72 Hours in Budapest

Budapest is somewhere our friends and we had often discussed visiting, and after finally going last weekend we’re not sure why we didn’t go sooner! It really is like something out of a Wes Anderson film, with beautiful architecture, vintage transport and a whole lot of symmetry going on. The flight is just over two hours from London Stansted with British Airways, our Friday night flight got us there just before bedtime, ensuring we woke up bright an and early ready to explore the next day.

We stayed in this cosy Air B&B, which was situated in an old residential building, and had a strong floor tile game throughout. Our host was just lovely, if you’re going to Budapest we highly recommend staying here. The city is separated by a river into two sides, one called Buda and the other Pest, we were situated on the North-East side of Pest.

We purchased 72 hour city passes, which allowed us to travel on all buses, trams and trains (asides from one of the older trams). However we didn’t need them, as we ended up walking everywhere, combined with a couple of taxi trips, so maybe scope out the city before you commit to buying these. They were £15 for the weekend which is really reasonable, but times 5 of you that’s a very nice bottle of champagne or dinner!

Our first stop was The Donut Library, an obvious breakfast spot don’t you think?! We tried five flavours (in the name of research) and can safely say we don’t think we’ve ever met a donut we didn’t like. Take cash as they don’t accept card.

That afternoon we walked over the Margaret Bridge to visit the touristy parts which include the Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and the stunning Matthias Church. Some friends went to visit the Hospital in the Rock while we went to visit the Hungarian National Gallery, featuring Hungarian art from the 15th century to the modern day.

We also tried to visit Ruszwurm Cukrászda, which is a 200 year old, family run patisserie, but the queues on a Saturday were out the door. And to be fair we’d eaten more than our fair share of donuts that morning already.

All this walking is thirsty work, so next up was a visit to one of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. The ruin bars are mainly in the 7th district and these once abandoned buildings were previously occupied by by a flourishing Jewish community prior to WWII. Over a decade ago when this area began to rebuild, ruin bars sprung up with Szimpla Kert being the first. We only visited this one, whilst it’s maybe one of the biggest and maybe one of the more eclectic we’re not sure it’s the best. The drinks were slightly over priced for Budapest, and you might bump into a few (albeit very friendly) stag dos, but it’s definitely worth a look in. On the way home we popped into a couple of vintage shops, our favourite was definitely Retrock, here we picked up some vintage Hungarian embroidery.

Sunday was the perfect day. We started off with brunch at the newly opened Liberté, we liked it so much we went back for cocktails that evening as it was a five minute walk from our accommodation.

After brunch we caught the 72 bus to the Szechenyi Baths. Thermal Baths have to be the highlight to Budapest, there’s so many to choose from. We asked around and this one was recommended to us by locals and tourists alike, and we can see why – it was the most breathtaking building. Built in 1913 the baths has 18 pools filled with hot spring water, plus 10 saunas and steam cabins. You can also get a very reasonably priced massage, and after much walking around we can save you some time and tell you to go up the 3rd floor of the changing room side of the building where you will find the cheapest massage options. There are various massage companies inside so it can get a bit confusing. The entrance price is 4,900 HUF which is around £13, this includes a locker too, this is entry all day which is more than worth it! We’d recommend taking flip flops, your own towels to avoid renting them and if you want to swim, a swimming cap.

That evening we re-visited Liberté for some perfect cocktails, served around a marble table with a bronze palm tree feature behind us – we would happily move in! Then we jumped in a taxi to visit Menza, a restaurant we’d definitely recommend to try. The retro 60s interior, the friendly staff and the insanely good duck and dauphinoise potatoes were some of the best we’ve eaten. We all had three courses, a few bottles of wine and it came to about £23 each, expensive for Budapest, but very reaosnable compared with London. Menza is set on a lively square, so you can head out for drinks if you want afterwards. We headed to bed instead with very full stomachs.

Monday came around all too quickly, there were lots of places we wanted to visit (mainly cake shops) that we missed. However one last stop at the New York Cafe didn’t disappoint. Whilst we maybe wouldn’t say it was the best breakfast we’ve eaten, the surroundings more than made up for it. Opened in 1894, the Italian Renaissance-style decor was restored to it’s original glory in 2006 and needs to be seen to be believed. And before we knew it that was our whirlwind trip to Budapest over…

Other places we also wanted to visit but didn’t have time included: Sugar!GerbeaudBrody HouseBar Pharma, Boutiq Bar and Central Market Hall.

Top Tips

- Currency is Forint (HUF), we would recommend getting it there as it’s a better exchange rate than in the UK.

- In lots of places you can pay in Euros or HUF, we found using the local currency a little bit cheaper.

- Do not say thank you after you’ve given money for the bill in Hungary. It implies that there is no need to give any change, so don’t say this to avoid confusion. Instead, wait until your waiter has brought the change, or be clear on how much change you would like back.

- Time zone is GMT+1.

TravelCharlotte Jacklin