48 hours in Budapest
A getaway between history and spas
The beauty of the classic © Alamy Stock Photo
Unrivaled thermal baths, night boat trips, old ships converted into gigantic pubs, the largest synagogue in Europe ... The escape to the capital of Hungary, divided by the Danube river into two halves (Buda and Pest), is as acceptable as recommended . And is that the change of euros to Hungarian forintos (1 EUR = 311.86 HUF at the time of writing this article) will make us gain some purchasing power. When preparing the suitcase, keep in mind that the temperature is quite similar to the Spanish, but you have to add the humidity factor. And don't forget the swimsuit, there are almost 100 hot springs spread over 12 bathrooms.
5pm We stayed in the Belváros neighborhood, next to the eastern bank of the Danube (Pest), right in the center of the city. After leaving the suitcases, the first thing that catches our attention - apart from the humidity that the river gives off - are the numerous souvenir shops, with matrioskas dolls as a star dish. If we want to buy souvenirs, we can acquire them at any time and avoid going loaded all afternoon. On the way to Parliament on Bécsi Street, we can stop at the Michael Jackson Memorial Tree, located in one of the corners of the Erzsébet tér park. It is a tree turned into a sanctuary spontaneously by fans of the king of pop, who began using it on the day of his death to leave photographs, poems, burning candles and the most unimaginable dedications.
6pm. Our walk to Parliament we continue along the bank of the Danube (Belgràdrakpart), enjoying this way the views of skyline of Buddha (western part) across the river. Shortly after passing through the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi) and Roosevelt Square we will have arrived. This building, in addition to hosting the sessions of the National Assembly and the most important government agencies in the country, offers an extraordinary neo-gothic facade (a symbol of the city, the work of Imre Steind), a walk through its floral gardens and free visits for citizens of the European Union.
The visual jewel of the city © Alamy Stock Photo
7.30pm The walk continues through Margarita Island, in the middle of the Danube, which is accessed through the homonymous bridge next to Parliament. We rented one of the tandems that are by way of trolleys and we went pedaling this Islet full of vegetation and beautiful places to stop: the ruins of the Church of Santa Margarita, oriental-style gardens, the Church of San Miguel, the Water Tower ... There, there is also the Sziget Festival, a music festival that in August (this year, from 10 to 17) bring to the small island the best of the international scene (Rihanna and Muse among many others in 2016) and that usually has a spanish banda (from Ska-P to, this August, Manu Chao).
22.00 h. After a quick dinner we approach have a drink to the Jewish quarter, right in the center of Pest. There we will find the old ruined buildings converted into pubs and called 'garden bars', similar in appearance to squatter houses but privately managed. They are worth seeing only for their bizarre decorations: graffiti, recycled furniture, computer monitors hanging on the walls ... The favorite of tourists is the Szimpla (Kazinczy u. 14), with its gigantic terrace, its three floors and its innumerable recesses adorned by bathtubs, dummies and even a car broken in half.
Fun is something like this in Budapest © Sziget España Official (Facebook)
10.00 a.m. There is no better way to take off our hangover than to visit a spa, so after enjoying the breakfast of the champions in a little terrace we take the subway towards Plazade los Héroes (Hösök tere stop, penultimate of Line 1). We will see immediately the monument to the Millenary, 36 meters high, with the archangel Gabriel on top. At its feet two rows of columns with the so-called heroes, statues of allegorical meaning that they pay tribute to work, well-being, wisdom, glory and peace. There we also find the Art Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts. But we headed our walk through the municipal park of Városliget towards the Széchenyi Baths, the deepest and hottest in the city (the entrance costs about 17 euros to the change). Countless pools, hot tubs and saunas on the inside, with a strong smell of sulfur from its waters. Outside, the hot pool, with the iconic chess board to soak a game, and summer, with an unparalleled jacuzzi in the center that every half an hour turns into a whirlpool that spins the bathers in a loop. We also found a terrace where to drink or eat something, so here we will spend a good part of the day, until our skin wrinkles.
5pm With the batteries charged after the thermal treatment we set out to cross to Buda, the western half of the city. Specific we go to the Castle, a World Heritage Site (buses 16th, 16, funicular and Batthynány ter Metro stop). Located on the hill on the bank of the Danube, we have a kilometer and a half walk where we will find three churches, five museums, various monuments, streets and buildings of historical interest, apart from numerous bars and art galleries. All this next to the priceless panoramic views of Pest.
The castle, a World Heritage Site © Alamy Stock Photo
20.00 After touring the neighborhood of the Castle we return taking a walk along the slopes of Mount Gellért until the Liberty Bridge, site the sea of pleasant where to watch the sunset with the skyline from both sides of the city over the river. When crossing it is worth stopping at the For Sale pub (Vamhaz korut, 2). In addition to his live music and his refreshing pints, its floor catches our attention, covered with the shells of the infinite peanuts they put on to chop, and the walls, literally papered with notes, poems and dedications of all who pass by. We take the opportunity to have dinner listening to a blues duo in the background.
9.30 p.m. We haven't stopped on the whole trip, so today’s last ride will be mounted on one of the night cruises that travel the Danube. They start at the port next to the Marrito Hotel and they cross under all the bridges that connect Buddha with Pest (Libertad, Elisabeth, Cadenas, Margarita and Árpád), in addition to surrounding Margarita Island. They cost about 4,000 Hungarian forintos (about 12 euros) per person, it is free for children up to nine years and include a drink (we also have the option of dining on board).
The bizarre and attractiveness of the For Sale Pub © Jesús Casañas
10.00 a.m. The last morning of the trip we return to the Jewish quarter to visit the Great Synagogue of Dohány Street, the largest in EuropeByzantine-Moorish style and built in the mid-19th century by Viennese architect Ludwig Föster. The boys have to wear one of their kipás (hats, to keep in mind that God is above us at all times), and the girls cannot go either with a skirt or with suspenders (it is considered inappropriate to see him). The entrance also serves to visit the church and the museum, which exhibits a collection of objects related to Jewish culture that date back to ancient Rome (historical relics, devotional objects ...). There we also find the Holocaust monument, a weeping willow made of metal whose leaves each contain the name of a Jewish victim.
11.30 a.m.. We complete the morning with the visit to the Casa del Terror Museum, which, far from being dedicated to gender cinema, focuses on another type of more real and chilling horror: the one that the Nazis exercised on the Hungarian people first (it was the headquarters of the country's National Socialists the winter of 1944) and lthe communists then (in 1945 the ÁVH political police was installed, dedicated to persecuting and punishing the enemies of communism). Four plants that document the vexations suffered by the victims, with their cells still standing and the iconic tank surrounded by photos of the fallen to not forget what happened there with the aim of not repeating.
Life between pools © Alamy Stock Photo
1:00 p.m. We cannot leave the city without visiting its best spa, located in the Hotel Gellért (More than one will sound from the 1992 Danone yogurt ad). Sleeping there is prohibitive (there are European kings who have spent the honeymoon in their rooms), but surprisingly the entrance to the part of the spa is quite cheap (On our last visit there was an offer of food and bath for about 20 euros). After eating at the king's body in its luxurious facilities, we put on the swimsuit and go to the mess. The interior areas are separated by gender, with multitude of pools, saunas and thermal change bathtubs. Outside, mixed use, we will find various outdoor pools (one of them with wave simulation) and lawn esplanades where we lay with the towel. Ideal to return home soft as a feather and eager to return.