This summer I went to go to Budapest for my holiday. Moving house and already having trips to Venice, Prague and Dusseldorf under the belt left me quite broke come August. As a last minute plan we looked for somewhere cheap, full of culture and cracking weather… Budapest it was.
The apartment was based in the Buda side (Budapest is made up of two parts… Buda and Pest. Makes sense right?! (If you want to get really jazzy there are three parts but then it gets a bit confusing so I’m going to stop there)). Anyway, it was in the Castle District which was cracking as it was a 10min walk from the big touristy area but far enough to live like the locals.
Composed of traditional cobbled streets with authentic roman / gothic / fairytale looking buildings
The Castle Hill is a MUST. Composed of traditional cobbled streets with authentic roman/gothic/fairytale looking buildings. Matthias Church is a beauty in itself, while Fisherman’s Bastion has winding paths and towers which gives you various stunning views of the river and Pest.
Buda Castle was nice to walk around too, at night they light it up which really shows it in it’s glory. But my favourite thing was walking down the hill. The paths have a mixture of steps, slopes and cheeky shortcuts that people have created when they get fed up of walking. I would definitely recommend doing this instead of queuing for a ridiculous amount of time to get in the lift which lasts about 30 seconds.
We used foursquare to hunt down hidden gems and to discover the best tips on what to order.
There are lots of nice cafes around the area and you don’t have to go far to avoid the touristy prices for crappy food. We used foursquare to hunt down hidden gems and to discover the best tips on what to order.
Marvelosa had delicious summer berry strudel. Kontakt had a brilliant selection of coffee and the Barista was very helpful and friendly. Pékműhely was a tiny bakery at the end of our road that did a small selection of tasty pastry treats.
Margitutcakilenc was a beer garden/cafe/workspace/hipster vibes/bookcases outside kind of place. I really liked it here, I recommend the sausages… you get three paprika sausages, a hunk of bread and two gherkins all for under £3! They had a good selection of local craft beers which is always a bonus too.
three sausages, a hunk of bread and two gherkins all for under £3!
One very rainy night our FourSquare plan did fail and we had to go solo. We headed into the first place we found that didn’t look too overpriced or have a tacky Hungarian theme. And it was a good choice! It was called 21 Magyar Vendéglő. The service was on point, the waiters were attentive, funny and really added to the experience. The wine was very good and local. But most importantly the food regained my faith in Hungarian cuisine…
The night before I had rabbit at a different restaurant… the skin looked nice and crispy… but oh no it wasn’t. In fact it was so dried out that the skin had started to go dark, hard, and shrivel into it’s own pitiful existence as if it was ashamed to be on my plate.
I had veal paprika stew with egg barley risotto for my main. It was friggin delish… so delicious actually that I’m salivating right now as I write this.
It turned out to be a great evening and reminded me that sometimes it’s good to put away the iPhone and go with your gut… literally.
At the beginning of the week we went on a free tour of Budapest. I really recommend this if you’re in a city for a few days. It gives you an idea of what the city has to offer right from the start, allowing you to make the most of your trip.
It also teaches you about local customs, historical and cultural events and gives you the story behind unknown sights
It also teaches you about local customs, historical and cultural events and gives you the story behind unknown sights. For example, that huge fancy building that everyone takes photos of but nobody really knows why they’re doing it… or that brass statue of the horse with the super shiny testicals that everyone keeps rubbing.
Anyway I’m not going to tell you the answers as that’s the tour guide’s job. We used hostel culture and Norbert was our host for the 2 1/2 hours. He was great. Being as the tour is free, we tipped Norbert at the end. The guides aren’t paid so they really rely on the tips, so don’t be a stinge if you enjoy it!
Definitely visit Gellert Hill, if not for the Citadella or the Statue of Liberty, then for the views!
They were the best in Budapest! Better than the St Stephan’s Basilica (which you have to pay for by the way), better than Castle Hill and better than the bridges. It’s a bit of a hike up the hill but it’s a nice change from the city buzz. This was one of my favourite things to do and if I’d been more prepared, I would have taken a picnic and wine.
Rumour has it that if you dip yourself in one of the pools you’ll come out with skin feeling like Aphrodite’s bosoms
You can’t go to Budapest without going to a spa! There are 118 springs of thermal and medicinal water running through the city. The use of them goes back to the Roman times and when the Turkish arrived in the 16th century they built the spas… some which are still in use today (tour knowledge for you!). So rumour has it that if you dip yourself in one of the pools you’ll come out with skin feeling like Aphrodite’s bosoms… That’s not true but it sounds like a good myth. The Budapestians’ love a good myth/rumour/folk tale by the way.
Anyway. We went to Széchenyi Baths, which are one of the most well known and largest in Europe. It’s not magnificent. It’s a bit grim here and there, but it has character and definitely is a good experience.
What about alcohol? Budapest love their wine; it’s everywhere and super cheap too! We bought a bottle from Spar, it was £2 and surprisingly nice. There is a good choice of beer too, you can get a pint for under a £1 and tastes pretty decent. The few places we enjoyed a drink at was:
Csipesz New - A nice chilled bar that had a random theme of pegs. It offered a table service which saved you having to queue for you next drink. They only take cash for table service though, so make sure you’re well prepared if you’re in for a drinking session.
Ellátó Kert - We stumbled upon this place as it glowed out of a side alley. Very busy/buzzy/colourful/full of people ready to take on the night with a belly full of palinka. Perfect place to go as a group for drinks or part of a bar crawl (so many interailers here!).
…decorated with refurbished mismatched furniture and kooky accessories
And finally my favourite place or them all… Szimpla Kert - A huge bar that is open in the day until the early hours of the morning and perfect for any occasion. You ask how is that possible? Because it’s so friggin huge! Situated on two floors in an abandoned building in the Jewish quarter, this ruin bar stands out above the rest. It’s many rooms are decorated with refurbished mismatched furniture and kooky accessories. The old rusty bath tub, turned settee and home to 50 scuzzy soft toys sums it up. You can go for a shisha, a coffee or a binge on the local beer… Whatever you do, don’t miss this place.
On closer observation it was packed full of testicals…
During our visit it was the festival of St Stephen’s which meant it was a two day bank holiday. There was a food festival full of different types of Hungarian cuisine. We ended up in a queue waiting for kakashere pörkölt. It looked like a goulash and everyone was eating it. However, as the wait was so long I decided to google it… the translation: ‘Rooster testical stew’! On closer observation it was packed full of testicals that looked very similar to a Heinz baked beans sausages. That was enough to put me off and stick to a simple ‘kolbasz’ (sausage).
There was also an amazing firework display in then evening! I would advise to watch it from the Pest side as some of the fire works are let off from the Citadella and we had difficulty viewing them. We shared a bottle of wine on the bank and it was blood lovely.
The final location that I think is a must see is Margret Island. Located in-between Buda and Pest, its a nice change from the city buzz. You could really spend all day there in the sun. Take a picnic, explore the park or even hire a cycle car if you’re feeling jazzy.
The main attraction is the fountains though. I felt like I was in Disneyland.. The fountains danced to the music, not just a cheeky squirt here and there.. Full on spinning water, jumping high in the sky and dancing to the beat.
If you want to end your trip with a fancy meal, I suggest Chess restaurant. When we visited, there was a jazz singer which always adds to the swanky experience. We picked the 5 course menu, which had a good variety of high-quality traditional dishes.
All dishes were impeccable, my favourite being the goulash. Again we experienced cracking service by knowledgable waiting staff and it wasn’t too pricey either (for a fancy meal anyway).
Well that is my Budapest experience in a nutshell, well quite a big nutshell actually!