After Krakow, we keep on exploring eastern Europe, to discover 5 things not to miss in Budapest.
I have something unfinished with this city. I saw it in the winter, with the rain, and for this reason I have not been able to fully appreciate it.
I miss the SPA, the covered market, the ruin pubs. S Yes, I definitelly have something more to see.
In the meanwhile I’ll tell you about my personal Budapest and 5 things not to be missed.
You won’t only find the usual stuff, but also food and a couple of things which are not included in usual itineraries.
You won’t find the SPA, and the most famous covered market, for example. Those are 5 among the city’s gems.
5 things to do in Budapest: Heroes’ Square
Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere in Hungarian) is my favorite square in the city.
I found myself facing it at night, in an empty and silent square despite the fact that there was a skating court just a few steps away.
It is flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts, the Műcsarnok Gallery and houses the Millenium Memorial, in which the seven tribal chiefs who formed Hungary and other important historical figures of the country are represented. The Millenium is surrounded by two colonnades where 14 figures in total are represented: Stephen I the Saint, Ladislaus of Hungary, Coloman of Hungary, Andrew II, Bèla IV the Great, Charles I of Hungary, Louis I of Hungary, Janos Hunyadi, Mattia Corvino the Righteous, Istvan Bocskai, Gabriele Bethlen, Imre Thokoly, Francesco II Rakoczi and Lajos Kossuth. In fact when it was built Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire and five of the seven figures in the colonnade represented the Austrian rulers. During World War II it was damaged and when it was rebuilt the Austrian figures were replaced with those you find today. The monument’s name comes from the fact that it was built to celebrate Hungary’s first millennium, but was only finished 33 years after its construction began.
In front of the Millenium, a stone plaque reads:
“In memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of their people and their national independence.”.
It is an open-air book about the history of Hungary.
5 things to do in Budapest: Ronald Reagan statue
What’s a Ronald Reagan statue doing in Budapest?
I asked this myself and the answer came almost immediately. The statue of Reagan, 40th President of the United States, was built in front of the American embassy and next to the memorial commemorating the Soviet soldiers who fell during World War II. Reagan was President during the Cold War and was celebrated for helping Hungary (and other Soviet satellite states) regain freedom. Thanks to his decisions, in fact, the USSR fell. Hungarians consider the former American president “the man who changed the world and created a new one for Central Europe”. That’s why a salute to his statue is among the top 5 things not to miss in Budapest.
5 things to do in Budapest: Dobos Cake
Dobos Cake is perhaps the most famous cake in Hungary. It was invented by the pastry chef Jozsef C. Dobos and the first to taste it, in 1885, were Prince Francesco Giuseppe and his wife Elizabeth (yes, her, Princess Sissi!). It is made up of six layers of sponge cake, six of chocolate and butter, and then it is all covered in caramel. The recipe remained secret until Dobos himself, once retired, donated it to the Chamber of Confectioners in Budapest.
The best place to try it in our opinion? The Ruszwurn pastry shop in Buda. It is one of the few where Dobos cake is prepared according to tradition, as well as being the oldest bakery in Budapest and Sissi’s favorite.
5 things to do in Budapest: St. Stephen’s Basilica
Stephen I the Saint, was king and founder of Hungary.
His mummified right hand is preserved in the Basilica of St. Stephen in Pest, to which miraculous powers have always been attributed. The “Holy Right”, as the faithfuls call it, has not always been in the basilica. It was stolen by the guardian in 1038, who took it to Bihar, India. It was King San Ladislao who found it, he decided to forgive the guardian and then founded an abbey on the place where the relic was found. During the Turkish domination, the traces of the hand were lost and it was found again centuries later in Dubrovnik. Empress Maria Theresa entrusted it to a convent in Hungary, and later on it was taken to the basilica where it still resides.
A hand that has almost gone around the world!
5 things to do in Budapest: the subway
Among the 5 things not to miss in Budapest is its subway, the oldest in continental Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are just four lines, from M1 (the first, built in 1896) to M4 (the last, inaugurated in 2014) for a total length of about 33 kilometers.
Cell phones have been operating here along the entire underground line since 2000, despite the fact that old Soviet convoys still run on the M3 line. Not only that, but in case of need the subway can offer shelter to 220,000 people, guaranteeing air conditioning, drinking and running water.
Funny fact: New York subway was built according to the project of this one!