When many people visit Europe they end up visiting mostly western European countries, but the hidden jewel lies to the east, Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is still not a tourist trap and offers a fascinating history, charismatic people and an irreplaceable experience. Budapest is so much more than its pieces but experiencing and seeing these ten gems will bring you closer to the wonder that is Budapest.
1. Relax in a Thermal Bath
Budapest boasts a variety of thermal baths which have great health benefits in the treatment of skin, muscular and bone ailments. The largest and most magnificent is Széchenyi Medicinal Bath which was the first thermal bath built in Budapest. This grand complex offers an array of activities from swimming pools, a whirlpool, indoor and outdoor pools and even a pool where you can play chess, as well as saunas and massages. A visit to Széchenyi will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Another must is a visit to Budapest’s 300 acre City Park that was built for Hungary’s 1000 year celebration. Wander through City Park and enjoy the natural beauty of emerald green lawns and fragrant trees and stop to catch the haunting reflection of Vajdahunyad Castle, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.
3. Explore the Nyugati Train Station
This architectural beauty was built by the Eiffel Company (perhaps you’ve seen their other great work?). The grandeur of this station sets it apart from many others and its sheer enormity is awesome. Exploring the Nyugati train station is like visiting a work of art and like many great train stations will tug at your traveler’s heart.
4. Shop WestEnd
Budapest offers some great shopping and a visit to WestEnd shopping mall is a must for any shopper looking to find anything from souvenirs to unique clothing and interesting handmade pieces – like a magic box. WestEnd has over 400 stores to browse and there’s even a waterfall inside!
5. Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica
Hungary’s largest church can be seen from afar on the Buda hillside but its best to see it up close in all its stunning brilliance. And be sure not to miss the mummified right hand of St. Stephen in the Holy Right Chapel – no joke!
6. Ride Metro Line 1 (Yellow Line)
Head underground to the second oldest underground railway system in the World and the first on the European continent. Among the rumble of trains a must experience is a ride on the iconic Metro Line 1 (Yellow Line), that still has all of its old world charm and charisma, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time at this World Heritage Site.
At the edge of City Park is a massive square on a grand Hungarian scale. A 36 meter high pillar stands center stage with seven Magyar chieftains around its base and behind are two large colonnades with statues of 14 important people in Hungary’s past. Atop the colonnade on each end stand four allegorical figures – Work & Prosperity, War, Peace, and Knowledge & Glory. Each piece of Hero’s Square is striking but standing back and looking at the whole is awe-inspiring.
8. Stroll the Fisherman’s Bastion
Looking for a great view of the city then head to the Fisherman’s Bastion. Built right into the Buda hillside is a stretch of charming tunnels and seven white turrets, it gives the feeling of walking through an open aired castle. Wandering through the Fisherman’s Bastion you are offerd picturesque views of Budapest and the Danube as well as an attractive place to take a stroll.
9. Explore the Caves
Beneath Budapest are approximately 200 caves formed by thermal springs. There are nine protected caves but only three are open to the public. The Szemlöhegyi Cave appears to be decorated with minerals that look like bunches of grapes and cauliflower, leading to it being called the underground flower garden. Pálvölgyi Cave is spectacular with its stunning stalagmite formations, steep steps and high ceilings, it is the second longest in the country at 18 kilometres. A visit to either Szemlöhegyi Cave and or Pálvölgyi Cave will make you feel like an explorer in a whole new world.
10. Enter the Buda Castle Labyrinth
Hidden beneath Buda Castle lies a labyrinth. This isn’t any Disney or Alice in Wonderland, playful labyrinth, this is the real thing. As you descend 16 meters below the Castle District you are immediately struck by the eerie atmosphere of the Buda Castle Labyrinth. The labyrinth is 1200 meter long cave system with five separate labyrinths encompassing nine halls, and they’re all dark, damp and full of hidden treasures. The last one will truly test your strength, the Labyrinth of Courage is pure darkness – will you find the door that leads to light at the end?
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