If you’ve read my Prague travel guide, you will know that the trip started with a bit of a dramatic turn. In comparison, the lead up to Budapest was completely chilled and even a little too easy. I’m a bit of a worrier so I tend to worry about the stupidest things – ‘what if the hotel doesn’t have our booking? ‘ what if my boarding pass isn’t right’ etc…
We visited Budapest for 5 days during the Easter holidays. I had been told that it was a great place to go and anywhere ‘pretty’ always entices me. Once again we booked with last minute.com, even though it wasn’t that last minute and all went well.
We arrived in Budapest around 5pm, which was a later flight time than I would have liked, but at least meant we weren’t too tired. We checked into our hotel (Boutique Hotel Budapest in District 5) and headed straight out, on a mission to find food and do a little exploring. The hotel was pretty nice and in a good location but the rooms were very basic and hot! We walked over to Liberty bridge and admired it’s beauty. We also saw the Liberty statue which is at the top of Gellert Hill. The sun was setting so it looked really pretty everywhere. We decided to go in search of food, which always makes me a little anxious at first as I get myself worried about where to go and the whole language barrier issue. This is obvious silly as everywhere is more than used to tourists. We found an Italian restaurant that looked nice and after a very quick and ‘subtle’ trip advisor check, it seemed like a good place. The food was really good, simple but really tasty. It was pretty expensive but we did have 3 courses and we were happy with it. We also got some really tasty homemade lemonade; I had apple, orange, lemon and lime added to mine and it was so refreshing.
We got up and had breakfast in our hotel. The weather was supposed to be really nice during our first two days but not so great for the last couple days, so I wanted to make sure that we did all the sight seeing things while the weather was nice. We walked down to the Shoes on the Danube Bank, which is a monument to honour the jews that were killed during the Holocaust. I noticed the Budapest Parliament building, so we decided to walk over as it’s one of the most striking buildings I have seen. The grounds are also beautiful and it was fairly quiet so it felt quite relaxing sitting in the grounds, admiring the views. We came across a little monument/museum for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. We didn’t know much about this so we walked down and looked around. We continued walking over to Buda Castle. By this point, it was getting really warm (not complaining), so we took it a bit slower than we normally would and just enjoyed walking around the castle grounds. We then made our way over to Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s such a unique and beautiful looking building, you really do feel like you’re walking around a fantasy world.
In Germany we discovered a restaurant called Vapiano’s, which I could not get my head around at first, as it’s a bit of an odd concept. Turns out they do very good pizzas and it’s pretty cheap, so my heart quickly changed it’s mind. I had already looked up whether there was one in Budapest and luckily there was, so we went and had an early dinner there. We had to walk quite a bit further to get there and through some fairly ‘dodgy’ looking areas, but nothing too bad.
On our walk back to the hotel we stumbled upon St. Stephen’s Basilica. We gazed up, admiring how grand it looked. I had read that you can go up and look out over Budapest, so we walked inside to find out how. By this point, it was later in the day and we had already clocked up over 25,000 steps, so my legs/feet were not too impressed with the further however many steps up to the top but alas, it’s always worth it.
We had booked to go to the Szechenyi thermal baths and Beer spa later in the day, so we left the hotel a little earlier than normal so that we could get some exploring in before the baths. Our first stop was the top of Gellert Hill. The walk/climb was one of those that gets your heart going a bit and reminds you why it’s good to exercise. As it was early, there weren’t too many people up there yet which was nice. We walked around the top and admired the views and the Liberty Statue, took photos and slowly made our way back down. It felt good to have already clocked up the steps and exercise early in the morning.
I wanted to see the Vajdahunyad Castle as it looked really picturesque in photos and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was so majestic and really did look like you were walking around Disney Land castles. We walked around for a bit and then found a spot by the river to sit and enjoy the view some more. We sat there chatting and repeatedly saying, ‘this is so beautiful…look how pretty that is…’ x 100. We wanted to eat somewhere quickly before the baths so obviously stumbled accidentally, into McDonalds. It was good and cheaper than the UK. We walked over to the baths and were shown around by one of the Beer Spa hosts. This was very useful as it made everything so much easier, as of course I was worried about where to go, when, will they have the booking etc..same old, same old. We got changed in one of the little cabins and then made our way up to the Beer Spa. One of the hosts showed us the ingredients that go into the water and explained the benefits of each. We were then taken to our tub. Luckily the couple next to us left within about 5 minutes of us being there (their time was up, we didn’t put them off…), so we ended up having the place all to ourselves, which was nice and much more relaxing. We had 45 minutes in the tub and were given some little snacks and an unlimited tap for beer. I only managed 3 beers, as I’m not a big drinker. We then went to see the other baths, inside and outside. The inside baths were really busy and didn’t look anything special so we headed straight out to the outside baths. One bath was closed which was a little disappointing and meant that the one bath was then very busy. I expected it would be busy so just got on with it and found our own little space within the bath. The water was really warm and the atmosphere was nice and calm, even though there were so many people around. As the savy spender that I am, I wanted to make the most of the experience,
get our moneys worth and stay for as long as we could. I also wanted to experience the baths when it started to get dark, to see how they looked then. I would advise either going as soon as the place opens or later int he evening, in hope of it being a bit quieter. It did start to get quieter the later we were there and the place was lit up which also looked lovely. You also appreciate the warmth of the baths more as it’s colder outside.
We walked the 3 miles back to our hotel but stopped off at Heroe’s Square on the way. It was great to look around and it really surprised me how big the monuments were. There was also a ‘Budapest’ sign which was lit up in different colours. We were a little peckish so decided to look for somewhere to eat. I’m obsessing over burrito’s atm so we looked up a Mexican restaurant and found one that seemed pretty casual. The food was great and the staff were also really friendly.
On our fourth day in Budapest we decided to go to a couple of museums. We started the day in the Holocaust museum. We have been to so many holocaust museums around the UK and Europe, so I think we’re now qualified to judge them. The Budapest one was very good and very informative. I really liked how it was laid out and how easy it was to follow. There was a lot of information to read but at the same time, there was also enough visual stimulus. It took at least 2 hours for us to make our way round.
We then headed to the House of Terror. I had read very mixed reviews but we thought we would give it a go anyway. When we got there, the que was pretty long so we decided to get something to eat first and see if it was any quieter later on. We decided on TGI Fridays. This is not a place that we usually visit in the UK, but it seemed like a safe choice while away. I ordered the sizzling chicken and it literally came out as it said – sizzling. It was lovely. Once we had finished we walked back over to the House of Terror, which still had a que but we waited anyway. As a teacher I got free entry, so I wasn’t too worried if it wasn’t the best of museums. Once we got in, it was as expected and not all that great. It was busy with lots of people but also, it was quite hard to follow and not all that informative, unless you got the audio guides, which were quite expensive. The most interesting part of the museum was the prison on the lowest level, which were recreation of the prison cells and the gallows which would have been used in this building to house and kill enemies of the state.
We were fairly near the Heroe’s Square and Vajdahunyad Castle so we walked back over there to have another look around. After this we walked back to the hotel and spent a bit more time wandering around there, as we hadn’t actually spent all that much time in the immediate area. We walked up and down the Danube river, which was all lit up and obviously really pretty looking.
Our last day. I wanted to go back over the see the Fisherman’s Bastion and the castle again. There was also a museum called The Hospital in the Rock, which was very near to them, so it made sense to pop by there again on the way. The Hospital in the Rock was made from the natural caves and was used as a hospital during WW2. During the Cold War, it was used as a potential nuclear bunker and now it’s just a museum that offers guided tours. The tour was very informative and really cool to go down into caves, that would have been a fully functioning hospital with over 600 people in at peak times. After this we walked around Fisherman’s Bastion again and took some very typically tourist photos. We then walked around the more inner city streets, where Fashion Street is. It had started to rain a little by now so we popped into Costa and sat there just relaxing for a bit. We also went in search of the Fat Policeman, as you’re supposed to touch his belly for good luck. I did my travel tradition of buying a t-shirt and we then made our way, onto the bus to travel to the airport. As always, we were really early to the airport, but after the amount of walking we had done all week, we were more than happy to just sit and chill out while we waited for the flight.
Another city break done and another one that I would thoroughly recommend. It’s a great mix of history, culture and very pretty architecture. I’m a little concerned as we currently do not have the next city break booked, so fingers crossed we can squeeze a couple more in this year.
If you’re wondering what district to stay in, I found this website really easy to understand and useful at summarising each district’s pros and cons. I really liked where we stayed in district 5, but it was more expensive to eat in. I think we spent most of our time in districts 1, 5 and 6, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m never responsible for navigating and leave that up to J at all times.