Hungary is a country usually associated with sun, wine and holiday at Lake Balaton. The thing that draws Poles to this country, apart from the lake that bears a striking resemblance to a sea, is our common history. Despite the fact that Hungarians speak a foreignsounding language, they will always be able to understand the saying: “Pole and Hungarian brothers be, good for fi ght and good for party” (in Hungarian: Lengyel, magyar – két jó barát, együtt harcol, s issza borát).
I like the capital of Hungary not only for its beauty, but also because of its convenient location. Budapest is a perfect destination for a quick getaway – it does not take long to get there from Poland. At the same time, you can be sure that early spring and summer are likely to greet you with sunny weather and high temperatures, as the climate in Hungary diff ers from the Polish one. I know from my own experience that even in May the temperature may exceed 25°C.
János-hegy and the Elizabeth Lookout
Budapest is perfectly located – the left-bank side of the city called Pest never goes to sleep, while the right- bank side called Buda, located on a hill, is a place for relax. From this part of the city you can admire the Danube River and amazing panorama. The most popular viewpoint is the Neo-Romanesque Fishermen’s Bastion, which overlooks the whole capital and the magnifi cent Parliament (Országház). This spot is extremely popular among tourists from all over the world, therefore it is often crowded. The Buda Hills are an alternative attraction to Fisher- men’s Bastion. A hike in the hills is a perfect opportunity to see the natural surroundings of the city and to discover its less touristy, more tranquil part.
The highest hill – János-hegy (528 metres above sea level) can be reached by city bus or train run by… children, for whom it is a form of reward for good grades. The Elizabeth Lookout Tower, a place that gets less coverage in guidebooks, is also located on the hill. The Hungarians dedicated the tower to empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sissi. The entrance is free, therefore it is defi nitely worth taking a look at Budapest and the Danube River that splits the city in half, without being bothered by groups of tourist. On the hill, you can also fi nd a chairlift from which you can admire stunning views – the ride takes approximately 20 minutes.
Historic thermal baths
Budapest is attractive also for those who want to spend their time in a less active way. Thermal baths are perfect places to wind down. If you are planning to spend several days in Budapest, you can visit a different thermal bath complex every day. Their healing properties are wellknown and widely appreciated across Europe. I always recommend my Polish friends to visit thermal baths in Buda – Szent Lukács Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda. Its baths are located in a historic sanatorium surrounded by a park, where you can rest after a hot bath.
As they are not listed among tourist attractions of the capital of Hungary, you can find there mainly local people. Hungarians visit thermal baths at least once a week. What’s interesting is that the state grants pensioners special discounts, or even partially finances this type of treatment, if it has been prescribed by a doctor. At the beginning of my stay in Budapest, I was impressed by those thermal baths that can be regarded monuments. Rudas gyógyfürdő, for instance, has preserved a lot of its original Turkish architecture with the main pool hidden under a dome and slightly dark interiors.
District VII and VIII – pulse of the city
Pest is full of restaurant, bars and clubs. It is worth visiting District VII and VIII, as they are all the time vibrant with life. On the other hand, Raday Street is a good place for lunchtime – along the street you can find restaurants that serve not only traditional Hungarian food, but also international cuisine. Some people call it the Soho of Budapest. In the evening, it is worth going to Király Street (District VII) and its neighbourhood, as they are considered the centre of modern Hungarian culture. Moreover, the street is rich in numerous shops, offering designer products, and art galleries. On Király Street, you can find many pubs, and the Gozsdu Courtyards – a venue famous for bars, restaurants and boutiques.
Those who want to see lesser-known parts of Budapest, should take a stroll down Rumbach Sebestyén Street and see the old abandoned Moorish Style synagogue. District VIII has until recently been considered a bad neighbourhood – I personally witnessed its amazing transformation. In 2015, Vogue magazine described this place as “still a bit dirty and scruffy”, but also attracting attention with interesting and extraordinary places. It is hard to disagree. My favourite spots include Cafe Csiga, Jelen Bisztró, Lumen Kávézó and Szimpla Kert. Nevertheless, there are plenty more atmospheric bars, cafes and restaurants perfect for grabbing lunch, drinking a cup of coffee or fröccs (a Hungarian cocktail made with wine and sparkling water).