Monday 11th November – Thursday 14th November 2019
The city of Budapest, Hungary has been high on our bucket list for a long time and it felt so good to finally tick it off after a 3-night city break...
We booked our flights just 8 weeks before our trip from Bristol Airport with Ryan Air costing £120pp. Please check new Ryan Air baggage restrictions as you no longer have a hand luggage case included and need to add on a package which includes luggage and priority boarding. The flight time is just 2.5hours.
After landing we hopped straight into our pre-booked private transfer with Cityrama. It was so quick and easy. The driver was waiting for us, parked just outside the terminal with his clean minibus which had lots of space for us and our luggage. The drive is around 30-minutes into the centre of the city. The cost of this is 40Euro per way and means you do not have to wait in the lines outside the airport for taxis. We would also advise to be careful with the taxis in Budapest. Always use the yellow city taxis and ask locals what the cost should be before you take the journey as they often try to double the cost and catch many people out. We would always order ours through the hotel or a hotel we were passing by and check the cost with them first.
The driver took us straight to our hotel; La Prima Fashion Hotel by Mellowmood hotels. The hotel is located on the Pest side of the city. The city is divided into 2 parts with the River Danube splitting them straight down the middle. Pest is the ‘new’ flatter side of the city where the parliament is located and Buda the ‘old’ hilly side of the city where the Buda Castle is located. Our hotel was just off the shopping street and around the corner from the Plaza Square, the river and the 3 main bridges crossing the river. It was perfect location meaning we could walk around mostly everywhere. The hotel offers a range of rooms from simple doubles to suites. We stayed in a gorgeous deluxe double room which included breakfast. This cost around 120Euro per night depending on the dates you travel. The hotel was so clean and comfortable with lovely friendly staff. The breakfast was perfect with lots of options including vegetarian and gluten free setting us up for our long days of exploring.
La Prima Fashion Hotel. Pyjamas by Tog 24.
The Christmas markets were located just around the corner from our hotel in Plaza Square, so we decided to head there after we had checked in for our first evening in the city of Budapest. The markets start on the 1st November. We had a little stroll around the various stalls and headed across to the river (a 5-minute walk) near the famous chain bridge. We found a perfect little restaurant to eat alongside the river with a view of the chain bridge all lit up and the Buda castle in the background. The Dubarry Restaurant had a great understanding of gluten free and talked through the menu with me. A two course meal and bottle of wine in this prime spot cost just 50Euro. It was magic to sit there with the view and the traditional yellow trams going past under the stars, heaters and blankets. If you are on a bit of a budget there are lots of cheaper restaurants around and lots of food options in the markets.
After a good night’s sleep and a fuelling breakfast we started our private 9.30am tour with Budapest Tuk Tuk. Our lovely guide Paul took us around some of his favourite parts of the city as we told him we had not yet seen any sights only arriving the night before. It was so fun exploring the city in a tuk tuk. After months in Asia we love tuk tuks anyway but for city tours they are perfect. You can see everything and get a real feel for it. It is so cosy in the winter months with the blankets. We were not cold at all. We crossed over the beautiful Liberty Bridge into the Buda side past The Gellert Spa and headed up to our first stop which was The Liberty Statue overlooking the whole city. Next, we drove across to the Buda Castle to see St.Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. The architecture is so beautiful and again provides a good view of the city. We had a little look around, but it was quite busy up there, so we planned to come back early in the morning. On the way down Paul stopped at a local’s spot where the other tours do not go. It was the circle of philosopher’s statues. This is a very powerful piece of art symbolising that all religions can live together peacefully, well worth a visit. There is also a statue of the city up here for the blind. We then drove back down along the river past the view of the parliament building, then across the bridge to drive outside of the parliament and past The Shoes of Danube statue. Another powerful piece of art symbolising the shoes of the Jewish people who were shot into the river here during the war. It was then back to the hotel for us. We would recommend this 2-hour tour which costs around 50Europp. Paul was a great guide with lots of knowledge on the rich history of the city.
Budapest Tuk Tuk tour. Wearing Tog 24
After our tour we fancied getting cosy so popped to the famous Gerbeaud Café on Plaza Square for some coffee and cake. This place is famous for its cakes and chocolates in the city and beautiful interior. It did not disappoint and was nice to enjoy gluten free cake. We were now ready for an afternoon relax and soak…
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths and there are a few to choose from. We chose to go to The Gellert Spa as it was recommended to us and the images looked fabulous. The most famous Szechenyi Spa does look beautiful, but we have not heard too many great things from our community. People complained of the crowds and dirty water, so we did avoid this one but please make your own judgements. The Gellert Spa is located just over The Liberty Bridge in Buda and was around a 20-minute walk from our hotel. For entry to the pool and thermal baths the cost was 17Europp and then we needed to hire towels and some trunks for George. You pay a deposit on this and get half of your money back on return. It was a few euros per item. If you can bring your own towels do. You get a changing room which are mixed sex where you can lock in your belongings. The beautiful main pool isn’t heated but the air is warm and then there are 2 smaller thermal baths to relax in. There are loungers around to relax too. We spent around 2 hours here. The showers are basic but fine to use and clean.
The Gellert Spa
We then headed back to our hotel to get ready for another beautiful evening in Budapest. Tonight we would head over to the Jewish Quarter for the first time as we had been told there is lots going on over there at night in terms of places to eat and the famous ruin bars. The Jewish Quarter is just a cool hang out in general with its street art, cool café culture and synagogue so we would definitely be coming back. We headed straight for Gozsdu Udvar which was a 20-minute walk from the hotel. This is like an alleyway full of restaurants and bars with lots of music, fairy lights and a fab atmosphere. You can find everything here from Jamie’s Italian to small independents, there really is something for everyone. After food we headed for the ruin bars which are a 10-minute walk from there. You need to look for Szimpla Kert and then the ruin bars are inside of here. You can’t miss it with the bouncers and interesting architecture and graffiti. There is a street food area next door with varying cuisines all in food vans. If you have been to Glastonbury Festival you may be able to imagine what the ruin bars are like a little bit, but honestly it is crazy! There are lots of little bars inside one big area, but you can walk in and out with your drinks it does not matter. There is lots of graffiti and random things inside. Drinks are cheap, and we would highly recommend going even if just for one drink. But beware this is grunge at its best!
Szimpla Kert ruin bars
For our last day we were up, fed and out early by 7am to create our content and catch the attractions without the crowds. We headed straight for the castle area in a taxi which cost about £5 which we ordered at the hotel. It was just a 10-minute drive. The first stop was Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias Church which was even more beautiful in the peace and quiet. You also do not have to pay to explore certain areas as the ticket office is not yet open, but the church is shut, and you must pay to go inside. The day before we popped our heads in and it was stunning. After a little exploring, we made our way down the hill to have a walk along the river. There is a very cool funicular which is just like an old tram that takes you up and down the steep hill if you don’t fancy the walk. We headed along the river for around 20-minutes to see the parliament view again and get some snaps. You can cross the river and visit the parliament inside for a fee, but we did not have the time to do this. It is so peaceful walking along the river, especially in the autumn sunshine. After this we headed back to the chain bridge as we had not yet walked across it. Next, we headed to New York Café which is part of the famous New York Palace Hotel as it has a beautiful vintage interior. Unfortunately, we left after 10-minutes! The staff were very rude, and they could not offer anything gluten free. The menu is very overpriced compared to other nice places. The café to the left of the entrance looked really nice so we headed in there and unfortunately, they did not offer too much gluten free either in terms of something light, so they looked up a gluten free café for us and we headed there. Café Freepekseg is completely gluten free and offers everything from croissants to pizza it was a dream.
As we were now back in the Jewish Quarter, we had a little look around at the street art which you can see all around. We then headed into the main synagogue on Dohany Street. It was 15Europp to enter which includes a guided tour in your language. We have never been inside of a synagogue before, so we were intrigued. This one had so much history it was a very interesting and moving experience. A little random but if you are looking for some flowers or gifts in the city head to Arioso Florist in the Jewish Quarter. We wanted some flowers as photograph props plus I was intrigued to check out their floristry as a fellow florist.
The Chain Bridge
For our last night we headed out for a nice meal at Cyrano Restaurant which was just around the corner from our hotel. I t was so nice to sit under the heater with blankets and watch the city go by. George had decided to go Hungarian for the last night choosing goulash soup and paprika chicken and I went for a vegetarian gluten free pasta. The soup went down well but the chicken not so good. George had to send it back as it looked under cooked. It was a very good restaurant with lots of people eating there both local and tourist, but the waiter assured us the meat had been boiled for 3 hours and that this is how Hungarian people served it. They kindly offered George another dish and we left happy. To finish the trip, we headed to the 360 bar where we knew they had rooftop views and igloos to hang out in. It was a 20-minute walk and when we got there the igloos were fully booked. There was lots of outdoor seating but with no heaters it was too cold. We imagine in the summer it would be great. Luckily as we were leaving someone left so we got to experience the igloo. If being honest it makes a cool picture, but it is overpriced and overrated. They get steamed up so you cannot see the view outside, you are in there with other people and if others order the cheese fondant then the smell of cheesey feet fills the air which is not ideal.
And just like that our 3-night stay was over. We would recommend 4-5 nights here as there is so much to see and take in. If you can only do 3 nights, it is still doable, and we really enjoyed every minute of it. It was back to the hotel for our last nights sleep before heading back to the airport in the morning with Cityrama. Our driver was a very interesting man who lived through the Soviet Union days of Hungary. He had lots of stories and history to tell us.
The weather in November was surprisingly mild. We were expecting it to be cold and although it was a little cold it was actually warmer than England. We had some rain and some sunshine so we would say autumn is a good time to visit especially with all of the seasonal changes happening.
Things to do in Budapest:
Tuk tuk tour
St Matthias Church
Philosophers circle of statues
Shoes of Danube
Duhany Road Synagogue
St Pauls Basilica
With love from the globe,
Isabelle & George.
Currently in England.