Winter in Budapest
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Budapest is somewhere I have wanted to visit ever since George Ezra released his catchy song named after the city. It's not just the song which inspired me to visit, but also the photos I saw and experiences I'd heard of ever since listening to that cheerful tune.
I am so glad I visited, the city is so vibrant, even when it's streets are covered in cold snow. Budapest is one of those places you visit, and want to re-visit as soon as you leave.
My Airbnb was in the Jewish quarter, an area of Budapest rich in culture and history. Its easy to get lost in its streets which are filled with art, middle-eastern restaurants, characterful architecture and ruin bars.
The Danube river runs through the heart of the city, separating the Buda side and the Pest side. What I found interesting is that the Buda side has a hilly landscape, whereas the Pest side is flat, these differences continue as each side has a unique personality. While the Pest side is vibrant, filled with shops and cafes, the Buda side is has a calmer identity, and is mostly filled with architecture devoted to the heritage and history of the city. It's beautiful to walk down to the river on the Pest side in the evening, as you can watch the sun set over the Danube and behind the striking Gellert Hill.
The Buda side of the city has so much beautiful historic architecture, my favourite building being the Fisherman's Bastion. When walking up the steps it feels like you are entering a castle from Lord of the Rings, with its fairytale-like structure. The Fisherman's Bastion is not just something beautiful to look at, it also offers incredible views over Budapest itself.
Another piece of standout architecture for me was the Parliament Building. It stands proud over the Danube, with its dramatic spires reaching out towards the sky. It's not just beautiful from the front but if you take the no.2 tram, you can admire its design from behind too.
On the Danube, between the Buda and the Pest sides of the city, you can find Margret Island - a 2.5km long stretch of land which has become a park. I particularly enjoyed seeing the dedicated running path which circled around the edge of the island, if I head back to Budapest I will bring my running shoes so that I can explore the park like a local! Margret Island was beautiful in the snow, but I cannot help but imagine how fresh and full-of-life it must be in the summer, with people cycling and eating picnics together.
Budapest has a huge spa culture, with 15 public thermal baths across the city, this tradition something which I was very happy to engage in - especially in the cold winter weather. The biggest spa in the city is Szechenyi Bath, with too many thermal pools, steam rooms and saunas for me to count! The 38 degree water was a true delight after braving the cold weather for a couple of days. It was pleasing to see many locals at the spa; women chatting in the sauna, young people exercising in the swimming pool, and of men catching up over a game of chess on a table built into the outdoor pool.
Not far from Szechenyi Bath is Heroes Square, a square filled with beautiful bronze statues. The square was constructed at the end of the 19th century to honour the thousandth anniversary of Hungary being an independent country. And its statues celebrate the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of Hungary.
Budapest is a beautiful city, even in the winter it is worth braving the cold to explore all the delights of Hungary's capital. I do hope to return, maybe in warmer weather as I would be curious to see how the city's culture adapts and changes in the different seasons.