When I booked a long weekend break to Budapest with my friend in September I was excited; but admittedly it wasn’t at the top of my list of places I wanted to go (Kiev, I’m looking at you). But in a way I think that was good as it meant that I wasn’t going with massively high expectations.
What I realised when I landed in Hungary though, was that even if I had had extremely high expectations, Budapest would have surpassed them all. It was stunning. I’d even go as far as saying it’s the most beautiful capital city I’ve been to.
As I had limited days off work to take, it was quite a quick trip to Budapest. My friend and I caught an early flight out from Manchester on a Saturday morning, and were there for lunchtime.
We caught a taxi to where we were staying – I’d always rather pay a little extra to avoid lugging a case around on public transport, even if it is only cabin sized.
We were staying at Economy Apartments, by Bajcsy–Zsilinszky út metro stop. The flat was pretty small – a few metres squared containing a living/dining/kitchen room; along with a duplex style top floor with a bed and nothing else. The bathroom was nice though and to be honest, the size didn’t really matter as we were only planning on using the room to sleep.
It was lovely and warm so I changed into my denim shorts and a cream lace vest and off we set to explore!
Our location meant we were just outside the city centre – three metro stops from Vörösmarty tér (the main quare); or a 25 minute walk.
We stopped off for lunch at a rather opulent (and expensive looking) cafe and were surprised to find that a sandwich and milkshake was only £8 – the most expensive meal we had our whole time there!
The first day basically consisted of us wandering around, getting our bearings. We had a look in some shops (I was mentally planning my purchases); before walking along the Danube, amazed at how pretty everything was – even the trams were cute!
In our stupidity though, we just couldn’t find Parliament. Wandering up and down the Danube, we wondered where Budapest’s iconic (not to mention most famous!!) building could be. Turns out we just hadn’t walked far enough – but more on that later.
At about 7pm we decided to head back to the apartment. Rather than walking, we bought a book of 10 metro tickets each and stopped off at Tesco, stocking up on cereal bars and crisps for dinner (soooo healthy!)
The drama of that evening as we got home was we couldn’t get into the apartment. The owner had mentioned about the door sticking and showed us what to do but in our tiredness, we both just nodded, hoping the other one was paying attention. And now we couldn’t get in.
Cue us calling the owner (no answer) and knocking on neighbours’ doors (they spoke no English – and were probably wondering what the two English girls who were clutching Tesco bags and waving keys were on about).
Eventually, as we’d just about given up hope, I somehow managed to let us in. No idea what I’d done differently, but from then on I was officially Designated Door Opener.
Safely inside, we relaxed the only way Brits know how to: with a cup of tea of course (I always take Tetley teabags with me as you never know when such a situation may arise!)
Snaffling our cereal bars and listening to a carefully crafted playlist (basically MØ, Kaiser Chiefs and Eurovision songs); we got ready for our first night out in Budapest.
I opted for a metallic silver dress that I’d bought a few weeks ago and hadn’t yet worn; and my beloved Monki platforms (comfiest shoes ever). Pre-drinking the vodka we bought at Tesco, we took a few selfies and outfit shots, and then headed off in search of cocktails.
Our first stop was Boutiq Bar. The internet claimed it was where all the Hungarian celebs hung out; and who knows – it could have been full of them but like we’d actually know! The place was packed, but we got a seat by the bar and a Budapest BBQ cocktail each complete with marshmallows to toast.
After that, we headed to another bar called Warm Up. There wasn’t actually a menu here – the idea was you told the bartender what you liked and he made you a bespoke cocktail.
The place was actually a bit dead (maybe the Hungarians don’t like cocktails or maybe it’s because it was outside the main city centre). We got talking to some locals but the whole situation soon got quite weird so we left. Well, we had been up since 4am and our beds were calling!
The second day we woke up feeling much more refreshed. We had another cereal bar for breakfast and I put on a pale blue playsuit (it was about 30 degrees!)
We had a clear plan in mind: catch the metro to Széchenyi fürdő and go to the circus (we were both ridiculously excited about this). Our plans were scuppered however when we turned up to an empty building: the circus was shut for the season! Undeterred, we spent the morning at the zoo next door.
After that, we walked round to Hősök tere (Heroes Square); and down Andrassy Avenue, with some extremely posh looking buildings (wouldn’t mind a flat there!). Next on our list was the Terror Museum. I’m fascinated by the USSR and this museum didn’t disappoint. Set on multiple floors, it gave a history of the USSR and Hungary, and there were dungeons on the ground floor (unfortunately we couldn’t figure out how to get to them, so ended up walking all the way back to the beginning!). Then I spent a good 20 mins deciding whether or not to buy a Stalin shaped candle (I didn’t, FYI).
Once we’d finished there, we caught the metro back to Vörösmarty tér and jumped on a boat tour – the main reason behind it to figure out where Parliament was!
Budapest was even prettier when viewed from the Danube, and with the sun starting to set, photos just couldn’t do it justice.
As we were in the centre, we decided that rather than going back to our flat, we’d have an early dinner instead. We went to a restaurant in Vörösmarty tér and whilst the food was nice, all of the other diners were really old couples, so we basically ate and left!
For our second night out we planned to check out a pharmacy-themed bar right by our flat called Bar Pharma. I put on a tartan slip dress and my trusty platforms but we got to the bar and found it was shut (thanks Google for lying and saying it was open!)
After wandering around we found an outdoor bar set in a courtyard which was cute – the place was strewn with fairy lights, and people were sat drinking on garden furniture. To be honest, we would have enjoyed it more if we were dressed casually – everyone was in jeans and Converse and they were shamelessly staring at us.
Determined not to call it a night we headed to one more bar called Kisüzem, which was cool and laid back. A double vodka and orange equated to around £2; which was quite nice!
On our third day we had a serious mission to complete: Operation Puffa Jacket. I’d seen a nice black one in Stradivarius on our first day but hadn’t had my credit card with me, so we hopped on a metro to get my purchase. I’m pleased to say said challenge was successful and it’s actually placed next to me right now as I write this!
Our next mission was to get across town and go to one of the spas – it’s what Budapest is famous for after all. We went to Szechenyi, the iconic baths. We asked for a cabin each but to our dismay, they’d sold out, so we had to slum it in the communal changing rooms. It did not make for a pleasant experience. I get that as Brits we’re pretty prude about these things, but people were just walking around letting everything all hang out! It was the fastest I’d ever gotten changed in my life.
Being in the outdoor pool with the sun beating down, you could easily forget you were in a capital city. We spent a couple of hours at Szechenyi baths, but we were conscious it was our last day and as we had other things to do, didn’t stay too long. Next time I’m back in Budapest, I’ll definitely be pre-booking a cabin and spending a day at the baths.
We skipped the communal showers and decided to get ready back at our apartment. Our metro ride back was not a fun one – a vile smelling man with a bin bag of clinking bottles decided to (despite the carriage being empty) come and sit next to me and my friend. He spent the whole trip scratching himself – it was disgusting.
Once we’d gotten back to the flat and changed (denim shorts and mint green vest) we caught the metro straight to Parliament. I’m amazed we missed a building that was so big. In fact, it was so vast we couldn’t fit it in a picture and it took us around 20 mins to walk around!
Stopping by the shoes on the Danube for a few minutes (that was quite sad); we then went off in search of lunch. We wanted to try traditional chimney cake but couldn’t find it anywhere, so settled for Starbucks instead.
Afterwards, we made the trek across the chain bridge and climbed up the hill to Buda castle. I’d thought the view of the city from the Danube was nice – but the view of Pest from the top of the hill was something else!
We had a quick wander around the top of the hill but by this time we were flagging, and knew we had bags to pack. Legs aching, we caught the funicular down to the bottom, crossed the bridge and went back to our apartment.
Bags packed, we got ready for our final evening in the Hungarian capital. I wore a black Cheap Monday dress and (you guessed it!) my Monki platforms. I’d brought my bomber jacket with me, but it was still so warm in the evening that even I didn’t need it!
We really picked our places well for the last night. We started off at Kiosk for dinner. Right by the Danube, we had dinner and drinks outside whilst they played Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and Kylie Minogue… all of the pop classics!
I had a very nice risotto dish and then we got started on the cocktails… the Sub Rosa was my favourite! Sipping a cocktail by the Danube with a warm breeze in the air felt perfect, and it was such a nice way to end the holiday.
After a good few hours at Kiosk, we took some pictures and then headed to Blue Fox. The staff there were lovely and so kind, and they served the best Clover Clubs! I would definitely go back there again.
Walking back to our apartment, we climbed into bed at 3.15…. and woke up at 4.15am to get to the airport. I suppose we might as well not have gone to bed!
The taxi drove us through the streets past all of the tourists still out enjoying themselves (it was very sad!). Our flight left at 6.45am and we were back in Manchester two hours later. After breakfast at Starbucks, we went our separate ways – my friend to Leeds and me to Nottingham.
I went to Budapest having no preconceptions about the place, but absolutely loved it – and I think the fact that we went in September when the sun was shining made it even better.
Like most places I’ve been to, it’s somewhere I’d like to go back. I want to spend a full day in the spa, spend some more time in Buda, visit Margitsziget (a park in the middle of the Danube!); and return to Kiosk and Blue Fox for cocktails. And I will! Soon.