Back from holiday: Budapest – Vienna – Bratislava

I’ve returned from a week of holiday. We decided to go on a prolonged city trip going from Budapest (Hungary) to Vienna (Austria), with a small stop at Bratislava (Slovakia).

(for pictures, please go to my ON THE ROAD column to your right, where I’ve put some of my snapshots).

It was actually a lot of fun discovering these cities. All three of them are along the Danube, but very different.

Budapest is divided by the Danube, with Buda on the higher ground with the castle, the Szabadság Szobor or Liberty Statue on the citadel of Gellért Hill, with the Gellért Baths (there are several Turkish bath houses – with natural springs – introduced through the Turkish occupancy), and the Halászbástya or Fisherman’s Bastion with its seven towers.

Pest is the lower side and the more commercial side of town with restaurants, hotels and shopping areas. We had a small apartment through Hostel World which was amazing, right next to the St Stephen’s Basilica. We stumbled inadvertedly into the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem) , which from the outside is a remarkable building with 4 huge stone carved women.  It was a surprise to us, because we found a fantastic building, which was not mentioned in our travel guide.

Several bridges can take you from Buda to Pest and back by means of the 4 bridges that take you over the Danube. Szabadság híd or Liberty Bridge is the green one and even has trams going over them.

I must say that the public transportation system is very easy and takes you almost anywhere you’d like to. To go to Vienna, we took a tourist return ticket (31€) which allows you to have a 4 day stay at Vienna and the first 2 days you can travel free on the public transport system, which comes pretty handy as a traveler! The train we took was a Rail Jet, and kind of Thalys-like, if you know what I mean. I was glad for the comfort, because the trip from Budapest to Vienna took 3 hours, and what might come in handy to know is that there is a meal wagon in the middle of the train. Expensive though.

I was a bit disappointed by Vienna. I had higher hopes and expectations, but maybe that was due to the fact that after visiting Budapest, you go comparing the city vibes. And it was grey and softly raining, which ruined the mood a bit too. But all in all, Vienna is ok. We went to the Museum of Modern Arts, or Mumok, and to the Freud Museum. We mainly visited the city with the handy trams that take you most everywhere you can imagine.

Our trip took us 1 hour further outside of Vienna to Bratislava (former Pressburg), again with an interesting tourist train ticket, which included again free transportation in Bratislava. Throughout history, this Slovak city had been under Austrian and then Hungarian rule, so it has a mixture of things and a special vibe.

What you see when entering the city is the bridge, Nový Most, that has a kind of a flying saucer thing, which in fact is a restaurant called UFO on top of the bridge. It has an observation deck, that you can visit even if you don’t go to the restaurant (but you will have to buy a ticket).

The Old Town is the tourist place to be, and you will have seen everything in a little more than an afternoon, but it’s worth it. If you are willing to step outside the perimeter of the Old Town and you wonder about a bit, you might, as we did, stumble on a weird building that is in fact an inverted pyramid ! It’s where the Slovak radio stations are found. It’s a bit further than the Grassalkovich Presidential Palace.

We saw and walked a lot in 1 week. Exploring 3 cities might seem much, but it is do-able. And heck, well you can always return in the future to re-acquaint yourself with the city and discover new locations.

Go on, dare and go city-tripping!

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