Birthday Trip to Budapest

Happy 2017! I’ve been away a few months simply because I didn’t travel anywhere late last year or over Christmas. This year, however I got back on the waggon- to Budapest!

It’s my birthday in February and I am turning 25 this year so I said any excuse to go somewhere I’m going to take it.

A few people and myself went to Budapest for 6 days. We stayed in this great Airbnb- I couldn’t recommend the host Eszter enough, however the Wifi in the apartment can be dodgy at times. Here’s the link to her listing if you are interested:

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/4442703

And now for the good, the bad, and the ugly…

Just kidding it’s 99% good!

City Sights:

We started with the Great Synagogue as our Airbnb was right across the street from the entrance. The Great Synagogue is the biggest one located outside of Israel. Included in your ticket is a tour of the synagogue, our guide gave a great, unassuming explanation about all the features in the building and showed how history and religion influenced each other. She was very neutral and matter of fact in her explanation of everything which I was surprised by when I learned later that her father was a Holocaust survivor.

Also included in the ticket is entrance to the museum on the second floor, however you have to buy an audio guide to really understand any of exhibitions. I felt that having to pay for an audio guide on top of a 12 EUR entrance fee seemed unfair, and that it should be included in the price.

The memorial garden was very beautiful, our guide explained the Tree of Life (below) and the symbolism it represents.

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Next we headed towards the chain bridge, there was a small food market in Erzsébet tér so I had to get the famous Hungarian chimney cake (I really love cake see)

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There are stands all over the city that do chimney cake, mine was unusual in that it had raspberry topping which is something I didn’t spot at other stands. IT WAS AMAZING you have to get some if you go to Budapest.

When we finally got to the Chain Bridge (Szechenyi Ianchid) it was so foggy we couldn’t even see the other side of the river.

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Nevertheless, we marched on towards Castle Hill.

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We took the Funicular up the hill (6 EUR return ticket) and spent the rest of the day exploring Buda. It was super foggy so although we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion, all we could see was grey.

We managed to get a good view of Parliment from Batthyány tér (which it the viewpoint for Parliment on the opposite bank of the river) It’s a really beautiful building in all types of weather.

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(thought this was a nice photo of Adam so I’m just gonna stick it here)

Outside Parliment, on the bank of the Danube, there is a memorial to the Budapest Jews who were shot by Arrow Cross militiamen between 1944 and 1945 and thrown into the river. It’s very striking as the metal the shoes are made of looks very leathery in texture and brings to life a very sad time in history. It is a heartrending memorial.

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The Citadel (Or Citadella in Hungarian) is a fortification on top of Gellért Hill. Now the climb is pretty steep but worth it as it’s a great point to get panoramic views of Budapest and the Danube and is a really popular spot. Also on the plateau is the Liberty Statue, erected to commemorate people who sacrificed themselves for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary. It’s a really imposing statue that can be seen across the city on top of the hill, almost like an angel watching over the city as an ever-present reminder of events since passed.

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Museums:

The House of Terror is a beautifully designed museum set in HQ of the Hungarian Nazi’s of WWII. I would recommend going, but just be aware that it needs some more development for English speakers. First I would really push you to get an audio guide as the staff will tell you there is information written for visitors in English, but it is sparse and often ill-placed.

The museum explores from the 1940’s onwards and the switch in leadership from the Arrow Cross Party to the AVO and the AVH when Hungary became occupied by the Soviets after the war. I felt at times the exhibits didn’t make chronological sense to me, as there was a lot of jumping back and forth between which service did what. Overall, I would definitely recommend to go and learn about Hungarian history.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is also a great place to visit. It is a very powerful place and if you find you can become upset easily I would say it’s best to skip some of the photo galleries. I’ve been to Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps but a lot of the information available to you in this museum is just as sobering as going to one of those camps.

Thermal Baths and Spas:

At the bottom of Gellért hill are the Gellért Baths. They are beautiful, in an elaborate for the sake of being elaborate kind of way. It’s pretty expensive: about 28 EUR for a locker and towel rental for 3 hours (as opposed to Veli Bej which is about 16 EUR for 3 hours with better changing facilities and towel rental) I personally preferred Veli Bej baths however, I would say that Gellert’s 36 degree outdoor pool was very cool when it was about 5 degrees outside. What was less cool was when your towel felt absolutely frozen with the wet and cold after you got out… if you want to see what Gellert baths are like, along with more baths I didn’t visit, check out the Vagabrothers on Youtube:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvOru-2sUXo 

Our host Eszter recommended Veli Bej baths to us and they were definitely one of the best things we did while in Budapest. Some important things to note from our experience there:

  • The entrance is not obvious, it’s in a brand new building as it was completely renovated in 2011. And while it still looks beautiful and was rebuilt faithful to the Turkish design, don’t think it will stick out like Széchenyi baths.
  • Make sure you have ‘small’ change, like 1000 Ft notes. We only had 5000 at the time and the staff would not rent us towels because they would have had no change from accepting the 5000 Ft note

Here’s a photo I pulled from Google (I didn’t take any photos in the baths for obvious reasons) to give you a taste of what it’s like.

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Experiences:

The Invisible Exhibition is an experience where you try to understand what life is like without one of your most important senses- sight. I can’t really say what the Invisible Exhibition was like as when we went to visit but they didn’t have any tours in English that day, and we were leaving Budapest the next. I would say that if you are going to go you should call this number +36 20 771 4236 and book it, as the staff there told us you aren’t able to book online. There’s also an option of dining in the dark. One thing to note is that it is not central so if you are walking be prepared to have good shoes on you. If you want to find out more check out this site http://www.lathatatlan.hu/en/ 

I had the BEST time at Locked’s Escape Rooms. It was completely unexpected as anything that has the words ‘escape’ and ‘locked room’ in the description does not sound like my idea of fun. I have been converted to the Escape Room Life! We did the Serial Killer game- it’s the one they recommend for beginners. I can’t recommend Locked more:

http://www.locked.hu/en

The staff are super friendly and helpful, they have a variety of games that suit beginners like me to escape room experts, and they are located right in the centre of Budapest. You don’t have an excuse not to go!

Foodies:

I think I am a ‘foodie’ in denial. By that I mean I really love food.. so of course there has to be a separate section on our culinary experience of Budapest. Below are a list of restaurants, cafes and bars we went to while in Budapest. I’ll give a brief description of what they cater for, the price range (cheap eats or pricey) and if I’d recommend them.

Just one quick note is that Budapest is not vegetarian-friendly, most places that don’t specialise in vegetarian dishes don’t have a non-meat option on their menu. However there are quite a few vegan restaurants that we passed while here, so while you can’t eat in every restaurant if you follow a vegetarian/vegan diet, there are still restaurants you can go to.

-Bocadillo Astoria: Restaurant

Think traditional Hungarian dishes, as well as modern ones, along with Italian cuisine. The price was about 60 EUR for 2 starters, 3 mains and drinks each.

-Szimpla Kert: Bar

Ruin Pub. Very touristy, nice to have a Hungarian brand of beer or craft beer there but only one.

-Socks Coffee: Cafe

Very unusual but welcoming decor, Mr Socks is a lovely man. Breakfast is very nice but if you switch any of the set items for something else you will be charged extra. Caters for gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant people.

– House of Hungarian Wines

We came across House of Hungarian Wines in the 2015 Lonely Planet Budapest guide, but it was either closed for the winter or permanently closed so I would not waste your time looking for it.

-Edeni Vegan: Restaurant

A bit off the beaten path away but very nice owner. Cafeteria style but generous with servings- really nice food overall.

-Doblo: Bar

LOVE THIS PLACE. Went for wine tasting- ~25 EUR for 5 glasses of wine and tapas. So worth it. Must go.

-Pandzsab Tandoori Étterem: Restaurant

LOVE THIS PLACE TOO. Really tasty Indian food for a very good price! Must go.

-Instant Kert: Bar

Very cool ruin pub, I preferred it to Szimpla Kert. Great bands playing and great priced G&T’s.

-Suttogo Piano Bar: Bar

Very classy place, the piano player is amazing. When it’s full I would say it has an amazing atmosphere but if it’s a quiet night it could be dull.

-Langos Papa: Restaurant

Nice place to get Langos, we literally only went here for Langos so can’t say much else.

-Divino Wine Bar: Bar

Very nice but very busy wine bar. Is not cheap but worth having 1 glass here, especially in the one near St. Stephen’s Basilica.

-The Vintage Garden: Restaurant

Very over priced breakfast but potentially could be nice if you get there early when the kitchen is still open. Avoid if the kitchen is closed. Very tastefully designed restaurant.

-Central Market Hall: Food Stands

Made me want to live in Budapest and go there for my food shopping, everything fresh and authentic. Avoid the food stands upstairs as they will offer you additional toppings on food without telling you there’s an extra charge for them until you come to pay.

-Anker Club: Bar

Incredibly overprice vegetable platter and dips. Nice staff but really do avoid unless you’re willing to splurge.

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That’s it for Budapest guys! Hope you enjoyed and if you are thinking about travelling there I hope this answered some of your Q’s. X

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