Once I exited the airport, I hopped on the 100E airport bus for a ride straight into the city. After a 45-minute bus ride, I was dropped off in the center of the city, which put me within a couple blocks of my hotel on the Pest side of the city.
For those who are unfamiliar, Budapest is actually made up of two cities, separated by the Danube River: Buda to the west and Pest to the east.
Courtyard Budapest City Center
After doing a little research, I settled on the Courtyard downtown, as Marriott was running a special with free breakfast in Europe if you paid with Visa. The room came to only $121.82 per night with tax.
Check-in was a breeze and my Platinum status got me upgraded to a “Conference Room Suite”, which gave me extra space along with a conference room in case I felt like holding a meeting during the two days I was in town.
The bedroom was also spacious and had ample outlets to plug everything in. Sadly, after opening my suitcase, I realized that I only brought one plug adapter with me, so that feature didn’t really get utilized.
The next morning, I went downstairs and checked out the sumptuous breakfast spread. It was about on par with the one at the Courtyard Tokyo Station and featured assorted fruits, yogurts, meats, and eggs along with assorted juices and espresso drinks. Usually the buffet goes for 17 Euro, so it was a pretty good deal to get it included in the room rate.
The dinner offerings at the hotel were also quite good. As the hotel presented me with a coupon for 10% off my meal in the hotel restaurant when I checked in, I decided to eat here one night, as the prices were very similar to other local restaurants. I could also accumulate additional Marriott points for eating here, which also helped to sway my decision ;).
I decided to go with the Hungarian goulash and the roasted duck liver, both of which were delicious.
Hungarian Parliament and Buda Castle
My first stop was at the Hungarian Parliament building, situated on the bank of the Danube. It’s remarkable from both sides, with the side facing Kossuth Lajos square best to see during the day and the side facing the Danube most magnificent at night.
To get to Kossuth Lajos square, I just needed to hop aboard the Budapest Metro and ride a few stops. Budapest’s mass transit system is easy to navigate and surprisingly inexpensive, with a 24-hour pass costing only HUF 1650 (~$6.30).
After wandering around the square, I hopped back on the metro and made my way to the other side of the river where I caught a tram to take me to the foot of the hill that Buda Castle sits on.
Once at the foot of the hill, I hopped aboard the Castle Hill Funicular for a ride to the top.
The railway consists of two cars linked by a cable, which allows the descending car to be used as a counterweight assist the motor in pulling the ascending car up the hill. The whole ride takes about a minute and a half and it’s definitely worth waiting for versus hiking up the hill.
Once up top, I was greeted by the sight of the Buda Castle. I explored the castle grounds and grabbed a few pictures before indulging in some gelato and making my way towards the next stop on my itinerary.
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
Next up, I visited Fisherman’s Bastion, which surrounds Matthias Church. The bastion has seven towers, which represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in the year 895. From the walkway between the towers, you can see views of the Danube, Margaret Island, and the city of Pest.
After a lot of walking, I decided to try the mango frappuccino at the Starbucks located on the grounds. As odd as it sounds, it was quite refreshing.
As I made my way back to Pest, I made a stop at Margaret Island to check out the scenery. Located in the middle of the Danube River, it sits between Buda and Pest and is 2.5 kilometers in length. In addition to the open-air music venue and recreational facilities, the island hosts multiple gardens and green spaces.
After taking a shuttle bus midway across the island, I walked along one of the many paths and came to a Japanese garden. Walking further along, I made it to the Music Well, which plays musical chimes every hour and has fountains along the sides that dispense fresh spring water.
After another tram and subway ride, I made it over to Hősök tere, as it’s known in Hungarian. The monument features the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the center, surrounded by eighteen statues along the colonnade which include numerous Hungarian national leaders along with the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars.
Rudas Thermal Bath
For the grand finale, I made my way back over to Buda in the evening to take a dip in one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths. Although I assume all of the baths in the city are reasonably nice, the Rudas Bath featured a rooftop hot tub overlooking the Danube, so I picked this one to visit.
After checking in and getting my electronic wristband that would let me through the turnstile, I changed into my swim trunks, locked my backpack in a locker (also activated with my wristband), and made my way to the baths.
Front and center is the main swimming pool, around which the rest of the baths were situated.
As I was much more interested in lounging than swimming laps, I headed up to the roof to check out the view from the rooftop hot tub.
After spending a relaxing hour in the hot tub, I decided to explore the rest of the baths.
The first contraption I came to was some sort of carwash for humans. I have no idea what the purpose was, but you press a button, and go inside and stand under each of the showers for a minute each as they come on. You are then doused with hot, cold, and salt water.
It was quite odd, but very refreshing!
Next up was the salt sauna. The baths featured about half a dozen saunas and steam rooms, but this was definitely something I’ve never seen before. The walls were filled with blocks of salt. Inside, it felt just like sitting by the ocean on a hot summer day.
I headed over to the wellness area next to check out the numerous pools over there. Inside, were baths that were piping hot, ice cold, and also some that were comfortably warm.
From what I could glean from reading the signage, the idea was to jump in the boiling hot pool for one minute and then dip into the ice pool for fifteen seconds and repeat. I tried a few times and it definitely felt interesting.
Finally, I spent the rest of my time in this pool pictured below. After subjecting my body to the shock of going from hot to cold, the warm water in here felt incredible.
I can definitely say that after a couple hours here, I certainly felt rejuvenated by the water at the baths. If you do one thing in Budapest, definitely take a dip in the city’s thermal waters.
The Danube at Night and a Royal with Cheese
Finally, after finishing up at the Rudas Bath, I made my way down the bank of the Danube to grab one last picture of the iconic Parliament Building before heading back to the hotel.
During the day, it was certainly gorgeous, but at night, this place just looks absolutely breathtaking.
After all my late night walking around, I finally did what Vincent Vega would do in Europe and ordered a Royal with Cheese at McDonald’s.
After indulging in some late-night fast food, I headed back to my hotel to get ready to make my way to Istanbul the following morning.