Intro to Budapest
In the 19th century Budapest was a grand capital in the mighty Hapsburg empire. But as that dynasty’s power faded so did the importance of Hungary and the size of its borders. The city of Budapest is split by the Danube River; with the hillier Pest side on the West and the flat Buda side to the east. The enormous Buda castle sits imposingly high on the Buda bank while Hungary’s famous Parliament building sits along the shore on the Pest side.
It’s unlikely you’ll find a direct flight to Budapest. From NYC with a connection it’s just about 10.5hrs or more, depending on where you connect. Because of the distance Budapest is best with four nights. It would also be a great end or beginning to a longer trip linking it to Bratislava, Vienna, and Prague.
In the city a series of trams link together all the areas you need.
When we went
What we did
Day 1 – The best way to get over jet lag in Budapest is a visit to the Széchenyi Baths. The public baths in the city’s main park is the number one thing that you should do here. We thought it was so cool that we came back on the last day of our trip.
A boat trip up the Danube to appreciate the city’s beautiful architecture.
Dinner at Gerlóczy Cafe, a great local establishment has delicious food and wine and pleasant servers. They also rent rooms through their hotel on the higher floors.
Day 2 – We visited The Great Synagogue which is the second largest in the world and a moving memorial to Holocaust victims in the back garden.
Dinner at Borbirosag; a modern restaurant focusing on Hungarian cuisine and wine located near the Great Hall was a perfect place to celebrate the Mr’s birthday.
After dark, the city’s old Jewish quarter becomes a late night hot spot. If you come to Budapest, at least one night make your way to a ruin pub after dinner. These bars tucked away in otherwise decrepit looking buildings have the feel of an impromptu party in a run down warehouse. Inside, stuffed animals and bicycles hang from the ceiling and vintage German movies are projected onto the wall. Throughout the buildings, bars are spaced between rooms filled with random pieces of furniture and junk from the past. We went to Szimpla Kert.
Day 3 – After a long night at the ruin pub, we got a late start on our last full day. Like so many countries in this part of the world, Hungary was occupied by the Nazis and the Soviets. There is no other place in the city that better displays this brutal history than the Terror Museum. This is a must see site.
Since we were there in December, we made advanced plans to see The Nutcracker in the world famous Hungarian State Opera House.
Dinner, dessert and beers were all happily consumed in the city’s festive Christmas Market.
Day 4 – We had only 4 hours of free time left in Budapest. There was no question we were going back to the baths.
Mrs’s Highlight – I share the same highlight at the Mr. There was just something relaxing yet adventurous during our trip to the baths…maybe it was wading through the hot hot hot pools of water, getting massages on the jets, resting in a sauna and plunging in a cold bath with a bunch of speedo clad pensioners.
Mr’s Highlight – Széchenyi Baths. While I can imagine that this place can get rather crowded in the summer, on a December morning with the snow in the air and the thick fog hovering in the air, felt like we were the only ones there.
Mrs’s favorite food – The cinnamon spiral dessert at the Christmas market. I seriously have dreams about this pastry…with its slightly crunchy outside and doughy inside, served piping hot right off the coals coated with a perfect mix of cinnamon and sugar.
Mr’s favorite food – While eating in the Great Market was great, the best meal we had was at Cafe Gerlóczy.
Cafe Gerlóczy – breakfast, lunch, dinner; Budapest. A great choice for a meal at any time of day. It feels like a neighborhood Parisian cafe.
Szalamibolt – neighborhood spot to grab salami, cheese and wine; Budapest
New York Cafe – pinky’s out cafe; Budapest. A great fancy pants breakfast spot.
Borbirosag – dinner; Budapest. Located near the Great Market, this modern wine bar and restaurant is a great choice for modern Hungarian cuisine.