I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend some time in Budapest, Hungary – in fact, I’m still here – and have become enamored with this wonderful city. While it has a tragic past involving murders by the Nazi’s immediately followed by forty-years of control under a communist regime, the people are incredibly friendly and the city is thriving and vibrant. There’s much to do and the following paragraphs will give you just a few of the entertainment options available to you.
Let’s begin with the thermal baths; Budapest has long been known for its relaxing and, some say, therapeutic thermal baths. I visited Szechenyi Baths, which, with twenty-one different pools, is one of the oldest and largest of the baths. Opened in 1913, the pool temperatures vary from warm and relaxing to “Oh my God, did they throw ice in here?” There are bubbles which come up from the bottom to gently massage your feet, to waterfalls which pound on tired muscles, to whirlpools which drag you around the pool, bumping off other bathers as you attempt to gain control. And when night falls, the green and purple lights come on and make the place seem a bit magical.
Another must-do in Budapest is a river cruise. With the two areas of the city – Buda and Pest – divided by the famous Danube River, there’s no greater place to see the beauty of both sides than from a boat on the river. In fact, on December 11, 1987, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee listed the Danube river embankment and the Buda Castle District as a World Heritage Site. While there are many options for cruising the Danube – afternoon trips, lunch cruises, dinner cruises, and more – I chose to take a one hour evening cruise offered by the Danube Legend boat.
We pulled out of the dock at 6:30pm (dark in the winter) on a clear evening with a full moon. The city was lit up on both sides, and we cruised under beautiful bridges which had been rebuilt in their original style following the destruction of all the bridges during World War II. We sailed past the beautiful Castle District with its royal history, the beautiful Hungarian Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the breathtaking Parliament Building. The headsets at each seat informed me of what I was seeing and the history of it. With commentary options in thirty languages, you can opt for your home tongue or maybe learn a new one. Oh, and the one-hour cruise includes a drink. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this incredible city.
After you finish your river cruise, why not end the day at one of the famous Ruin Pubs. These began springing up a few years ago and now there are nearly twenty of them. I chose Szimpla, one of the largest and well-known. The unique part of Ruin Pubs is that they’re located in old, ruined buildings. The buildings have basically been left alone with little to no renovations, and that’s the charm. Usually there’s a courtyard as many are missing roofs in at least one part of the building. Often there are many smaller areas spread throughout. I order a drink at the bar located near the entrance and sit down with a few people who are visiting from a variety of countries. We chat in American, English, Australian, Hungarian and Norwegian accents, enjoying the energy and uniqueness of our location. Before long, a waitress comes around selling carrots. That’s right, this bar doesn’t have nuts or pretzels, but it does have carrots which you can purchase for 200 Forints (about $0.74 as of this writing). There’s also a Hookah (Shisha) bar where you can choose which flavor you’d like to smoke from the provided water-pipe. Don’t forget to stroll around the place and notice the unique rooms spread throughout. And ladies, if you need to use the restroom, be prepared to squat as most of the toilets in here are Turkish style.
Carole has spent 19 years working in a variety of positions in the Travel Industry including cruise ships, hotels, adventure tour guiding, international tour management and corporate meeting mgmt. She has the inside scoop on the business of travel and the best information on business and leisure travel.