Hi friends! I’m deep into packing and moving, leaving me to wonder how I can get rid of 90% of my stuff. Today, join me in welcoming Lisa to Bite-sized Travel to talk about her family’s travels in Budapest, a city I’ve long wanted to visit as part of a Eastern European tour. 

Budapest is often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the Paris of the East.  It’s the capital city of Hungary and provides a big bang for your travel buck.

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Both times I have visited Budapest I have rented an apartment. I recommend the Andrassy 2 Apartment offered by Apartments in Budapest.  Located at the foot of the most stylish street in Hungary, this modern, cozy two-bedroom apartment is steps away from the subway, across the street from Szent Istvan Bazilika, a comfortable walk from a modern shopping mall and a great value.

Legend of the Chain Bridge Lions

Budapest is the amalgam of the former cities of Buda and Pest (pesht) that are connected by a series of bridges that span the Danube River.  The most beautiful and famous of the bridges is the Chain Bridge.  It opened in 1849.  In 1852 a pair of lions was added on each end of the bridge.

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Legend has it that the designer of the bridge boasted that he had built the perfect bridge.  When it was pointed out to him that the lions had no tongues, he threw himself off the bridge and into the Danube in dispair.  Luckily he survived.

Budapest Thermal Baths

Budapest is home to many beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are must see attractions for any visitor to the city.  But don’t overlook one of the pleasures enjoyed by city residents – the thermal baths. Historical records indicate that 14 baths exited in Budapest as far back as 2000 years ago, but it gained the moniker ‘The City of Spas’ in the 1920s.

I have visited two of the seven Budapest spas.  The first, the Gellert Bath and Spa is part of the famous Hotel Gellert in Buda. It’s built in the Art Nouveau style, features an outdoor wave pool and is popular with tourists.

But, for a truly authentic spa experience, head over to the Szechenyi Bath and Spa in City Park.  It’s one of the largest bathing complexes in Europe and the only thermal bath on the Pest side. I suggest visitors rent a cabin to ensure your valuables are safe.

Szechenyi features 10 indoor pools and three outdoor pools that are open all year long.  Next to the inexpensive massages, other spa treatments and the soothing waters, the highlight of the Szechenyi Bath is watching the men playing chess. If chess isn’t your speed, the series of Friday night parties that Szechenyi  threw last summer might be the right fit.

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Let the Budapest Zoo Take a Bite Out of You

Right across the park from the Szechenyi Baths is the Budapest Zoo.  We visited the zoo in 2012 with our teenaged daughter, who I expected to roll her eyes the entire day.  Instead, our trip to the zoo became a highlight of our trip.

The Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of the oldest zoos in the world, opening its doors in 1866, and contains a number of impressive Art Nouveau buildings.  Compared to more familiar North American zoos, visitors may be shocked by just how up close and personal they are able to get to the animals.

My daughter and I watched in stunned silence as a warthog stuck his snout through a wooden fence and took a bite out of my husband’s pristine white sneaker.  warthog

I’m happy to say no toes were sacrificed and we ended our visit by having a family photo taken while a Merkat name Kainda balanced on our laps.

Memento Park

Until 1989, Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain. After the fall of Communism, the public vestiges of the era were immediately removed. Many of the statues and monuments were not destroyed.  Instead, they were re-erected on the edge of town in an attraction called the Memento Park.

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The designer of the park said the park is about dictatorship and at the same time it is about democracy.  “After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.”

Take a Bite out of Hungary

I cannot write about Budapest without talking about the food.  The city is known for its café culture and it doesn’t get any better than Café Gerbeaud, one of the greatest, most beautiful and oldest coffee houses in Europe, which opened the doors of its present location in 1870.

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For less formal fare can be found on the street or in the Central Market.  No trip to Hungary would be complete with delicious Hungarian crepes called palacsinta (pal-a-chint-a), cinnamon ice cream or deep fried bread called langos (lan-gosh), topped with cheese and sour cream.

Thanks, Lisa, that gives me a lot to work with! Have you been to Budapest? What else needs to go on a must-see list? Let us know in the comments!

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