Discovering Budapest

Sunday, 25 March 2018

It was that time of year again where my sister and I went on a little city break, this year Budapest! A city we had both heard lots about and were very excited to explore. We were there from Monday to Wednesday (cheaper flights, what can I say?), which gave us plenty of time to tick of a few sights. As you can see in the pictures there was snow on the ground when we landed which meant it was verrrrrry cold. I would definitely recommend looking up the weather before you go as most of the things to see involve being outside so keeping wrapped up warm is paramount.

Budapest is chock-a-block with beautiful buildings. One of my favourite things to do in European cities is to visit historical buildings such as royal houses or churches and have a look at the architecture and Budapest did not disappoint. If you have similar interests then you must visit St Stephen's Basilica and Matthius Church, you have to pay to enter Matthius Church but I would say it's worth it. The interior is unlike any other I've seen before in a Church, it was also a nice break from the cold! Parliament is a magnificent structure; unfortunately we weren't able to go in as the tickets were sold out so if it's something you're keen to do then I would look into pre-booking tickets to avoid disappointment. The royal palace is also a must, if not for a closer look at the building itself then definitely turning 180 degrees and seeing the view of Budapest itself. We didn't go inside the palace, as it's now museums, which didn't really spark our interest. But we did walk around the grounds and took in all the views of the city from the hilltop. 

We also visited the Great Synagogue, which, in the lonely planet guide, said it was one of the top sights in Budapest. We definitely felt a bit underwhelmed when we left; yes it's a beautiful building and the grounds along with its history of wartime, was very moving. We couldn't help but feel that the £11 entry fee (or thereabouts) was a bit steep. It's not the most awesome building I've visited and to be honest, for that price, I'd say you could probably give it a miss. Another sight you could probably give a miss is the Franciscan Monastery ruins. Located on Margaret Island it's probably a good 10/15 minute walk to get there and it's literally two walls. I'm normally very trusting of the Lonely Planet guidebooks but I definitely don't think this was worth the walk.

If you're looking for something a bit more "fun" then look no further than the Buda Castle Labyrinth. A network of tunnels underground taking you through the history of Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula. No not the vampire as modern fiction would suggest, the prince. There was at one point a tunnel where you're in complete darkness and you have to find your way through. I'm proud to say I didn't walk into any walls but I definitely came close a few times. The whole labyrinth had creepy lighting and fog and there were certain points where it felt very eerie. I think the whole place was very well done! It probably didn't help that we were a couple of the only people there; Tuesday afternoon is obviously not a very busy time.

Another attraction that Budapest is pretty famous for is its thermal baths; we decided to do this on our last day as it was a bit more relaxing. We went to the Gellert Baths, the building itself was pretty spectacular and the pools were lovely. There were two thermal baths; one at 40 degrees and one at 36 and it actually got to the point where we got a bit too hot. There was still snow on the ground outside so you'd think we wouldn't have wanted to move! There is also a space upstairs where you can lay on some sun beds. The whole building was really warm so it was nice being able to dry off before leaving. 

Now onto one of the most important things - FOOD. To be very honest, I didn't feel Budapest catered very well for vegetarians. We came across the odd vegan cafe/restaurant, Vegan Love in particular was delicious, but other than that most restaurants had either one option or none at all! Vegetarianism is obviously a choice I have made for myself however it is disappointing when you're left with one option that doesn't sound particularly exciting. We did come across one restaurant that made me a special vegetarian meal as part of a set menu, which beforehand was either pork, or salmon, which I thought was really nice but I don't think every restaurant would be up for that. If you fancy Italian, Da Mario did an amazing pizza. Pesti Dizno; where we ate our first meal, had a really cute decor and particularly good food. One of the best places to go for food is the Karavan street food courtyard where I had a vegan fried cheese burger (pictured above) and yes it was a good as it looks. The courtyard has a number of food stalls with different cuisines so you're sure to find something to your taste. One last thing, if you like pastry you must try kurtoskalacs. Available at many places, I had cinnamon on mine and it was beaut.

As far as bars are concerned you MUST go to a ruin bar. Basically a bar built up from ruins. The one we went to was called Szimpla Kert and it had this really interesting look (see picture above) we stopped off here for a beer but there is also food available. As it gets later is gets busier and I believe it's actually open until 4am so you could potentially stay all night. There are many different ruin bars dotted around if this one is a bit out of the way. They're very different to anything I've experienced in London so definitely worth a visit.

Overall I really liked the vibe of Budapest, the locals spoke good English and I thought everything was pretty reasonable priced (minus the Great Synagogue). It did seem quite quiet at night but I'm sure that was probably more to do with us being there Monday to Wednesday instead of the weekend. One thing I must mention which I did touch on earlier, we did come across a few discrepancies with the Lonely Planet guidebook. Nothing too major but things like price differences with the public transport and information about buildings, which didn't appear to be true. It wasn't a total travesty but still it did get a little frustrating.

Anyway, I would really recommend Budapest to everyone. There's a really good mixture of things to do and I am totally obsessed - if my instagram feed is anything to go by!

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