Budapest is this kind of place I hadn’t heard much of one year ago, but suddenly no one could shut up about it 😀 for the most, they described it as being their favorite city in Europe, and they really got me curious.
As for Germany, I hadn’t planed to go to Hungary until a week before. I had to take some mandatory holidays – yes you can say it, “Boo freaking hoo!” – but I had no idea what to visit. Instead of blindly throwing a dart at a map and ending up visiting the middle of the Atlantic ocean, I looked for the cheapest plane tickets I could find.
That was the first time ever I used this method, but it works well and now I use it all the time : go to Google Flights, set your arrival and departure dates, then click on the map and look for affordable tickets, there will be plenty. It makes you think about places you wouldn’t have considered in the first place, I’ll come back to this in a further post.
Anyway Budapest happened to be one of the cheapest (less than 100€ for the round trip) so I bought my tickets right away for the week after, and started to look for a couchsurfing host.
I’ll always remember the first sight I had when getting out of the subway : the Danube. The huge river splits the city in half and offers an amazing view on the city’s most impressive buildings, and on Gellért hill. Taking a night shot like this one requires to set your camera on a tripod and choose and long exposure time, like 5 or 6 seconds.
At this point my lens cap fell from the bridge, and almost sank into the Danube, so I went to the riverbank looking for it. By chance I got it back, and grabbed a shot from this new point of view. Here I like the way the bridge is lit and the foreground better.
Later I went to meet Rita, a very kind Hungarian girl who had agreed to host for a few days. She was hosting me as well as two other guys, which is pretty uncommon for a girl 👍
I spent the first few days walking a lot despite the cold and the rain. I joined a free walking tour through the 7th district, which used to be the Jewish Ghetto during WWII, but is now more of party place. This once dilapidated neighborhood has been revived by the opening of the so called “Ruin pubs“. After this interesting walk, from an historical and a cultural point of view, I joined some new friends and we went back to have a further look at the pub part 😉
If you’re interested, the Szimpla Kert is the most famous of those bars
I kept on discovering the city in the rain the next few day, and didn’t take a whole lot of picture. Except of course when I found some cool reflections. The problem when you travel by plane is you can’t pack a proper tripod (if you only have a hold luggage), so I always carry a table tripod with me. It allows me to set and steady my camera on a wall, and when there’s no such thing available, on the floor.
The day after, rain finally turned into snow, giving the city an amazing look. We went for a walk with Rita to the one of the touristic areas of Budapest : its Castle.
It is actually called the Buda Castle because it belongs to the Buda side. Prior to 1900 Buda and Pest were two distinct cities. Buda is the hilly area on the west of the Danube, and had the most power in the Middle Age, whereas Pest developed during the industrial revolution.
Next we walked towards the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias church as the night was falling and the snowing was getting thicker, providing this awesome view on the Parliament. For this shot I couldn’t set a tripod, and didn’t want the picture to be blurry. I boosted the ISO up to 1600 and chose the largest aperture I could (f/2.8), I only needed the building to be sharp.
On our way back, we came across the city park, near Hosök Tere. Every winter, this park’s lake is turned into a large ice skating rink. Nearby is also the Vajdahunyad Castle, which exhibits some Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
The next morning I had nothing planed, so I decided to come back, but for something different. As you may know there is a lot of Baths in Budapest, due to the profusion of thermal springs. The biggest one is Széchenyi and happens to be located in the same park. It is a great place to chill and have a pleasant time, and it’s fun to bathe in the outside pool while the air temperature is around 0°C !
After this few days spent at Rita’s, another couchsurfer agreed to host me for the rest of my trip. I took my stuff (had two backpacks), and went to Bálint’s place in Buda. I was surprised because his whole family (My host’s sister, brother, mum and grandma) lives there, but there were all very welcoming and friendly.
The flat even had an awesome view on the city, specifically on the parliament at sunrise. Now, I’ve never been much of a morning person, but I never was disappointed by sunrise shooting. Same thing as from the castle, I took a couple of pictures and stitched them together.
Bálint gave me great advice on what to visit in the city, restaurants, bars…
For instance a really inexpensive Lángos place (it is a deep fried flat bread, perfect to fill and warm you up when it’s cold). I don’t remember the name, but it’s just around here :
While I was up there I set my camera and took a sequence of 3-400 photos, to merge them into a timelapse and showcase the whole flow of Budapest.
The other hill I was eager to climb on was Gellért. The Liberty Statue on top of it was built by the Soviet Red Army and overlooks the whole city. It’s quite a walk to get up there, but it was an amazing time 🙂 all the paths where covered in fresh snow, with this gorgeous glowing cityscape underneath. I couldn’t have left without immortalizing it.
Once on top of the hill I took the time to enjoy the view and once more set my camera to capture a timelapse
That was quite a busy day 😀
I had a lot of fun making new friends in Budapest, I met Balázs and the craziest couple ever Ana and Igor, with whom I had a lot fun going out and hanging around ! There’s something I love about Budapest’s nightlife, but I regret not to have tried any club there.
I was so amazed by how beautiful the city is, that I always had a camera with me during this trip. This next picture was kind of a challenge, I love shooting light trails, but it requires some timing and steadiness. The problem is, the bridge I took it from – the Margareth Bridge – moves like CRAZY whenever a tram crosses the river. I used a 8s exposure, and had to anticipate the number of cars on the road beneath (so that I get smooth and uninterrupted light trails) as well as the traffic on the bridge (so I don’t get a blurry picture). With a bit of perseverance and patience I eventually got the result I wished to obtain.
I also had the pleasure to meet Petra, she’s the nicest Hungarian girl, I really had a great time ! But unfortunately every journey has to come to an end, and I only had one more day to spend in Hungary 😦 as we say : time flies when you’re having fun.
For my last day, the city took a whole new aspect, while it got wrapped by a mix of snow and fog. At one point you couldn’t even see from one side of the Danube to the other, as displayed in this shot I took of the famous Chain Bridge. Now Budapest is my favorite city in Europe !
What I would recommend in Budapest :
- Walk a lot. Budapest is not that big of a city, and you can sure see a lot by going around on foot.
- Try some food. There are a lot of inexpensive restaurants in which you can experience the best Hungarian dishes (Lángos, Paprika Chicken, Goulash …).
- Enjoy the night life. The 7th district is definitely a good area to start with, but you can find a lot of nice bars and clubs all around town.
What I would do differently :
- I love music and dancing, next time I’ll try to find a good club !
- Nothing else ! This trip was all around one of my bests.
A big thank you to my hosts Rita and Bálint in Budapest, it was awesome to be able to stay at your place ! And thanks to everyone I met during my trip, you all made my trip overwhelming 🙂