Pest Side Story: Things to do in Budapest

I know, before visiting Budapest in June, I wasn’t aware that Buda and Pest used to be two different cities either. This actually led to an entertaining (to me) holiday summary: “I got burned in Buda and pissed in Pest”. What we actually did was much more than that, as can be seen by what follows…

Zoo Café

I’ll have a coffee and a snake, please. No – not a cake, a snake. The Zoo Café, situated on Fejer Gyorgy Utca on the Pest side, is perfect for those who would rather have their coffee served with a chameleon than a custard cream. Food is served, but personally the thought of juggling a parrot and a panini didn’t appeal to me as an ideal lunch option. Despite some initial concerns, the café seemed very clean and all of the animals appeared to be well cared for.

Cruise & Cocktail

We booked this through TripAdvisor a week or so before arriving in Budapest as we were drawn in by the price (around £7). For that price, I would have almost been happy with a rowing boat and a mojito, but the boat was actually quite nice. The tour lasted an hour and we saw the sights by the side of the river as the sun set, whilst trying and failing to get some Instagram worthy photos.

Shoes On The Danube

A more sombre landmark is The Shoes on the Danube, also located on the Pest side. It is a memorial to the Budapest Jews who were lined up and shot into the river by Arrow Cross militiamen at the end of World War 2. Each victim had to remove their shoes before being shot, hence the memorial or around 60 pairs of iron shoes, which to this day contain notes and candles of remembrance.

Thermal Baths

We visited two thermal baths during our stay: Gellért Baths and Széchenyi Baths. They were two very different experiences, since we went to Gellért during the day and had a relaxing afternoon of sunbathing. There’s a wave pool there, a sauna, an outdoor thermal bath as well as indoor pools and the surroundings are very pretty.

Gellért was a whole different experience to the Sparty that we attended at Széchenyi. Perhaps best described as a nightclub in a swimming pool, the Sparty was unbelievable. It’s a definite must do if you enjoy a party (and don’t mind fending off various members of the opposite sex…)

Musical Fountains

These fountains can be found on Margaret Island, which is between Buda and Pest and has lots of gardens, a zoo and even a water park. Due to the rain, we didn’t visit during the day, but we did get to see it in the evening which allowed us to see the fountains. I was expecting a light display to some old or classical music, but the show actually involved lots of modern music and different genres.

Ruin Pubs / Bars

The ruin bars, most of which are found in the Jewish District, are mismatched quirky bars that are built upon old buildings, cap parks or similar. You can sip a cocktail whilst seated in an old bathtub or head to one of the dancefloors. The mixture of age groups in the bars contributes to their great atmosphere – a balance of dancing and chilled conversation.

Other attractions

As with many cities, Budapest has many historic building that a worth visiting. These include: Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Chain Bridge, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Parliament. There are many other points of interest, and the whole city feels like it’s developing into a livelier tourist destination.

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