I recently took a five-day trip to Budapest with two friends, one of whom had just broken up with his girlfriend. It was not an amicable break up either, feelings were hurt, lies were told and people were betrayed. Needless to say my friend, Nick, was not in a great state, so when a few suggestions were made about a trip abroad, we all thought it would be a great idea to get away for a little while. Ideas were thrown about, Milan, Budapest, Norway and Sweden all featured in the discussions. Luckily, Budapest stuck and we all had a brilliant time away.
Before the trip started it was agreed we would try and spend as little as possible on flights and accommodation. So, we searched the internet far and wide for the cheapest flights and the most reasonable accommodation. Airbnb once again proved why it is an invaluable resource for anyone wishing to travel and we found a centrally located flat at a brilliant rate. It turned out a stopover flight in Munich offered a price we could not refuse and the two hour journey each way was converted to a seven hour journey. Fortunately, Munich is one of the nicest airports I have ever been too, offering the large Airbrau bar that boasts to be the only airport bar with its own brewery.
We arrived in early evening and had dinner soon after at Soul Food, a funky, vibrant restaurant that offers incredible Creole and Caribbean food. Two of us had a creole burger and the other had one of their curries, both meals were exceptionally tasty. However, a special mention must go to the curry. Andre, the third member of the group, has been brought up in an Indian household were the quality of spicy food is sublime. He said the curry was great and his seal of approval is enough for me. That night, after a long rest, we visited one of the world famous ruin bars, Instant. It is a complete maze and a very quirky one at that. There are so many rooms with different bars and the decoration is bizarre but ultimately very charming. One room boasted pictures of a hare having sex with a sausage dog, whilst another had sheets of music all over the wall. It was a fun night that ended very late in one of the many brilliant late night kebab shops of Budapest.
The next morning we rose late and tenderly worked our way out of bed to the city park. On the way there we stumbled across the Heroes’ Square, which offers massive, intricate statues that reach into the sky. We managed to do quite a lot whilst we were at the park, but certainly not all of it. We visited the architectural beauty that is Vajdahunyad Castle, climbing two separate towers to get a better view of the grounds. Afterwards, we walked through the park for a little while before meandering towards the botanical garden. As it turned out, the botanical garden and the zoo were one thing. I usually try to avoid zoos, but we decided to enter anyway. Whilst some of the animals did not look to be particularly stimulated or happy, the zoo did offer a wide array of animals.
The same evening we ventured to a street of restaurants just off Király Street and discussed plans for the night ahead over dinner. After quite some persuasion earlier in the day, we decided to buy the expensive tickets to the sparty party. Stories of the old Szechenyi baths of Budapest turning into a night club every Saturday night circulates inter railing folklore. I heard about these spa parties the last time I came to Budapest, but I neglected to go and I always wanted two questions answered. “Is it fun?” and “Is it worth the money?” After venturing out on the second night I had my answers. Yes, it is fun, you drink, you laugh and you take spin in the whirl pool. However, if you ask me if it is worth the hefty price tag I would say yes and no. You really don’t get much for your money, not all of the baths are open and I would hardly say you get a genuine feel for the place and the history it holds. On the other hand, how often is it you get the chance to go to a night club based in 400 hundred year old baths? I will let you decide whether it is worth it!
The next day, we woke up late and ventured towards the grand parliament building, taking great photographs of the immense building. After crossing the bridge to the Pest side, we neglected the lazy man’s tram up the hillside and instead took the long sloping path towards the Budapest History Museum. After taking in the views, we noticed a statue to our right on a hillside and decided we wanted to take another long walk. We soon realised we were walking towards The Liberty Statue. It is certainly worth the effort as the top offers the best view of Budapest. After six hours of walking, we got a bad meal at an American chain restaurant and slept through to the morning.
When we woke, I am not ashamed to say we went into ultra-tourist mode and visited a water park. I was not convinced it was a good idea before we left, but I can now completely recommend you should visit Aquaworld! Embrace your inner child and shoot down the slides there for hours! After four hours of fun on the slides, we stumbled across their spa. They offered five or six different types of sauna, an ice room, a steam room and much more. In particular, the bio sauna offered a nice temperature, great smells and soothing sounds that made us feel incredibly relaxed. We loved Aquaworld so much we did another round of the slides and spa until it was 8 o’clock. We were there for eight hours!
We returned to our apartment completely relaxed and quickly set off for a meal at Walhalla. It offered some nice food and great view of the Jewish synagogue, but more importantly, it also had two bowling lanes below the restaurant! We played a couple of rounds and continued on to Szimpla, another ruin bar of Budapest. This bar has a more relaxed atmosphere than Instant, but also offered an intricate web of rooms and bars that make it well worth the visit if only for a soft drink and nose around. After four long days, we were all quite tired, inducing a long and much needed heart to heart with Nick.
For our last full day, we walked around the Jewish quarter for a while before heading towards Great Market Hall to buy gifts for family and friends. The market has mostly cured meats, vegetables and paprika on the ground floor, whereas the first floor offers various souvenirs and knick-knacks. Be sure to take a loop around all the market stalls before buying anything – each stall seemed to offer something better than the last. On our way back to the flat we headed to two separate rooftop bars to take in the last views of this astounding city. For our last meal we visited Paprika, a traditional Hungarian restaurant offering food in huge portions – I’d recommend it if you don’t plan on eating breakfast the following day! We reflected on the trip we had, got into a heated debate about various topics and went to bed early for our flight the next day.
I hope this brief story of my Budapest trip inspires a little piece of your itinerary or encourages you to visit Budapest. It greatly helped my friend relax and talk about his breakup and he came back feeling far better than when he left. Moreover, should you go, don’t miss out on walking tours and other more culturally astute areas of Budapest. It is a city steeped in history, great architecture and brilliant food. It is probably my favourite place in Europe and I would go there again in a heartbeat. Feel free to comment or ask questions as always.