Szia = Hungarian for hello and goodbye
Ben and I had a wonderful time in Budapest. It’s a brilliant place to visit for a long weekend, to take advantage of the cheap wine and beer, and for relaxing and taking in the sights.
We rented an apartment in the Jewish Quarter in Pest. Pest is the younger, hipper side of the city which is overlooked by it’s calm and hilly counterpart, Buda from across the Danube River.
Pest has been compared to Vienna, whereas Buda is said to be more like Prague.We woke up in Budapest ready for the weekend ahead and raring to go.
We made a beeline for Milnar, a bakery/ coffee chain on our way into the centre of town for a chocolate pastry.We then went on a walking tour of Pest, where we were navigated to the Opera House, St Stephen’s Basilica, the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, and up to the Chain Bridge.
We stopped at Hold Utca Market, which is a great spot for lunch. It is a food market selling meat and groceries, and also ready-to-eat meals. There were lots of locals here having lunch so it felt very authentic. Next we walked back up to the Jewish Quarter and to The Great Synagogue. This is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Behind it is a Jewish Museum. The street leading from the central swimming pool (a swimming pool randomly in the town square!?) up to St Stephen’s Basilica has loads of bars and restaurants along it, and according to our walking tour guide, it isn’t overly expensive for tourists.
There is a wine bar called DiVino, and opposite, the High Note Sky Bar. This rooftop bar was one of my favourite spots in Budapest. It overlooks St Stephen’s Basilica, and you can get a cocktail and enjoy the view.
In my opinion, it’s a much better option than paying to climb the Basilica for the same view but minus the alcohol!We had been recommended to visit Belvarosi Lugas Restaurant for dinner and to order the deer stew. It was a super recommendation because it overlooked the back of the Basilica and the food was delicious!
We think it was one of the best meals we ate.In the evening, I navigated myself and Ben on a Ruin Bar crawl. Ruin Bars are a major attraction in Budapest – and as we discovered – a magnet for anyone on a stag do!
The bars have been established in run down courtyards and dilapidated buildings. Most of them have mismatched furniture, graffiti on the walls, and are decorated with fairy lights to jazz them up.Some of the Ruin Bars are hard to find if you don’t know they’re there. Most of them are set back from the road with a long entrance leading into a neglected building.
Here is where we went: Szimpla Kert, Fuge Udvar, Mazel Tov, Fogas Haz, Kuplung, Liebling.
Not a bad effort for our first night!
N.B. For more detail on the Ruin Bar crawl, another blog post will follow!Sunday
The morning after the night before – we woke up with very sore heads!
Luckily there are loads of places in the Jewish District serving brunch and all-day breakfasts. We went to the sun-drenched courtyard of Most Bistro for a late breakfast, and sat in the shade and ordered water and fry-ups.
There was no time for napping, so we shook off our hungovers and made our way across the Chain Bridge to Buda, to take the Funicular up the hill to the Palace.We strolled around Buda Castle, up to Matthias Church and along the Fishermen’s Bastion.
Standing at the Fishermen’s Bastion gives you one of the best views in Budapest.From here, we walked back down the hill and across the Chain Bridge to 360 Bar on Andrássy Avenue. The tree lined boulevard Andrássy Avenue is modelled on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and it’s one of the most exclusive streets in Budapest.
From 360 Bar, you get another lovely view of the rooftops of Budapest. Ben and I had cocktails and relaxed in the sun.In the evening, we went to a lively square near where we were staying which was full of restaurants and cafes. It was called Liszt Ferenc Tér and was a great place for al fresco dining. So far, we’d enjoyed lots of Hungarian dark lager, but no local wine. So we decided to change this by heading to Doblo.
Doblo is a cute wine bar decorated in a shabby chic style. We were fortunate enough to be serenaded by a clarinet player, who was accompanied by two guitarists.Monday
Today we explored the northern side of Budapest, by promenading up Andrássy Avenue to Heroes’ Square and City Park.
Heroes Square is the largest and most symbolic square in Budapest. The Millenary Monument rises from the centre of the square, and the Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Arts stand on either side of it.
The grandeur of the square is outlined in it’s history of being host to many Hungarian political events, such as the reburial of Imre Nagy in 1989.My favourite building was Heroes Square’s neighbour: Vajdahunyadvár Castle.
I’m not ashamed to say that the castle reminded me of the Disney castle in the Shrek films (didn’t you know I was cultured!?) It is designed in several Hungarian styles, each part mimicking a different landmark building from around Hungary.After a stroll around City Park, and trying a Guinness flavoured ice cream (it was grim) we walked all the way down to the Great Market Hall.
We were expecting to have lunch here, thinking that it would be a larger version of Hold Utca Market in the centre of town. However, it was mainly meat, pastries, groceries, leather goods and souvenirs. With the exception of sample nibbles offered by stalls, it wasn’t an ideal spot for a meal.Luckily we found the nearby Puder Ruin Bar on a buzzing street called Ráday Utca to stop for a beer.
On the way to find yet another rooftop bar, we stumbled upon a busy intersection of bars, restaurants and cafes where people were eating outside under quirky decorations and coloured fairy lights.Keen to try as much Hungarian food as possible, I ordered Goulash Soup, and Ben opted for a third round of Hungarian stew.
Around the corner from here, we went to Ellàtò Kurt, which was a romantic Ruin Bar in a garden setting.
Across from this was another one called Kőleves.Tuesday
On our last day in Budapest, we grabbed pastries from a local bakery, and walked up towards the 100-year-old Széchenyi Thermal Baths in City Park. It was around 5000ft (£14.60) for entrance and a locker for the day.
The baths were beautiful. The city of Budapest sits on a maze of caves and naturally warm spring waters, so there are various baths that you can go to around the city. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths are the most famous baths, and the pool water is supposedly so clean that you can drink it – although I wouldn’t recommend doing that!!
There are 18 different pools to have a dunk in at Széchenyi, all with varying temperatures. The largest and most photographed ones are outside, and inside you can find a maze of smaller baths.My favourite bath was one of the outside pools which had a rapids section and water jets to play in – I’m only 25 years young!! For me, Budapest is up there as one of the coolest cities in Europe.
It is undoubtedly a late night city with its labyrinth of Ruin Bars, rooftop bars, wine bars and late night clubs. Fortunately, we were able to visit our fair share of these!
Spending four days in Budapest allowed us time for sightseeing interspersed with relaxed al fresco lunches and dark largers.
Beer is really cheap there – I lost track of the number of stag dos we saw! And I want to go back already!