When you travel, don’t you just love surprises? We’ve partnered with adventure, culture, and luxury traveler Dr. Cacinda Maloney from the blog PointsandTravel, as she explores the world and finds a few surprising things you might not know about Budapest!
Budapest straddles the Danube River elegently, where one side is known as “Buda” and the other “Pest”. It was formerly two cities on opposites of the Danube, but has now become one with the bridge system throughout the region. “Buda” is on the West side of the river. It is hilly, filled with trees, and is semi-suburban. The streets are smaller, harder to navigate, and steep, yet it is home to the castle district, spectacular old buildings, and magnificent churches. “Pest” on the other hand is the urban center of the city. This is where the Parliament building resides. Plus, the basilica, the largest synagogue in the world, and the opera house, and the national theater reside here. Together they are a magnificent city to explore and it is easy to get around on public transportation. Once you have seen all the major attractions of this grand city, I always find it interesting to learn a few new things about the cities I visit and Budapest has a few secrets that may surprise you.
7 Things That will Surprise You About Budapest
Michael Jackson Memorial Tree
Now, who would have expected to find a memorial to Michael Jackson in the city the size of Budapest? What is the connection? Why would anyone start this tiny memorial outside of a famous hotel? You can find it right across from the sports court on a tree near the Kimpinski Hotel. Apparently, the connection is that he often stayed at this hotel when he would have a performance and so it seemed fitting for people to honor him close by in the park. The memorial is filled with printouts and photos of Michael, as well as notes of remembrance. It was getting quite a bit of attention while I was there.
Ruin Bars in the Old Jewish Quarter
Who knows what these are and how they got started? I certainly didn’t when I first arrived, but they were on the bucket list of my friend for a “must do” item while visiting Budapest. And after visiting a few of the popular ones, I can see why! The ruin bars are basically abandoned and unused outdoor spaces that have been transformed into chaotic bars to get cheap pints! Think old factories and abandoned apartment complexes or buildings. They typically have an eclectic style of street art, communist relics, and mazes of rooms and hallways. Oh, and they are pretty darn cool and a great place to meet up with friends (if you can find each other!).
Luxury Apartments in Derelict Buildings
Now this one certainly surprised me and you can understand why. After searching hundreds of apartments for my stay, I finally choose one that looked quite luxurious, had kitchen and laundry facilities, and the location was perfect. Upon arrival, I have to say I was quite stunned that when the host opened the main door to the building, I would be entering an abandoned building with a ripped out interior and with the entire bottom floor filled with old ripped out wood. Once we passed through two security entries to the lift, we made it to the 6th floor, where we passed again several doorways in bad condition until we came upon the door that he inserted the key into. “Wa la!” there was this luxury apartment right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe it! So don’t make the same mistake I did and ask next time. Who would have thought that this could have even existed?
A Magnificent Public Bath House
This may not come as a surprise to many people, but I have to say this is one of the most spectacular public bathhouses I have ever seen. The Szechenyi Baths, built back in 1913, are stunningly gorgeous! Basically, you pay a small fee to enter the bathhouse. You receive a locker key to put your things away and then you can enter either the inside baths that are of varying degrees of warm temperature or you can make your way to the outside (depending on the weather). The buildings themselves are spectacular and worth the visit alone just to see the interior and exterior of the architecture.
How Cool the Chain Bridge Is
This was such a surprise to me, how immaculate this old stone Chain Bridge was that connected the two cities of Buda and Pest. It is quite a site to see, so be sure not to miss taking a gander or even walking from one side of the river to the other. This amazing piece of architecture was built in 1849, which helped the two cities to merge more quickly. I used it quite a few times as a backdrop to the photos that I took off of the Viking River Cruise ship I was on.
How Big the Great Market Hall or Central Market Is
I knew that most of the neighborhood had their own markets, but this one is gigantic and definitely worth a visit. It is the oldest and largest market in Budapest and located on the Pest side near the Liberty Bridge. It has a distinctive colorful tiled roof with three floors of stalls and is over 10,000 square meters in size. Here they sell everything from fish and seafood to stands of vegetables, spices, pastries, palinka, chocolates, and even souvenirs. They also have plenty of food stands and restaurants to satisfy any appetite. Once there, be sure to cross the street to find the FOR SALE Pub, just in case you want a quick photo of this crazy bar.
Explanation of Budapest’s Most Famous Souvenir
Just as a fun fact, I found it interesting that the inventor of the famous Rubik’s Cube is from Budapest. Erno Rubik thought up the idea for the Rubik’s Cube to help students learn three dimensional objects. Which explains why you see so many of them in various sizes, shapes, and colors in all the souvenir shops. There are over 350 million of these toys sold worldwide! This colorful toy has transformed itself into a popular cultural icon.
I hope these 7 surprises found in Budapest will inspire you to visit this grand city!
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