Budapest

Obligatory George Ezra clip:


So, as those of you who follow me on Instagram will know (and if you don't, you can do so here), a couple of weeks ago Nick and I went to Budapest for a short break. I have to admit I didn't know much about it before we visited, but since we came back I've been singing its praises to everyone we know! If you fancy somewhere that's affordable, easy to get around and combines history and culture with opportunities to relax, then I'd definitely recommend paying a visit. Here's what we got up to in the four days we were there...



Where we stayed:
I'm a big fan of Airbnb for city breaks, but I think the one we stayed in in Budapest is my favourite yet. It's a rooftop studio near the Jewish Quarter - great for going out in the evening and really easy to walk to all the main sites - but what made it perfect was the fantastic view out of the window to the Gellert Hill and the fact that it was both bright and cosy. Our host Judit was lovely too; she made us feel really welcome and gave us loads of great tips on what to do and where to eat and drink. There were even welcome beers and chocolate, which was a really lovely touch!

The view from our apartment with the Citadella in the background
Favourite places to eat:
For breakfast, I loved Zoska - think French patisserie pastels and mismatched vintage china but with added quirks like a fake grass bench in one window and shark-shaped cushions. And Spinoza Café is an absolute steal at five euros for a breakfast dish - I recommend the pancakes - plus coffee of your choice and juice. Most places will do a similar deal but the offering usually includes pastries rather than a hot breakfast, so you definitely get the most bang for your buck there (or should that be food for your forints?).

Lunch-wise, I'd say definitely go for the buffet options. There's a great one near the castle called Var Bistro; we got a plate of two enormous pork and paprika meatballs, super-creamy mashed potato and red cabbage each, plus a drink, for less than £8. Also orange Fornetti bakeries are everywhere, including the underground stations (Greggs needs to get on doing this in London, stat) and great for a quick snack on the go. And if you fancy a posh cake afterwards, then it has to be Café Gerbeaud. Sit outside in the square if the weather's nice and get the dobos torta, a layered chocolate sponge cake with a mirror-like burnt sugar top. It is the most Instagrammable dessert I have ever seen and, despite being almost too pretty to eat, tasted just as good as it looked.

Dobos torta at Café Gerbaud
Finally, we had a plethora of dinner options. If you fancy something a bit more upmarket I'd recommend a Jewish restaurant called Macesz Huszar (matzo balls the size of a baby's head and cheesy gnocchi. What's not to like?), and for those who like seafood tiny hole-in-the-wall, wouldn't-look-out-of-place-in-Cornwall Halkakas is great. We also found a random little alleyway just off the road with all the bars and restaurants near the apartment that turned out to be full of places to eat and drink (and had a great little market on Sunday mornings too), which we'd definitely have checked out if we had more time. But my absolute favourite was the street food market next door to Szimpla Kert pub. It's colourful, covered in fairy lights and sells pretty much any food you might want pre- or post-drinking. Go for the langos - Hungarian fried pizza - with sour cream, cheese and goose greaves and revel in the greasy goodness.

Favourite places to drink:
You've got to go to Szimpla Kert, the original 'ruin pub', which is full of interlinking rooms with decorations ranging from graffiti to trailing ivy. Grab a beer from one of the many bars and have a wander, whether that's to a quiet corner near the DJ decks or the acoustic music stage in the back left hand corner. It's also the only pub I've ever been in with a theme park ride dinosaur which is used as a table, which is always a bonus, and they do burgers upstairs too. We also really liked Hops, a craft beer bar-cum-bottle shop with several beers on tap and plenty more from all over Europe to buy by the bottle and drink in.

If you're more of a wine drinker, then brick-lined, candlelit Doblo is great. They do wine tastings but I'd suggest you're better off ordering two or three glasses of whatever catches your eye and a few nibbles to go with it. I'd also recommend the wine tasting in the castle cellar - granted it's not cheap but it is easily some of the nicest wine I have ever had, and the candlelight and stone walls makes it definitely one of the most atmospheric places I've had a drink in.

Please excuse my terrible fringe!
Finally, the best coffee I found was at Printa, which also sells gorgeous printed T-shirts, notebooks and cushions, as well as lovely quirky prints of the city - definitely worth a stop off if you fancy a souvenir that's a step up from a fridge magnet.

Favourite things to do:
We dedicated our second day to the Castle District, and you definitely need a whole day there to do it justice. Get the furnicular railway up to the top and then go for a stroll. My favourite bits were the Corvinus Gate (all jet-black iron and ravens) and the towering Matthias Fountain complete with drinking dogs. There are also two museums which will take at least half a day each - we went for the art gallery which is basically a whistle-stop tour of Hungarian art, but the Castle Museum with its history of Budapest looks good too. My other sneaky tip is not to pay to go up the Fisherman's Bastion, but instead go off to the café in the turrets on the left (with your back to the Matthias Church, whose copper-tiled roof looks beautiful in the sunshine) and get the same view over the city for nothing.



Doesn't it look like a Disney castle?! (Well apart from the car, but you can't have everything...)

On our last day we headed for City Park, which is a lovely break of greenery and a great mini-escape from the city should you so desire. You can walk there from the centre but I'd say save your legs and get the Metro, where most of the stations still have their early 20th century décor. Once you get to the park have a walk through Heroes' Square before strolling through the park. We ended up spending most of our afternoon at the Budapest Zoo, which is absolutely world-class, but you could also grab a pedalo on the lake or hop into the Szecheyni Baths with their (apparently) surprisingly warm outdoor pools.

Speaking of baths, although we didn't make it to the Szecheyni, we did go to the Gellert Baths which are possibly the most luxurious spa I've ever been in. The 36C and 38C indoor pools are set in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building - all columns, cherub statues and beautiful tiled ceilings - and it's worryingly easy to just lie there soaking all your cares away. There's also indoor and outdoor swimming pools (the outdoor one has a wave machine) and a sauna.

There was so much more I wish we could have done though, such as going out to see the Soviet-era statues at Memento Park, the House of Terror museum or the Roman site at Acquincum, or even playing one of Budapest's now-legendary escape games. But overall we had a really great long weekend of food, wine, culture and history. I'll definitely be back!

Have you ever been to Budapest?

2 comments:

  1. I got back from a trip to Budapest a few weeks ago and like you, loved it. Such a cool city, it sounds like you had an amazing time.

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! It was brilliant and I already have the itch to go back :) Glad you enjoyed it too!

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