I flew from Stockholm to Budapest via Frankfurt. I really should not complain, but I generally do not prefer connecting through Frankfurt. I’m hoping with the airport renovations there is less parking and busing in and out in the future. It makes a normal connection time stressful and everyone on those buses gets so annoyed. I also wasn’t paying for my flight in cash so I wasn’t about to get worked up about it. And after sorting out the right bus versus metro ticket, it was quite easy to get to my hostel upon arrival so that was great.
I arrived in the evening with the sole goal of finding dinner and going to bed. I walked in though and my roommates, two girls from Argentina, were so welcoming and offering all kinds of advice, and then asked me to join them. I did as we were all going out for food and they seemed so nice, that I wanted to hang out with them more.
We met up with some Americans they had met earlier in the day and headed out to find food. Hummus Bar is like a chain restaurant there but since some people were vegetarians, and I had read good reviews, this seemed like a good option. Plus it was open a bit later as the evening was already starting to escape us. It was a good deal for yummy Mediterranean style food and I would definitely recommend for a quick and not too fancy bite. It was a fun group and we decided to check out one of the bars nearby. Budapest has a fantastic district of cheap bars that were once residences. When the tenants couldn’t keep up with the rent, they were sold off and converted. I didn’t learn this until after but could definitely tell the place looked like it was sectioned off like an old apartment building with multiple stories and a courtyard in the middle. It was really fun and quirkily decorated. Reminded me quite a bit of Dim Legend in Lviv, for those of you that have been. Sadly, I didn’t have my better camera and it was too dark to take any photos around the place to post. I wanted an early start so I didn’t make it an all nighter, but it was fun to meet other travelers and go out to some places I would not have checked out on my own.
Monday morning kicked off a full day. I wandered around, found coffee and breakfast (yay cheap grocery stores!), and checked out the shopping street as shops began to open. By 10:30 I was meeting up for the Free Budapest Walking Tour. As you may know, many European cities have free walking tours now. I have never had a terrible one, but some are better than others. Budapest, was pretty close to the top. Even if you didn’t love your guide, it takes you through a huge chunk of places and they gave great dos/don’ts in Budapest. Via the tour we walked around the main city area of Pest, crossed the bridge over to Buda and covered the majority of the Buda Castle grounds. That may not seem like so much, but it is pretty spread out and I was impressed they included it all on one tour.
After the tour ended, I tried a well reviewed cafe especially after my guide said, you’d be lucky to get a table. Good thing I was! It was delicious too. I wandered more around the castle to take more of my own photos as the sun was coming out. Since the weather was nice (the nicest all trip it turns out), I decided it was a great idea to get off the hill I was on now, and go walk to that other hill over there 😉 There are two big hills on the Pest side, one with the castle, which I was on, and one where Lady Liberty stood (a statue built during the soviet era). No surprise that she was the only thing as high up as the castle. Apparently, if you put a sheet over her for 3 days and then uncover her, she no longer has to be affiliated with the soviet regime and can just be a pretty statue. Whatever she was, I wanted to get up on that hill. Yeah, I thought that until I finally found how to get up there and was about half way up, feet buried in snow….
In the end I did make it. There was a citadel at the top and of course the statue. Both were ok, but as the skies cleared, the trek was worth it for the view. A beautiful day to climb up things in Budapest.
At this point I was getting super hungry, so I made my descent and thought I would get some dinner at the Central Market. Well by the time I got there, things were closing down despite being told they would still be open. I scored a little snack so that I could at least walk all the way back to the hostel without being totally cranky.
After that, I was pretty cooked so my roomie and I found a delicious Japanese place not too far from home. After a leisurely dinner, we made our way back to the hostel and decided to use our free drink cards. We managed to meet some new fellow hostel mates, and relaxed while chatting and eventually played a couple of rounds of pool.
I was super excited for Tuesday in Budapest! It was hard to believe I had already done so much in less than 48 hours, but I still wanted to get up early to fit everything in that I could. I left first thing, coffee in hand, and walked all the way down to the big park on the Pest side which includes the Pest Castle. Heroes Square is also here, so I walked around taking my photos as I do. Deeper into the park, are the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. While they are the most popular with tourists (and I would have tried others if I was there longer), they are also the biggest and architecturally interesting for a first timer. They had an opening right away for a massage and were booked the rest of the day so I did that first. Felt sooo good, and then was able to soak in the baths and saunas after that. Luckily I was there early so it was not so crowded and I felt I could relax. As people started packing in going on afternoon, I started getting a little more annoyed and decided that I had probably done enough soaking and heating my insides for one day.
I got back and said farewell to my roommates in the afternoon and after a delicious late lunch dinner, I got ready to go out for a concert. There was a classical concert inside St. Stephan’s Basilica that night and rather than touring it during the day, I thought this would be a nice way to enjoy it. It truly was. The music was brilliant, and I got to take in all of the beauty inside the church. There are a lot of churches on travels like this but I can say I really enjoyed this one specifically.
After the concert, I met back up with one of my new friends from the night before. I tried my first palinka, which for a generally non drinking personality was tasty but intense lol. But I guess, when in Budapest!
My momentum was wearing out a bit, but I had to get up in time to check out on Wednesday. I had scheduled a manicure, which was awesome and made me want to have a whole nother spa day. I was never so into it until I just really stopped doing it 100% in Norway. I do miss my $40 massage guy in China Town! Needless to say, I had plans, so I was content with my fixed up nails and hands after all this harsh cold weather and headed of to the museum. I went to the House of Terror, which I was told was done really well. It commemorates Budapest under the Nazi and Soviet regimes. I agree that it is really, really well done. Of course dark and depressing and not for the weak of stomach, but very informative and the displays are not just plaques that you read off of. At the end I found myself in the dungeons as the only visitor, with the absence of any distractions, I found myself absolutely sick to my stomach walking through there. I guess that isn’t good advertising? But it was really powerful.
I shook it off a bit with a long walk back to the hostel. By the way, I stayed at Wombats. It was a fabulous place, and I really enjoyed it. Perfect combination of being able to keep to yourself or socialize if you wanted to. Large space in rooms and to hang out, etc. Plus the staff was great and had so much information about Budapest. I headed off to the train station a bit early since it was apparently an interesting sight architecturally and there was a gluten-free restaurant nearby I had read about, Etna.
The train station was a bit run down looking, but I did eventually find the restaurant right outside. Very convenient if you are on your way in or out-of-town and want to grab a bite. It was an Italian place so I opted for gf pizza over pasta. It was delicious. Not too crunchy like some, and it was quite large so they packed me up with a to-go container for my journey.
Overall, Budapest was AMAZING!!! I highly recommend it. The prices were super cheap and a great place for sightseeing, eating, and getting pampered on a budget. The only downside I can think of was that all the restaurants really leave you smelling like restuarant….arrival in Austria means seriously trying to air out my wardrobe. Also, if you don’t like walking a lot, consider a bus/tram pass. Apparently, you can get around really well on them and the city is more spread out than others I have been to.
Either way, Budapest is a must! Another place, I would be really happy to go back to.
Here are the pictures! Hopefully less cold looking than Stockholm, but it was still pretty cold.