When you think of your ideal honeymoon, what does it look like?
White sand, boiling hot sun and a palm tree? Probably. I guess that’s what came to mind when I thought about it too. But when it came down to it, we both knew we never wanted a traditional honeymoon. Well, at least when it came to the destination anyway. And that’s where Budapest came in. We talked at length about where we wanted to go, how long for and when, and the practical stuff too. Oli has a full time job now, with a finite amount of time of work, and as our living expenses have increased — we aren’t exactly rolling in it anymore so it was a big fat no to 4 weeks touring Asia Pacific.
So, to cut a fairly long and boring story down to something a little more easy reading, we decided we wanted to take a little city break somewhere in Europe. Somewhere we hadn’t been before, somewhere with interesting things to see, and drool-worthy things to eat. I don’t love the pressures of travel planning but I adore travel packing, and cracking open my Lonely Planet and going straight to the EATING AND DRINKING section. Yep, my priorities lie squarely with my belly. In fact, I’m surprised we didn’t include it in our vows……
If you read back to my post at the beginning of the year, on where to travel in 2016, you will know that Hungary wasn’t on the list. I dunno why — I have wanted to go to Budapest for a while…..but I honestly never have a finite list. I want to go everywhere, all the time so writing that list was basically a snapshot of my wanderlust psyche that day. Anyway, that’s not to say that I don’t plan to go to any of those places but more likely, that I will add further countries to the list ad hoc.
Back to Budapest. Sorry, this post has become more than a little rambling! I think it’s maybe because as I write it, I am feeling both content, and creatively inspired. Reading this line back, I am now cringing, and all creativity and inspiration has evaporated. Okay, now back to Budapest. FINALLY.
Budapest is a nice, compact, easy to navigate city — the airport is about 30 mins taxi ride away, and the city is split into two halves (Buda and Pest) by the River Danube. In fact, if you live in Austria you could skip the traditional mode of transport and cruise your way to Budapest. Which would be romantic, were it not for the fact that the ferry is called a hydrafoil!
We stayed in Pest, where a lot of the big sights are to be found. The Shoes on the Danube Memorial, Great Synagogue, House of Terra and Central Food Market are all there. That’s not to say that Buda is the lesser of the two, but I would recommend staying in Pest, specifically, in/near the Jewish Quarter which is where we based ourselves. The Jewish Quarter is chock full of interesting street art, cool shops, hipster eateries and traditional orthodox kosher restaurants — some that don’t even cook food on Sabbath (you have to order ahead!). I am often drawn to Jewish history, and rarely visit a European city without visiting a Synagogue. I think it’s kinda strange, as I have zero Jewish ancestry (in fact, my ancestry is Arabic) but I have always found the religion fascinating. As an eleven year old, I read Anne Frank’s diary, and have always held a morbid curiosity for the events of WWII and the Holocaust. This has carried into adulthood, and I often seek out documentaries and books relating to that period……I know, I know. I am a morbid creep. I just find it endlessly shocking, and I can never seem to get my head round it, for want of a better phrase.
The people are so friendly, and despite what the guidebooks infer — all speak excellent English, which I know is a terrible thing to say, but OH EM GEE Hungarian is HARD! We worked out Kosi, which means thank-you. But I am almost certain we were saying it wrong…..anyway, at least we tried a little. The staff at our (excellent hotel) The Brody House, were really sweet and gave us some fantastic local knowledge. They pointed us in the right direction of a great bowl of Goulash, and kept us well fed and watered throughout our stay too. For that, they will always be winners in our eyes 🙂
I totally felt as though I got a good bit of exploring done, but I was definitely left wanting more. I never felt rushed though, and have a pathological dislike of cramming so much into a trip just so you can say you’ve ‘been there, seen that’. What’s the point of travelling to somewhere new, if you treat it like a day in the office. Gah! Pet hate….no judgement if you are said list ticking person. However, if you, like us, have four days to explore the city, then this itinerary gives you a relaxed slice of Budapest without making you feel like you need another holiday when you get back.
Day One: Get yourself acquainted with Buda by wandering over the Danube from Pest to the Gellert Baths (XI Kelenhegyi ut 4 – in Danubius Hotel, Gellert District). Have a bit to eat at the absolutely delicious Borborisag resturant (IX Csarnok ter 5) it has the best selection of Hungarian wines) and have a chilled out evening walking home past the beautiful lit up Parliament building.
Day Two: Head to the Synagogue (Pest) for an excellent tour, explore the Jewish Quarter with a self guided walking tour (we used the Lonely Planet one) and make sure you head to the Szimpla Farmers Cafe (VII Kazinczy Utca 7) for a set lunch. It’s amazing value and super delicious. In the afternoon, wander down the leafy Andrassy Ut street and stop for tea and cake at the disgustingly photogenic New York Cafe (VII erzsebet korut 9-11). While you are here, head to the House of Terror Museum (VI Andrassy Ut 60) where the Nazi and Communist parties tortured thousands of prisoners. It’s a really cool museum, but don’t bother with the audiobook because it’s crap. Have a simple dinner, and head out to Pest to enjoy some of the crazy ruin bars (we loved Szimpla Kert).
Day Three: Walk off all that Goulash and hike up to Castle Hill, where you’ll find the Royal Palace and Fishermen’s Bastion buildings. The view is epic, so it’s worth the walk (which really isn’t very hard). On the way back down, have lunch at Toldi Konyhaja (Batthyany utca 14) — super rustic, great value and bread-tastic. LOVED it. If I were you, I would make sure to spend all my time and money in Pest at a ruin bar…..and honestly, dinner anywhere in Pest is ace. At least, that’s what we found.
Day Four: Hometime 🙁 Depending on when your flight is, make sure you leave enough time to see the Shoes On the Danube Bank Memorial. It’s a beautiful walk, and you can chill out there for a little bit before you go home.
Ardent Wanderess: 10 Things to Do When You’ve Run Out of Cash in Budapest
Kevin & Amanda: Breathtaking Budapest
The Travel Hack: 10 Awesome Things to Do in Budapest
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Also published on Medium.