How lucky are we that we live so central and close to other European countries? It means that you can hop on a flight without much planning.
My last-minute destination recently was Budapest, Pearl of the Danube. The only thing I really knew about Hungary, previous to my visit to their capital city, was drink and food related. Namely Pálinka, a traditional fruit Brandy that would knock you into tomorrow. Alive, hopefully. And also, Tokaji, which is the name of the wines from the Tokaj wine region in Hungary. Tokaji or Tokay produce sweet wines.
Apart from the above, Budapest was wide open for me to explore. And explore I did. Therefore, here are my top five favourite things that I did during my three and a half day stay there.
1. Take some city tours. All tour guides, books, blogs and vlogs recommend that the best way you will become acquainted to a city is to do some tours. And they’re right. I did two free tours, with Generation Tours, and they were brilliant. I’ve never been on a tour like that before, and for those not in the know (I hadn’t a clue), the way the guides make a living is from tips. So, you tip however much you think the tour was worth. Such a good idea, especially if you are on a budget.
– Tour One: General Tour of Budapest. Fun fact: Budapest is actually two city’s – Buda and Pest. The Chain Bridge links one to another. The Buda side is really old World and you will be able to see Buda Castle, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. The view of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion is incredible.
– Tour Two: Jewish Legacy Tour. There is a long history of Judaism in Hungary, and before World War II, approx. 200,000 Jews lived in Budapest. This tour guided us through the Jewish quarter, which is a very vibrant part of Budapest, and where Ruin Bars originated. My only regret is not visiting Dohány Street Synagogue, the 2nd largest Synagogue in the World. But that’s what next time is for.
– Tour three: Doing a night-time cruise is a lovely way to see Budapest. Wrap up well, order a drink (hot chocolate and cream for me) and see the lights of all the city’s buildings and monuments.
2. Eat. If you’re into hearty, nourishing food, you’re going to be one happy camper in Budapest. I tried as many local foods as I could fit in, including Goulash and dumplings. Paprika is their favourite spice and it’s in nearly everything. See below a chicken paprika dish with dumplings, which was very tasty and not expensive.
Bread is also served with nearly every meal. “Ah, I’ll just have one slice . . .” LOL. No fear of going hungry here. And if traditional Hungarian food isn’t your thing, there is every other kind of restaurant available, as you would expect in a big city.
My hostel was actually situated in the Jewish quarter, which houses some delicious Jewish bakeries. I would definitely recommend going to Fröhlich Bakery and Cafe for pastries and flódni, a speciality Hungarian-Jewish cake made up of five layers. I went to a lovely little restaurant called Hungarikum Bisztro and ordered Goulash soup and dumplings with cabbage and sausage. So good.
Then for an ‘Instagrammable’ place with good food, I’d recommend Vintage Garden Budapest. The restaurant is right opposite Fröhlich Bakery and the two places couldn’t be any more different, but that’s the beauty of this city!
3. Visit the Hungarian Parliament Building. I’ve only ever visited one parliament before, Dáil Éireann. The Hungarian parliament is the third largest one in the world and if I could describe it in one word, it would be: Extravagant. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Tip: Visit the parliament at night. See picture below to see why.
Outside the parliament. Inside the parliament.
4. The Baths! Budapest has multiple options to try out ‘The Baths’, and Széchenyi Medicinal Bath was recommended as one of the bests. So off I went to one of the largest bath complexes in Budapest, with my leopard and gold printed bikini. Imagine. Széchenyi, built in 1913, contains 18 pools, 10 saunas/steam rooms and more. It was the perfect place to do nothing and just relax in hot thermal water. The dream. Plus, Széchenyi is located in City Park, so you will hit Heroes’ Square before you enter and then Vadjahunyad Castle is located inside the park. Vadjahunyad Castle is just so beautiful – a must see!
The beautiful entrance to Vadjahunyad Castle in City Park.
5. Walk. I usually struggle to get 10,000 steps in during a normal day, but no fear of that in Budapest. Put on your runners, bring schnakkkks / water, walk and take it all in. Walk to the Great Market Hall, St. Stephen’s Basilica and more. Dora the Explorer has some competition!
Fresh, colourful vegetables in the Great Market Hall.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
I could go on and on about how fantastic Budapest is. But I’ll leave it at that. A must visit, I can’t wait to go back again and do so much more.