So over a year ago, we went to Hungary. It was sort of a last minute trip planned with two friends of ours and as I am all about Eastern European food, off we went!
We went mid-October, which is when the weather is pretty mild. Long pants, layers on top to take off in the afternoon after hiking up the hill. However on this weekend, it rained pretty much non-stop, or was grey and drizzly. It didn’t matter too much though, because there are plenty of indoor options to warm up in. Some highlights from this trip were the famous baths, market, train station, and a few restaurants we all loved.
We flew in Friday morning and were picked up by our AirBnB host. After dropping our stuff we set out for a walk to the river. We’d picked a spot that was near the center but not right in the middle. I’m not sure if it was the architecture, seeing the language or some other element but walking through the city definitely felt different to me than other European cities I’ve seen. Everything felt quite stately and big, with a different sort of ornate design.
For example, this train station:
It was beautiful. It felt old-world, romantic, serious. It was just a train station but it was so lovely. It even has, not kidding, the World’s Most Beautiful McDonald’s.
After this we went to the parliament building which again, I’m pretty sure has the title for World’s Most Beautiful.
We would see more of this building later on.
You may have noticed the picture captioned “Looking to Buda” which is not a typo, Budapest is two cities, Buda and Pest, that overtime have been smushed into one name, but each side looks different from the other. I am not an authority on the history of the area nor could I comment what exactly makes them different. We stayed in Pest and if I went back, I would stay in Buda just to see the difference.
We continued on our walk to get to the market, Central Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok). Along the way was St. Stephen’s Basilica, named for the first king of Hungary, Stephen, and if you would like to pay you can go see his right hand in the reliquary for 5 seconds.
Finally we made it to the market, and here we split up so we could cover as much of the building as we could. The smells were unbelievably good, we had to buy a few things to try them out (dried fruit, different types of paprika). I don’t have pictures of all the stands because the owners are a little sensitive to people taking pictures of their products. The building itself is quite old and very open. The stalls are sometimes kept in families for generations.
It was really raining at this point so we went to wait for the HopOn-HopOff bus (which, is seriously a favorite of mine in every city, no matter how lame it looks). But, somehow we misread this schedule and were in between the gaps of day time tours and night time tours. After half an hour in the rain, we headed to a bar to wait for the next bus. Highly recommend this little spot. By the time we got on the next bus, it was dark and still raining so unfortunately, we didn’t see much, but we were warm!
That night we were exhausted, so headed to a SPAR grocery store (only ever seen these in Austria and Hungary) and made ourselves a pasta dinner before passing out.
Next morning it was partly cloudy and drizzly again, but it felt warmer. We started out back on the HopOn-HopOff to get the layout while there was a little sun. We got off right at the start of Elisabeth bridge.
We started out to head over to the castle district across the river. This is quite the hike, but walking across the bridge was a fun experience I suggest. We did take a tour bus up to the very top to give our legs a break. At the top of the castle hill is, obviously, the castle, but also Matthias church, which is located on Fisherman’s Bastion. After a walk around the church grounds, the walk to the castle is through a small neighborhood that feels both artsy and homey. There’s a bunch of cafes up here and we ate at this one a little down the road.
Finally the castle grounds themselves. So much to see here. Every little detail is thought of. We spent over an hour wandering slowly to take it all in.
Next stop, via bus again, is Gellért Hill. At the top here is the Szabadság-szobor, the Liberty Statue. The has a stop here and I recommend getting off to see this monument, then take a walk back down to the road via the trails on the hill. The reason is because you will get to see this:
is Saint Gellert, who did not have the best of times in Budapest:
The first recorded names of the hill in the Middle Ages were Kelen-hegy, Pesti-hegy and Blocksberg. It was called Szent Gellért hegye (lit. the hill of St. Gerard) from the 15th century onwards, referring to the legend about the death of St. Gerard. The saintly bishop was killed by the pagans during the great pagan rebellion in 1046. He was put in a barrel and rolled down into the deep from the top of the hill. – Wikipedia
The waterfall at the end is a gentle reminder of his last moments rolling down the hill.
Back across the bridge, it was time to try out the famous baths. Here, I did not take any pictures. But to give you an idea:
Like baths in Germany, there were many rooms and spa treatments to choose from and many different temperatures of water and steam. These baths are not nude so bathing suits are needed. They also stay open late and it was nice to bathe while the sun was going down. It also rained a bit so being in the steamy water was excellent.
Near these baths is this restaurant we affectionately called, the Owl Restaurant. If you are in Budapest, you must go to this place. They had dishes here that I had never seen before and we felt like we were eating country style cooking. Putting paprika in butter is definitely something I would eat again. I do recommend having a nice shirt to put on or nice slacks as it is a bit dressier and I felt a little out of place in jeans.
The final day we reserved for our boat tour on the Danube, which if you ever take a HopOn-HopOff and there’s a river in town (most European cities) there will most likely be a deal for one boat and one bus ride. We couldn’t have picked a better day. It was absolutely beautiful and sunny and we all sat back for a few hours and cruised, watching the river banks go by.
The walk back from the docks to our apartment was through a more federal party of the city, with mostly administration buildings.
The food and wine in Budapest is amazing. I love Eastern European food and Hungarian was new addition to my menu. My favorites:
Hortobágyi palacsinta – Hungarian pancakes, I ate a lot of these.
Goulash – all kinds of varieties and none were like the American styles I’ve had, these were generally more spicy.
Chicken Paprikash – a creamy stew
Spätzle – may have originated in Hungary
Tokaji – sweet white wine