11 Jan 2018

Budapest, Hungary (September 2017)

The first note in my phone for Budapest says, “THE DANUBE SMELLS LIKE CUCUMBER?!”, so this should be interesting.

When I fell in love with Prague and proceeded to tell everyone that I was in love with Prague, people suggested we went to Budapest next because it was like a bigger Prague. I was on board with that, so Budapest it was. 

The only worry I had with Budapest was its size. It's two cities, Buda and Pest, put together. So I imagined it was quite overwhelming and I get overwhelmed very easily and I didn't want to be stressed and anxious and without a plan and have too much to do aND TOO MANY THINGS TO SEE AND WHAT IF WE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME HOW WERE WE MEANT TO PRIORITISE WHAT IF IT WAS TOO BUSY AND EXPENSIVE AND, etc.

Needless to say, I had a good ol’ research before booking flights to check that Budapest was doable in a long weekend. Long story short, we had to go Monday to Friday anyway as my cousin was staying over my birthday weekend, so she did us a favour because things are a lot cheaper during the week! Who’d’ve thought?! 

We flew early in the morning with Wizz Air from Luton which was… an experience. Luton Airport isn’t great and the transport between the car park and the terminal was particularly stressful. We had to wait for three buses to go past before we could get on, and our bus stop ended up full of wet, cold, tired, and angry people. The customer service left a lot to be desired. BUT that’s a boring complaint. We made it and Wizz Air was a fine airline to fly with. Just like your standard budget airline.

Parlamento Budapest 

Getting to Budapest’s city centre was incredibly easy from the airport. Their new 100E bus service cost 900HUF for the both us (£2.50(!)) and took us straight to Kálvin tér which was only a short walk from our hotel - Cosmo City. A tiny hotel down a side street by the Danube river, Cosmo City was perfect. The staff were lovely and friendly, the place was clean and bright, and the breakfast was good. Nothing special, but decent enough. It was the perfect place to stay and meant only a 20 minute walk to most sights.

We explored that afternoon and saw the magnificent Parliament building and Shoes on the Danube Bank, a subtle but poignant memorial to those executed on the riverbank during WWII. 

Shoes on the Danube Bank

That evening, we went to Mátyás Pince, a traditional Hungarian restaurant where they had Hungarian dancers and everything. It was super quiet so the atmosphere was pretty dull, but the dancing and live music was pretty cool, and the food was great. I had braised crispy goose leg. It was lush.

After dinner, we beelined for Szimpla Kert, the most famous of Budapest’s ruin bars. I was pretty nervous about these ruin bars. They seemed really cool and busy, but they were SO chill and cheap! Full of fairy lights and plants and different people, from travellers to families, you could wander around the ruined bars like wandering a warehouse and settle yourself in one of the many quirky rooms. I wish we went to more. 

Szimpla Kert

On Tuesday we wanted to venture over the river to Buda, the historic part of the city, and make the trek up Gellért Hill to see the Liberty Statue and Citadella. It was a pretty warm day so the trek was full of sweat, stops, and muttered moaning, but we made it! And the view was so worth it.

Liberty Statue

 View from the Citadella

After working our way back down the hill, we headed for the funicular up to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. The queue for the funicular was pretty long but went down quickly, and wandering around the bright stone of Fisherman’s Bastion again made it worth it. All about dem Insta views. 

Fisherman's Bastion

That night we went to Zeller Bistro, a recommended restaurant. It quite reminded us of Bill’s but with MORE FREEBIES. Please, if you ever go to Budapest, go to traditional Hungarian restaurants. They love to pile you with free food and drink! We were given a free glass of bubbly when we walked in, a free basket of warm homemade bread, and free sweets and carrot cake after dessert! Incredible. The food we paid for was wonderful, too. I had lamb with aubergine cream and mint bulgar wheat. Mmmmmmm. 

We’d booked ourselves on a night time boat trip that evening with Legenda. There are so many boat trips to choose from, offering so many different things, but this one seemed best for us. The price included a free drink (we had champagne) and commentary. The commentary was slightly weird - they’d anthropomorphised the Danube river and all the sights, so they had conversations and arguments between themselves - but informative nonetheless! And the views are incredible. All the sights are lit up so the river was lined with golden buildings. I’d easily choose that over a day trip. 

Parlamento Budapest, with the birds circling overhead - quite a sublime sight 

Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, so we couldn’t miss out. We got the metro up to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and paid about £17 each for a day ticket with a cabin, which is defo the easiest option. We brought our own food and spent the day lounging in the sun, drinking cocktails, and having a dip in the baths. It was glorious until I got incredibly sunburnt. I never learn.

That night saw us at Hungarikum Bizstró. We’d booked this place the day before as we’d heard it’s very popular and you can rarely just walk in. It was a good shout because they were fully booked! This was the best meal of the week. More free homemade bread and free shots of Palinka (brutal stuff), and I had plaited loin of pork in paprika then apple and cinnamon cake. The service was wonderful and they give you an iPad with photos of all the food on to flick through?!

To walk off the food (and get over the Palinka), we ventured to Margaret Island for the Musical Fountains show at 9pm. Margaret Island is in the middle of the Danube and you can walk over to it from the middle of a bridge. I found that really cool because I’m a nerd. The Musical Fountains show happens every night, for free, and is basically a firework show to music but with water. It was amazing. 

Musical Fountain on Margaret Island

Thursday was nerd day. We went to the Holocaust Memorial Center (£4 for adults and £2 for under 26s - mwahaha) which was probably the ‘best’ holocaust museum we’ve been to yet. It was a very engaging place, but brutal. They don’t hold back. Be prepared for incredibly graphic photos and videos. We walked out in silence because you can’t say much after what you see. You know it all happened but seeing actual footage is quite something. 


On the way to our next museum, the House of Terror, we stopped off in a little market for lángos, a traditional Hungarian food made of deep fried dough. Utter filth. We doused ours in cheese and sour  cream, obviously. For dessert we went to Gelarto Rosa, an ice cream shop where the ice cream is in the shape of a rose. LOOK. IT’S SO COOL. I had raspberry chocolate, mango, and hazelnut, and Ryan had raspberry, mango, and pistachio. 

Gelarto Rosa

The House of Terror didn’t live up to the hype. I expected… terror. But it was pretty boring compared to the Holocaust Memorial Center! But, again, super cheap. I only paid £3 to get in on their 'student' price and the staff were deeply shocked to find out Ryan was over 26. Bless him. 

That night we decided to go full tourist and went to an Italian restaurant in one of the squares. It was nice enough but more expensive and the service wasn’t great. Dig out those Hungarian restaurants, people, they are SO worth it!

Before heading home on the Friday, we went into Szent Istvan Bazilika and up to the top for the panoramic views. It’s free to go in initially, where you can see the glorious gold work inside - and then you pay about £1.70 if you want to head right to the top.

Szent Istvan Bazilika

Budapest is my new favourite European city. Sorry Prague. People were so right that it’s like a bigger Prague, but it's even more than that. It’s beautiful and chilled out and cheap and the people are SO lovely. The food and drink is incredible, there’s so much to do for all kinds of people without being overwhelming, and I could easily live there, to be honest. I’d love, love, love to go back!

Oh, and the Danube did smell like cucumber.. that's... that's all I have to say there.

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