I have been meaning to put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard for a while now, and give you a rundown of things to do in Budapest in a short space of time, better late than never right 😉
For the May Bank Holiday I was lucky enough to be able to visit the city for the second time. The first time I was over there was in January of 2017 during what was a biting winter. I have never been so cold in my life! However this time around we were blessed with amazing spring weather, it actually hit 30 degrees on some days, absolute bliss!!
Budapest is such a vibrant city filled with an immense cultural heritage, a wide range of shops, restaurants and leisure activities. I like to think it has a little something for everybody 😉
The Hungarian capital has numerous architectural gems and one can easily spend days exploring the beautiful buildings. It has a grandeur comparable to Paris, with some fabulous boulevards and city squares. But more than that it has the wonderful castle and its surrounding historic district of cobblestone streets and charming colourful buildings on the Buda side (across the Danube, up on the hill). I found the city absolutely breath-taking,especially in the sunshine!
Taking the first flight out on Friday morning we touched down in sunny Budapest just after 11 am. The scenic drive from the airport to the city centre took about 25 mins. I would have been happy to relax for the afternoon in the Airbnb apartment but as we had a limited time in the city, there was no rest for the weary. The afternoon was spent exploring the 6th and 7th districts and familiarizing ourselves with the neighbourhood. The apartment was centrally located with an array of bars, restaurants, cafes within easy reach. After some strolling, we stopped for a refreshing drink at Konyv Bar, which we subsequently discovered was also a gem of a restaurant that doubles as a library. We were so impressed by the decor, charm and menu that we had to come back for dinner. I am so glad we stumbled upon this place, because dinner was exquisite. They have a book theme every week and design the menu based on the chapters of the designated book. In our case, the book was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Artwood. Konyv offer a specialty local wine to complement each course and our waiter was generous enough to explain how each course and the wine relates to the book. If ever you are in Budapest, do drop in on the good people in Konyv, you won’t be disappointed.
You cannot go to Budapest and not take advantage of at least one of their world renowned thermal baths. Soaking into these steamy hot springs is one of the most fun ways to connect with Hungary and its culture, not to mention the healing power of the thermal waters.
As I had already been to the more popular Szechenyi baths on my first visit, it made sense to try somewhere different which led us to Rudas Baths located at the foot of the scenic Gellert Hill on the Buda side. The traditional 16th century Turkish baths were restored in 2012 but have retained their authentic exotic atmosphere, a joy to experience.
After soaking in the Rudas Baths, the next item on the agenda was to climb the 771ft to the top of the Gellert Hill up to the Citadell. Thinking about it now, it would have been a better idea to go up the hill first and relax in the baths afterwards, silly me ;-). The journey upwards was no easy task but once at the top, the views of the Danube and the city made it all worth it.
Later that evening, I got to tick off one bucket list item, cruising down the Danube to watch the sunset. There are many companies that run the cruises on the river but we opted for the Legenda simply because they had the best value for money. For 1 person, the cost was 3900 Ft (c. €12) which is not too bad when you consider that they threw in a few complimentary drinks.
The cruise began at 6.30pm and lasted for about 1.5 hours, during which we got to see the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building, the Chain Bridge, Hungarian National Gallery, The Royal Palace, Elisabeth Bridge, Citadella and Margaret’s Island among many other attractions. Watching the sun set from the boat was the icing on the cake, simply magical.
Dinner that night was not as grand an affair as the previous night, it was in an authentic Hungarian place off the tourist track, more of a down-home family restaurant. The difference in price was amazing, for two people, a 3 course meal with a drink each came to less than 20 euro. My pocket was definitely not complaining 😉
Before the night was over, we managed to get to a few of the ruin bars including the famous SzimplaKert with its funky and unique atmosphere, a definite must see. On the way back to base we stopped at a local music bar Illegál Borlap and managed to catch a fantastic live rockabilly duo giving a very energetic performance.
Sunday was the last full day in Budapest and we kicked it off with brunch in Cafe Csiga, a popular cafe located in the increasingly trendy District 8, just a little outside the city centre. Delicious food but I was more drawn to the space – unpretentious, yet it just oozes cool vibes.
An attempt was made to get into the roof top of the world renowned New York Cafe but apparently the place is booked solid weeks in advance, be warned 😉
The Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side of the city is situated on Castle Hill and is another must see. It is a unique monument whose name is derived from the fishermen who defended the walls of the Castle in the Middle Ages . The entire area on Castle Hill is breathtaking, with its views of the Danube and the vast Pest side of the city. It also houses the Buda Castle, Mathias Church and the National Gallery of Hungary. Completed in the 13th century, the Buda Castle is one of the most imposing structures of Budapest.
After spending time on Castle Hill, we ventured out in the residential area before crossing the Margaret’s bridge that connects to Margaret’s Island. Margaret’s Island is a bustling recreational space covered by landscape parks and is just so lively in the sunshine. Exploring the island was made easy on the hired bike, a welcome change from all the walking, my poor feet had had enough.
After working up an appetite with all the cycling, we attempted to get a table at the well recommend, traditional Hungarikum Bisztro, however it was not meant to be. The place is booked well in advance but they were nice enough to point us to another authentic Hungarian Restaurant, albeit a little more expensive but at least we were given 25% off.
After dinner, the night was still young, so we nipped over to the 360 Bar and enjoyed a cocktail on the rooftop whilst watching 360 degree views over the well-lit city. If ever you are in Budapest, do drop in to the 360 for a unique experience. Kuplung ruin bar was the last stop of the night, one of the top ruin bars in Budapest featuring funky decor with good vibes and decent prices, well worth the visit.
All in all it was a great weekend, a lot of ground was covered in 3 days. There is still so much to do in the city but that is for another time.
Till next time