Flanking the Danube River are Buda on the West and Pest on the East Bank. The “tale of 2 cities” merging into one has been subject of many discourses and inevitably comparisons are drawn. Our hotel is on the Pest side. This is where the Parliament is, best viewed from across the Danube in Castle Hill. A very handsome building which is only 3rd largest in the world.

Pest is flat, but bigger. Where Buda is more formal, even reserved, Pest is more vibrant. Nightlife is certainly livelier on the east bank of the Danube. It may not be “quiet and less crowded” as its hilly half, but this is where the action is. The coffee and bar scene here is tops and while relatively “new” and “young”, its bolder character gave way to many prominent edifices like the Parliament, Heroes Square, the “ruin bars”, the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the many bronze statues scattered all around. But in my mind, nothing beats the eclectic bronze shoes lined at the edge of the Danube. The story goes that Hungarian Jews were told to take off their shoes, put whatever jewellery they have inside the shoes, and stand by the river edge. Then they were summarily executed and their bodies fell into the river as they took the shots from Budapest’s Arrow Cross Militia who shared the same Nazi ideology during World War II. The bronze shoes are poignant reminders of this dark period in Hungarian history.

The Central Market Hall is another iconic landmark in Pest. The market has a 2nd floor catering to tourists wishing to buy souvenirs and feast on Hungarian cuisine. There are many souvenir and handicraft for sale here, as well as food stalls where one can try Goulash, lecso, Hungarian smoked sausages, stuffed cabbage, meatballs, langos and many more. We’ve tried it here and it was forgettable if it weren’t our worst lunch. Well, it was a food court after all. But Pest is really teeming with nice shopping places, coffee bars and fine-dining restaurants. One only needs to do a little research. Thankfully, one of my friends made sure we ate very well here. 🍽

Michael Jackson fans would love it here. There is an MJ Memorial Tree in a tiny square corner just right across Kempinski Hotel where the late pop idol used to stay. The tree has assumed a Shrine of sorts with MJ photos plastered around the trunk. And Hungarian fans still gather here on MJ’s birthday, performing MJ’s popular dance moves. Nearby is the Hungarian Eye, much like the London Eye. It’s colossal but I feel it’s an eyesore amidst the many beautiful and historic buildings in the area.

Budapest has a number of popular thermal pools or baths, clearly something they must have picked up from the Romans and Turks. It was tempting to check out SzĂ©chenyi or GellĂ©rt if only to watch old men play chess while half-submerged in hot thermal waters. We passed on this one and chose to instead hear mass at St. Stephen’s , enjoy a good dinner then take an evening Danube cruise to see the Hungarian landmarks all lit up. We enjoyed both Buda and Pest. But when I do make a next visit, I’d likely try a hotel in Buda if only to feel its more sober night life.