I was brimming with wanderlust when booking our break to Budapest…….
After a couple months of scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration of places to visit the day finally arrived to go on our Budapest adventure. We loaded our suitcases into the car and off we went to the airport.
One short flight later, whilst witnessing the perfect sunrise from the air we arrived. Those first steps off the plane I was overwhelmed by the cold crisp Hungarian air. We collected our baggage and then hopped onto a bus into Hungary’s largest city and then took the underground metro to our apartment.
As we walked up the steps, surfacing from the underground, I was blown away by the beauty of the towering historic buildings.
We were lucky enough to find an awesome Airbnb place perfectly situated within a lovely little courtyard on the Andrássy Boulevard. Andrássy Boulevard is a long straight tree-lined avenue comprising of heaps of architecturally impressive buildings. it also includes some glamorous shops such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, a plethora of restaurants and even an Opera house. We had arrived a few hours before our allowed check-in time but the lovely owner Jessica kindly allowed us to leave our bags at the accommodation whilst we explored the local area.
Budapest is a perfect blend of historic buildings with a sprinkle of glamour. Every corner you turn there is something intriguing from stunning architecture to little ‘off-street’ cat cafes.
So where to start in this wanderlust packed playground…..
Here is what we got up to during our 5 day stay, and although we squeezed a lot in I still felt like we had only scratched the surface of this fantastic city.
We wondered the beautiful streets of Budapest and stumbled across St Stephens Basilica. Named after Hungary’s first king and being the third largest church in Budapest it was quite the building. It was truly breathtaking inside and definitely worth a visit.
It’s free to enter the main part of the church but they do ask for a small donation. You also have the option to go up to a viewing point at the top but there is a fee for this. We didn’t bother going up there but we packed in some rooftop time later on in the trip.
We also found the world renowned Gelato Rosa ice-cream bistro, who (very cleverly) shape delicious ice-cream into a beautiful edible rose.
After a short rest back at the apartment, we headed out to see what Budapest had to offer after the sun went down. Safe to say we were not disappointed. Just off the main high street and down a small cobbled road, sat the vibrantly coloured Ruin Bars. These eccentric bars which were formally abandoned buildings within the jewish district have recently become synonymous with Budapest.
They were created by a group on entrepreneurs who decided to save the buildings from being demolished by turning them into bars. They are filled with quirky furniture, antiques and decorations, you’ll even find bath tubs and cars that have become drinking areas.
We visited a very inviting Cat Cafe, which houses rescue cats from the streets of Budapest. You can go and enjoy a coffee whilst cuddling an array of cats. Never have I seen such relaxed kitties. They have a variety of beds and scratch posts, as well as lots of hidey-holes for if they just want to be left alone.
There is also a Cat Pub a bit further into the city, here you can enjoy alcoholic beverages and chill with the cats upstairs.
After a short walk, we arrived at the very moving and harrowing shoes of Danube. This memorial was conceived by Budapest born film director Can Togay and created by sculptor Gyula Pauer.
It represents one of the awful historic events that happened in Budapest during the rein of the Arrow Cross Party (an anti-semitic socialist militia). During 1944-45, they rounded up 20,000 Jews from the Budapest ghetto, forced them to remove their shoes and clothes at the side of the river, and then shot them allowing them to fall into the river so their bodies would be washed away. A poignant memorial to a rather dark side of this beautiful city.
That evening we went for cocktails at the famous The 360 Bar. This rooftop terrace atop the tallest building on Andrássy Avenue, offers stunning 360° panoramic views across the whole city.
We were lucky enough to have reserved one of their amazing igloos. Each one is spacious enough to accommodate eight people and each had a cosy little fireplace and fluffy blankets to keep you lovely and toasty.
If you like cocktails, incredible views in a fun setting then this is a great place to go.
Day 3 started with snow and we decided to visit heroes square. It is the largest square of the city and holds memorials to Hungary’s heroes. I would strongly recommend visiting heroes square during the day or night. It’s located right next to the city park, so a perfect spot to wonder over to the thermal ponds or even try your hand at ice skating.
From here we walked on to Budapest zoo. It has a massive selection of animals to see from sloths to polar bears. I enjoyed the trip to the zoo and felt they did the best they could for the animals, but a few of the enclosures did seem a little small.
That night we tried out the cute little Italian Millennium Da Pippo which, conveniently, was right opposite from where we were staying. The pizza was amazing and I would highly recommend visiting although Budapest does home a heck of a lot of Italian restaurants.
So what else would you do at 10pm Saturday night in the beautiful Budapest? Go to a thermal spa of course! Thermal baths have become a huge attraction for tourists. They are typically visited during the daytime but given their popularity we opted for the night time thermal experience which runs from 10pm to 4am.
After a snowy walk over to the Buda side of the city, we arrived at Rudas Thermal Spa. Some of their thermal baths are over 450 years old.
The Rudas Thermal Baths were established as early as the 16th century, during the time of the Turkish occupation.
There are 6 thermal pools ranging from 18 – 42 degrees. They also have saunas, steam room and the most incredible rooftop jacuzzi, which, we enjoyed relaxing in as we looked out over the Danube river whilst snow was falling around us. Truly an awesome experience.
Our day started out very snowy, and we visited our favourite eco-cafe for a quick coffee. All their takeaway cups are made from Vegware. Vegware is made of plants not plastic and is 100% compostable. It seems like Hungary is a bit behind on the ‘eco’ stuff but this little cafe was popular and fingers crossed the ethos catches on elsewhere in the country.
Over our coffees we hashed a loose plan to explore the old Buda district. So after a couple of buses and metros we made it across to the other side. We wondered the old streets, passing the presidents house and Buda castle. Eventually we made it to the Fishermans Bastion and Matthias Church. These are very impressive structures, a bit fairytale like.
Here there are breathtaking views overlooking the Pest side. From here we went on the the Children’s Railway that gets you to Janos Hill, the highest peak of Budapest. The railway is run by children but under the watchful eye of adult railway workers. They deal with station management, ticket sales and signalling. It is was a Soviet Union era initiative to give children the chance to learn teamwork skills and understand the adult working life better.
As we got higher the snow got thicker. When we got to the top there was a short 20 minute walk through the stunning woodland which leads you to a lovely restaurant. Here we treated ourselves to some food, and of course me being Cornish I opted for a cider (although it they didn’t have my favourite ‘Cornish Rattler’).
The only real way down from that point was by chairlift. Now, I’m not great with heights but it was totally worth it. The view was amazing and one of the best ways to see Budapest. The ride was around 20 mins long and I would recommend you wrap up for this.
To top the day off we had reservations at the amazing Zoo Cafe. Now if you are worried about loose animals then give this place a miss.
Upon arrival you are seated by a member of staff and before you know it you have a cockatoo landing on your shoulder. He was quite the cheeky character, trying to have a bit of anything that may be on your table. He must try his luck with everyone.
The very knowledgeable animal assistants who work there, make their way round to each table during your visit with a different animal for you to hold and pet.
We had quite the selection, starting with a small tortoise, then a couple of snakes, a bearded dragon, a guinea pig, a rabbit, and then ending with a chameleon. All of the animals were very chilled out and seemed to really enjoy the interaction and petting from visitors.
Sadly it was our last day. Jessica the accommodation host was kind enough to let us keep our bags at the apartment so we could explore some more before our flight home. We had decided to visit the terror house which was just a couple of minutes walk along Andrássy avenue.
The Terror House is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in that very building.
The building itself was the headquarters for the Arrow Cross Party. I really wanted to visit The Terror House as I felt I wanted to pay respect and understand more about the harder times of Budapest. It is an extremely intriguing place to visit but be warned it does open up a very dark history of Hungary and some people may find some of the exhibits very distressing. I am glad we went here at the end of our visit as it will change your perception of this city.
I was sad to leave the beautifully imperfect Budapest but I was also very excited to get home to my dogs. On the whole, I would definitely recommend this intriguing, quirky and fun city to anyone! It really does tick all boxes and cater for everyones interests. The people are friendly, the buildings are fascinating and the food is delicious. I was so impressed with how cheap it was to visit and how much you actually get for your money. I’m so glad we went and it is definitely one to add to your travel list.
Thank you Budapest, you were amazing!