In November I headed to Budapest for a three night break. In part one of my travel diary from the trip (which you can read here) my ears had popped on the flight and never unpopped and I sneezed my way around Buda. We’d just gone to bed on evening two of our trip, I believe, so let’s jump right in on the morning of our third day…
DAY THREE (Morning): A walk along the Danube
Having eaten very little so far during the trip, I woke up absolutely ravenous on day three, and insisted that we simply must leave the apartment as soon as possible so that I could be fed. There was also a development on the ear front: I could hear! On one side, anyway. The other remained stubbornly blocked, but progress is progress, so I went with it.
We headed for vegan eatery Great Bistro near Arany János street station, but found it closed when we arrived. Turns out it opened half an hour later than indicated online, which didn’t help the hunger but did allow me to force Rob to take a quick outfit snap for instagram. Once we did get inside, we had a very tasty but cold chickpea omelette (me), and tiny/also cold pancakes with peanut butter (Rob). This place has loads of good reviews, so maybe it was an off day.
Having decided on an activity that would fill much of the afternoon, we decided to spend the morning exploring some of Pest on foot, and started by wandering down to the Hungarian Parliament building again – this time in daylight – to make that our starting point for a walk along the Danube.
Not far along from the Parliament building we came across the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, marked with a plaque stating ‘To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45’. There is something really visceral about this place; you feel something as soon as you are there. There were quite a few people there at the same time as us, and even so it was silent, respect and reflection hanging in the air.
We walked past bridge after bridge – there are a lot of bridges – pausing to sit on benches whenever my stuffed up nose rendered me unable to breathe again. We ended at Central Market Hall, Budapest’s largest indoor market, where we browsed a variety of grocery stalls on the ground floor and picked up some Paprika to take home. On the first floor is souvenirs, and we did wander up to have a look, but it was very crowded, so quickly became the only point of the trip that I was pleased I could only hear with one ear.
DAY THREE (Afternoon): A very busy bath
We’d chosen to go to the Szechenyi Spa Baths in the afternoon, the most visited in Budapest, simply based on the fact that the location fitted well in our ‘make it up as we go along’ itinerary and the photos looked nice. Since we seemed to be making good time and the weather was so beautiful, we opted to walk all the way there down Andrassy Avenue – a road that runs through Pest that our AirBnb host described as ‘Budapest’s Champs-Elysees’. It was, honestly, a really lovely walk, ending at the iconic monuments in Heroes Square.
It was time for the thing I was possibly looking forward to the most; essentially having a very long and very public bath. We paid 5200 forints (about £15) each for a ticket including locker use, and also paid to rent towels; 1000 forints (nearly £3) for the towel hire and 2000 as a deposit.
I can’t even count the number of different pools, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas there were (many, basically). We tried lots of them, and I recall sitting in a peppermint pool (I KNOW) for a while, but the highlight was exactly what you would expect and exactly what you will see on all the photos; the outdoor bath. A huge pool so warm that steam was rising into the freezing air. The only problem was the awkward run-shuffle in swimwear and a tiny towel from the safety of the building to the sanctuary of the warm water.
And what’s more – the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my other ear sorted itself out. A mere two days after landing. What a time to be alive! Once we were out and dried (after a bit of a palaver where some little scamp had taken one of our towels while we were in a pool) we wandered around something that looked a bit like Hogwarts but turned out to be Vajdahunyad Castle.
DAY THREE (Evening): The part where we finally eat dinner
We began the evening at another Christmas market, drinking more hot alcohol and watching a little Christmas cartoon projected onto the side of a building. Bravo Budapest, bravo.
Another day without all the proper meals had passed and since my appetite was now firmly back in the game, it was time to locate some dinner. Despite it being freezing, we opted to go to Karavan Budapest, a street food court with loads of delicious sounding options. Unfortunately the goulash stall had run out of vegan goulash, so Rob had beef goulash and I went to the vegan burger stall instead, choosing a seitan burger which was great – easily the best (not that there was much competition) vegan meal I had there.
When we’d eaten we walked all of about 10 steps and found ourselves outside Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ruin pub. We’d been thinking we needed to get to a ruin pub while we were there, so snotty and slug-like though I was, it only seemed right to head in for a drink. This place is absolutely massive to say the least; there were so many different rooms, little nooks and corridors, and everywhere you looked it was filled with…stuff. Crap description, but that’s what it was. Furniture, graffiti, art, and all manner of curiosities, all in a fun, lively but respectful atmosphere.
DAY FOUR (Morning): Oh god it’s early
For our final day, Rob had a great idea. He would get up when it was still dark, apparently, and go back over to Buda to get some photos of the sunrise over Pest. I felt like shit, but the FOMO got me, and so grumbling and coughing and looking quite a lot like a troll, I trailed after him.
We got off the tram too early, meaning we had to walk for AGES to get opposite the parliament building, so I was very much awake by the time we got into the position he was looking for. And yes, it was beautiful; hopefully the next few photos will attest to that. I didn’t see any recommendations to do this while I was researching Budapest, and I have to say – I would really recommend.
DAY FOUR (the real morning): House of Terror
I didn’t want to leave Budapest without visiting a museum, so we spent our final morning at the House of Terror, hoping for an insight into some of Hungary’s troubled history.
Potentially unpopular opinion; I thought this museum was quite poorly executed. The subject matter is obviously very harrowing, but it’s not communicated with a visitor at all well. Many signs were not translated into English and although there were A4 pieces of paper to pick up and read in every room, the text on these wasn’t obviously related to the things in the room. Perhaps you needed the audio guide, but unless that comes as standard I don’t think it should be necessary to purchase an add-on just in order to understand the content.
Perhaps the lurgy had addled my brain and I just wasn’t feeling very intelligent that day, I don’t know. I just felt that it could have been done so well – I was hoping for something Anne Frank house/Gdansk European Solidarity Centre standard, the kind of place that you think about for days afterwards, but it was a little disappointing and all I really felt was frustration at not learning as much as I had hoped.
Time was running out when we left the House of Terror, so it was back to the apartment to pick up our bags before catching the bus back to the airport.
So that’s all from me – I really would recommend Budapest as a city break destination, it’s a very cool and extremely beautiful city with loads to do. I’d love to go back, perhaps even without snotting all over everything every ten seconds (and I expect Budapest would like me not to do that too). Thanks for a bloody lovely time Budapest x