Buda + Pest = Pure Joy!

“If you come from Paris to Budapest 
you think you are in Moscow. 
But if you go from Moscow to Budapest 
you think you are in Paris.”
–Gyorgy Ligeti

Budapest has been coined “the Paris of the East.” But the readers of Condé Nast Traveler no longer agree with Mr. Ligeti’s assessment that Paris is preferred over Budapest. The magazine just published its 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards for the Top 25 Cities in the World; travelers chose Budapest as their #2 destination (tied with Florence, Italy) far and away over Paris (#22).

And judging from all the English we’ve been hearing, the cat is out of the bag – Budapest has definitely been discovered.

Budapest is one of those rare “twin cities” that was united by a river – because waterways usually serve to divide cities, each clinging firmly to their shifting riparian rights. But in 1873, Buda and Pest (and Óbuda – Old Buda) joined forces. From the lofty hills of the Buda side, down to the Danube River, then across the lion-guarded Chain Bridge and on to the plains of the Pest side – Budapest’s elegance, history, and sophistication shine through.

Michael Blumenthal, writing for National Geographic, tells of visiting Budapest in 1986 before the demise of Communism and falling head over heels for its tarnished charms. Then he returned in 1992 as a Fulbright professor to live there for 4 years. He reflects:

Now, more than 20 years after that first visit, Budapest’s romance endures. Each time I lift a glass of pálinka (brandy) to my lips, I again take my friend György Konrád’s prudent advice. ‘Refuse modesty,’ he writes, ‘drink to every life in this jewel of a city that you made yours.’”

We too were first here over 20 years ago and agree with Michael. Budapest is where we launched our lives anew, and we toast this “jewel of a city” that brought us pure joy. We’re so glad to be back.

Peaceful Trails,
Terri & James

Last updated April 14, 2019

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

64 thoughts

  1. We visited Budapest for the first time last fall and loved it. It was so much more than we expected. Your pictures have brought back wonderful memories.

    1. Isn’t it a cool city, Darlene! It seems like one of those places you could explore endlessly … and it just keeps getting better. I love going up on Fisherman’s Bastion and gazing out over the city. Did you have favorite experiences? ~Terri

      1. I am writing about Budapest in my latest novel. Amanda on the Danube. Your pictures bring back some great memories and have inspired me.

      1. Unfortunately not that recently, maybe 4 years ago. I am always torn between going back to the great places I’ve been to or to explore new places when I am travelling. Do you ever have that problem?

      2. We always have these discussions, and we almost never go back. There are exceptions of course. We revisited Bali, Bangkok, and my favorite city in the world – London. In the case of Budapest, we were there so long ago, that we knew it must have changed a lot. ~Terri

    1. As we said, we were there 20 years ago, and the city has changed a great deal (not unexpected). All of the post-communist cities we’ve visited in E. Europe have changed in different ways, but Budapest has definitely become more colorful and lively. ~James

  2. Once again you have whet our appetites for a place we have not yet seen, and now we are more eager than ever to experience Budapest firsthand. All my life this city was just a name I read in a social studies text and a dot on a map. (I frequently got Budapest and Bucharest confused.) Now I can hardly wait to feast my eyes on this gem of a city and the surrounding countryside which you have brought to life with your photos and descriptions. Your stories and photos are truly inspiring. – Mike

    1. Many thanks Mike. It’s one of those cities that has so much variety that you could never get bored – between the stunning architecture, delicious cafe-culture, and wonderful people, there’s never a dull moment. We’ve even enjoyed it more this second time. Since our first visit was just one year after the end of Communist rule, things have loosened up considerably. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Hi Carissa, I hear that Budapest in December is magical with all the Christmas Markets and general merriment. Hope that you’re able to work it out. So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri

    1. Budapest has become a very popular destination Alison, and for good reason. Buda and Pest have two different characters, and both are interesting. In addition, the government is taking measures to make it more user-friendly for tourists. ~James

  3. So excited, I’ll be there in a few weeks to check out the Christmas markets. Let me know if you came across any great shops I should check out (paprika and palinka are on my list!)

    1. How exciting Kristin. I’ve never been for the Christmas markets, but I hear they’re wonderful! From what I saw, the souvenir selection is excellent – lots of gorgeous Christmas ornaments, beautiful dried peppers, and intricate lace and embroidery. Have a blast! ~Terri

  4. I’ve heard this is a destination that needs to be on our see-soon list. And I hope we do. Your pictures are quite enticing. I’ve also heard you pronounce it Buda – pesht, but you’ll have to confirm!

    1. Your pronunciation is spot on Rusha. I’ve never heard an American pronounce it this way, but that’s the correct way. I’m just happy to have learned how to pronounce Wroclaw (Vrots-waf ) on this trip. ~James

  5. It’s been probably well over a decade since the first time I developed an interest in Budapest. However I have yet to set foot there, even during my trip to Europe in 2007. You remind me not to miss this Central European gem when I’m back in Europe one day.

    1. When we first visited Budapest, the city was still struggling with its identity after so many years under the Russian thumb – or more appropriately fist. The city was interesting, but a pall still hung over many parts of town. All that is gone now, and Budapest is moving forward quickly. It’s vibrant and modern, but still retains lots of fin-de-siècle charm. If you’re in the area, definitely check it out. ~James

  6. It looks like a beautiful city. High on my list of dream places. Your pictures are so colorful. Glad to know it’s making it to the top of the list; however, that will mean more crowds!

    1. Cathy, you’re right that the recent ratings will mean bigger crowds – we certainly saw evidence of that! So if you’re not crazy about crowds, I would suggest go sooner rather than later. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. A bit more info on this Cathy. Unless you like frigid weather, go in the shoulder season. We visited Prague in January (We got a cheap flight, and great hotel rates, but what were we thinking?), and we froze our butts off. The daytime HIGHS were -3F. It can get very cold in this part of the world, so plan accordingly. ~James

  7. Never really thought about going to Budapest. Now I have to add it to my bucket list. You guys are coming up with more new places for Peggy and I to go see than we have time for. (grin) That’s a good thing. –Curt

    1. Curt, If you like big, old elegant cities with fascinating history, resilient people, and a fun-loving attitude, then Budapest is the place for you. With all the things I have on my bucket list, I’m going to be a very old woman before I allow myself to kick it! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. I guess it’s good that both city names were short! 🙂 And I learned that I’d been mispronouncing it – the Hungarians say Booda-Pesht. I do love that quote and would love to meet Michael Blumenthal. Oh the stories he could tell. ~Terri

  8. So happy that you were able to go back to the spot where your travels began. I too like to explore new locations whenever possible, but for some special ones a return visit is a must. Budapest will be on our radar now after your wonderful posts. Thank you!

      1. Terri we have been to St Lucia twice as well as Maui. Since I am relatively new to blogging these trips will get some historical coverage in the future:) We also have booked another cycling trip in Italy. This one is in Tuscany and the previous in Piedmont. It I hard to resist the food, wine and people of Italia!

  9. I can almost hear the music. . . It must be so special to be back there together. I hope it brings as much joy now as it did 20+ years ago.

    1. It was wonderful being back in Budapest, and these buskers were too cute. They had to be brothers, and you could tell they’d been playing together for years. The music just came to them, and it seemed effortless. You talented musicians know all about this, but to listeners like me it seems like magic. ~James

  10. As beautiful as Paris is, I think I would be inclined to agree with the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. I’ve always wanted to go to Budapest – from your photos and the many others I’ve seen, there’s no denying its charm, elegance and rich history. A few years ago a family friend asked me if I had been… when I said no, she cooed about how magical it was, and how Budapest was even better than Prague! Sounds like I should plan a trip there before it gets swamped with visitors…

    1. Prague and Budapest are both great destinations James, and I’ve have difficulty picking one of the other. They each have a different character and feel. But your point about Budapest and the crowds is valid. On our recent stop, the crowds weren’t a hindrance, but there were definitely lots of people. And the Danube river cruises add lots of tourists to this mix. Also, appearing on “Best Of” lists only increases the crowds. As you say, you might want to move it up on the list. ~James

    1. Thanks for visiting our blog, and for the comment. Wishing that you had spent longer in a place is always a good sign and a motivation for returning. And after spending a few days, there (for the second time), I too feel like I only scratched the surface. ~James

    1. Thanks Suzanne. Budapest seems to be moving at a rapid pace, and has gotten to be a very popular place to visit. One thing that impressed us were the number of young tourists. The combination of old and new make it very appealing. ~James

  11. Reblogged this on closetoeighty and commented:
    Since 1934 till 1974 I was a citizen of the Soviet Union. The country always had closed borders. In 1968 first time in my life after 11 months of consideration I was allowed to go abroad to Budapest as a member of the Soviet delegation to participate in a scientific conference.
    At that time five days in Budapest were like a miracle for me.
    I was mostly impressed by what was in the stores, how people were dressed, how good the city looked.
    However, at that time we were instructed to go outside together and not to talk to local people.
    In 1998 I visited Budapest as an American tourist and it was a different experience.
    The city became even more beautiful and we were free to explore it. My second visit to Budapest still is “pure joy” for me!

    1. Dearest JF, Your story has touched my heart so deeply. What an incredible experience that must have been both times. James and I are so glad that you are sharing your experiences with us and all our readers. Thank you for reblogging our post on your site. We would love to hear more of your stories any time. All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks for dropping by the blog and for the comment Magdalena. I’m sure that you will enjoy both Berlin and Budapest. We lived in Berlin for a while, and there’s so much to see. If you enjoy antiquities, Berlin’s museums are some of the best in the world (Pergamon Museum is outstanding!). ~Terri

  12. The city’s history is fascinating- I had no idea that its very name came from a blending of the two twin cities! Always learning something new over here… 😉 How wonderful for you both to revisit the place where it all began. Some places hold special sway in our hearts.

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s