3 days in Budapest, July 2019

Standing in front of St Stephen's Basilica.

Day 1

I visited Budapest during December a couple of years ago and loved it so much that I wanted to return in a warmer climate which I did last July with my daughter.

As per normal I scouted for flights on Sky Scanner and found Ryanair flights leaving from Stanstead at 8.30 (so yep, in true Lenny form we were up at the crack of dawn). This flight got us into Budapest for Midday where we were picked up from the airport with a driver booked via Hoppa, though there is good public transport from the airport to the city.

Our return flight was booked two days later, leaving Budapest at 21.50 which gave us maximum time to explore during our two-night trip. The flights, including seat choice and hand luggage for two, came to £164.48.

Our Hotel was booked through Booking.com. We Stayed at The Opera Loft Apartments on Andrássy Útca which is one of the main designer shopping streets in the city, leading from the centre all the way down to City Park. However, do not be expecting the Ritz. The room was very basic, but it was clean, large, it had aircon and the bed was super comfortable.

Getting to our room was a little horror movie-esque. We had to go up several floors in a rickety old lift that squeaked and creaked and juddered its way up before jolting to a stop. It was just flickering lights away from a ghost appearing, ha-ha. Would I stay there again though? Absolutely, it was in a great location, close to a metro station and within walking distance of many hotspots. Plus, it was just over £70 for the both of us. As a place to wash and rest your head, it’s ideal.

After a quick freshen up and change of outfit we left the hotel and walked less than ten minutes to the Basilica of St Stephens, stopping for a drink in the square before venturing inside. We opted to climb the stairs to the top for great views over the city. It’s just 1000 HUF (approx. 3 EURO). I though my legs were going to die but the view was worth my dramatics.

Although Hungary have their own currency, Hungarian forint (HUF), the Euro is widely used.

With my daughter at the top of St Stephen's Basilica.

On leaving the cathedral we continued walking down Zrinyi Útca towards the river Danube and turned right, walking along the bank towards the stunning parliament building that looks more like a palace.

Walking along here you will pass dozens of bronze shoes. Many with flowers or candles by them, left as a tribute to the 20,000 Jewish people that were forced to remove their shoes before being shot here during World War 2. It’s a stunning memorial.

We stopped for something to eat at Terv Bisztró on Nador Útca. This restaurant was a funky find, decorated in a retro diner style but serving traditional Hungarian food. We both opted for a Goulash and I had my first Aperol Spritz of the trip.

Parliament building.

Bronze shoes along the Danube.

Not really having a plan for the day we wandered around some shops and found ourselves looking up at a large Ferris wheel in a small park. There wasn’t a queue, so we decided to go up, it was just 2400 HUF/ 8 EUROS each.

Ferris wheel.

That evening we were keen to explore some of the great Ruin bars that Budapest has to offer. These bars are sometimes temporary, and others have been around for a while. There was a great one a short walk from our hotel. Szimpla Kert is Located on Kazinczy Útca, where you will find many other bars and eateries.

This ruin bar is cool, fact! Despite looking small and more like a random antique shop from the outside, inside you’ll find a warren of junk and treasure. It has many different areas and bars and is located inside what appears to be an old warehouse. There are chill zones, areas with live music, gin bars, beer bars, cocktail bars and you’ll feel perfectly at home as you ease yourself into a roll top bath to enjoy your Aperol. It was a real mixed crowd, all ages, locals and tourists, casual and dressed up. Hmmn, I wonder what category I fell into? You guessed it, I was dressed up, wearing a pretty maxi-dress from H&M.

In the bath at Szimpla Kert.

One of the seating areas in Szimpla kert.

Day 2

The following morning, we took the metro from the nearby Opera station to Hősök Tere (Heroes Square) where you will find an impressive monument depicting Magyar Chieftains and other important Hungarian leaders overlooked by the Museum of Fine arts.

We had planned to eat breakfast at Café Kara which overlooks the lake, but it was too early, and it wasn’t open yet. I ate there before during my winter trip and it was a great place to watch the ice skaters on the frozen lake. During summer months there is a range of boats and pedalos to hire.

Standing in Heroes Square.

We decided to just grab a drink and a snack at the thermal baths which is where we were heading so we walked across the park to the Széchenyi baths and joined a short queue to get our tickets.

There are several entrances and it can get busy, so I think going early is key, especially during warm weather. Although I have to say my winter visit there was awesome, stepping into hot waters outside when the air is -2 was pretty special, although getting back out of the 37 degree water and back into the cold air whilst trying to get your feet back into flip flops wasn’t so enjoyable, lol. With July temperatures reaching 28, we didn’t have to worry about that.

Our all day ticket price which included use of a locker was 6200 HUF. Prices do vary according to the day of the week; you can also pay extra to have a private changing cubicle. There is also the option to hire a towel which is pretty handy if you have other things planned for the day and you don’t really want to be carrying around heavy damp towels.

The outdoor pools at the Szechenyi baths.

My daughter and I in the pools.

There are some sunbeds by the outdoor pools. These go quickly, so if you are wanting to spend a few hours at the baths it’s best to arrive early so that you are not sitting on the floor between pool dips.

There are a few outdoor pools of varying temperatures and dozens more inside the beautiful yellow wedding cake of a building. Some of the baths are freezing but most are lovely and warm. There was a menthol one which would be really beneficial if you were feeling stuffy.

There are some saunas and steam rooms inside too which are all included in your ticket price.

We stayed at the baths until lunchtime. Then we ventured back into the park, dining at Nyereg. They do the most amazing wine spritzers here. I had an apple one and my daughter had mango, very refreshing.

wine spritzers at Nyereg.

The baths.

We then had a walk around park, exploring the grounds of Vajdahunyad Castle, which I believe is actually a museum of agriculture.

Walking around the castle.

Walking around the castle grounds.

Then we went to the zoo which is 3300 HUF.

This is one of the best zoos I have been to and had a wide range of animals and reptiles to see. I know that not everyone is a fan of zoos, but I personally admire the work they do to rehabilitate injured animals, and breeding programmes they run to assist in preventing endangered species from becoming extinct. This particular zoo had tigers and polar bears, elephants and camels, hippos and monkeys amongst other animals. There was a petting zoo for children and the tiniest baby rabbits I’ve ever seen. I confess, I cried! They were just so small and cute.

We took the metro back to Opera. Budapest has a great metro system and also offers trams, buses and taxis, so it’s easy to get around although I tend to walk as much as I can when possible. Anyone that has travelled somewhere with me will vouch for that, by vouch I mean complain, ha-ha! You can purchase single use tickets for 300 HUF or a block of ten for 3000 HUF.

Polar bears at City Park Zoo.

That evening we went back to Szimpla Kert.

I know there are other bars around, but we just loved that one so much and it was local to our hotel. After a couple of drinks, we went to a nearby street food market to grab a bite to eat. Karavan, offers something for everyone, whether you have a sweet tooth or want something more savoury, a full meal, or just a snack, it catered for various dietary requirements too including vegan.

From here we stopped for another drink at Kőleves Kert. I’m not sure if this technically counts as a ruin bar although it had the same sort of vibe. This was an outdoor space with various seating areas and hammock chairs around the bar.

Back in the ruin bar bath.

Day 3

On our last day, we ate breakfast at Coffea Arabica on József Attila Útca, again, just a short walk from our hotel. Service here was a little slow but the food was lovely.

After breakfast we walked along József Attila Útca until reaching river and crossed the Szechenyi Chain bridge.

We continued up hill, I repeat, up hill (this walk is not for the faint hearted haha) towards Fisherman’s Bastion. Built in the late 1800’s, this place looks like a fairy-tale castle and has the most stunning views across the river and over the city. Whilst here you may also want to visit the Matthias church.

There are a couple of places to stop for something to eat or drink too. We sat on a roof terrace admiring views over the parliament building whilst sipping on a . . . drum roll . . . Aperol Spritz, lol.

Standing on the Szechenyi Chain bridge.

Fisherman's Bastion.

Also on this side of the river is the Royal Palace which is now a museum. We didn’t go in, but we walked around the grounds before taking the funicular down, this costs 1200 HUF which is a little pricey compared to a metro ticket but a novel experience if you’ve never been on one.

If you wanted to spend more time this side of the river then check out the Citadella too. I visited this on my previous trip so didn’t venture up there this time but it’s well worth it, the views are spectacular. Also nearby are the Gellert baths. These are on my list to visit next time I go.

Part of the Royal Palace.

In the grounds of the Royal palace.

We crossed over the Elizabeth Bridge and took a long walk up Szabad Saltó Útca, turning off at Dohány Útca to have lunch at the infamous New York Café, dubbed the world’s most beautiful café and they’re not wrong. This place is just beautiful.

If you’ve seen the film Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence then you may recognise it. There is always a queue so you may want to book in advance. We didn’t have to queue for too long though. Many people come here for afternoon tea, but they have a great menu to choose from. We both ordered a burger which sounds a little vulgar when the place is so fancy pantsy, but I swear, it’s one of the best burgers I have ever eaten. Another nice touch here is the live quartet that play, creating such a special and chilled ambience. You’d think the prices here would be extortionate, but they were actually pretty reasonable.

With just a few hours left we decided to try and find the ghetto wall in the nearby Jewish quarter but didn’t spot it, we did weirdly find ourselves back at our favourite ruin bar though, one last Aperol for the road. We  also discovered a super cute insta worthy café (Vintage Garden) complete with a pink flower wall and a pretty scene all ready for those selfie shots. We were too full by this point, plus low on money so we didn’t stop to enjoy it, but put definitely put it on your list if you go, I have.

I had just another change left to treat us to a couple of macarons at the bakery next door.

Inside New York Cafe.

Budapest is one of my favourite European cities and I would return in a heartbeat. It has so much to offer and is a perfect city to just stroll around, regardless of the time of year. It was lovely to see it in the summer and enjoy those outdoor spaces, but the Christmas visit was magical too, when the squares are full of Christmas markets, and I can trade Aperol for Mulled wine.

Another thing to do in the city that I did on my winter trip, is a river boat cruise. There are several types to choose from; we did an evening one which included dinner and music. It was lovely seeing the city all lit up against the night sky as we sailed past. We also enjoyed a drink at the bar in the Four Seasons Hotel.

If you haven’t been to Budapest before then out it on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

One of the many city trams.