Last month I took a short trip to the beautiful city of Budapest with some girlfriends of mine. We had planned it just before Christmas and managed to get really cheap flights and accommodation.
Travel Tip- European cities are much cheaper out of season!
Budapest had been on my bucketlist of cities for a while and I really wanted to take a little break before getting back to uni for my final semester. My friend Giulia (who you will see a lot in the following photos) and I flew out on the Monday from Stansted (also helped bring the cost down) and after a short flight we landed later that evening.
We were supposed to be meeting a couple of other friends who were flying in from Pisa but unfortunately their flight got delayed so we grabbed a couple of bus tickets and headed for the metro. Now I hold my hands up here, I was SO unprepared for this trip. I am ashamed to admit this because I love being organised when it comes to travel, as much as I’m all for ‘see were the wind takes you’ I also like to know how I’m going to get from A to B and when we landed in Budapest I didn’t have a clue. Luckily I was with Giulia who had a rough idea and I followed her lead. About an hour later we found our way to the right metro station and took the short walk to our accommodation. Again I hadn’t had much to do with the apartment so I was kind of hoping for something mildly OK because we were only paying around £10 a night each. My was I surprised, the Gozsdu Apartments were amazing. They are in a great location and nicely decorated and because it was really quiet in the city we got upgraded to a double room so we had a room each! Well we kinda just used it for our luggage cause who doesn’t love a good cuddle?!
We were both pretty tired so wandered around the strip of bars directly below our apartment (no it wasn’t too loud) and grabbed our first of many kebabs. This was our first instance of realising how cheap Hungary is, we got a chicken kebab and a drink for 750 forints which works out at under £2! And it tasted delicious, I had only been in the city for a couple of hours and I was already in love.
In the morning we were reunited with one of my first year uni friends in a very cute little cafe in Gozsdu court. The Bluebird Cafe wasn’t the cheapest but was definitely the prettiest cafe on the strip and had some very dishy baristas making our breakfast. Budapest has very quickly caught on to the ‘hipster’ vibe of things with many bars sporting random furniture and fairy lights, but I kinda liked it, it’s not as arrogant as London, and you don’t have to be wearing Doc Martens to be allowed in.
We had a much needed catch up and then planned our itinerary for the day. Luckily for us the weather was pretty good (well it wasn’t raining) so we wrapped up warm and headed over to Buda (the hilly side of Budapest.) We decided to get the funicular up and walk down so we hopped on and got our first glimpse of Budapest from a height.
What stood out to me were the bridges, they were so deliberate and extravagant that they just made everything look so pretty. I don’t think its possible to take a bad panoramic picture of Budapest because the bridges just make it look amazing… See why I loved it so much?
We took a slow walk around the castle grounds and saw the changing of the guards outside a parliamentary building, that was pretty cool. There was lots to see and do around this area of Budapest and the cobbled stones and amazing scenery was enough to keep me wandering around for the whole afternoon. We went inside the beautifully renovated Matthias church and gazed at the amazing colours and detail of the entire space, the patterns inside were stunning and I couldn’t get over how long it must have taken to paint every single part of that place.
After taking lots of pretty photos we decided to stop off for some late lunch and braved some traditional Hungarian cuisine. I like to think I am pretty adventurous with my food but I did not have a clue what was on that menu, the very kind waiter at PestBuda (a 2 minute walk from Matthias church) was very courteous and gave us his recommendations. I went for the buttered noodles with paprikash chicken, it was a creamy sauce with not too much flavour but still very tasty. The buttered noodles had the consistency of gnocchi but smaller, I know I’m not doing a very good job at explaining it, but everyone liked what they were served and again the prices were very reasonable. This restaurant was a little more high end but we still only paid around £10 for a main course wine and a desert… (we were celebrating my friends new job, yay Sara!)
After filling ourselves up with a little too much wine we decided to start making our way down the hill and back home, Budapest isn’t a very big city so it’s very easy to navigate around. We walked pretty much everywhere but if you prefer to use the public transport the metro system is also great and really cheap. After stocking up on some wine for the evening we chilled out for a while before getting ready to hit the famous ruin bars of Budapest. This is the only thing I had really read up on and was very excited to see them for myself. Lots of people had said they weren’t to be missed so we walked to what seemed to be the most popular bar called Szimpla. It was huge, from the outside it really just looks like an abandoned building but as soon as you pass the friendly bouncers you see a hive of people dancing and drinking around the random furniture. We drank and chatted and then it gets a little blurry. (The pictures that follow are the only pictures I have, I do apologise!)
Yep, so that was fun. Notice we had kebab number 2!
We woke up with rather sore heads (yes I know they were self inflicted!) so we thought what better way to relax than to take a dip in one of Budapest’s most famous thermal baths? As they were quite far away we caught the metro up to Heroes Square and walked around a very pretty palace. It looked like Disneyland, only less fake. It was so pretty and definitely unexpected, we were aimlessly wandering around (slightly hungover) and just saw these huge gates and barracks next to this cute little ice rink. I love coming across hidden places like that because it really brings out the adventurer in you. I wanted to explore it and be a Disney Princess for the day… I’m sure Cinderella gets a sore head after one too many champagnes as well!
We found the Szechenyi baths and made our way through the plethora of indoor baths to finally find the outdoor ones that you see in all of the pictures. Around that time of year they weren’t very busy so we could really enjoy the peace and quiet whilst some of the locals played chess by the side. It was the best feeling to just sit and chill for a while whilst my head played catch up from the night before.
After our relaxing morning Giulia and I decided we really wanted to visit the Opera house so headed back for a tour around the grounds. It is said that the King only visited once because he was so outraged that it was more beautiful than the opera house in Vienna, I don’t know about that but it was definitely stunning. We were guided around and told about the history of the different rooms and the architecture of the building as a whole. It was a nice tour and interesting to see ‘behind the scenes’ which you probably wouldn’t have seen if you had just seen a show, I wish I had the chance to catch a ballet or opera though as it looked magical (and I’m a bit of a theatre geek.) Tickets are ridiculously cheap for shows so if your ever around and have a spare evening I would definitely recommend going.
I’m always up for finding free things to do in places I visit so we decided to take a stroll to the Central Market. Like most of the buildings in Budapest it was so pretty inside and out and was full of locals stocking up on fresh produce.
The upper floor was more touristy with every sort of souvenir imaginable but also had a great selection of on-the-go food. After our pretty rich food day the day before Giulia and I decided to share a Langos. It’s basically a donut kind of pizza, you can get whatever toppings you want but we decided to go for Nutella (because I’m a bit of an addict) banana and nuts. It was so gloopy and yummy and just everything I wanted and more. They’re extremely naughty but too good to turn down.
After making a mess we thought we’d try and burn off some of the calories (I dread to think how many we consumed) and walk down to see the parliament building at night. I’d heard that it was a must see so really wanted to see it from across the Danube. We took a slow walk across the chain bridge and made our way to a cool photo spot opposite the parliament. I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that we were practically the only tourists in some of these so called ‘tourist hotspots.’ You might be able to tell in some of my pictures but literally it was so quiet and peaceful you would never believe we were in a city. I loved pretty much having the place to ourselves, and being able to take our time in places rather than being rushed off by the next crowd of people. TRAVEL OUT OF SEASON!
Anyway the view was spectacular, it was lit up like the Magic Kingdom just a little spookier. Who knew a political building could be so pretty?
After ogling at the building for a while we took the metro back towards our apartment for night two in the ruin bars. Luckily we knew our limits and didn’t get too wasted. Yay for will power!
We woke up with fresh heads the next day and said goodbye to our lovely temporary home. As our flight wasn’t until later that afternoon we had decided the night before to go on a tour around the inside of the parliament building. We had researched the tours and thought that they started every 15 minutes in English. We were wrong. The next tour in English was at 1pm, basically we’d stuffed it. But alas, my good friend Giulia is Italian (and studies interpreting) so we hopped on to the Italian tour and she interpreted for me. She was so good ! I was like a proud mumma who had let their toddler off their stabilisers. Anyway after shedding a proud little tear I listened and took in all of (well some of) the information about the building. We saw the crown jewels and were told some other random facts about it; like how they created cigar holders with numbers on them so the speakers would know who’s is who’s. Clever ay.
After grabbing myself a postcard we begrudgingly said goodbye to our friends and hopped back on the metro to the airport. So many things made this trip so special, the architecture, being with my best friends and just enjoying the city at such a quiet time.
I fell in love with the city of Budapest, and I will definitely be going back.