Budapest is a city Rob and I have wanted to visit together for a long time; Rob’s grandmother is Hungarian, you see, but he’d never actually been, so our trip in November was a long time coming and very eagerly anticipated (me for the gram, Rob for the goulash. Or something like that).
Since there were some festive themed posts I had to get out when we got back, writing up anything from Budapest took a bit of a back seat. There’s also the little fact that I was a bit of a mess on this trip, of course, and when I say that I mean felt like a completely broken human, not that I had a three day piss up. I had flu, was permanently cold, very headachey and had only a vague idea of what was going on at any given time during the trip, so I wasn’t sure how capable of writing about it I would be…still, this is a travel diary, so I’m just going to give it a go and apologise that feeling crappy features heavily. It’s no reflection on the city, which was beautiful!
I’ve tried to include a few practical bits too, in case you do happen to have found your way here seeking recommendations for an upcoming or potential trip and instead found a bunch of incoherent ramblings (sorry, if that’s the case – but hopefully you’ll stay anyway?).
DAY ONE (Evening): Hello Budapest, goodbye my hearing
We didn’t land in Budapest until around 3pm or so on our first day, and took the bus into the city (bus 100E leaves every half an hour and is 900 HUF – about £2.50). It was dark by the time we got to our Airbnb because of it being the middle of winter, but the ride was a reasonable 40 minutes. I’d had the most uncomfortable flight ever, as the fluey sinuses had made the pressure from the cabin really painful, and when we stepped off the bus my ears were still yet to unpop, which had the great effect of making me partially deaf.
Our Airbnb hostess was a lovely if VERY talkative lady; I’m sure this would have been great at any other time, but all I could think about was whether she would notice that my nose had essentially turned into a tap, so it was quite a relief when she left us to it.
The evening was never going to be a wild one, so we wandered towards the Danube to see the Hungarian Parliament building lit up in all it’s glory. It’s one of the most impressive structures I’ve seen pretty much anywhere, and has more than a touch of gothic magic about it.
As I was feeling the effects of being out in the cold more than I usually would, we google mapped our way to a Vegan restaurant we’d found online, but when we arrived it wasn’t open. Ah…the first vegan eating problem of the trip. After completely failing to locate anywhere else suitable, we ended up in Lidl (anyone else absolutely love going to supermarkets abroad?!) picking up some bits to take back to the apartment and then walking back to eat McDonalds fries in bed.
Needless to say, my inner travel snob cried and disowned me for falling back on the golden arches, but I also felt a bit like I might die by this point and I still couldn’t hear, so there our first evening in Budapest ended.
DAY TWO (Morning): Trinity Square and crazy hair
I’d fallen asleep without setting an alarm (and potentially clutching a coke in one hand and a biscuit in the other, but who’s judging), so woke late on the morning of our first full day. To this day I still have to push aside my dismay when I think of this because it is NOT my preferred way to do a citybreak.
I felt like a slug when I did surface and to my horror I found that my ears remained firmly popped, but I wasn’t prepared to spend a moment longer wasting precious exploring time so we got up, I bundled up, and we headed out to explore Buda. We hopped on a bus over the river, with no idea where to get off, but decided the moment was right when Matthias Church was in view, which is the rather beautiful building the last couple of photos have been of.
This, it turned out, was Trinity Square, boasting Matthias Church, with it’s striking colourful tiles, and Fisherman’s Bastion, from which you can see some really stunning views out over Pest opposite. We didn’t pay to enter Matthias Church as we were quite aware of time escaping us, but supposedly it is lovely. We did pay the 290 HUF (or 1 Euro) to go to one of the top towers of Fisherman’s Bastion – the view was wonderful, but you can definitely get very similar ones from the unpaid section. It is VERY windy up there; it was freezing of course, but I imagine even in warmer weather it might get a bit breezy, so if you are a woman with long hair oh god please bring a hairband.
DAY TWO (afternoon): Exploring Buda
With the arrival of the afternoon we decided to move on, and walked through some pretty, interesting streets in Buda old town to the Buda Castle area. Deciding we didn’t mind skipping the exhibits inside, we thought we’d take the Castle Hill Funicular down the hill as we hadn’t taken it up. The funicular goes between the chain bridge and the castle and it’s not expensive – under £5 – but I wouldn’t bother doing it again. It was the shortest ride ever; really good for anyone who would struggle with an uphill walk though.
Thinking we would be unlikely to find ourselves on this side of the Danube again, we felt we should make sure we saw some more of Buda, so opted to wander up to the Citadel. It’s one of those things that’s marked as an ‘attraction’ or ‘point of interest’ on the tourist maps but if you don’t really know what you’re looking for there’s a lot of ‘Are we here now?’ ‘Do you think this is it?’ – but when we came to the fortress at the top of Gellert Hill we realised we’d arrived. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Sight and and a symbol of freedom, topped off with the state of liberty; and the views from here were excellent. We popped into the Cave Church, which is built into the side of Gellert Hill, on our way down, for a brief look around the chapel.
On walking over the nearest bridge back over to Pest we stumbled almost immediately into a Christmas Market. You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned food yet, and that’s because quite outrageously we hadn’t actually eaten anywhere, just snacked on fruit and crisps from the previous night’s shopping trip. Super hungry by this point, Rob used it as an excuse to try various meats and other things while the stupid vegan (i.e me) placated herself with some potato (which was, to be fair, delicious).
DAY TWO (evening): 360 Bar and hot alcohol in igloos
Our late afternoon market trip meant we skipped dinner (I honestly feel like I am writing about a totally different person, this is all so unlike me) but felt like we should drop in somewhere for the evening after the debacle of the previous night. We walked over to 360 bar, a rooftop bar which is open all summer and newly open in the winter too – with the addition of igloos!
I love this kind of novelty, so I was all too happy about going here. There were blankets on every chair, lights on each table and heaters inside the igloos so you could get toasty – as well as a selection of hot cocktails on the menu. I can very certainly say that despite still feeling rough as hell and STILL not being able to hear, I really enjoyed myself; the views were great even when it was properly dark, and the service was friendly and welcoming.
And, because I seem to have gone on for quite a lot of words, I’ll leave it there for now. I hope you’ll join me again for part 2 (which will be up within a couple of weeks) for photos from Pest, our trip highlight, why I was disappointed by a certain attraction, and – of course – to find out when my ears unpopped, which is undoubtedly the thing you’re most interested in. That’s all for now lovely things!