Updated: Feb 26, 2021
I found Eastern European culture to be very less exposed to the effect of internationalization because it was less revealed to the effects of commercialization of the industrialized world as opposed to some of the other cities in Western Europe. One of my favourite places in Europe was Budapest because I found the culture very distinct and well-maintained, from the Hungarian Parliament Building to the Chain Bridge that was built over 100 years ago. When people usually think about Eastern Europe, I guess they would associate those thoughts with communism and anti-modernization. But for me, Hungary presented options full of classical beauty and untainted culture resonating throughout all aspects of city life.I enjoyed the classical violins playing at Buda castle, and the modern scenery depicted at the restaurants and lively markets.There is a larger sense of community and authenticity I would argue to be more organic than say Paris, or London. The markets at Budapest and thermal baths were definitely a highlight, especially the Széchenyi Baths. Having had an influence from the Roman civilian culture and then accentuated by Turkish rule, the grandeur of the Baroque architecture lives on today, offering its medicinal wellness as well being a host to modern nightlife bath parties.
Budapest was formed in an amalgamation of 3 independent towns - Old Buda, Buda and Pest to become the administrative and cultural centre of the city. The Romans were the first provide written history and exploited the thermal springs and bath culture to the region. In the Middle Ages, Budapest was established in 1000 AD as a Kingdom with the coronation of the country’s first King, King Stephen I. In 1849, the Chain Bridge was developed and connected Buda and Pest and in 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was established. During World War 2, the Soviets and Communist Russia occupied Hungary until Communism collapsed in 1989. Since then, Hungary has transitioned to democracy which has modernized it along with internationalization of visitors from Europe and abroad.
1.Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath, founded in 1913, is one of Europe’s largest public baths and home to 18 therapeutic pools and 15 smaller interior baths. It is a popular place to relax and let the thermal water release your stress. Budapest has many thermal baths, but the Széchenyi thermal baths are one of the largest and most intricately designed baths with a Neo-Baroque architectural feeling that brings you back to the 1900s. Even on a cold day, going into the sauna can warm you up quickly. There are cabins and lockers for you to put your stuff in so be sure to take your key and there are water fountains near the baths as well.Legend has it that many residents used this place to play chess and socialize as a favourite past-time.
Heroes' Square is one of the main squares in Budapest and houses the seven chieftains of the Magyar tribes that founded Hungary. It is located nearby to the train station and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2002. Like Brandenburg gate in Berlin, Heroes' Square serves as a testament to Budapest’s history over time and it’s formidable leaders.This is a must see location to witness Budapest's long-standing history engraved above you. Since 2002, the Millenium Monument became part of one of UNESCO's protected world heritage sites.
3. Buda Castle
Buda Castle is a remarkable symbol of Budapest and houses several museums including the Budapest History Museum and Hungarian National Gallery, situated close to Chain Bridge. It was first built in the thirteenth century when Hungary was invaded by the Mongols. Destroyed by fire again during World War II, the 13th-century palace was rebuilt with modern interiors while incorporating hidden walls and medieval structures that still remain to this day. On top of Castle Hill, you will get panoramic views of the surrounding regions of Pest and the river Danube. You can walk up the hill or take a small cable car, called a Funicular. You might even catch someone playing the classical violin above one of the sights, like I did and witness the majesty of the castle.
4. Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament building was commissioned in 1886 and contains over 600 rooms. An example of Gothic Revival and Renaissance architecture,it is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest as well as one of the largest national assembly buildings in the world. Be sure to take a guided tour to understand the significance of each particular room in the building; the ending of the tour brings you to the gift ship at the exit doors. Another testament to the long-standing history of Budapest, it has survived both World Wars and the Hungarian Revolution.
5. Danube Promenade
On the banks of the Danube River, you will find many monuments and engravings to commemorate significant events in Budapest’s history. You may find that there are 60 pairs of shoes that look abandoned, but are a memorial to the Hungarian Jews, who in the winter of 1944, were shot on the banks of the Danube River by the Arrow Cross Party. Also on the Promenade, there are other structures that pay tribute to the heros in Budapest's history.
Margaret Island is a popular place to go for a bike ride and is just under 1km in size. A centre of urban nature and oasis away from the city, it is a great place to relax.Located in the Danube River, the pedestrian promenades around the parkland feature a water tower, the 14th century Dominican convent, a small zoo and a musical fountain.
2. Easter Markets
Budapest has many food and outdoor markets that incorporate the culture and culinary delights of the local cuisine. I loved browsing through the marketplace and discovering new and interesting foods that were often made live at the market. Many foods were made and very reasonably priced on the market, and the market expanded several streets within the city.
3.Instagram Worthy locations
Budapest has many Instagram worthy locations for a city that most people may not recognize, including the many Budapest signs along it’s streets and various small streets near the River Danube.
4. Statues of Prominent People
I found it interesting that Budapest would have statues of prominent people such as Bibo István, a Hungarian Political theorist and lawyer who was arrested during the Soviet invasion of the Hungarian Parliament.He was the last one to leave the Parliament and stayed in the building to write his famous proclamation : “ For Freedom and Truth” as he awaited arrest. Around St.Stephen’s Basilica, there is a statue of a fat policeman who watches tourists and locals,opting for a more light hearted tone.
Chelsea Reviews: 4.5/5
Budapest was one of my favourite cities that I visited in Europe because of its rich cultural history, Neo-Baroque architecture and relaxing thermal baths that brought me back to the time of the Romans.I loved touring the easter markets and browsing the different and locally sourced food. Eastern Europe has many things to offer that we may not know, and as the brink of Communism and the pandemic fades, we should discover the wonderful charms that it offers once again. With its charming architecture, Neo-Baroque thermal baths and lively culture through the street markets and testaments to leaders and memorials, Budapest should definitely be on your list to travel for a exciting holiday that combines history and adventure.