“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.”
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.
Terri & James
Last updated April 14, 2019
Great post, great city. Must get back soon.
Thanks Steve. We’ve decided that it’s even better the second time around! We don’t say that very often! ~Terri
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.
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
I am writing about Budapest in my latest novel. Amanda on the Danube. Your pictures bring back some great memories and have inspired me.
I really loved the city too!
Budapest certainly seems to be developing quite a fan club. Were you there recently? ~Terri
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?
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
A city on my ‘must return to’ list.
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
I liked it more than most. I stayed at the Hotel Gellert which was just wonderful. I am certain that I will go back one day!
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
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
I should be in Budapest in December – your photos are just making more determined to find a way to make the trip possible! Thanks!
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
Well it’s definitely on our list now!
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
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!)
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
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!
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
I would have said Ro-claw!!! (TOURIST is written all over my forehead!)
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.
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
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!
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
Thanks for the good advice. I hope I can go there off season…. 🙂
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
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
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
No room for boredom, that’s for sure Terri. Always good to have new challenges and things to do! –Curt
I had no idea that’s how the city (or name) came about! I adore the quote you added at the end. 🙂
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
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!
We are of like minds Sue. We’ve revisited Bali, London, Amsterdam, Florence, and now Budapest. What destinations have warranted return visits for you? ~Terri
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!
That sounds fabulous. Have a great time!
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.
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
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…
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
Fabulous photos! I can feel the atmosphere. ~SueBee
Thanks SueBee. Budapest is a photogenic place (especially on sunny autumn days). ~James
We really enjoyed Budapest. I wish we had been there longer than 8 days, I feel like we barely scratched the surface!
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
It’s been a few years since I was there and you’ve just brought it all back for me. Lovely, thank you! Great shots too.
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
Second post I’ve read today, singing its praises. I’m definitely convinced. 🙂
These “Top 25” lists are subjective, but having that many votes from experienced travelers must have some merit. You’ll enjoy it for sure. ~James
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!
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
🙂 🙂 I will go from my Italy, to Berlin and then to Budapest . . . what I will think 🙂 :)?
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
I have been in Berlin and like it a lot 🙂 But Budapest will be my first (I hope not last) time 🙂 🙂
That indeed is high praise for Budapest. I definitely should consider going there on a holiday.
Thanks for the post.
Thanks for dropping by the blog and for the comment. Budapest is a lovely city, and if you visit this part of the world, it makes an interesting stop. ~James
Looks like a fabulous city! The architecture is stunning. 🙂
LuAnn, It’s one of those cities where there’s so much to do it’s hard to know where to start! So we just jump in with both feet. 🙂 ~Terri
Love that colorful roof! Budapest is on my list. 😉
I was so taken by the tile roofs, Ruth … and they’re all over Budapest! But this one was my definite fave. 🙂 ~Terri
I love the quote about Paris-Budapest-Moscow. I am glad that you still enjoyed it 20 years later.
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.