Since my last post was on the Szabo Ervin Library, I thought I’d continue the geekdom and write on the bookstores I visited in Budapest. However, I must apologise in advance because I don’t have amazing pictures of these stores as obviously I was busy skimming through interesting titles. But I still think you will get the drift of it and maybe bookmark this post for future travels 🙂
Atlantis Book Island: My first bookstore find after visiting the Castle Hill was the Atlantis Book Island. I was surprised by the number of English titles here. The store has a lot of variety in fiction and non fiction from Central Europe. As a reader, it opened a new world for me.
Best part was the owner knew English so I could ask him for recommendations. Even though he was slightly shy, I managed finding few titles of my interest. I only wish he didn’t stand on my head while I was browsing 😉 The double storied bookstore also has a cute stationary corner with gorgeous bookmarks (all made in Hungary) and wrapping paper.
Massolit Book & Cafe: A quaint bookshop in the heart of the Jewish quarter, Massolit is my absolute favorite! You can sit here and read all day inside or in the garden, use the free Wifi and order a tea and homemade cake! The owner has an amazing collection of historic books and even helped me pick 3 titles. The store wasn’t as crowded and has a good selection of travel related books. There is a rack with second hand books in Hungarian.
Bestsellers: Right next to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral is this gem! The huge selection of books in English pulled me there twice! Even the choice of Hungarian literature is massive. I settled for a Romanian author and a bag from Penguin Books. Befriending the lady at the counter was fun because she told me there was always something going on at the shop whether it was book signings, author interviews or poetry sessions 🙂 The only downside of this shop is that since it is close to all the major landmarks it is usually full.
Alexandra: Formerly the Paris Department Store, Alexandra was a huge bookstore at the Andrassy Avenue. I visited in September 2016 and although the English section wasn’t very impressive, it has a lot of classics. The piano playing in the baroque cafe above was a reason I could go back and sit in the store. Alexandra was the biggest bookstore chain in Hungary sadly I was informed by a dear reader that this chain of stores is now closed in Hungary.
Did you enjoy this post?? Do you visit bookstores when you travel to new countries??
As travellers we must respect fellow travellers’ advice but never imitate it. For instance if you are in Vienna and your friend recommends you to visit museums, you can’t force yourself to see them because you don’t like visiting museums in the first place. Every person’s style of traveling is different and we must respect that. Last year in Budapest the same happened with me. I got recommendations to see museum X, Y and Z in the city but not being a big museum freak I chose to do something of my own taste. I visited a library.
But not just any library.
The Szabo Ervin Library is a baroque treat and reader’s paradise in the heart of Budapest. Only a 10 minutes walk from the tram stop, the admission to this royal library is free of charge. (Go there before you have to pay forints to see it) Named after a Hungarian librarian and social scientist, the library is beautiful inside out. My love for it started when I saw a picture of it on Instagram and instantly felt the need to visit. I was so blown away by its interiors that I just wanted to see them with my own eyes.
The library is divided into floors and contains thousands of books in Hungarian and other languages. The part of the library I am showing you here is the antique one housed in the Wenckheim Palace.
It has several rooms in ornate and antique furniture, huge chandeliers and gold fireplaces. Students go about their day as normally as you could imagine. I on the other hand was walking and gawking in the hallways. Seriously would you look here!! It doesn’t feel like a library at all.
Isn’t the last picture right out of the Harry Potter library??!! lovestruck
Imagine this place in the wee hours or probably on a rainy day…. I would love to keep coming back and sit and read to my heart’s content. If you are a book lover and are visiting Budapest, this is something you surely don’t want to miss!
10:00 to 20:00 on all weekdays. Saturday 10:00 to 16:00.
The library is closed on Sundays.
Did I say how much I loved Budapest?? Okay I probably did but here’s another post to prove my point 😉
On my second day I went to Fisherman’s Bastion at the Buda side of the city. Situated on Castle Hill, it is a unique monument whose name comes from the fishermen who defended the walls in the Middle Ages. The entire area on Castle Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Buda Castle sits on the other side and houses the National Gallery of Hungary along with a Library and Museum of History. Completed in the 13th century, the castle is one of the most imposing structures of Budapest. Also at the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Mathhias Church made in a gothic style with 7 bells!
Reaching the Castle Hill is very easy as there is the option of walking, taking a bus (No 16) or a funicular. I chose the first one as it was only a 5-10 minute walk. Along the way I could see amazing views of the city. It was surreal!!
Best part of visiting the Castle Hill is really the location. One can spend as much time as one wants and see the vast vistas of the city! The entire area is like a small town with an old part and a Palace. There is also a five star hotel and a Starbucks which shows how commercial it is now becoming.
Many expensive shops in the area sell “Hungarian” goods but I didn’t know the authenticity of them so chose to ignore. Walking back to Pest I noticed how quiet the Buda side of the city is compared to the hustle and bustle of the Pest side.
It was an intriguing experience to see both sides of the city. More so because I had no idea about the history of Hungary and just got curious to know more. After my visit, I stopped at a bookshop to read more on Budapest. I’ll be posting about them later but for now I hope you enjoyed the hike to the Buda Castle?? Tell me if you are enjoying the Budapest series 🙂
A touch of splendor and air of grandeur- that is how I can explain my time in the most beautiful cafe of the world! Say hello to the New York Cafe in Budapest!
It is a complete baroque treat thanks to the work of the Boscolo group of Hotels- an Italian chain. With its Venetian chandeliers and gold paintings, marble tiles and silk cushions, hand painted walls and velvet upholstery, it oozed charm and class and reminded me of a time long gone by.
I had breakfast there on my first morning in the city and was so impressed. Taking a seat on the ground floor by the window, I was smitten with its interiors. No photograph can explain the beauty of it.
Coming to the food, I would say I had little expectations from it which is why I chose slightly less riskier options. However, I was impressed in that department too. It was fresh and tasty. I ordered fresh juice, coffee, toast and Hungarian sausages with horse raddish and salad. Later I also had a pastry which wasn’t photographed. Did I say I was having breakfast?? Well …No… it was definitely lunch for me 😉
Sitting and marvelling at the interiors was a great experience. I was mostly ogling at the ceiling and met two girls from China doing the same. I clicked at least 25 pictures for them and returned to my table as my coffee was getting cold.
But fun day 🙂 Had I been in a more touristy place such as Vienna or Venice I would have definitely spent a bomb but thanks to the comparatively cheaper prices in Eastern Europe it wasn’t even half of what I expected! Next time I definitely want to go there late at night because the place is open till 3 a.m. Cocktail time!
Few talk of Budapest as they talk of Rome, Paris or London. Even I wouldn’t have been aware had I not visited it, but it feels nice to know of a not-so-famous city that turned out to be so good!
On my Ryanair flight from Milan Bergamo to Budapest, I had no idea what to expect. For starters I was in a bit of a panic as neither the ATM or the credit card I had worked at the airport. I had no local currency (Forints in this case) and was carrying only some change of euros. This was also a useful lesson for me to be more prepared during travel. Luckily, a young lady helped me in reaching the city centre without taking any money for the ride. She herself was taking a flight to Africa but her parents who had come to drop her gave me a ride in their car and also got me a tram ticket. I am now connected with her through Facebook and hope to visit her someday in her home in Africa and/or Romania 🙂 Bless her and her folks!
Once I reached the city and settled in my room, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw around me. Not only is Budapest a gem of a city filled with wonderful things to do but is also home to stunning Neoclassical and Gothic architecture. Having been through a lot of destruction during the World War II, I was amazed how the city has fought back to keep itself on the high. It definitely shows the resilience and power of its people.
For those who don’t know, Budapest is divided into parts – one is the Buda side and the other is the Pest side. The former is laid back, residential and quieter while the latter more happening with all the pubs and places to see/eat. As a famous city of Eastern Europe, Budapest is a financial centre and is ranked as one of the 7th most liveable city of the continent. Budapest deserves attention, a lot of attention and you will see the “why” in the posts to follow. For all the 5 nights I was there, I felt this every single day. that more people should visit Budapest!
What did I do there all those days? I walked and walked around the city, ventured into different bookstores and cafes, pranced upon a historic library and food festival and drank lots of beer and wine 😀 Sometimes when I felt tired and lazy after all the walking I sat in a cafe and read a book that I had bought from the nearby store. Sunsets on the Danube were just surreal and the magic of Budapest comes alive in the night. I clicked several pictures from my phone camera and was wondering what the effects would have been if I had had a DSLR. So if you are there this year don’t miss the opportunity to get some great shots with a good camera. I got 2 of mine printed for my room 🙂
I will be writing more about Budapest in the coming posts. For those who are traveling in the summer it will be easy to refer to the posts, while for others- why don’t you take a trip to Budapest?? 🙂