Impressions of Budapest

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We’ve just got back from a short break in Budapest. It was our first visit to the city – and our first foray into Eastern Europe. It was an enjoyable break. These are my general impressions.

The city

  • A beautiful city which reminded me of Paris in many ways, at least on the Pest side of the river, with buildings of uniform height on tree lined boulevards, a cafe culture (but with more emphasis on cakes!).
  • Two cities in one – the older Buda on the hills on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the east bank – linked by a number of bridges.
  • It had a safe, relaxing atmosphere.
  • Lots of things to see and do – we weren’t able to see everything we would have liked to during our 4 day visit.
  • It was less busy than other popular “tourist cities” such as Paris, London and Barcelona – fewer pedestrians and less traffic and fewer tourists.
  • Relatively small – most of the sights are in a relatively compact area – less spread out than Paris and London
  • Good, and cheap, public transport system – trams, buses, trolley buses and underground.
  • Less obvious poverty visible on the streets than in many other cities (especially London and Paris), but its difficult to know how representative the central touristy areas are compared to the city as a whole.

The people

  • Fluent English spoken in cafes, restaurants and most touristy places. Widespread use of English on tourist information (leaflets and even street signs) on public transport
  • Very friendly and helpful in our hotel and all the cafes and restaurants we visited.
  • Less friendly in shops – often quite frosty
  • Although some of the staff in the museums and state owned attractions were friendly, the majority were very frosty and some very officious.
  • I sensed a nostalgia for a more aggressive, imperial past. There were lots of statues of aggressive kings and warriors and there were a number of references from tourist guides and in tourist information to the times when Hungary was a larger country .

Eating Out

  • Plenty of good value restaurants.
  • Food generally very good
  • Emphasis on meat – and more meat.
  • 10% tips expected. May be included on bill (always check – ask if not clear). Don’t leave tip on table but tell waiter how much to add to bill when they bring it.

Architecture

  • Mixture of styles, reflecting the history and development of the city
  • The Pest side of the city developed during the 19th and early 20th century and the architecture is a mixture of styles representative of that period – neo-classical, neo-gothic, neo-renaissance and art nouveau, with a smattering of art-deco and modernist buildings.
  • Relatively few post WW2 buildings and very few modern ones (1990’s to 21st Century) in the city centre.
  • Lots of interesting art nouveau style (Secessionist) buildings scattered all over Pest.
  • Some of the “older” medieval buildings and structures are not as old as they first appear – the popular “Fisherman’s Bastion” was actually built during the late 1800’s.
  • Flying into the city we were able to see the large estates of Brutalist tower blocks in the wider conurbation. Of course, these are well outside the areas tourists visit.

Museums and Galleries

  • Plenty of museums and galleries dotted around the city.
  • Complex pricing structure for entry into the various temporary exhibitions
  • Staff – see above.
  • Excessive attention from the staff in the galleries – you were continually watched and followed. A hangover from the old Communist days.
  • The majority seemed to be somewhat behind Western Europe in the way they were organised. For example,  the displays were not always curated imaginatively, there were no guide books on the collections available, information on the displays was minimal and
  • In most cases the gift shops had very little available to purchase (applies to both information and souvenirs). The Pure Arts Museum, which had a well stocked shop, was the exception to this.

2 thoughts on “Impressions of Budapest

    • Thanks for your comment Pamela. I’ve had a look at your post. I really like your pictures – you’ve clearly have a talent for picking out the unusual and scenes that capture the character of the city

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