We are combining these two cities into one post for ease and brevity. We stayed in each city for about a week, which seemed the perfect amount of time for Budapest, Hungary, and also about right, if perhaps just a bit too long, for Bratislava, Slovakia.
Budapest is a beautiful city, especially at night, when viewed from the Danube River — what a view! Bratislava is quaint, but while it also has many things to see and do, it is a smaller city. Still, both are very nice options for about a week-long trip to Europe.
Leaving Amsterdam, we landed in Budapest in the morning. On arrival at the airport, we bought a 7-Day Budapest Tourist Card (which we had researched and found to be a great value). We dropped off our stuff at our Airbnb, stopped for some lunch, and then did some sightseeing on a hop-on, hop-off bus. We didn’t feel like doing too much walking since we were both still feeling exhausted from Amsterdam.
The next day, Scott stayed in to do some work, and although I went out, I also took it a bit easy. I did make it to a fabulous indoor market, the most famous one in the city, aptly called Great Market Hall; there I bought a lovely ring made with different colors of Polish amber. (A little present to myself.) I also picked up some food for dinner. After that, I walked around the city a little — the architecture is simply stunning — and later that night I took a boat ride down the Danube. The view of the Parliament building from the river is spectacular! Totally made my whole day.
The next day, I wrote our “We ❤ Scotland!” blog post, which literally took me all day, so the only site-seeing we did was that night, when both of us took another boat ride 😊. I’m telling you, the city is gorgeous from the river!
I got back to touring the following day. I walked around the city and visited Parliament during the day; later, I visited the Memorial to Jews shot into the Danube River by the city’s anti-Semitic “Arrow Cross Militia,” who were in power for a few months in 1945-46. This memorial was really moving: You could easily imagine standing in the shoes of the victims who were shot. (Like any decent person, I despise the Nazis and everything they represent.) Later, I went to Memento Park, which is just outside the city and is a memorial to the city’s Communist era. This park contains many of the Communist statues and plaques that used to cover the city… it even had the iron boots from a former Stalin statue.
All the sites described above made for a pretty heavy day for me, emotionally, so that night Scott and I decided to have some fun. We went to the original “ruin bar” — literally a bar in an old, ruined building (these types of places are very popular in the city) — called Szimpla Kert. What a cool place! Really, really cool. We had (probably more than) a few beers and listened to an amazing band.
The next day was a total tourist day; we spent a lot of time on the Buda side of the city, which was where the royals used to live. We went to the castle, visited the Budapest History Museum that’s inside the castle, stopped in at the Hungarian National (Art) Gallery, walked to the Fisherman’s Bastion for a view of the city, saw the medieval Buda Tower, watched a short 3D movies about the history of the city, and visited some other fun sites as well. (Full day!)
For dinner that night, we found a great market and had some homemade pasta, and then afterwards, spent way too much money at a fabulous fancy cocktail bar called Jardin. This place had the most creative cocktails: For example, an old-fashioned that was literally smoked inside a glass dome by our friendly alchemist-mixologist, and a gin cocktail served in a planter (with a plant in it!). It was awesome.
The two other noteworthy things I did in Budapest involved a market and a bath house.
First, I made my way outside of the city proper to a popular flea market, where I saw lots of old, authentic Nazi- and Communist-era stuff; it was very disturbing to see these things on display, but I guess that’s what’s old in Hungary and typical for a flea market.
Second, I visited the Szechenyi Bath (the biggest and most popular bath in the city, and one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe). There I hopped from pool to pool, both indoors and outside, trying out all the various temperatures (they varied from 28 to 36 degrees Celsius). I also spent 45 minutes in the Beer Spa, where I sat in my very own tub filled with thermal water seasoned with the four ingredients used to make beer (water, barley, hops, and yeast); the best part was that I also had my very own private beer tap!
In the remaining days, I toured the Chocolate Museum, which had a statue of a woman made entirely of marzipan; watched a (very loud) motorcycle parade; wandered around the city some more; and relaxed at the Airbnb.
Bratislava is the capital of the country, where its kings and queens used to be coronated. It has been part of several different countries in the past and has had several different names. (It is also home to some of my distant relatives, whom I tried to contact while we were there, but without any luck.) Bratislava and Vienna are also the two geographically closest capital cities in Europe, only about 60 kilometers apart.
At the end of our week in Budapest, we took a bus to Bratislava and arrived just in time for me to catch a free walking tour of the Old Town, which was adorable and included a walk to the castle, with some nice views of the city.
Oh, we stayed in a really nice Airbnb in Bratislava! It was so posh and comfortable that we didn’t want to leave! We loved it so much that we spent a lot of time lounging around watching TV and eating in. Scott worked a lot of the time here, and I think I needed a break from traveling… so I made good use of the couch and the awesome coffee maker.
It was nice to just be still for awhile and do nothing, but I did feel a bit guilty… my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) was always lingering in the back of my mind. But as Scott often tells me, I don’t really need to be doing something all the time.
Anyway, when I wasn’t binge-watching Netflix, I went to a cat café and petted some sweet kitties. I also stopped by the Blue Church for some pictures, walked around the city, hit up a shopping mall, and saw two movies (The Spy Who Dumped Me and A Star is Born).
All in all, we had a nice, refreshing stay in the lovely city of Bratislava.
Up next is Vienna, Austria, so stay tuned!
Connie & Scott