I was surprised to find that Budapest is really two distinct cities in one, Buda and Pest. While one is home to the art museums, churches and a large palace, the other boasts magnificent restaurants and nightlife. The difference between the two was best explained to me through the saying 'when Buda goes to sleep, Pest wakes up'. The two cities are separated by a river, although connected by many bridges; the most famous being the Chain Bridge which opened in 1849 before the cities united. True to the saying above, Carleigh and I spent our days in Buda enjoying architecture and history before heading across the river for dinner and drinks in Pest.
Budapest is a very walkable city, if you don't mind hills, and there is a lot to see. A day spent sightseeing is not complete without a walk around the Fisherman's Bastion, Buda Castle, and St. Stephen's Basilica. Not to mention, it's worth a full day trip to the thermal baths for a little rest and relaxation. Carleigh and I chose to take a break from touring the city to enjoy Gellért Baths on the Buda side. The complex has 12 thermal pools ranging in temperature from 65 to 105 degrees, including a giant outdoor wave pool. Unlike the generally mild wave pools of U.S. water parks, this wave pool was not afraid of using a little force and a wave could, and would, knock you down as it swept by. Some might call a day at the baths lazy for a tourist, but in truth these baths have strong cultural and history ties to the history of Budapest and no visit is complete without stopping at one of the many around the city.
After days in the sun exploring and relaxing, Carleigh and I spent nights at the famed ruin bars in Pest. They are best described as thrift stores with a bar; the decor is cacophonous, but the atmosphere lively. These bars began popping up in abandoned buildings and if you didn't know where to look, you wouldn't find them on your own. Our favorite in Budapest, Szimpla Kert, looks like an unassuming store front on a relatively quiet street as you pass by. It's nearly impossible to tell that beyond the entrance is a large courtyard, two stories of bars and rooms, and hundreds of people enjoying the Budapest nightlife. Ruin bars are a must see when you visit Budapest, it's a glimpse into the unique culture of Hungary.
Budapest quickly climbed up my list of favorite European cities as both a unique and lively place to visit. Thanks for a great time, Buda and Pest!