When we set our sights on Budapest for a New Year's trip, I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about the city, or Hungary for that matter, at all. Upon visiting I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city has a vibrant history and offers so much to travelers looking to learn how modern day Budapest came to be.
One of Hungary's most popular figures is Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, who ruled at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. As the first devoutly Christian ruler of Hungary, he spread the faith throughout the lands and experienced a relatively peaceful reign. Today he is commemorated in Budapest with the city's largest church, St. Stephen's Basilica. This church is a great stop for visitors not only for the impressive interior, but for the view of the city you can get from the cupola. And if you like relics, the church also boasts Saint Stephen's mummified right hand! If you happen to visit around Christmas time, you can stroll through the Christmas Market located right behind the church in Szt. István Square. This was actually one of my favorite Christmas markets because it had lots of original vendors and funky food trucks.
Did you know that Budapest actually used to be two separate cities, Buda and Pest? The two cities sat on opposite sides of the Danube river, but were unified in the 19th century. Buda was the capital of Hungary in the middle ages and is home to many historic landmarks, such as Buda Castle and the Citadella. Pest, although it still dates from the medieval times, is home to more modern sites, such as the Parliament building and thermal baths. Due to the historic treasures on both sides of the Danube, Budapest is a UNESCO World Heritage site. To get the best of both worlds, take a stroll along the Danube so you can look out across the river at the cityscape of the opposite side, then cross one of the bridges so you can do the same on the other side. You might want to do this around sunset for even better views.
My favorite part of the Budapest trip was visiting the House of Terror. The museum is located in the former headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian fascist party from World War II. The museum tells the story of a country caught between two ideologies, the fascists from the west in Germany, and the communists from the east in Russia. Unfortunately for the Hungarian people, both sides ruled the nation and did so by terror and fear. Part of the tour includes visiting the former basement prison where the Arrow Cross Party would interrogate, torture, and kill prisoners. While the content of the museum is not pleasant, it is a big eye opener into what life in Hungary was like between World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union. Information in the museum is posted in Hungarian, but information sheets in English are available in each room. You can also get an audio guide if you prefer to listen to the information. See the House of Terror website for further information. If you don't have time to visit the entire museum, there are a series of panels outside that detail the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which is quite interesting, as well.
Budapest is a wonderful city for history lovers, and I hope you'll consider a visit to the Heart of Europe.
Kristin is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary love of fashion. She says, "I don’t have an extraordinary budget, but I still believe that you can look amazing, feel confident, and enjoy fashion without breaking the bank." Countdown to Friday is about sharing her style journey, and as an American currently living in Germany, sharing her travel adventures and tips. Why the name Countdown to Friday? "Well, I measure the work week by outfits and look forward to traveling on the weekend, hence I’m always counting down to Friday!"
Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org