Baths and Boats in Budapest
While Budapest wasn’t at the top of our bucket list, Josh had a work training scheduled there, so we decided to make a trip of it. Several of our friends from Deloitte were also in town for the weekend, which made for a fun time. It wasn’t one of our favorite places: the food wasn’t the best, the people weren’t the nicest, and the city wasn’t the cleanest. That said, we still had a fun time and really enjoyed everything that we did. It’s a city with interesting history, it's inexpensive once you're there, and it's a worthwhile add on if you’re planning a trip to Prague or Vienna.
Friday 17 June
We arrived late Friday night and took a cab to our Airbnb in the old Jewish district on the Pest side. The ride was about a half-hour and cost around 20 euros
Since there were six of us, we rented a three-bedroom Airbnb. It was conveniently located in a neighborhood filled with bars and restaurants, and we were able to walk to many parts of the city. The only issue was that the weather was hot and there was no AC, so we had to keep the windows open and let in all of the noise from the street.
Saturday 18 June
Daily at 10:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m., lasts 2.5 hours*
Meetings at Vörösmarty Square (at the lion fountain) and ends at the Fisherman Bastion area (Buda side)
This wasn’t one of the better free walking tours. We enjoyed the route across the Chain Bridge, up the hill to the Buda promenade and ending at Fisherman Bastion. However, our tour guide left us wanting, and we didn’t learn much other than a long list of famous Hungarians and Hungarian inventions (the bic pen?).
Karavan Food Market
After the tour, we walked back across Chain Bridge and over to a small outdoor food market right near our Airbnb. There weren’t a ton of options, but there was plenty satisfy us. We decided to try the local delicacy, langos, which is a deep-fried flat bread, covered with cheese and other toppings. Delicious. Due to some language issues we also ended up with sausages in a cone bun. The market had a beer-garden-type seating area and was the perfect spot to refuel.
We spent the afternoon exploring the Pest side of the city and the Vacti Utca pedestrian street, enjoying some interesting street performers. We then stopped for drinks at Raqpart Bar, which is right on the water next to Chain Bridge. The staff was pretty rude, but the view was worth it.
Hold utca 13., Budapest, Hungary
Our guide book recommended this restaurant for traditional Hungarian food, and Kispac Bisztro did not disappoint.The food was delicious and we all enjoyed some type of meat or another. It was a beautiful night so we got to sit outside, which was a nice bonus.
We had heard a lot about Budapest’s ruin pubs, so we were excited to see what all the hype was about. Throughout the old Jewish quarter, many buildings that were abandoned and left for ruin during and after World War II have been reclaimed and turned into indoor/ outdoor pubs. Many of the furnishings are recycled and found objects, making for a visually stimulating and unique nightlife experience. We went to Szimpla Kert, which is the biggest and most famous. While we enjoyed our time there (and went back the next night since it was a block away from our Airbnb), we would also recommend finding a smaller one that’s less popular.
Sunday 19 June
Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146, Hungary
We had read that Andrassy Street was a nice area, so we opted to walk 40 minutes to the thermal baths. On the way, we passed Hero’s Square, and then continued on through the park, which was lovely. We were a bit confused about which entrance to use and ended up walking in circles for a bit, so we were all a little grumpy by the time we finally got into the bath complex. Note: the tourist entrance is on the back side, near the zoo. We changed and locked our stuff in our “cabins,” which really are like individual changing room stalls.
The outdoor area of the baths is pretty much just a pool party with lounge chairs, a whirlpool and a snack bar. We sat outside for a while and then ventured inside to the sulfur pools, steam room and sauna. We spent a few hours enjoying the facilities and would definitely recommend it, especially on a nice day. Since the healing baths are all inside, you can certainly still enjoy it even when the weather isn’t nice.
Something to keep in mind is that we struggled to find decent food options on the walk to and from the baths, and the snack bar at the baths had a limited selection.
Hess András tér 1, 1014 Hungary
Friends had recommended this Hungarian wine cellar to us, and we were surprised to be able to get a reservation when we called that afternoon. This stone-covered cellar is underneath the Hilton on the Buda side of the city, and it has a cosy and intimate feel to it. They do two rounds of tasting a day, and there are only five or six tables, so we would recommend calling in advance if this is a must-do for you. For €20 we were able to enjoy six generous wine tastings and Hungarian savory scones, which were delicious. You get to sample five wines and then re-taste your favorite. Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and it was a really fun start to the evening.
We found a nearby restaurant for dinner, and the food wasn’t too memorable. We’d been wanting to taste goulash soup, and unfortunately their version didn’t satisfy.
There are a bunch of companies that offer nighttime Danube River cruises, and they probably all take a similar route. We chose this particular one because it was a little cheaper and offered two drinks rather than just one. Josh ended up doing the same cruise a few nights later with work, only this time it included dinner, which he would have preferred to do without. The entire city is lit up at night, making for a beautiful ride. The boat also had live music, which was a fun surprise. This was a real highlight of the weekend and we’d definitely recommend it.
Monday 20 June
Check seasonal hours, tour lasts 2.5 hours
Meets at Deák Ferenc Square at the Sztehlo Gábor Monument
Our guide was fantastic, and we learned a lot from her. She was born and raised in Budapest and was well-versed in the city’s Jewish history. The tour mostly focused on the Jewish Museum and the synagogue complex, which includes a cemetery, Holocaust memorial and Raoul Wallenberg Park. We had hoped the tour would venture more into the old Jewish quarter, but the half day tour didn't cover much of that (there was also an option for a full day tour). Regardless, it was a good and informative way to spend the morning.
Wesselényi u. 13, 1077 Hungary
After the tour we explored the Jewish quarter and discovered a great section full of restaurants and bars that we hadn’t yet been to, despite our Airbnb being around the corner. We stopped into a traditional Jewish bakery and tried the flodni, which is traditional Hungarian Jewish cake. It was a layer cake with apples, walnuts and prunes. It was okay but not our favorite dessert.
Monday 6:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday-Friday 6:00am-6:00pm, Saturday 6:00am-3:00pm
Vásárcsarnok Market, Budapest, Vámház körút, Hungary
This market would be great place to get some meats and cheeses for a picnic or for breakfast. There’s a small food court upstairs, which is mostly Hungarian food, but we were ready for a different cuisine and decided not to eat there. We instead chose one of the fairly touristy Italian places on Vacti Ucta and had some decent pizza.
Parliament and Shoe Memorial
It was a really nice walk up from Vacti Ucta along the river towards Parliament. There is a memorial of bronze shoes along the river bank, paying tribute to the victims who were shot and killed in that spot during the Holocaust. Parliament is just beyond the memorial, and while we didn’t go inside, it was nice to see it close up.
On every trip we share our rose (highlight), thorn (lowlight), and bud (what we're looking forward to).
Rose- the night cruise (Becca), dinner at Kispiac Bisztro (Josh)
Thorn- being kept up at night by the street sounds outside (both)
Bud- America(Becca), Amsterdam (Josh)
If you to...things to know
How long? Three days felt like a good amount of time for us. We moved at a pretty leisurely pace, so there were some things we didn't get to, but we could have fit more in if we wanted to.
When to go? It was really nice to be there in warm, sunny weather, especially for the baths and boat cruise. That said, most sites would be just fine to do year round.
Where to stay? Despite the noise, we enjoyed staying on the Pest side in the old Jewish quarter. It's a lively area with tons of restaurants and bars, and many other parts of the city are within walking distance. The Buda side is a little nicer, and the restaurants are a little more expensive and touristy, but it's a beautiful part of the city.
How many HUF? The exchange rate between Hungarian Forint and USD is a little crazy, making ATM's confusing. More than one of us accidentally took out WAY too much local currency, so double check the exchange rate and air on the side of less.
*Opening times and meeting points are subject to change -- double check before you go!
Have you been to Budapest? How did you like it compared to other Eastern European cities?