Istanbul vs Budapest


Istanbul is a beautiful huge city with a history full to the brim, Budapest is a fascinating city, smaller, but more concentrated than Istanbul. Budapest is generally colder than Istanbul. Getting from one point to another is easier in Budapest. Generally, they have the same price index. Istanbul and Budapest both have their advantages and disadvantages for tourists and for people who plan to visit them, I’m going to talk about some of these in this post.

Istanbul

Istanbul used to be the capital and heart of the Ottoman Empire. It was and still is the cultural, social, art, and food capital of Turkey. It is one of the biggest cities in the world by metropolitan area. Getting around in Istanbul is more difficult than in Budapest. Istanbul has nearly 10 times the population of Budapest and Istanbul on its own has more population than the entire country of Hungary, of which Budapest is the capital. Naturally, the city is very crowded at all seasons with its local population, but during the hotter months ( from late May to early September ) there are fewer people in them as the inhabitants try to get away from the noise and frenzy of such a huge city and go to other smaller touristic areas around Istanbul and Turkey.



Istanbul has a more modern look than Budapest. The majority of the population of Istanbul is not local, they come from all around the country, and a major population boom happened after the 1950s so the city expanded somewhat uncontrollably, except for the historic parts, it looks like one of the huge metropolises around the world. This has both been an advantage and a disadvantage for the city. It brought people from all parts of Turkey which brought their cultural heritage and food habits with them, thus enriching the city even further. It also got the city so huge that during rush hours it can take you 2 hours plus to get from the Asian side to the European side of Istanbul, so if you decide to visit the city during the off-seasons I would advise you to plan some activity between 8 to 10 A.M. and 5 to 7 P.M. in order to not waste your vacation time stuck in traffic.

If you stay near the center of the city, you can plan to taste the world-famous Turkish breakfast comprised of multiple savory treats. In the evening you can plan to go to a concert, of which there’s never a shortage of in the city, or you can take a ferry tour on the Bosporus with dinner. The possibilities are endless and I will elaborate on them to give you a better idea.

Budapest

Budapest is the historic and modern capital of Hungary. It is much smaller than Istanbul but with its look, it is one of the most beautiful and magical looking cities in Europe. Your visit to Budapest can be done in about 3 days with the major tourist attractions, as opposed to Istanbul for which you would need at least a full week. Your stay in Budapest is sure to be much calmer than a visit to Istanbul. The city holds the traces of a long kingdom, a short imperial and an even shorter communist regime remains.



Top Sites to See in Budapest

  • Buda Castle
  • Hungarian Parliament Building
  • Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • Heroes’ Square
  • Matthias Church
  • Széchenyi Chain Bridge
  • Central Market Hall

History

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, dates back to a millennium BC and has a rich history. Hungarian tribes that came to Eastern Europe towards the end of the 9th century established the Hungarian Kingdom. Once upon a time a part of the Roman Empire, Hungary was established as its own kingdom after the empire collapsed. Later it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the reform period (1825-1848), the city experienced the first development boom. The Hungarian National Museum and the Chain Bridge connecting the two shores of the Danube River were also built during this period. In 1873, there was an unprecedented development in Europe with the merger of three cities of Buda, Pest, and Old Buda. After the Second World War, the country, where the communist regime was dominant, transformed into the parliamentary regime in 1989 and was declared a republic. Approximately one-third of the local Hungarians live outside Hungary, especially in Romania where indigenous Hungarians were forced to emigrate.



In the 1960s and 1970s, the Elizabeth Bridge was opened to traffic, the underground network was developed, the old city center was renewed, and large construction work was started, especially around the castle. The city has started to develop in terms of tourism with hotels opening both around the castle and on the banks of the Danube. Soon there was an increase in tourism, known as “goulash communism”. In addition to Eastern and Western Europe, the city is also visited by other people around the world. In the city that currently has a population of two million Europe’s first underground rail network was built. In 2004 The country joined the European Union and has started to develop after this process.


Modern Budapest was formed in 1873 when Buda, Pest, and Old Buda came together. Buda is part of the city that was established on the hill west of the Danube River and constitutes the historical region of the city. In Budapest, which consists of 23 regions, the regions have numbers that they are known by other than their names. The city’s parks were built together with Andrassy Boulevard and the Opera House that are under UNESCO’s protection. Heroes Square and the Hungarian Art Museum were built specifically for the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Hungary. In the same period, the Parliament Building was built at a high cost.



After World War II there was too much material and moral losses and
the city was in a pretty bad state in the 20th century. The city, where a large part of the original buildings was destroyed, was remarkably rebuilt. However, traces of bullets from the war are still in some buildings. The buildings around Buda Castle, the most popular and historical area of ​​the city, bear the traces of baroque architecture. The historical texture around the castle has never been touched and destroyed.

Festivals in the City

The city, which hosts many festivals, has been recognized as the largest art and cultural center in Central Europe. Budapest Spring Festival, which attracts visitors from many parts of the world, has been held since 1981. The biggest museums and art venues openings in Budapest are always held with this festival. The festival is celebrated not only in the city’s concert halls but also in parks and squares. Another big festival is the Budapest Summer Festival. It attracts enthusiasts for 12 weeks with a rich cultural program. Especially very special opera and theater works are staged at the open-air theater on Margaret Island. Varosmajor Open Air Theater is located in one of Buda’s most popular public parks. In the place where famous names of the music world meet, in addition to Budapest theaters, Hungary’s traveling theaters are also staged. The world-famous Sziget Festival is one of Europe’s largest popular music and cultural events. Sziget Festival attracts tens of thousands of international visitors to Budapest every August. With its unique atmosphere and location, Sziget Festival is one of the most popular events in Budapest.



The country is the home of many famous scientists, the famous Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik, the creator of the Rubik cube, is one of the scientists trained in Budapest. Budapest has one of the most important spa cultures in Europe. There are many hot springs and baths with Roman, Greek, and Turkish architecture in the city. Known as the ‘City of Baths’, Budapest is one of the few cities in the world that is rich in thermal waters that are believed to have healing properties. Budapest is a city where you can enjoy traditional baths dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The best baths, Rudas, Kiraly, and Veli Beige are among the baths from the Ottoman Period. In Budapest, where there are very good universities, the education period of universities varies between 3 and 4 years. Pecs University, the oldest university in Hungary, was founded in 1367.

Food

Food culture in both of these cities is quite different from each other but similarities can still be found as they were twice cities under the same Empires.

While in Istanbul
  • Fish Sandwich
  • Lahmacun
  • Doner Kebab
  • Kumpir
  • Midye
  • Simit
  • Baklava
While in Budapest
  • Goulash
  • Chicken Paprikash
  • Bean soup
  • Lángos
  • Chimney Cake
  • Stuffed Cabbage
  • Dobos Torta


All dishes and desserts above are among the most important food items that if skipped during a visit, would leave it uncompleted. If you are a foodie as well as a traveler you most definitely have to try these.

What to Do in Budapest

Budapest is an ideal city for those who want to have fun activities with its historical texture, nightlife, and the Danube River view. The fact that compulsory expenses such as transportation and food can be met here at a lower price makes the city attractive.

The part of the city, where you can also find Turkish baths, usually contains historical textures, is the side of old Budin, or Buda. Gellert Hill, where the famous Gellert Baths are located, has an excellent city view. The island on the Danube River called Margaret Island is also a place to be visited. There are many religious and historical ruins on Margaret Island. The island, which is also home to the St. Michael Church, Franciscan, Dominican Churches is a favorite place for cyclists like the Islands in Istanbul.



The Castle Hill, the structure of the city that was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1987, was built against the Mongols. If you are going to go here in the winter, don’t forget to take a coat with you. In addition, you should definitely have a camera and take beautiful pictures of the city.

Budapest is also famous for its cave tourism. The reason for this is that there are around 200 caves in the city. Castle Cave, Palvogly Cave, Chapel, and Szemlohegy caves are also the most important.

Night Life in Budapest

Budapest takes on another identity at night, especially due to the atmosphere that the Danube River adds to the city. A wonderful view is created for those who have a camera with lighting placed throughout the Danube.



The nightlife of the city is as colorful as the lit roads along the Danube River. The Astoria Nightclub, Octagon, and Blaha Lujza triangle on Seventh Avenue is a complete source of entertainment. Dolce Vita Bar and Poco Jumbo are also ideal for night trips. You can also find restaurants, bars, and cafes in Raday Utca, known as Soho of Budapest. Wine bars named Borozo are also good alternatives to try the flavors unique to Budapest.

Shopping in Budapest

The most important tradition of Budapest, from both Central Europe and Ottoman Culture, is the open-air markets in the city. Great Market Hall, called Big Market Hall, is one of the most important markets, while Hundayi Ter, Hold Utca, and Rakoczi Ter are other important markets.

The city has a satisfactory texture in terms of both the products that can be bought and shopping opportunities. If you like luxury brands, if you want to breathe the cultural structure of the city, you can go to local markets or street shops and shop according to your budget.



Vaci Utca is one of the first places that come to mind when it comes to the most famous shopping area of ​​Budapest. You can come across shops of world-renowned brands lined up on this street starting from Vörösmarty Square to Central Market Hall. However, if you are one of those who say “I see chain stores everywhere”, you should turn your route to Andrassy Avenue. In this narrow and luxurious ambiance ist apart from the most famous stores, boutique shops designed according to the local culture will also appear. You can buy clothes suitable for your style from these small shops that make affordable sales, and you can browse souvenirs such as trinkets, decorative ornaments, and types of food and beverages that you can gift to your loved ones.

Of course, what you can buy in Budapest is not limited to clothes! The Great Market Hall, the largest market place in the city; It is a shopping spot that is appreciated by all tourists with its food, beverage, and handicraft products. If it suits your taste, you can buy Paprika, Palinka and Tokaji wines from the ground floor, and look for souvenirs for your loved ones from the top floor. If you want a more attractive market alternative, stop by Ecseri Market! In this market, where the locals flock, the prices are relatively affordable and the product choice is much more diverse. Established only on weekends, Pecsa Market is preferred by tourists who like antique ornaments and decoration objects.

Where to Stay

The areas that are favorable to chose a hotel from are;

  • Vaci Utca
  • Erzsebetvaros
  • Terezvaros
  • Around Plazas
  • Elizabeth Bridge
  • Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya)
  • Citadella

Transportation

You have many alternatives to get to the city center from Budapest Airport, which is 18 miles away. Taxi is an expensive method, and you pay 10 times the train journey. The minibusses take you with a few people and transport you to your hotel for half the price of the taxi.



The easiest way to reach the city center is about 25 minutes by train. The first stop of the train is not the airport, so it is useful to get help while waiting at the Ferihegy stop or to see the diagrams that write the train line. The most ideal method for urban transportation is to use the metro and tram, the metro that operates on 3 different lines, and the tram that has 30 lines.

Prices

I will not name a certain amount of money to bring with you but give you some guidelines for both Istanbul and Budapest for helping you make a guess for your kind of trip. Until recent years, Budapest was considered to be cheaper than Istanbul but during the fluctuation of the value of Turkish lira, nowadays both of the cities can be considered to have the same prices for similar services. Hotel and restaurant prices are very similar in both cities. The things that you have to keep in mind while planning your trip to both of these cities are;

  • The time of the year
  • How long will you be staying
  • What kind of food do you prefer ( dining or street food)
  • What do you expect from the hotel you’re staying at
  • What mode of transportation do you prefer
  • How many places do you want to visit
  • How many events do you want to participate in both public and private

If you keep in mind those factors while you plan your visits, there shouldn’t be any surprise fees that will put you in a deficit with your budget.

Religion

Budapest is one of the most Christian cities in Europe. It has many churches, some of them turned into a church from a mosque that was built during the Ottoman era. You can spot these churches by their domes as the Ottoman mosque architecture built mosques with domes that were inspired by the Hagia Sophia which is, in turn, a church that was turned into a mosque. Hungary and Budapest are also one of the oldest regions that European Jews inhabited for a long time. Many of the Israelians that came from Europe can trace a part of their lineage to Hungary.



Istanbul is a Muslim majority city. There are many mosques in the city, both modern and historic. Due to the fact that Istanbul has been the capital of the Ottoman Empire, leader of the Islamic world for nearly 400 years, many of the mosques that were built during its capital-hood are formidable works of art that were commissioned by the Sultans themselves. Some of the most famous ones are;

  • Sultanahmet ( Blue ) Mosque
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
  • Beyazit Mosque
  • Ortakoy Mosque
  • Eyup Sultan Mosque
Climate

Budapest is a city that’s slightly colder than Istanbul. Budapest’s average temperature throughout the year is 50 degrees whereas Istanbul’s is 60. Budapest’s weather is dryer than Istanbul due to Hungary’s and the city’s landlocked position. The only humidity in the city comes from the Danube River. Istanbul is a humid city all year round. It is a city that is surrounded on all three sides by the sea, and yes both sides of the city. Budapest’s winters can be cold and dry whereas Istanbul’s are moderate. In the hotter month, it is nicer to walk around Budapest as opposed to Istanbul where you may need multiple changes of clothes due to its humidity.

When to Visit

You can consider every period of the year for a trip to Budapest. However, the city has cold and gloomy weather from November to the first week of March. It is even possible to encounter heavy snowfall during the period from December to February. However, since the temperatures start to rise after March, a significant increase is observed in the tourist population. Of course, if your goal is a bit more fun, do not miss the Spring Festival, which takes place in the first three weeks of April!



Istanbul can also be visited throughout the year, I would advise the late springtime especially as the city takes its winter coat on and prepares itself to the hotter month with its green light-coat. During the springtime in Istanbul, you can see the purple flowers of the “Erguvan” trees that inspired the city to adopt the color for some of its busses. Early fall is also a good time to visit the city, you will see the local population coming back from their vacations and all kinds of social events booming to welcome them back home, so you can benefit from those!

Final Word

Budapest and Istanbul are both rich, diverse, and beautiful cities. They are very different from each other, you may want to choose which one to visit according to your mood if you do not have the time or the budget, but if you can be sure to visit both during your trip, you are sure to not regret by crowning your vacation with these two amazing cities.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I love Istanbul. I have been to 10 different countries. Istanbul is in the top 3 cities. I like to play soccer too :)

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