A Tale of Two Cities: Buda and Pest and What to See in 48 Hours
Yes, for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t either) Budapest is actually split into Buda and Pest with the Danube river running between them. There is a third city called Óbuda, meaning Old Buda, and the three make up Budapest, but for the purposes of this blog I’m just going to discuss Buda and Pest. These cities joined together not too long ago in 1873. Considering other cities were constructed centuries ago, this is a pretty recent merge. The Chain Bridge provides passersby with breathtaking views of each city and great panoramic shots (see below). Both sides of the bridge contain completely different landscapes and ambiances.
Buda is located on the West side of the river and is older than Pest. It has an interesting layout with houses packed together built on hills, making it hard to navigate for both tourists and drivers. However, this uneven terrain also yields fabulous views of its partner city and the river flowing through them. On Buda's side you will see the Sándor Palace (where the president lives), the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and much more.
Pest is the happening side of the city so you’ll definitely want to book your hostel there, especially near District 7, the Jewish quarter, which holds a lot of the city’s nightlife. We stayed at Colors Budapest Hostel for about €7 a night. On the Pest side you can visit Parliament, Central Market Hall, and buy some paprika as a souvenir or try Hungary’s famous goulash soup, the thermal baths, and Budapest’s unique ruin bars.
Ruin bars are relatively new to Budapest and certainly a must-see while visiting. They started becoming established bars about 10 years ago from old abandoned buildings in District 7, standing as remainders of WWII. The most famous one is called Szimpla Kert. It looks like you've walked into a consignment shop with multiple rooms containing random secondhand objects scattered around for decoration. From hair dyers and bathtubs to mermaid sculptures and cars, this pub has every item you will never see at another bar. The building is very big for a bar, so it’s fun to wander around from room to room to see what weird objects you come across.
After a late night out and an early morning of touring, the thermal baths are the best way to relax. The Széchenyi Bath is just over 100 years old, created in 1913. It is made up of three outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools. In addition to pools, they have massages available for purchase, beer and wine, and other services. The temperature of the pool is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and, although that isn’t nearly as hot as a hot tub, it is very comfortable for a cold winter day. You can relax in the water or get carried in a whirlpool created by jets. Either way, the baths are a fun way to meet other tourists or spend time with your friends.
With less than 48 hours in the city my group certainly did a lot. With a such a short amount of time you have to be selective. Asking people who have traveled there before, reading tourist magazines on the flight, and, of course, asking the locals are all great ways to get ideas of what to do. Most importantly pick a few things and go with the flow. And if you don’t get to see all you had hoped to see, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to go back. :D