Budapest Highlights

So I was going to blog day by day as me and the boyfriend citytripped our way through Budapest, but I got stuck after day 1. Not because I didn’t have loads to tell, if anything, because there was too much to tell! And before I knew it, I was back at work being busy. Sigh. But I am not quite finished with my Budapest story, so here are the two things from this holiday I will never forget, for which I thank you my dear Budapest!

The Parliament – On our second day in Budapest, we decided to explore the area we were staying at a bit more: Parliament District. One of the first things I noticed, was that it was very quiet in the neighbourhood. Which basically went for our whole stay. (I guess it wasn’t really the tourist season, but still, at some points I almost started wondering if there was a zombie apocalypse on the way that no one warned us about. So if you do want to take the risk of the weather, which for us turned out absolutely wonderful, visiting Budapest in late winter is definitely a recommendation!) We relaxed a little bit on Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) whilst sipping a coffee in the sun before we headed down to the Parliament (Országház) . And wow, what a Parliament! That is by far the most impressive building I have ever seen! We spent quite a while just walking around and around and ended up ordering some Sacher Torte (I know, not very Hungarian but very Austrian, but I couldn’t help myself) on the sunny terrace of a nearby cafe overlooking the parliament. What a peaceful and wonderful morning that was!

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The Danube – Most big cities are built around water, and I always think it’s so nice to get that other perspective by seeing the city from the water. Especially at night, when the whole city lights up. I had a chance to take an evening cruise in Saint-Petersburg six years ago now and I can still remember how impressed I was at the different feel I got of the city. So naturally, an evening boat tour on the Danube was a must do for me. It took us a while to decide what tour we wanted to take (so much choice!) but in the end we just went for it and booked a four course dinner one. Every holiday needs at least one fancy splash out, right? Well, this one made it to the top of my list of fancy!

Our boat had a top completely out of glass, and we were sat right at the side with a perfect view. In the corner, there was a small band playing some very agreeable jazz tunes. Romantic set up: check! We were welcomed with a nice glass of bubbles and off went our boat. The views were absolutely stunning! And because the boat did the same tour around three times, you didn’t have to worry about missing out when focussing on the food. Which was totally spot on as well. I started with the goose liver pate, then had a pumpkin soup and as a main both me and the boyfriend went for the duck, which was served with a berry sauce on a mountain of roasted vegetables. So very tasty! The ingredients were superb and the combinations just perfect. The desert was a bit too heavy for me (a chocolate cake), which hardly ever happens , but nothing a fresh breeze out on the deck couldn’t fix. After our coffee, we headed outside to be amazed once more. Seriously though, that parliament building!

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So to finish off my first holiday report of 2017: if you have been to Budapest before, I hope you enjoyed my little trip down Budapest memory lane. If you haven’t: you simply must go! It is such an interesting city that will surprise you in many ways, and there are a thousand and one things to do! Go to a ruin bar in the evening and drink cocktails. Visit the caves underneath the castle if you want to learn about Budapest’s slightly creepier stories. Go to not one but a few spas, because a lot of the smaller ones are just so cheap it would be silly not to end a day of walking this way and that in a hot relaxing bath. Eat, because those hipster Hungarians really know their way around the kitchen! Drink, because they also know a little something about wine! Relax, enjoy, and be amazed 🙂

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Budapest Day 1 – The City and The Bath

What to do on your first day in any city? Well, take a free walking tour of course! It’s the perfect way to get to know the city, what’s there and what’s hot, and to figure out what main sights you really want to explore. Generally, these tours take you along all the classic tourist spots and fill you in on their standard need to knows. Not just names and dates, but also loads of interesting stories. Like for example that Disney got some if its inspiration for the castle in its opening sequence from a particular view of the towers at the Fisherman’s Bastion. Fun fact!

We started off with some beautiful sunshine, which, I’m sure you fellow way-north-of-the-equator bloggers can agree with, was everything I could’ve ever wished for on this holiday. So when the sun did disappear later during the day, I wasn’t too gutted because I really felt like I sufficiently charged my batteries for the day 🙂

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Buda Castle, as seen from the Pest side of the Danube

We walked down to the Danube and overlooked the Buda hills from the Pest side of the Danube, were told about Budapest’s ruin pubs (*added to the to do list*) and its wines and desserts (*also added to the to do list*),  had a quick stop at Saint Stephen’s Basilica which was one of the prettiest cathedrals  I’ve ever seen from the outside (I don’t know the difference between a church and a basilica, but since this one was big, I’m calling it a cathedral). Then we walked over the Buda side on the Chain Bridge and admired the Castle and the views in Buda, before strolling over to the stunning Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, where we also had an amazing view of the Parliament (*added this one to the to do list too*). The church made me think a little bit of the city hall back home in Leuven, especially its towers, which was really quite surprising because as much as we compare new travel destinations with old ones (even though in basically all cases, it’s like comparing apples and oranges and I’m not quite sure why we do it), I had never compared new travel destinations with home. Which made me kind of proud of our little home base!

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St. Matthias Church

From there, we made our way down to the Jewish quarter where Lonely Planet had told us there would be a farmer’s market in a ruin pub. We had lunch in a tucked away book cafe at the top of a big book shop. There was no one there, but I had the yummiest cheese toastie ever! I think they put sour cream on it, together with two different kinds of cheese! Oh man! After a coffee, we were sufficiently rejuvenated to tackle on. Of course, when we got to the ruin bar, the market had already finished, but it was so worth the trip nevertheless! For those of you who haven’t heard of ruin pubs: it’s basically what the locals did to a lot of abandoned buildings. They turned ‘m into pubs. And decorated it with whatever they could find. Those who say hipsterdom started in Berlin, obviously haven’t been to  Budapest. Or actually, maybe not. Because to me, hipsters always try to hard. Whereas this place was just there the way it was because it was there the way it was. I’m probably not making much sense, but then neither did Szimpla Ruin Bar 😉

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Szimpla Ruin Pub during daytime. 

At this point, our feet were starting to protest against the extensive citytripping, so we decided to try one of the famous Budapest Baths. After some extensive Lonely Planet Research, we decided to go with the Veli Vej Bath, which is one of the four baths that go back all the way to the beginning of Budapest Bath Culture under the Ottoman occupation. Most impressive feature: the octagonal pool under the old dome. Water temperature: around 38 degrees. Budapest is basically built on an area full of underground hotsprings, with temperatures of up to 80 degrees when reaching the surface. There were also a few Turkish baths and a Finnish sauna, a pool for swimming laps, a few smaller pools with varying degrees of colder to very cold water, and one of those baths where you walk over stones in cold and hot water. After the walking we did, it was the perfect kind of relaxation!

On the way home, we stopped off at the Budapest Barbecue Company, which was a gigantic hip restaurant dealing in meat, meat, and meat. We had a few cocktails and some food, but mostly we enjoyed their music. The drinks and food weren’t that impressive, but the music kept us there for a good while. One classic after another, from Queen to The Bee Gees and the Beatles. Fun ending to a great first day!