Budapest not only has great Neo-Renaissance architectural sights but also a very vibrant nightlife, neither of both should be missed out. It is very important that you allow yourself time when you visit the city for at least three days to make the most of it.
To begin with, the river Danube cuts across the city of Budapest in two parts: ‘Buda’ and ‘pest.’ At nighttime, ‘pest’ is brimming with loud, banging discos and pubs, whereas ‘buda’ is more serene and peaceful.
Take a walk at the Buda Castle at night.
Walk across the scenic Chain Bridge to the ‘Buda’ district and turn around the car tunnel for a very small trek across the castle. Narrow passageways and graffiti ridden stairs will bring you up to small cobblestone streets that will take you straight to the castle courtyards. Alternatively, if you do not prefer walking, there is a funicular rail, the cable car that takes you up from the street level to the hill. It will drop you straight at the courtyard. But it only functions from 7.30am to 10 pm, closed every second Mondays. A return ticket will cost just 1700 HUF. If you walk to the left of the Royal Palace, you will see the rubble amidst World War II ruins.
Venture out on a detour into the gorgeous Cave of Paul Valley situated underneath the limestone mountains of Budapest.
A highly protected natural preservation area, the Pálvölgyi caves (Cave of Paul Valley) offers stunning otherworldly views which was created by up-surging thermal waters from a tropical sea that existed 400 million years ago. Some remnants of that are still contained in the area and some views made me feel like I was in the belly of a beast.
Don’t miss out some sights in the Caves like the famous Dripstone Organ that was damaged in the World War II when the cave itself was used as a Bomb Shelter, the narrow Five Friends’ Passage, or the 15m deep Hefty Shaft.
Visit the ruin pubs of Budapest, especially Szimpla Kert.
The Jewish quarter, District VII of Budapest is bumbling with exotic party prospects. Despite the long queue outside Szimpla Kert, I was fascinated when I walked inside to an unreal decor ranging from shaded and multi-colored tinted hanging ceiling lights. I soon realised that the ruin pub was divided into separate spaces; each one joined with the other, through open doorways without a door and from across open window spaces without a window. As enchanting as it gets.
Another space in the ruin pub included hexagonal and pentagonal laser lights as well as a wondrous pinhole. It is a gem of a place for photographers like me. Abandoned sofas, bicycle wheels, random street signs, mirrors placed both vertically and horizontally are some of the highlights. The place also has a live music venue, which has regular blues or rock concerts turning into a disco night later.
Since Szimpla Kert has many different beer, wine and whisky tills, my personal favourite was Labour, a Craft Beer Bar.
Their brews, made by a local company Mad Scientist, such as the strong Cookie Monster (containing 12.5% alcohol, 6000 HUF for 0.1l) or the smooth and delicious Tokyo Lemonade (800 HUF for 0.4l) will quench your thirst for beer tastings.
The décor of this mini-bar is also quite surreal, where bartenders were dressed like chemistry scientists and there were multi-colored cylinders from which the tap beer was served.
Another place that I visited was Lampas, which had more relaxed vibes but a similar atmosphere. The open pipes, the beer crates and the usual pink and orange lights with dome-shaped open walls leading to another room also made it a trendy, hipster venue.
Walk from across the Chain Bridge to the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
A little way to the right hand side and a little further right, up on the hill from Buda Castle, lies the famous Fisherman’s Bastion. The UNESCO World Heritage site looks like a bunch of fairytale towers, which had been protected by the guild of fishermen through the Middle Ages. It also has seven wondrous turrets, each one representing a particular tribe.
Next to the Bastion, there is the beautiful Matthias Church which looks surreal when capturing at the onset of dusk, like I did with my camera. Moreover, if you walk a little away from the Church, there are fascinating resident blocks with cobblestone passageways and empty streets. The gothic-looking houses are painted with various pastel colour hues, that make for beautiful photographs.
Visit the Hungarian National Museum.
An absolute paradise for art lovers, the collections of the museum ranges from works by Hungarian sculptors like Károly Alexy to paintings by Strudel, Istvan and Imre. My personal favourite was a very revealing painting of Bertalan’s A Japanese Woman, with its intimate depiction of human nature and profound detail on objects around her.The beautiful red walls of the museum lined up with portraits helped me achieve a beautiful semi-panoramic photograph.
I would like to say that Budapest is a very open-minded city with very friendly locals, an excellent English speaking population and a very good local transport system. The beautiful yellow trams merging in with the modern concrete buildings as well as old medieval fortresses and churches provide a stunning visual poetry across the city.
Do not be afraid of venturing out across the hills, take a stroll across Margaret Island and have a corn on cob or a cotton candy there from a local seller, have an intimate conversation with an old, experienced Hungarian man or walk across the 7th district at 4 am where you’ll find dance floors still sprawling with people and pubs still open.