"Budapest" Top 5 Page for this destination Budapest by antistar
Budapest Travel Guide: 7,710 reviews and 17,863 photos
Budapest - a once exotic city far away in the east. Now I live here.
When I first heard of Budapest it was hidden behind the Iron Curtain. A friend of mine fought through the mountain of red tape to reach the city and brought back tales of another world: a sea of factories under a blanket of choking smog, as bad as 20 cigarettes a day; a beautiful city centre barely touched by progress, crumbling facades and broken, cobbled streets; shambling metros with beer sold from buckets at less than one cent a pop.
After the curtain fell it was the first city I dreamed of visiting as a teenager. I planned a long trek across the old USSR on the Trans-Siberian, starting the whole trip off at Keleti Palyaudvar, a place then that seemed so distant it could have just as well been Vladivostok. The plans faded like the smog over Eastern Europe as I counted the cost, and I forgot all about the city until years later, when I had more money, but less time.
I came here almost 20 years later, stepping off the Belgrade train at the very same Keleti Palyaudvar I'd dreamed about years before. It felt just as alien as I'd expected: the language is like no other in Europe, even Estonian and Finnish, to which it is supposedly related, share barely a few dozen words. And few people speak English - at 25% the country has the lowest number of English speakers in the entire EU.
I spent an incredible week in the city: wandering streets shot through with impressive sights, photographing the Danube at night from the castle walls, and soaking up the political culture of a post-riot city trembling from the anger of a people outraged by government corruption on the 50th anniversary of the uprising against the Soviets. For some here little has changed, and the old guard have kept control; their anger simmers to this day.
As I stood in Moscow Square at the end of my week, I thought to myself, a sense of smug satisfaction washing over me, "I made it. Finally." But I also thought, sadly, that I would probably never come back: there so many more places for me to see that I rarely revisit a place. But two years later I stood in Moscow Square again, a drink in my hand, with my new friends and colleagues. My company had opened a studio here, and I was inexorably drawn back to Budapest. This time to live.
So I've got to know the city pretty well since I moved here at the start of 2008. I still can't speak much of the language, but I've seen much of the city and the country around it. I've studied the political landscape, watched the mannerisms, and caught a sniff of what it feels like to be a Hungarian. I don't think I will ever fully understand, and I think they like it that way.
It's an incredible city to visit, and an even better one to live in. A week does not do it justice: you'll see all the main sights, but there is so much more under the tourist radar. The more you walk the streets, the more hidden surprises pop up. And some of the best of Budapest is not on the well trodden tourist paths of central Pest and Buda. The hills of Buda offer days of exploration at the very least.
The city is divided in two halves by the glorious Danube: Buda and Pest. They were once two separate entities, and to this day are distinctly different. Hungarians will tell you that Buda is beautiful and Pest is for the dogs. But Pest is the lifeblood of the city. It's where most of the city's business, restaurants and nightlife exists. It's also undergoing a huge regeneration project that progressing so fast it is leaving Hungarian's views of Pest in the last century.
Central Pest is spread across five districts. Bang in the centre of everything District V, fast becoming the most expensive place to live in Hungary. If you want to be in the thick of things, get a hotel here. But don't expect it to be cheap, and Danube views are at a premium. Around this central district are VI, VII, VIII and IX. Though perhaps not as chock full of sights as V, they have their own surprises and flavour. District VI has the glamourous Andrassy Ut, VII has Europe's greatest synagogue, VIII the grand National Museum and IX the oddball National Theatre complex by the Danube.
Buda has its standout draws too, and the Buda Hills overlooking the city will always be the home to Hungary's millionaires, superstars and politicians. The most amazing parts of Buda lie in the centre, with the Castle and Gellert Hill providing incredible views of Pest, while providing breathtaking views themselves, especially when viewed from one of the city's many bridges. Point of note: if you take a taxi from the airport to Buda sit on the right side. Your introduction to the city will then fill you with awe like it did me.
So come one, come all, there's a reason Budapest is one of the most popular cities in the world, and you would be wise to come here and find out why.
- Pros:One of the most amazing cities in the world, beautiful location, fantastic architecture, great restaurants, good value, tons to see and do, low crime.
- Cons:Not many English speakers and Hungarian is an alien language, the pests that annoy tourists on Vaci Utca, dirt and graffiti.
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