Budapest by night

To say a proper farewell to Budapest, our last evening was spent on one of the many boats that sail the Danube. The one we chose was just €9 in comparison to the plush €25-and-up cruises, so it wasn’t luxurious by any means and didn’t even leave on time! Luckily, regardless of the price of the ticket, everyone gets treated to the same stunning views of Budapest by night.

Parliament dome by night

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Budapest: Sunset on the Danube

You probably know by now that Budapest is named for the two halves of the city on either side of the Danube River: Buda and Pest. The city has several bridges linking its two sides, the first and most-photographed of which is the Chain Bridge.

Budapest Chain Bridge

During the entire trip, I was so lazy, and Budapest so hot, that I would look at Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge from the window of our hotel room and feel like it was a million miles away. I wondered if I would ever cross that bridge and ever make it to Buda! Still, it felt like a total cop-out to visit Budapest and only really visit Pest. So on our last Friday afternoon in Budapest, when the day finally cooled enough, I finally did it. I finally crossed that bridge!

As far as I could see, the Chain Bridge is happily padlock-free, although it doesn’t make it any less romantic.

Chain Bridge bride and groom

A glowing sunset reflected on the Parliament building…

Parliament and Chain Bridge

… and boats sailing down the still-blue Danube do more to create a romantic atmosphere than declarations of love from a hardware store.

Danube cruise

Of course, having the right company also adds to the romance. The fact that a busy husband makes it a point to take a day off from work to be with his pregnant wife is as romantic as day-to-day married life gets!

Marlon and I Chain Bridge

On the other side of the Chain Bridge was Buda. Hooray, I made it! We immediately took a cable car up Castle Hill…

Castle Hill tram

for sunset-shaded views of Pest, including the Danube and Chain Bridge, of course…

Castle Hill sunset

… as well as Budapest’s famous Parliament Building right next to Margaret Island and Margaret Bridge.

Parliament view from Pest

This is as far into Buda as I got: watching the rays of the setting sun wash over a patchwork of rooftops, as it disappeared behind the rolling green hills.

Pest sunset

From this brief glimpse of Buda, I could immediately see how different it looked and felt from Pest. Maybe I’ve only seen half of the entire picture that is Budapest, but what a pretty picture it’s been.

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Szimpla Kert: a ruin pub in Budapest

After satisfying my 30 year-old granny heart with an afternoon at the opera, I was determined to act my age for once and step out for some of Budapest’s famed nightlife. Budapest is known for its ruin pubs, and being the pioneer of the ruin pub scene, Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden) in the 7th district is the most famous of them all.

Szimpla Kert ext

A ruin pub is essentially an abandoned building taken over and converted into a pub, or bar, with its own open-air garden and a lineup of music, film, theater and other community events.

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert is huge, but somehow manages to retain a cozy feeling. Maybe it’s the constant buzz, the mood lighting or the black-and-white archive footage projected on the crumbling brick wall of its open-air courtyard.

Szimpla Kert archive projection

There are also lots of little rooms, each with its own assortment of quirks and surprises, all wrapped up in one gritty, derelict, retro-tinged package.

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An afternoon at the opera

Confession: I often feel happiest when I’m doing little old lady things. I often find myself in the company of retirees: in watercolor class, for example, or at hotels (all the young ‘uns are out backpacking). It gets to the point when I have to remind myself I’m only 30 and I should do “cooler”, more age-appropriate things now lest I find myself yearning to become a DJ at the age of 70.

Taking a guided tour of the Hungarian State Opera House was one of these little old lady things. I couldn’t imagine leaving the hotel before 3pm on a scorching afternoon for anything else, not even Budapest’s famous baths.

Built in the 1800s, the Opera House’s old-world opulence is apparent from its very doorstep. The stone sphinxes outside made me wonder what it would be like if everyone had to answer a riddle before they could come inside. No stupid people allowed!

Budapest opera exterior details

The Opera House offers guided tours in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish at 3pm and 4pm daily. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and you can tell they love not just the building, but opera itself. Our guide made turn-of-the-century Budapest come alive for me, with stories of secret lovers passing notes in the narrow smoking lounge, their rendezvous hidden amidst thick clouds of smoke…

Budapest opera smoking room

… and the royal family gliding up a special staircase reserved just for them.

Budapest opera royal staircase

I won’t tell all the tales, since it’s a lovely tour and I think you should take it if you ever find yourself in Budapest! Instead, let me show you around the Opera House and its many sumptuous details.

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Budapest the beautiful

I haven’t played the tag-along wife in quite a while. When Marlon was required to travel to Budapest on business, I leapt at the chance to reassume a long-neglected role. Although readjusting to traveling by myself was a little lonely, I had no regrets. Because easily, Budapest is one of the most beautiful capital cities I’ve ever been to.

Buda Castle Budapest buildings Budapest Tram 2

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