Budapest has been on my Bucket List for ages. Eastern Europe still seemed a bit daunting and mysterious to me but I had heard so many complimentary comments about this city that I was curious to finally get to see it. It also helped that my foodie friends who had been there before kept telling me it was a gourmet’s destination as well, so I was hooked. I had to go. The trouble was when. I kept planning and un-planning but finally this year, in a balmy golden September, I got to see this land.
Taking a taxi into town from the airport I was immediately fascinated. Watching the old train ride past us on the motorway into town, and then slowly the city started to reveal itself as cities of today do, first with dusty, run down parts on the outskirts of the city and slowly becoming more polished and showy as you got closer into town. But this was so much more, Budapest was a real revelation. I could consciously feel my eyes dart fast across the landscape of the metropolis trying to take it all in and wishing the car would hit a red light so I could pause for a minute to really look at it all properly. It felt magical. Starting from the Pest side of town which revealed itself to be a cultured European city of grand boulevards and stunning Art Nouveau architecture we crossed the Danube river via the Elizabeth Bridge and made our way up to the part of Buda and its walled enchanting Castle District. It was true excitement.
Staying in the Castle District in Buda, while quite touristy, did offer an oasis far from the maddening crowd of the more bustling wide boulevards of the metropolis side in Pest. Its charming, quiet streets and laid back feel contrasts with the more sophisticated side of Pest. Both have their advantages but more importantly for a traveller it means you get to experience two trips for the price of one. It is important to not play favourites and just go where the mood takes you as getting around is easy and nothing is too far. From the hill in Buda you get sweeping views of Parliament and the shinning city, and in Pest you walk along grand avenues and can stop in literary cafes. Being as excited as I was, I jumped right in and split my first afternoon between both sides of town and ended my afternoon with cocktails at the elegant Gresham Palace, now a Four Seasons hotel. After taking in the gorgeous Secession styled Art Nouveau details of the building I rested my feet in the whimsical bar and had one of their signature local cocktails. It felt like I was in a fairy tale.