Hey folks, I recently celebrated my birthday with a long weekend trip to Copenhagen and Budapest; although Ryanair didn’t let me have a great experience in Denmark (story for another post), I very much had one in Hungary’s capital.
So, let’s get to the point; we arrived in Budapest 10pm on Saturday night, coming from Copenhagen, great connection. From the airport we took a bus number 100 going to the city centre where our accommodation was. We booked with Apartament4you, it was considerably cheap, but we did have to pay an extra €13 for checking in late. Altogether, we paid €73 for two nights. It’s not a great room, but for sleeping purposes – it does the job.
Using public transportation around Budapest is straight forward; you will have tickets machines at some of the bus stops; you can change the language to English and easily pay for your ticket. They do accept cards and cash, very handy! – And you can choose from single, 24 hours or 7 days passes. A single ticket costs 350 HUF.
Now that you know about accommodation and how to get around the city, check our itinerary:
Our day started very early in the morning, we headed to a sort of fast food/café chain called Cserpes Tejivo to have breakfast – a cosy not at all touristic place. They have a variety of pastries and fresh sandwiches plus lots of different milk beverages; in fact, tejivo means “the milk bar”, and you can get different flavours of milk, you will certainly find something nice to drink. It’s definitely a great experience as you can feel like a local. We paid £6 for 2 cinnamon pastries, a sandwich and 2 beverages.
After a delicious first meal, we headed to Buda castle through Chain Bridge; it’s kind of an iconic place (especially during the night) as you can see the bridge on postcards and all over internet when searching for Budapest images. As you cross it, you will get into a crowded square full of people selling tours and trying to convince you of what your best option is. You can go up to the castle by foot, funicular train or mini tour buses. Your free option is obviously to climb it on your own; I would say it doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes. We choose to go by the charming funicular (€4 one way, €6 return) and come back on foot as we thought the views and experience would be amazing, I got pretty disappointed as you can’t actually see much from the cabin train unless you push yourself out from a tiny window and it lasts a maximum of 1 minute. The mini bus tours are also €6 and you can hop on and off as many times as you pleased for the entire day, they also show you important parts of Buda district, so if I can recommend something, it is: Don’t get the funicular.
Hungarian capital is divided into Buda and Pest side. The first one is the old town part, which is very picturesque and charismatic, with lots of colours and nice architecture. Out of the funicular we ended up right next to the Castle gate, but before exploring the grounds we decided to look for the Mathias church. It is a must see attraction, I’m still concern that there is not many people talking about this amazing building; it’s clear walls with orange roof make an impression of a sophisticate painting. I don’t need to say I felt in love right away, right!?
Fisherman’s Bastion is right around the corner from Mathias Church. I felt like I was inside a Castle; this place is for sure a great opportunity for pictures and to see some nice views. You need to pay to get to the top level of the terraced area, it costs 1000 HUF, but if you don’t want to spend money on that, don’t worry you can still walk around other areas for free and get some nice pictures.
Before having lunch we decided to go for a tour of the Hospital in the Rock. It was built inside caves in preparation for the Second World War and it was also used as a nuclear bunker during Cold War. Guided tour explains the whole story of the hospital, it is very unique piece of history and it is worth a visit. Ticket costs 4000 HUF for 60 minutes visit.
As we weren’t hungry yet, we headed to the Castle gardens for more beautiful views. You don’t have to pay to walk around the grounds; the National Gallery is also here and you can get in for 1800 HUF.
So as I’ve told you before, the Hungarian capital is divided into Buda and Pest sides. After walking around the Castle we went to the pest side where you could see the parliament. This side seems to be where Hungarians work, live and have their life, but it still has some some attractions. Close to the parliament you can find the memorial of the Jewish people killed in the Second World War by the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen; they were aligned in front of the Danube River and shot, This is a memorial to a horrible crime and tragedy, please show respect and act appropriately.
It was finally time for food, we were walking to the Szimpla Kert ruin pub and our GPS lead us through a lovely flea market called Gozsdu Udvar, full of nice pieces of arts, jewellery, souvenirs and restaurants. It’s a short narrow street and the market only opens during the weekend, so if it happen that you are in Budapest at this time, don’t miss it.
We arrived at Szimpla and got really surprised by this impressive pub, an attraction in itself. When you walk in you see lots of, sort of junk, transformed in an awesome decoration. The place is huge and has an open garden area. Unfortunately we could not have food in there at the time we arrived as the kitchen was already closed; it was around 2pm and it would reopen only at 5pm. Luckily enough, right next door there was a street food spot called Karavan, with multiple stands and plenty options (including vegetarian alternatives). Greg had a burger made of cheese and sweet potato fries from The Real Cheeseburger stall – loads of options. I got a hotdog with fries; all together with 2 beers costed us 5990 HUF. For dessert we got traditional chimney cake, which was barbecued – I’ve learned that’s not how they usually make it, so maybe that’s why I didn’t like it so much.
As you can see our first day was really busy and we didn’t even finish yet; late afternoon we went to Gellert hill for a nice sunset. There were quite a few tourists, but still peaceful enough to sit in the grass and wait for the sun to go down – it wasn’t the most impressive one we’ve seen, but sunsets are always great, right!?
After sunset we rushed to the Mazel Tov pub to listen to some jazz music. The place is really great in terms of atmosphere, but it is not a pub, more like a fancy restaurant with live music; you can’t get in and just have a drink at the bar and depending on the day the queue can be quite long.
After drinks, we had a buffet dinner on a cruise across the Danube River; there was classical music, good food and the whole city sparkling with lights for us. Food could be topped up more often but it didn’t bother us too much. We paid €92 and the boat ride lasts 1 and half hour.
We woke up early again as it was our second and last day in Budapest, had breakfast in the first bakery we found and headed to the famous thermal bath, Szechenyi – there is a metro station less than 5 minutes walking. We bought our tickets online; €40 full day + 2 private cabins, but you will pay a little bit more during weekends. We arrived there before 9am, got our bracelets and cabins, all ready to go for it! I was expecting the place to be something marvellous, but it is more like a public swimming pool with a very cool thermal water feature. They have 3 pools outside (one of them was closed for refurbishment) and more than 10 inside. Most of them are pretty hot, few to cool down and they also have sauna, beer bath (this one is paid extra), steam room and massages (also paid). It is crowded even during the weekdays; we arrived before the opening time and there were people inside already (we were actually wandering how they got it?!). We’ve enjoyed most of the baths, but it was a hot day and hot water makes it hard to refresh yourself. There’s a cold swimming pool outside but for that one you need a cap, which they do sell inside but I’m afraid I can’t tell you the price. We went out just before 1pm and the place was packed! So if you’re going there, make sure you go early and don’t forget your flip-flops as the pavement around the pools are pretty hot. If you don’t have luggage with you, you should be fine with just a locker. Swimming suits are as normal as they can be – there are people with very small bikinis as well as ones that cover a little more, that’s totally up to you and I didn’t feel there was much judgement regarding that. It’s a nice place to visit and relax for a little while, I’m sure it must be amazing to go there during winter times as the water temperature of some baths can get as high as 38 degrees.
Having finished with the baths, we walked to Heroes square, cool place with big statues of the seven Hungarian chieftains. The square is inside a park and there are few (not cheap) restaurants around; we had lunch in Robinson, with tables on a patio situated on a lake. I had breaded veal and Greg opted for a pasta; meal + beer + dessert costs £43.
And that’s it! 2 really busy days in Budapest, I loved the city and although it’s totally possible to see the most of it in 2 days, I would highly recommend staying longer if you can!
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