnificently on both sides of the river Danube. Everything I heard about Budapest was true and it lived up to its reputation. I was glad to be able to visit this amazing place this weekend. It has rich history and heritage at the same time is full of youthful energy and flamboyance.

The view of the royal palace from the "chain bridge"
The view of the royal palace from the “chain bridge”
The Basilica
The Basilica

 

The Cathedral
The Cathedral

I got to visit number of places and some of them will remain a lifetime memory. Hungary, in spite of being a member of the European Union, still uses HUF (Hungarian Forint) as their currency. This city is definitely a great, budget getaway, as it is less expensive.

I arrived late afternoon in the city. After a pleasant stroll across the beautiful streets of Budapest, with its lively and small restaurants, I visited the “The Great Market Hall”. It is the one of the biggest fresh markets in Europe. It is situated in this old palace style architectural building. It has rows of fresh food items lined in the first floor. The second floor mostly consists of fabric shops for household purposes and souvenir shops that stand to attract the tourists.

The Hero Square
The Hero Square

The next day I started off with the “Hero Square”. Hungarians are proud of their unique history. Unlike most European countries, the Hungarians are a nomadic tribe from Asia who moved to Central Europe in ancient times. And the Hero Square is constructed in honour of these earlier nomadic leaders who led this migration. The statues of the seven tribal leaders stand magnificently under the pillar at the centre of the square, surrounded by the great Hungarian kings who have ruled Hungary, under whom these lands flourished in prosperity. This Hero Square is centre for several other attractions like the royal castle, flea market, and the state park. All these places are with in a walk able distance.

 

Right next to the square stands one of the two most famous thermal baths of the city. Budapest, rich in history, has been ruled by many nations: the Hungarian kings, followed by the Turks and even the Communists had a strong hold on these lands for few years. This city has this unique culture of preserving the relics of all these dynasties. One of which is the “Turkish thermal baths”. These baths are surrounded by magnificent royal buildings which are used as changing rooms. One feels like an aristocrat of the ancient times while taking baths in these lavish pools. It is an incredible experience.

The Famous Budapest Thermal Bath
The Famous Budapest Thermal Bath

After a refreshing bath, my next stop was at St. Stephen’s Basilica; named in honour of the first king of Hungary. It is one of the top five largest  basilicas in Europe. This truly stunning structure stood right there in the middle of the city. This Roman Catholic church is huge on the exterior, and beautiful on the interior. The interiors were made of minute architecture and it was so mesmerising that it left me speechless. Pictures speak louder than words. The public is also allowed to take a tour to the top of the cathedral which gives a 360 degree view of the city.

St. Stephen Basilica dome
St. Stephen’s Basilica dome
Main Chapel
Main Chapel

 

The Chocolate truffle with Strawberry ice cream
Chocolate truffle with Strawberry ice cream

A 500 meter walk from the basilica lands one right in the middle of the city’s shopping district of Budapest.   The crown jewel of this market, at its entrance is the 18th century café “Gerbeaud”. The main attraction of this place is the interior of the building hasn’t been altered since the 18th century and is still well maintained. One gets to experience the royal treatment in this old-fashioned restaurant. The desserts here are probably one of the best in the world, “chocolate truffle cake with strawberry ice cream” is the most delicious desert I have tasted to date. After this delicious meal, a stroll across the small shops at the square made my day.

 

The Gerbeaud cafe
The Gerbeaud cafe

 

The Parliment
The Parliment

But the day was not over, not even close. Then I took a tram which went along the river covering the beautiful view of both Buda and Pest. The Royal Palace, the cathedral, Parliament, and many other beautiful structures stood on the banks of the river Danube. Lit, the city stood magnificent in front of you. There are many bridges connecting the two cities. The oldest of them is the “Chain bridge”. Just a view from this bridge, with the city lit in a 360 degree angle around you is sight one will never forget in a lifetime!

 

Budapest is not only a city of historical relics, it is the city of vibrant club and pub life. If you are interested in the pubs of Budapest, view my other article on the night life of Budapest.

The architecture was stunning, the thermal baths were refreshing, and the ruin bars were nothing like I have ever experienced before. This weekend will probably remain as one of the best weekends for a long time to come.

Sindhuja Kodivalasa

Sindhuja Kodivalasa

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