Over Labor Day Weekend 2017 my friend and I headed out to Europe. Our first stop on our whirlwind tour was Budapest Hungary. We flew Atlanta to Rome then onwards to Budapest.
Budapest is a beautiful city that sits on the Danube River in the landlocked Eastern European nation of Hungary. The city is rich in its history and identity. It has a fine balance of being Eastern European and yet maintaining a Western European feel at the same time. The Neo-Renaissance and in some bits of town Soviet style architecture here is simply stunning and is for me what makes this city absolutely worth a visit.
My post may say 24 hours, but in reality we spent a little less than that there, however we managed to pack it in and got a nice taste of the city and country.
Getting around the city is really easy and affordable (the entire city is quite affordable). We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. The rest of our time we either walked or took the metro system. Over all it is quite a walkable city.
We booked through hotel tonight a room at the Hotel Zenit Budapest Palace, which for $100/night last minute was a great value as it was right in the middle of the city and walking distance to the key sites and around the corner from a subway stop. The rooms were clean, modern and comfortable and the staff were also very friendly.
- – We arrived in the late evening and took a taxi to our hotel, checked-in, showered and headed out.
- We walked along the Danube and then on to the Chain Bridge, a beautiful and famous vehicle and pedestrian bridge spanning the Danube.
- Directly across from the bridge on the other side is the entrance to the Buda Castle Funicular, which gets you up to the entrance of Buda Castle.
- We took the funicular up and took in the rising views of the city.
- At Buda Castle we walked around the grounds and really soaked in the sweeping views of Budapest. It was getting close to sunset at 7:20PM so we decided to stay and watch the city darken and light up (featured image). This was surely the right call as it was incredibly magical and surreal to the the streets, then the chain bridge and finally the absolutely gorgeous Parliament Building light up in a golden evening hue along the Danube.
- It started to rain and so we proceeded to head back down on the funicular and walk back across the Chain Bridge.
- On our way to dinner we walked by the St. Stephen’s Basilica.
- We had dinner at a local spot called Belvarosi Disznotoros. You walk in, order a meat, fish or main dish, and you can order any additional sides to them. Plenty of traditional Hungarian dishes cooked here. I had Porkolt (Hungarian Pork Stew), Braised red cabbage, potato chips, chicken garlic corn mayo salad, and of course Goulash soup with bread. Hungarian food is super hearty, starchy, carby and tasty.
- Afterwards, we walked to Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s original and most famous ruins bar, originally a bar that was set up in the ruins of a building. It is now a large bar filled with a series of different themed rooms and sections. Very eclectic and attracting a wide-ranging crowd. Highly recommend a visit here, even if its not your cup of tea, its just worth checking out. Here I tried some Hungarian wine, which is actually quite good, as well as the local Hungarian liquor, Palinka, which tastes like a fruity white brandy,
- We then stopped by the Street Food & Beer Garden next door to wait out the rain but then stumbled on a regional favorite: Chimney Cakes, these swirls of dough that are spun over a coal fire glazed with sugar then topped with your choice of flavor, of if you get the original vanilla like we did, then no added sugar afterwards. But it was made in the old-school fashion and it tasted delicious, and truly it pipes out smoke and is shaped like a chimney.
- On our way back we passed the Dohany Street Synagogue, a rather beautifully constructed synagogue with a street-side installation of biographies of famous Hungarian Jews who have influenced both local and world history.
- The next morning we woke up very early at around 5:30AM, to catch one of the first subways to get to the Szechenyi Thermal Bath right as its doors open at 6AM. Budapest is famous for its thermal baths and spa houses. Szechenyi is one of the largest and probably the most touristy, but one did not feel that way this early in the morning. I would recommend going this early as its very relaxing to be there as the sun is rising and to not be overwhelmed by tourists, as mostly locals are on site at this hour.
- I recommend bringing your own towel and yes, this is a place where swim suits are a must as it is open and co-ed. NOTE: if you want to swim in the thermal lap pools you must bring your own swim cap or purchase one on site. They have multiple entry packages that come with various services, we went with the most basic which includes use of all the baths and saunas and a private locker. The place is massive, the size of a palace with multiple rooms, baths, steam areas, saunas, massage parlors, specialty baths and the central courtyard with two thermal baths and a central lap pool.
- It was a very relaxing experience and a perfect way to end our time in Budapest.
- We then got ourselves a taxi through the hotel and headed off to the airport. Passing by the The Aeropark outside of Budapest Airport, displaying old Soviet planes from the now defunct national carrier Malev Hungarian Airlines.
- Departed Budapest and headed for Rome.
Overall I had a great, albeit extremely short, time in Budapest. I would 100% recommend it and would definitely return in the near future to take a deeper dive or to explore other parts of Hungary.