George Ezra’s comparison of Budapest to a treasure chest is delightfully apt because hidden bounties are usually found solely within children’s stories, and Budapest is a city that belongs to a mystic world.
The fluttering desire contained within my own chest to discover Budapest was finally released when I paid my first visit this year in late August. If any of you have ever harboured a longing to go then I advise you to start plan your trip because I regret taking so long to go.
Life is evident throughout the stunning city and I was pleasantly surprised when I rose to catch the morning sunrises to see just how alive Hungary’s capital city was. It was like no-one ever wanted to sleep because to live within Budapest was the true dream. Everyone was extremely friendly throughout my stay and I was never made to feel like an outsider, yet you wouldn’t blame anyone if there had been a guarded nature.
Budapest is steeped with so much history that, even if you know nothing of, you can get a grasp of the city’s sad past with the simple but touching Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial. I found it hard but necessary to take in the raw emotion evident by the display of a line of shoes of different shapes and sizes, including tiny ones, so that I could truly appreciate its blossoming growth into one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
From the grand buildings that contain so much character to the impressive bridges crossing the bisecting Danube River, which separates Buda from Pest, there’s architecturally something to see at every turn.
The vast majority of shops, bars and restaurants are located in Pest while the fairy-tale of Budapest becomes ever more enchanting when you walk through the peaceful cobblestone streets of Buda’s Old Town. Old Town is a multitude of colour and the darling buildings constantly brought me to an admiring standstill, until I tired of being a tourist and wanted to play ‘I’m a Princess’ when I wandered into Fisherman’s Bastion.
Here are some highlights of my trip that I think are worth sharing:
A Girl Who Blooms’ Budapest Trip Highlights:
Where I Stayed:
I stayed within the Inner City district in Kálvin tér in a beautifully decorated, spacious and contemporary Airbnb apartment. I can’t speak highly enough of the accommodation as I spent my time there wishing it was my own home. It was a wonderful refuge from the sweltering heat when it reached almost unbearable heights (34 °C).
Would I stay there again?
Yes. Kálvin tér is a convenient location to stay in because it’s very close to what I considered the hipster area to dine, and it’s a transport hub with all of the main means of public transportation available. I wouldn’t stay in District VII, where the Ruin Bars are located.
Though I didn’t stay at Danubius Hotel Gellert, that’s where I would recommend my family to stay if they ever visited Budapest due to the hotel’s great location and all-day access to the spa.
What I did in Budapest:
There’s a lot of things to do in Budapest and I felt like I only scratched the surface.
A wonderful place to visit on my first morning to take in the sunrise was Fisherman’s Bastion, which is a fairy-tale place reminiscent of a castle. I was there before any tour buses arrived and for several quiet moments just after first light when everyone was still sleeping, I was able to twirl around the beautiful grounds that used to be fortifications as I drifted from the turrets to the lofty tower to gaze out upon the breath-taking view of Budapest, including Parliament House.
The majestic Parliament building is the third largest in the world and inside is very ornate; adorned with gold, stained glass, silk carpets, I felt like I was finally home. You have plenty of time to admire and they’re very patient about pictures being taken, though I may have tested their limit.
You can’t not visit Budapest without immersing yourself in Hungarian culture with the thermal baths. That’s first and foremost. Budapest is called the City of Spas for a reason and they are simply heavenly. It’s a medicinal treatment as the natural spring water contains healing properties and it just feels so good to soak in the different temperatures.
Rudas Baths was my first taste of this traditional activity and I spent the majority of my time in the rooftop’s open aired thermal bath admiring the panoramic view of the city. It was lovely, however, there was only one day during my trip that I could visit with my hubby in tow because Rudas Baths try to maintain a level of tradition by only permitting men and women to attend the baths together on a certain amount of days during the week. Check their schedule as this can be restrictive for a couple.
Gellert Baths, however, had no such gender restrictions and they have the most beautiful indoor thermal baths. Gellert Baths were my personal favourite. It cost 5700 HUF (weekdays) / 5900 HUF (weekends), which included a cabin and full access to all of the amenities for the entire day while some thermal baths do have a time limit. Gellert’s four indoor baths are amazing and so picturesque that on top of my own Insta-shoots, I had a photoshoot with the Japanese travel magazine, Skyward.
Where I Got my Coffee Fix:
Temp & Pull became my go to place for not only coffee but for lunch and any time I just needed refuelling! I loved Temp & Pull and it kept tempting and pulling me back because I ended up there every single day. The coffee was superb, their sandwiches were divine and their desserts (pistachio cheesecake!) were delicious. Plus, loved seeing the 3FE scarf hung on the wall.
Another café I gravitated towards was Espresso Embassy, which serves excellent artisan coffee. It’s centrally located, close to St. Stephen’s Basilica and Parliament House, and offers good ambiance, plenty of seating and friendly staff. A good place to bring your laptop and work away at.
Where I Ate:
There’s a street called Krudy utca, which is only a five-minute walk away from Kálvin tér, that’s populated with artisan cafes and restaurants, and on it is a little gem of an Italian restaurant called Al Dente. The place is quaint and there was no trouble getting a seat even though the restaurant wasn’t particularly large. It’s an extremely good value place that offers excellent food in a lively area.
One of my most memorable and romantic dinners in Budapest happened by chance rather than through preparation at Csendes Tårs Winebar & Garden. It’s an outdoor dining restaurant, which is located at the entrance of Karolyi Kert Park. It’s more for the experience and the intimate setting you’re going for rather than the food. Our seat happened to be situated below a tree, which became an umbrella when the sheet of lightning flashed and thunder rolled across the sky. We ended up having the courtyard almost to ourselves as the rain fell around us.
I satisfied my ice cream cravings with regular stops at Gelateria Rosa, which is located right beside St. Stephen’s Basilica. Their ice cream is literally a work of art with several minutes spent preparing your yummy treat. It seems almost a waste to eat. Almost. We’re still talking about ice cream at the end of the day, no matter how pretty it looks. Though, it is pretty.
Where I Went for Drinks
For drinks, I highly recommend visiting the High Note SkyBar at the Aria Hotel Budapest. It’s got a rooftop garden and an amazing terrace view of St. Stephen’s Basilica and the city. It’s a great place for either afternoon drinks and cocktails to start your night.
By starting your night, I do mean Budapest’s renowned Ruin Bars of course.
Being serenaded by the live jazz player with a cocktail in hand at Mazel Tov was a great place to be for after dinner drinks (cocktails!). Vines and lights hung from the rafters beneath a vaulted glass ceiling and draped the walls to create a calm and intimate ambiance within this ruin bar.
Every so often, I just need to let my hair down (that husband of mine can be trying!). If you want to raise the ante of Budapest’s nightlife then one of the best-known ruin bars to “experience” (and I use quotation marks because it is an experience) is Szimpla Kert. A one-time factory contains quirky mismatched furniture – including a bathtub for a seat, several different bars serving reasonably priced drinks and multiple dance floors, making this the place to be to dance the night away.
What Do I Regret Most?
Not doing the Evening Budapest Danube River Cruise. Drifting along the river while going underneath the impressive bridges as day transitioned into night and catching a beautiful sunset I imagine would have been a spell bounding addition to what was already a magical trip. It’s something I’ll certainly do next time.
Not getting to see the Book Café! Renovations were taking place at the time and the Book Café is highly renowned for its exquisite interior design. It’s somewhere I really wanted to visit, so if you have the chance to go, do and let me know what it’s like!
How Did I Get Around:
Budapest is such a pleasure to walk around and everything within the Inner City district is reasonably within close proximity, however, I was obsessed with the vintage trams and used them every day to get around the city. They are so easy to use and are great value.
It costs 350 HUF for a ticket if you buy one from a vending machine, or 450 HUF if you buy the ticket directly from the driver. It costs exactly the same for the bus, and the ticket price isn’t determined by your destination. Just don’t forget to validate your tickets by using the orange machines.
For getting from the airport to my accommodation within the Inner City district and vice versa, I used a taxi. Each trip cost me approx. 6000 HUF, which isn’t very much for sheer convenience.
Another line from George Ezra’s Budapest song was ‘If you hold me then it’ll all go away,’ well, I’m someone who hopes I’ll always be free so I can continue exploring magical cities like Budapest.