For a friend and I, a weekend in Budapest was the perfect way to bring in the wintery months. With cheap flights from London and Airbnb accommodation, it was a very affordable city break and there was lots to see and do.
Here are a few of the sights and activities my two friends and I enjoyed:
New York Cafe
One of the best things we did was visit ‘the most beautiful cafe in the world’; the New York Cafe in the Boscolo hotel. It’s a beautiful, gilded cafe that looks as if it has been lifted out of Hollywood’s golden age, and the menu details some of the building’s amazing history.
The cafe is relatively expensive, but it’s a real experience and, while we had a lunch, it would be just as enjoyable to pop in for a hot chocolate or a coffee and some cake. The food was of a good quality, but it was the surroundings which were really special. We also enjoyed the performance of a live orchestra and pianist.
The Christmas market
The market was a welcome reward after a day walking around the city. We bought our first mulled wines of the year and one of the traditional ‘chimney cakes’, which is made of a stretchy dough coiled around a rod, coated in sugar and cooked over an open flame. The result is a large, hollow, cylindrical cake, coated in a crisp, sugary coating, emitting steam out of the top like a chimney.
When we visited in autumn the markets weren’t extensive, they lined a single street in the city centre, but the stalls offered all of the traditional snacks, as well as the obligatory souvenirs.
Gellert Hill is a manageable climb, an enjoyable walk and a great way to get a panoramic view of Budapest on both sides of the Danube, which separates the two sides of the city.
One of Budapest’s most popular thermal baths, Gellert Baths, sits at the base of the hill, and could be incorporated into a day out.
There’s no denying that many of Budapest’s tourists, of which there are many, are on stag dos, or are drawn in by the cheap price of beer. The ruin bars are a major attraction, but they retain their charm and originality despite an influx of international drinking tourists. The bars originally sprouted out of the ruins left by conflict in the city and are a higgledy-piggledy jumble of quirky areas for art, socialising, eating and drinking.
Szimpla Kert is the most popular, and the best ruin bar that we visited. We ended up there every night, chatting and dancing and meeting people from all over the world.
The music, we found, was changeable, and the drinks were unsurprisingly more expensive than elsewhere in the city, but the building and the way that it had been decorated was gorgeous and quirky, and we had a lot of fun there.
Thermal baths are a must-do while in Budapest, and we chose to visit Szechenyi, which is the largest bath in Europe and is situated in City Park. It’s a lovely, relaxing day out – particularly if nursing a headache from the night before.
Bring your own swimwear and towels (towels are available to hire, but the queue looked very long). You will change in a communal changing room, lockers are available, and then you have a choice of a multitude of baths to enjoy, indoors and out.
There are a few baths in the city, and if we had stayed a few days longer we certainly would have gone and experienced another, but I would definitely recommend the Szechenyi Baths as a starting point.
Which bars or baths in Budapest are your favourite? Where else in Hungary would you recommend? Let me know in the comments.
Stayed: Palace District
Ate: Darshan Udvar Étterem, Budapest, Krúdy Gyula u. 7, 1088