Budapest has been high on my wander list since moving to London. Everyone I've ever met has always raved about the place and how much they've loved it. Needless to say, my expectations were set incredibly high, which as all know, can be a disaster waiting to happen. 4 years in the making, I finally booked myself a flight to Budapest.
Thankfully, Budapest did nothing but exceed those already incredibly high expectations. From culture, to stunning architecture, to utterly scrumptious coffee, I would go back in a heartbeat.
One of the highlights of traveling for me is food. Trying the local cuisine, as well as finding great quality, affordable restaurants is important to me when I travel. You will probably read this blog thinking that all I do is eat (which to be fair is pretty much true). As long as you are not offended by a dash or twenty of paprika, you'll absolutely love what the Hungarian food has to offer.
Follow me below on my 60 hour journey through the best of Budapest.
Take an early morning flight to the capital. Aim to arrive by midday to make the most of your first afternoon. I would highly recommend staying at Budapest Holiday Colours - book through booking.com for the cheapest going rate. You couldn't be more centrally located - the apartment is just a stone throw away from the Jewish Quarter, main town square, and the river.
Once you're checked in, head towards Vörösmarty Square to take the afternoon Free Walking Tour (meeting at 2:30pm by the Lion Fountain). The perfect way to orientate yourself to the city, your tour guide will take you towards famous landmarks such as the Little Princess, St. Stephan's Basilica, the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. Wear your most comfortable walking shoes, the tour will last until about 5pm, finishing by the Fisherman's Bastion. Whilst the tour is free, it is customary to provide your guide with a small tip (around 2000 Hungarian Fornit, which is about €7).
Sights on the Free Walking Tour
Dinner tonight at Aurum Bistro - with options for both Thai and traditional Hungarian meals, and heated outdoor seating. I opted for a traditional Hungarian dish of paprika chicken mixed with coconut milk in a curry style dish (paprika level - high). Served with small, gnocchi-like dumplings, at £7 I was a happy (and very full) camper, ready for an early night sleep.
Starting your day the right way with a nourishing breakfast is easily my number one tip to fellow travellers. Get your energy levels up for the day ahead of exploring. For an excellent brunch (and coffee that is on par with Melbourne) head to Cirkusz Café in the Jewish Quarter. Their menu is super cheap - it cost me just £7.50 (including tip) for my coffee and eggs benedict (done perfectly, by the way). The quirky, yet remarkably themed decorations around the room will keep you entertained during your visit.
One of my favourite spots to brunch in Budapest!
Relaxation time! Budapest is famous for it's outdoor thermal baths, so this is an experience that you really shouldn't miss out on. I chose to go to the most famous Szechyni Baths, which boasts 17 different baths to choose from. Whilst the thought of bathing in a pool full of complete strangers is pretty off-putting, the instant relaxation that hits you as soon as you step into the 38 degree spa will help those worries flutter away.
I would suggest walking to the baths from Cirkusz Café (a good excuse to eat even more!). On your walk, your can check out all the local houses and the interesting street art. You can walk down Budapest's own Champs Elysées (Andrássy út), admire Heroes Square, and even check out the most romantic ice-skating rink in the right season.
Suggested Walking Route: Cirkusz Café - Szechyni Thermal Baths
Some tips for your visit to Szechyni Baths:
You'll no doubt spend a few hours at the baths. My massage appointment was at 2pm, so I got to the spa at around 12pm, and left about 3:30pm. By this time no doubt, you'll be starving, and a good holiday is always centred around food. Head back to the Jewish Quarter, admiring the streets and beauty that you pass. Stop into Café Tel Aviv for a quick refuel of hummus and warmed pita bread or any of the other delicious goodies on the menu.
Amazing hummus at Café Tel Aviv
Ruin Bar time! What better way to continue that feeling of zen than a nice, cold, and incredibly cheap glass of wine? Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest. During World War II, many of the buildings were partially destroyed or left abandoned. When the war ended, rather than converting them into new buildings, the idea came about to convert them into underground bars. From the outside, you would barely notice a ruin bar was there. They look like regular buildings, with minimal signage making them blend into their surroundings. But as soon as you enter, the buzz hits you. Whilst ruin bars are usually jam packed, the vibe is really easy-going and welcoming.
Start at Szimpla Kert - by the far the largest ruin bar in Budapest. Spanning over two floors, there's dozens of different rooms each with a unique and contemporary theme. There are quirky statues and objects all around, every corner of this place is different! Be sure to get in early, as it gets very busy. Very reasonably priced (although one of the more expensive ruin bars) with a half glass of wine setting me back £2.90.
Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar
There are literally ruin bars on every street in the Jewish Quarter, all of which I am sure would offer a great night out. But, I chose to continue my ruin bar hop at Kuplung literally meaning, "clutch". It's a funky converted auto-repair shop, where I enjoyed a glass of white wine filled to the absolute brim for a whopping £1.60. Less atmosphere and quirkiness than at Szimpla Kert, but it's a good place to start the night!
Kuplung Ruin Bar
Dinner time! A friend recommended that I try Café Kor and specifically mentioned their duck dish (paprika level - low). Naturally, I had to give it a go, and I was not disappointed! The waiters are very knowledgable and will suggest the best dish for you - so below is my roasted duck with croquettes. It's worth booking this place as they were jam packed when I was there.
Dinner at Café Kor