After Belgrade, I made my way up to Budapest, Hungary for some work and decided to stay longer than planned, while also making a short trip to Bratislava. When I first arrived in Budapest, the weather wasn’t good, the light was bad, and I wasn’t finding much to shoot. So why did I stay longer? Because there’s something special about Budapest that I didn’t want to leave yet. Fortunately, the weather and light got better, and I started finding photos too.
Living in Istanbul and traveling around Eastern Europe, I was constantly hearing about how great Budapest is from travelers. It had the feeling of the “new european city” being added to every traveler’s list. Everyone’s always trying to find the new city in Europe that has so much to offer, but hasn’t been overrun with tourists or inflated prices yet. And Budapest is that city right now.
I remember my first time in Prague years ago, before everyone found out about it. Budapest has that similar feeling. And it’s great.
So here are my first impressions of Budapest, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…
7 First Impressions of Budapest
(From a Street Photography Perspective)
1. Impressive Architecture and Monuments Everywhere
Budapest is filled with a variety of amazing architecture. The gothic style dominates the city’s main attractions and scenery along the river, including the Buda Castle Hill, Fishermen’s Bastion and Parliament. Art Nouveau is the architectural style you might notice most walking around the city, though.
There’s also any abundance of monuments all over Budapest. They even have a statue of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan popped up along a park entrance. It seems like every few blocks I ran into another monument.
The mix of amazing architecture and monuments everywhere definitely adds to the atmosphere of the city and helps give it a special feeling. It also helps give a lot of interesting backgrounds for Street Photography.
2. Beautiful & Developed, but Rugged Underneath
Budapest feels like one of the most developed cities in Eastern Europe, but that doesn’t leave it without its marks from the past.
Budapest has been rebuilt and gone through their fair share of destruction during their long history. There seems to be strong attempts to restore everything, but without the full resources to do so completely. So you do run across crumbling buildings and flaking veneer around the city.
Budapest also has a very noticeable amount of ruins. Not like ancient ruins in Rome or Greece, but haggard, abandoned buildings dispersed throughout the city. Many of these are even turned into bars instead of being rebuilt, which has become a big part of the scene here. This mix of beauty and ruggedness brings character to the city, and to photos.
3. It’s a Dog City
When traveling, you notice how some cities are dog cities, some are cat cities and some are neither. I’m currently based in Istanbul, which is undeniably a cat city. Some even call it “Catstinople.” Budapest on the other hand is a dog city, but not a stray dog city like some.
All over the city, you’ll see people out walking their dogs. Pugs and French bulldogs seem to be the most popular pet, but all breeds are loved here.
4. Fairytale Cityscape
Outside of Prague, Budapest is another city that has an almost fairytale like atmosphere in many areas. All the grand architecture, the cityscape and views by the river, and the rest of the beauty the city has to offer comes together to create something magical.
The city views by the river are some of the best you’ll find in the world and walking along the different bridges can provide some good Street Photography opportunities too. The Liberty Bridge, Chain Bridge, and Margaret Bridge would be favorites (in that order).
5. Buda & Pest, Two Cities in One
Unlike most European capitals, there isn’t just one historical town center in Budapest. This is because the Budapest today was actually multiple cities in the past.
So now you have one side called Buda and across the river you have Pest. The latter is the heart of the city and activity in Budapest, while Buda has big attractions, like Buda Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion, but overall is more quiet and relaxed.
For more of the urban city and nightlife, it’s mostly in Pest, but there’s a lot of beauty and things to see on the Buda side too. They have a different feeling too so it’s a nice change while exploring the city with your camera.
6. Party City
There’s a very lively party and nightlife scene in Budapest. It’s become a top destination for young travelers because of this, but it’s definitely enjoyed by the locals too.
Walking around Budapest you can see this by the concentration of bars and people in the streets. It’s not out of control, but it’s definitely noticeable.
District VII has the most dense concentration of bars and many of the Ruin Pubs that Budapest is famous for. A Ruin Pub is essentially an abandoned building turned into a large bar full of rooms. Many of them are done up with alternative artwork and decoration, while having different themes, music and bars in each room. These Ruin Pubs do help give Budapest a unique touch when walking around the city, even if you don’t go inside to experience them for yourself (which you should).
7. Great For Food & Coffee
There’s plenty of great cafes and coffee houses around the city at an affordable price. This isn’t too unique since other cities in the region, like Vienna and Lviv, are even more about their coffee culture, but it’s still part of the city’s atmosphere. The thing that really stood out to me was the variety of good restaurants and food in Budapest, though.
I’ve found that most places in Eastern/Central Europe do their own food very well, but leave a lot desired when it comes to other cuisine. In Budapest, this isn’t the case. You can find most any type of food in the city and best of all, it tastes good so people eat out a lot here. Restaurants, cafes and bars all seem to be taken very seriously in Budapest and it feels like a big part of the city.
When it came to Street Photography, I was slightly disappointed with Budapest at first. I wasn’t finding many interesting scenes or quality light, but after a while, things got much better. The unique character of the city and life really started showing, or maybe I just started seeing it. What also happened is that I started realizing just how great of a city Budapest is in general. As far as cities go overall, it’s now at the top of my list.
If any of you have been to Budapest before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Budapest, including some more of the Street Photography I captured while there and one of my full Street Photography Guides to the city.