If you have known me for a while; you know that I have not travelled much in my life. But this year has started to alter that and I have had the wonderful privilege of being able to explore a couple of European cities, with Budapest being the latest on that list.
After much deliberation, myself and 2 other girls agreed to explore Budapest since it was a new city for all of us. When we booked it, I didn’t have a clue what was there or what sorts of things we could do. But after a little research I discovered Budapest had many delights and there was plenty to discover in the 4 days we had there. So this post gives the low down of exactly what we did- more for my record than for you to read! Hopefully I’ll write up a separate post on the highlights of the city which should be more interesting.
Airbnbs are the way to go in terms of city accommodation, so after landing and taking the 100E bus into the city centre, we went to meet our host Peter at his lovely apartment. The place was perfect for the 3 of us who intended to be out most of the day- it was in a great location to walk everywhere and it provided a lovely space to come back and chill in the evenings.
Once we were settled we managed to head out to meet a university friend of one of the girls. Since he had been brought up in Budapest, he was able to give us a tour of Pest (the flat side of the city) which included recommendations, warnings and vast amounts of Hungarian history. This was fascinating and highly recommended if you know of people in cities who would be willing to give you a low down of the area.
Part of this tour took us to St Stephen’s Basilica which was an impressive church in the city centre. I love gold plated interiors and great marble columns so I tend to just stand there in awe; and I often get the feeling of how much more amazing will the throne room of Heaven be?! But sadly, I couldn’t dwell on that forever since we decided to go up the church tower. This gave a beautiful view of the city and provided our tour guide with plenty of opportunities to point things out and tell us some amusing stories for no more than a couple of pounds.
Then it was around the city to point out more interesting things, before heading to the Buda side of the river (the hilly part of the city) for dinner. At this Hungarian restaurant, we didn’t know what to order so I let the tour guide order for me. It turned out that I ate some sort of catfish, cottage cheese and pickled paprika concoction that thankfully wasn’t half as bad as it sounds!
The day ended with a fairly long trek back to bed whilst seeing all the city lights at night.
This day began bright and early in order to get to a free walking tour on time. This tour took us back to Buda to discover more culture and history of the country. It was the first time we saw Matthias Church which was just like it had come out of a fairytale. The tour ended with a recommendation for food, a look at the map and a slightly weird Hungarian lullaby.
Due to my lack of breakfast, I was determined that we find somewhere to eat. Turns out it was only me that wanted food; as one friend never seemed to get hungry and the other was a vegan who struggled to find suitable food (her thoughts on the trip can be found here, and the other friends blog is here if you want to see that too). So I indulged in a delicious sour cherry strudel whilst marvelling at the roof of Matthias Church.
After some deliberation we decided our next move would be up Gellért Hill where the views were stunning.
For dinner we endlessly wandered and explored to find a quality trip advisor restaurant that was vegan, had space and was in walking distance (there weren’t many believe it or not…) until we found Tavern Dionysos, which was a really cute Greek restaurant that cooked up a beautiful pork steak. With complimentary hummus and watermelon this place had me sold and I loved it.
Now, we had been told there was a Hungarian party at the top of Gellért Hill so we thought we would find that to experience something a bit different. But when we got up there we could see no sign of such a thing so we just took some photos of the night view and went back to the apartment.
After a slightly later start (imposed by myself) we spent the morning at Margaret Island, an island in the middle of the Danube that is reached by a couple of the bridges. Now I love me a good fountain (a highlight of Barcelona) and Margaret Island had a great one. On the hour, music started and the fountains started dancing, much to my delight. We sat around it with our tired feet dangling into the water and just enjoyed the show.
We then explored the rest of island that held some lovely gardens and ponds.
For the afternoon we decided to go to the thermal baths which was the part I had most been looking forward to. We chose to explore Szechenyi, which had beautiful yellow walls and lovely outdoor pools. We also enjoyed the hot saunas followed by submerging ourselves into the cold pools. After all the walking around the city (we didn’t take any public transport whilst we were there), it was lovely to just rest and relax… until we were running late for dinner and had to rush through Hero’s square and down Andrassy ut.
The evening was spent at an Italian restaurant that had only just reopened. The service at this place was just incredible. Though the place was full we felt comfortable hanging around and we didn’t feel at all rushed along. For an incredibly reasonable price the portion sizes were gigantic and thankfully they were more than happy to box these up for us to take home. On top of this, they provided ham (and being the only meat-eater, I had all of that) and mozzarella with salad for an appetizer, then lemon sorbet, wine and limoncello for afters. We left a little note on the receipt and were delighted when the owner stuck it on the mirror for future patrons to see!
With an even later start the next day (my fault again) we got to parliament and queued with just enough time to bag ourselves a tour of the building that day, though we had to wait a couple of hours. To fill the time, we thoroughly explored the attached museum which gave 1000 years of Hungarian history. This was really fascinating and helped put a lot of other things in perspective- if you’re interested in history I would recommend doing this earlier in the trip.
Then we got to go into the parliament with its vast quantities of gold leaf and intricate patterns covering every wall and ceiling. It was incredible to see this, along with many statues, red carpets, stained glass windows and paintings. We also got to see the crown jewels which was exciting. And to top it off our tour was in the central dome at the changing of the guard!
Once this was over we went to Buda to join in with some of St Stephen’s festivities. Though we weren’t around to see the big show (missed that by a day), we got to go to the castle where there were hundreds of little stalls showcasing traditional Hungarian craftsmanship. It was here that I finally got to eat ice cream in a churro cone and the Hungarian Lángos.
For the evening, we managed to run back to the musical fountain on Margaret Island (whilst snapping away at the sunset-lit buildings) just in time for an hour long show where the fountains danced and changed colours according to the music being played.
After this highlight we went to find what all the buzz about the ruin bars was about. This however proved unsuccessful as the queues were too long and the ones we managed to go in weren’t that great and we quickly left as none of us were big drinkers. Instead we went back to the apartments and stayed up listening to our own music and chatting away.
This brought the end of the trip and we headed off the airport early in order to get back to the UK for mid-afternoon. I stayed with one of the girls and managed to finally watch La La Land and Moana, had a huge dinner cooked by her talented dad and then called an end to the holiday and went to bed early!
I think if we’d had another day we would have loved to have explored the great market and perhaps taken a trip to lake Balaton which looks spectacular. Hope you’ve had a good summer and enjoyed any time away. If you go to Budapest, do let me know!
Lots of love, Cas