The Queen of the Danube, the beautiful city of Budapest lives up to that noble title. Once upon a time this city was two separate towns, Buda and Pest, with Buda being the royal capital and Pest the commercial side. Both sides being divided by the grand Danube River. It was not until 1837 when the two sides came together to become Budapest, and in 1987 the city including the banks of the Danube, the Castle Quarter, and Andrassay Avenue became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I fell head over heels with this magnificent city, and I do plan on returning to explore more of Budapest, as well as the country. The time I had spent exploring the city, the old Jewish Quarter, the castle, and other significant sites left a mark in me. The meals I indulged in at the most famed and oldest restaurants in Budapest were refined and delectable. Even through all the tourists and the busyness of the streets, there was a classic refinement and a richness in history to this remarkable city.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Budapest is considered to have an outstanding universal value, as a center for receiving and disseminating cultural influences. The city’s location along the Danube originated as a human settlement since the Celtic era. It was the site of the Roman city, Aquincum, and later it became the two towns of Buda and Pest. Over the centuries the city was run by the Hungarian Monarchy, as well as the Turkish Occupation, and is characterized with periods of both devastation and revitalization.
Today, Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and the most populated city in the country, as well as being the second largest city along the Danube River. It is considered an outstanding example of urban development in Central Europe.
As a person who has a great respect for UNESCO sites, I had explored the city with the mindset of culture and history, as well as my love for gastronomy. I have comprised in this post a list of sites and restaurants that are well worth the visit while in Budapest- the oldest café, the finest restaurant, the castle quarter, a cruise down the Danube, and other significant sites. Enjoy and Bon Voyage!
A Cruise Along the Danube River
The grand Danube River is the second largest river in Europe, flowing from Germany, through Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and into the Black Sea. Budapest is the second most populous city along this river, and there are many significant sites along its historic banks, including the Hungarian Parliament Building and Buda Castle.
There are many types of cruises that will take you along the Danube River including multi-day cruises, hour cruises, dinner cruises, and a champagne cruise which I had taken. I have always enjoyed day cruises or even an hour cruise along a river when traveling. It is a wonderful way to wind down, and enjoy scenic views with a drink in hand.
Buda Castle Quarter
The Buda Castle District was a highlight for me while visiting Hungary’s capital city, as I have a deep interest for visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. The castle district is part of Budapest’s UNESCO’s title – “Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrassay Avenue” and was inscribed in 1987. With the criterion as Buda Castle being an architectural ensemble, which together with the nearby old district (the Buda Castle Quarter) illustrates two significant periods of history that were separated by an interval corresponding to the Turkish invasion.
The castle is located on the southern tip of Castle Hill, which is surrounded by the Castle Quarter. This charming quarter is a touristic area filled with medieval, Baroque and Neoclassical monuments, houses, public buildings, and churches. This is the area that I had popped in for my breakfast when I first arrived to the castle, and it was a nice place to be in the morning before all the visitors arrived.
Since the castle complex is built on a hill, the views from the castle are stunning any time of the day. When I was wandering the castle grounds, I always took a deep breath when I caught marvelous glimpses of the Danube River and the Pest side of city. It was all so beautiful and tranquil, especially in the morning before all the tourists arrived.
For More Information, please visit – Buda Castle – A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Discovering Budapest, Hungary
Old Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter, the inner part of Budapest’s District 7, is a charming and lively district within the city. This part of the city was a thriving Jewish settlement from the 18th century, and had presented numerous business opportunities for Jews, which contributed to the city’s progress. After both wars of WWI and WWII, which included the tragedy of the Holocaust; Budapest’s once successful Jewish community was turned into a ghetto by the Nazi’s and Hungarian Fascists. The area had declined more during the communist era, and the country had seen a mass exodus out of Hungary altogether.
In the most recent years, the deteriorated buildings and neglected neighborhood of the old Jewish Quarters has seen a great gentrification, as in most old neighborhoods in the world. Today this district in Budapest is alive with modern Hungarian culture, and is brimming with trendy shops, antique stores, bars, and trendy restaurants. When I visited the old Jewish Quarter, I had purchased beautiful crystals, artwork, and artisan jewelry from local shops. It is a bright and lively part of the city for those who are looking for eclectic gifts, trending restaurants, and a lively nightlife.
Budapest City Park
Városliget, the City Park in Budapest is an engaging and colorful place to visit to catch local life or for a relaxing stroll during your visit. I had come across the City Park when I went for lunch at Gundel’s, Budapest’s most iconic restaurant. The park is also adjacent to Heroes’ Square and Andrassy Blvd, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The City Park has been a place for celebrations and family outings for over 100 years, and today it remains a popular destination to relax and gather. There are several great museums in the park such as the Art Gallery and Museum of Fine Arts, as well as other attractions:
- Budapest Zoo
- Vajdajunyad Castle
- Millennium Monument
- Szechenyi Thermal Bath
- Heroes’ Square
- Boating Lake (my favorite)
Hősök tere (Heroes’ Squaure) is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue, the avenue being part of the city’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heriteage Site. This grand monument is adjacent to the City Park, as well as my favorite restaurant, Gundel.
Heroes’ Square is one of Budapest’s major squares containing its iconic Millennium Monument with the Seven chieftains of the Magyars statues, as well as other important Hungarian leaders, and the Memorial Stone of Heroes (Tomb of the Unknow Soldier).
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Stretching across the Danube River is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, which connects both the Buda and Pest sides. The bridge was opened in 1849, and was the first permanent bridge across the Danube. It anchors Szechenyi Square and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on the Pest Side, and on the Buda side, Adam Clark Square. The bridge became a linkage between the East and the West, and a symbol for national awakening and social advancement.
The Bridge was named after Istvan Szechenyi, who was a major supporter of its construction, although it is mostly referred to as the “Chain Bridge”. In its time, the bridge was regarded to as one of the modern world’s engineering wonders, and had a great significance to the city, as much as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The bridge’s decorations and its construction radiates a balance and calm dignity, which has elevated the Chain Bridge to a significant stature in Europe.
This goes out to the lovers of fine chocolates and the connoisseurs of divine pastries, I share your passion and would never steer you wrong! Café Gerbeaud has been a gastronomic delight since 1858, and is one of the oldest cafe’s in Europe. Stepping inside the saloon is a lavish step back in time with elegant chandeliers, Rococo style ceilings, and rich wood furnishings.
If you love cake, I suggest to order the sampler. Gerbeaud had already planned on hosting cake lovers, who could not decide on which cakes to choose from. On the menu there was a cake sampler plate that was served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It was the perfect size for me, and it was a delightful combination with a glass sparkling wine.
All the cakes that I tried were delicate and delectable. They were very different from each other, and I enjoyed all of them, especially the Dobos Cake!
For more information – At the Legendary Café Gerbeaud | Budapest, Hungary
The distinguished city of Budapest is known for many things; the grand Danube River that divides both Buda and Pest; the historical Castle Hill that majestically watches over the country’s capital; and Gundel, the city’s finest restaurant for over 120 years.
There was a sense of refinement and old aristocracy inside Gundel. The rich wood furnishings, hanging pendant lightings paired, with the royal blue and gold carpeting, all created a sophisticated dining space. It felt both comfortable and luxurious, the best of both worlds.
Dining at Gundel Restaurant was my first meal upon arriving to Budapest, and I indulged on classics such as Hungarian fish soup, filet topped with foie gras, a glass of local red wine, and much more. Gundel was everything that I hoped for when it came to a fine dining experience, from the tip-top service to the extraordinary dishes.
For more information – The Iconic Gundel Restaurant | Budapest, Hungary
Eating in Hungary
I was in Budapest for several days, as I was making my way through Eastern Europe and the Balkans. My visit to Hungary was like a viewing of future experiences to come, and I primarily made it a point to eat at certain places. There were many other foods and restaurants that I wanted to try, but I believe that I made an adequate dent on my gastronomic experience in Budapest.
I chose a couple of classic restaurants, and then ate many random dishes while in Hungary. I did eat lot of incredible meals while I was there, no denying that. That is why I am excited to return one day- for many days.
From ‘The perfect fish soup’ to eating cake at the oldest café in Budapest, my list of “What I ate in in Hungary- a Food Journal”
Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind…– Marty Rubin
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