My Top 7 Things to Do in Budapest

On a trip to Europe this spring, my friends and I had a blast visiting Budapest! We were in the city for a few days (see our itinerary here!) but it was enough time to come up with my list of things you have to do while in Budapest, whether it’s a quick trip like ours or you spend a little longer there, so here they are…

  1. Take in the views – from both sides of the city! Budapest is split down the middle by the Danube River, separating the two sides of the city, Buda and Pest. And each one has incredible views of the other. From Pest, you can walk along the river looking up at Buda Castle and Matthias Church or see them from the bell tower at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. And then look down at the Chain Bridge, the Parliament building and the rest of Pest from the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.
  1. Take in the views at night! I know I’ve already recommended checking out the views, but seeing them at night is worth its own bullet point! While we were in Budapest, we went on a dinner cruise and saw the sights from on the river itself. It was really neat to see the castle, the parliament building, Gellert hill and more all lit up at night!
  1. Spend a few hours at a thermal bath! There are many baths across the city, varying in what they offer and how traditional they are. Find one that suits you and make some time to relax at one of them – read about our experience at the Gellert Thermal Baths here!

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  1. Check out a ruin bar or two! An experience that is unique to Budapest, ruin bars are in old buildings in the city’s seventh district that had been damaged in World War II, where instead of fixing them up first, they just set up bars in them. We went on a pub tour and got to check out a few different bars – more in this post. If you don’t see any others, at least check out Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar!

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  1. Try the street food! I’ve never been to a city where I heard more about the street food than in Budapest – and all the hype was on point! We tried a lot of different things – favorites were lángos, a fried dough topped with sour cream, cheese and garlic, and chimney cakes, spiral shaped dough covered with sugar roasted on a spit over charcoal.
  1. Take a walk down Andressey Ut! This beautiful avenue is a UNESCO World Heritage Street lined with boutiques and elegant mansions, as well as the State Opera House.

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  1. Hang out at Elisabeth’s Square on a nice day! Elisabeth’s Square is a large park in the middle of the city, where you can drink a frocc (a wine spritzer) at the open air bar, get a table at the Akvarium Klub (aquarium club – named such because it is underneath the fountain in the middle of the square!) or just relax with friends in the square’s green space!

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Those are my 7 must-do’s in Budapest! Is there anything you’d add to my list?

Two (and a half) Days in Budapest

img_0010The third leg of our trip to Europe this past spring took us to Budapest, Hungary! We took a train from Vienna and arrived in the early afternoon, with 2 and a half days to fit in everything we wanted to see and do. Here’s how we did it!

After getting settled into our Airbnb, we discovered that Budapest’s Spring Festival was going on at Vorosmarty Square just a few minutes walk away! The way our tour guide described it was that it’s like the Christmas festival but with nicer weather. We wandered around the festival for a while and then grabbed dinner at a restaurant on the square.

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After dinner, we went on a pub tour and got to check out Budapest’s nightlife. We had a blast visiting four different bars, including Szimpla Kert, the most famous ruin bar, trying a few local drinks and making new friends with others in our tour group! I’d highly recommend the tour, read more about it in my last post.

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Szimpla Kert ruin bar

The next morning we went back to the Spring Festival to grab breakfast (the street food in Budapest is amazing!) and then joined Trip to Budapest’s Free Budapest Walk tour. They offer it every day at 10:30 and it met right in Vorosmarty Square where the festival was. The tour lasted about 3 hours and it started on the Pest side of the city, passing through the Elisabeth Square and by St. Stephen’s Cathedral before heading across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side. We climbed up the hill to Buda Castle where there’s incredible views looking onto the Pest side of the city across the Danube river. We saw the changing of the guards at the presidential palace, walked to St. Matthias Church and ended the tour at the Fisherman’s Bastion (with more great views of Pest). The tour was fantastic, a really good way to get our bearings of the city.

By the time the tour ended it was mid-afternoon and we were hungry again so we stopped at a café in Buda for coffee and dessert and then on our walk back to our Airbnb, we stopped at a street vendor for a langos, a delicious fried dough with sour cream, cheese and garlic.

Back at our Airbnb, we got ready and then headed to St. Gellert Baths for a relaxing evening at the thermal baths. Between the indoor and outdoor pools, and the sauna and steam rooms, we left that evening feeling rejuvenated and refreshed for the 2nd half of our trip! More on our visit to the thermal baths in this post.

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The next morning, we took a walk past the Parliament building – it looks more like a castle than the actual Buda Castle! Then we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral where we saw St. Stephen’s mummified hand and climbed to the top of the bell tower, another spot with great views of the city!

From there, we took a walk down Andrassey Avenue, a UNESCO World Heritage street lined with elegant mansions and townhouses and boutiques, ending at Heroes Square.

Then after continuing our walk into City Park, we took the metro (the first metro system in Europe!) to Elisabeth Square to sit outside and drink a Frocc (a wine spritzer). The square was full of young people just hanging out in the sunshine – brought us back to our days in college hanging out on Ohio State’s oval!

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Elisabeth Square

In the evening, we sprung for a dinner cruise to see the Danube all lit up at night. After stuffing ourselves of Hungarian foods at the dinner buffet, we went up on the top deck of the boat to take in the views!

And that wraps up our fun two and a half days in Budapest!

Budapest Nightlife: Ruin Bars & a Celebrity Sighting!

If you’re spending any time in Budapest, one thing you must do is visit a ruin bar or two. Ruin bars are unique to Budapest; they started popping up just about 15 years ago in the seventh district in the historic Jewish quarter of the city. They are built into old abandoned houses, factories and other buildings that were damaged during World War II and instead of fixing them up first, they just set up bars inside them!

To get a taste of the nightlife and the ruin bars in Budapest, we did a pub crawl on our first night in the city. We did a tour through Trip to Budapest Free Walking Tours  (though this tour wasn’t free, it was 10 euros) and even though it was a Sunday night, we had a blast! They have pub tours daily that you don’t even have to sign up for in advance, you just show up. We had about 10 people on our tour and had a great time hanging out with the group and our guide for a few hours.

Throughout the tour we visited 4 different bars and our tour fee included drinks at the first three, so we got to try a few local Hungarian drinks. The first bar, called Szomszed, was on a pedestrian street called Gozsdu Udvar that was lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and patios. Szomszed had great live music and our free drink was unlike any other shot I’ve had before – it was raspberry syrup with vodka that was pushed through a little gadget that oxidized it and you had to shoot it right away while it was still fizzy!

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Our next stop was a bar connected to a hostel called Ellatonaz and it was pretty dead since it was a Sunday night (though it seemed like it’d be a fun place on a busier night!). But we did get to try palinkak, a very strong fruit flavored liquor that is homemade (basically Hungarian moonshine) that was just made legal in the last few years. The next bar, Ellato Kert, was much busier and had a really fun chill vibe with an open air bar and a big patio in its courtyard.

And we finished the night at the original and most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert! It was such a neat place, full of random décor all over – from mismatched chairs and tables to a bathtub to an entire car! We had a lot of fun hanging out with some of our new friends from the tour even after the tour was over.

And to top off a fun night, we also had a celebrity sighting… We saw Chris Noth aka Mr. Big from Sex and the City just hanging out at Szimpla too!

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We had such a fun night on the pub tour – not only was it a great way to check out the nightlife, but we got to see some cool spots with a local guide to show us around and made some new friends!

The Baths of Budapest, Hungary

img_0008If you’re visiting Budapest, one thing that you have to do is spend some time at one of the many thermal baths! Halfway through our two-week Eurotrip this spring, we arrived in Budapest, Hungary, and our relaxing visit to the baths could not have come at a better time after all of the walking we’d been doing.

There are several different bathhouses that you can visit in Budapest and they are all different. We did some research before we left, which I definitely recommend to make sure you’re going to one that you’ll enjoy. There are more traditional baths, like Rudas, where the weekdays are single-sex days (and bathing-suit-optional on those days) and then mixed on the weekends. And then at the other end of the spectrum there’s Szechenyi, where during the day you can have relax in its many thermal pools, but it hosts Bath Parties at night on the weekends. The bathhouses also offer a variety of spa services so that may be another thing to consider when choosing one. Lonely Planet and BudapestbyLocals.com had helpful articles to decide which one to visit!

We decided to go to St. Gellert Thermal Baths, as it was pretty middle of the road in terms of how traditional it was. We didn’t want to go to a single-sex, swimsuit-optional bathhouse but still wanted a relaxing atmosphere over a party atmosphere. Plus we had heard that Gellert was beautiful!

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When we got there, we had to decide if we wanted cabins or just lockers, which cost a little less. We didn’t know what to expect so when the girl at the ticket sales recommended that we get two cabins between the four of us, that’s what we went with. The cabins turned out to be stalls that were just big enough for one person to change in. In hindsight, we didn’t need both cabins and could have gone with just one. But the cabins were convenient, we were able to store all of our stuff in them and they gave us waterproof wristbands that unlocked them.

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One of the changing room cabins

Once we dropped our stuff off in our cabins, we headed to our first pool. We started indoors in the swimming pool section, which was an incredible room intricately carved columns leading up to high domed ceilings with skylights. We didn’t have swimming caps which were required for the actual swimming pool so we relaxed in the 97 degree F thermal pool for a while first. Then we went outside, where there was an outdoor thermal pool and a sauna (plus a wave pool that wasn’t open because it was too early in the season when we were there in early April).

We had read that the best way to relax in the baths was to go from hot to cold back to hot, so we first tried it out between the sauna, the thermal pool and an immersion pool right in between them that was a cool 66 degrees F. The first time I tried it, I couldn’t dip more than a toe in the cold pool! But then we went back inside to more thermal pools ranging from 96 to 104 degrees as well as steam rooms (which were not quite as hot as the sauna at 194 degrees F which we could barely stay in for a whole minute!) and I finally got the hang of the hot-cold-hot thing!

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We stayed at Gellert for a few relaxing hours which was just enough time for us to feel re-charged and refreshed for the second half of our trip!

Sneak Peek part 2: Budapest and Venice 

I’ve made it back to the US after my two weeks in Europe! More to come on my trip but while I’m getting over my jet lag, here are some more photos, this time from the 2nd week of our trip, half of it in Budapest and the later half of the week in Venice…

Starting with Budapest, Hungary!

 

The Parliament Building in Budapest

 

Hero Square in Budapest
View from the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica

 

One of the pools at the Gellert Baths
A photo from Fisherman’s Bastion, that’s the Parliament building over my shoulder!

 

 

A shot of Buda Castle all lit up at night

 

And a few from Venice, Italy!

 

One of the many many canals we walked over!
A couple of gondolas parked along the Grand Canal

 

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St. Mark’s Basilica in Piazza San Marco

 

On the colorful island of Burano!

And that’s it for today’s sneak peek. Once I’ve had a chance to catch up on sleep here in the next few days, we’ll start posting more about all of the places I visited on my trip!