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5 Reasons Why Visiting Budapest will Transform You

Are you tired of traveling and seeing the same old images you find online only in the flesh? It’s something I was recently worried about, while planning a family trip to Budapest. It has become such a trendy destination, that I had already seen thousands of photos in social media, and I felt as if I knew the city before I had even had a chance to visit.

But I was wrong. Budapest is a truly striking capital in every sense: the buildings, the sharp contrast between wealth and poverty, its remarkable language… The usual images of the Hungarian Parliament Building fall very short of reality. There is a lot more to discover; so much so, that you’ll come back a changed person, even if you end up uploading the same images as everyone else… Would you like to know how it will transform you?

1. Night Visits to Pest will Leave You Speechless

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Climbing up the steps to Buda after a long day of non-stop sightseeing can have its rewards. What a view! At dusk, romantic travelers gather on the walls of the Fisherman’s Bastion to anxiously wait for a few minutes until the lights turn on in Pest. 3, 2, 1… and the Parliament Building, the Chain Bridge, and all other emblematic buildings light up before my eyes, instantaneously dispelling all prior traces of fatigue… I am never leaving here! And you will also not want to take your eyes off the prettiest night views you have ever seen.

2. Margaret Island Park will Get You Addicted to Sports… and Naps!

If the views over Pest had the invigorating effect of a strong morning coffee, I can’t say the same of the park stretching on for kilometers in the midst of the Danube River. Margaret Island is a vast extension of green fields, small gardens, and a magical fountain that changes colors at night. The minute I set foot in what resembles a Hungarian-style Hyde Park, I already regretted not bringing a picnic blanket. And not only to eat on but also to take one of those energizing naps I enjoy taking, especially when I no longer feel my legs from so much walking (though I obviously led down anyway).

Nevertheless, there’s also the option to go jogging with the first lights of dawn, as there are thousands of routes (the route bordering the park is among the most popular ones), and you’ll even see runners pushing baby strollers along!

3. The Labyrinth of the Buda Castle will Leave You Breathless

Do you remember those archetypal stories, we were told as children, of knights and prisoners locked away in the dungeons of castles? Or were you a fan of pirate and adventure movies? Then, don’t hesitate to venture into the labyrinth of the Buda Castle. After traveling down a claustrophobic stairwell, we enter a subterranean tunnel with spine-chilling lighting and décor, combined with a sharp drop in temperature. One of the parts that stood out to me was a stretch of tunnel with no lighting, where you follow a rope tied to the side of the wall for orientation to truly experience the horror of being one of the castle’s prisoners. Independently of whether you have a fearful disposition, your heart will be racing by the time you leave, and you’ll be feeling grateful that it is nothing more than a tourist attraction nowadays.

4. The Atmosphere of the Ruin Pubs at Night will Hypnotize You

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As @vero4travel rightly suggested, we spent our last night in Budapest exploring its popular ruin pubs. Sofas and chairs straight out of someone’s basement, old walls, graffiti, and all decorated with lights and lamps… in Budapest, everything comes in handy to conjure the right atmosphere. It was truly difficult to choose where to sit, as all of the pubs exert their irresistible pull: ample food, friendly people, and good music. You venture into one, then into another, and yet another… and it ends up turning into a hypnotizing circle.

5. A Danube River Tour will Have You Growing Fish Scales

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Although the Danube might not be as blue as the song says, a Danube River Tour will have you falling in love with it. We wanted to take it one step further, and took a boat to Szentendre, a small town on the banks of the Danube, known for its many churches and sixteen museums. It is rather touristy but well worth a day visit, even if it is just to see the stunning river course extending northwards of Budapest. If time allows, Visegrád (further upstream) is also highly recommended. My family and I didn’t make it that far due to time constraints but we would have liked to see its medieval palace.

So… don’t kid yourself! Visiting sites is completely different than seeing them in pictures taken by your friends.