#HelloHungary. Budapest is one of those countries I have always seen advertised for cheap city breaks, yet I have never known what the Hungarian capital has to offer. Although the sole purpose of my trip was to visit the Budapest Christmas Market, on the week leading up to my trip I found myself, like a woman possessed, researching the landmarks to tick off and best places to squeeze into our 3-day trip. My ambitious planned itinerary of course went out the window, and although I didn’t see everything I planned too, one thing I took from the visit was that if you haven’t visited Budapest you need to, & that a return visit is definitely on the cards. With its beautiful architecture, lively (& cheap!) bar scene & little quirks it really should be on everyone’s travel list.
Where to stay? I stayed at the Royal Park Boutique Hotel, a couple of minutes’ walk from Keleti Pályaudvar meaning access into the city via metros and trains was incredibly easy and fast. The hotel was modern, and the staff were really lovely yet I wouldn’t recommend drinking in the hotel bar as the prices are almost triple that of bars situated a minute walk away. One thing that took me by completely by surprise is that the shower essentially acts as a divider between the bedroom and bathroom. Despite the frosted glass, it’s definitely something to bear in mind!
What to do? 2 words – Szimpla Kert. Inhabiting an old abandoned building, it is a gold mine of all things eccentric with its hidden stairways and endless rooms filled with quirky deco, fairy lights and graffiti. This run-down building will go down as one of my all-time favourite bars, unmatchable in character and its individuality. Like Birmingham has Snobs, Budapest has Szimpla Kert – It really is an absolute must, and located a short walk from the Astoria station there is no excuse to not pop in for one (tip: ordering a double vodka here is like ordering a quadruple at home, don’t do it – or do, you can still enjoy exploring Budapest hungover).
Budapest has the best of both worlds, providing both an animated bar scene and a chance for relaxation at the Széchenyi Spa. I can honestly say there is no weirder feeling than packing a bikini for a city where the average daily temperature in December is no more than 1°C, but the baths are a unique experience I strongly recommend. The panicked run from the spa to the outside pool proves not for the faint-hearted, yet temperatures reach up to 38°C in the pools themselves, to the point where you can actually feel too warm. The baths also have multiple pools inside, aromatherapy saunas and ice-baths all included making it an easy way to spend a good few hours of your day.
Split by the Danube river, both Buda and Pest have differing yet equally interesting places to explore. Buda, on the west, is the ‘hilly’ side of the river & if you can make it up Castle Hill the views are absolutely beautiful. Buda is home to Buda Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion, and for about the equivalent of a £1 you can test your hand at Archery on the castle grounds. The Pest side is definitely the more accessible of the two, and inhabits most of the well-known tourist attractions such as Heroes Square, the baths, and Parliament to name a few. The 3 days all in all were a whirlwind, and in our short trip I feel like I only scratched the surface of what Budapest had to offer. A trip to Margaret Island would definitely be at the top of my list on a return visit & also renting a beer bus in the sunshine wouldn’t go a miss. Until next time -Jess