Having just returned from Budapest on a lovely city break with the other half & being asked for recommendations I thought I’d write differently to my typical ‘mummy blogging’ and collate our trip and recommendations here for those that have asked & those that are thinking of visiting Budapest.
So I am going to be brutally honest, when we visit cities we tend to opt for public transport and walking so we can see as much as possible but when we arrived in Astoria, it was run down, there were boarded up buildings everywhere and it smelled and I could of cried. I’ve been on city breaks to Amsterdam, Dublin, Iceland, Rome, Paris and have never felt that way when I got there. BUT the closer you get towards the river, the beauty in Budapest shines through.
Southend have a flightpath straight to Budapest taking two hours, when we landed the airport was smooth & we got out within 20 minutes. From the airport you can take a 100E into the centre of Budapest, stop Astoria, which was a 15 minute walk from our hotel. We literally walked everywhere else as listed below, we were given a city map at our hotel and starred out the places we wanted to visit, except the Szechenyi Baths, we used the Metro “1” to ‘Szechenyi Furdo’ and was a 2 minute walk from the station. Being on EE, our data works in Europe so if we got lost we just mapped it!
Hotel – Mercure City Centre
The Mercure City Centre is located a stones throw from the Danbue River, in close proximity to the shops, a great selection of bars including the Hard Rock Café and Sky Bar and a Christmas Market right at the end of strip. The rooms are lovely & upon arrival we were upgraded too which was lovely! The staff were really helpful, the décor modern and the wine bar downstairs does a lovely mulled wine!
After doing our research we learnt that changing pounds into HUF when you are in Budapest gets you the best exchange rate, so we changed up £350 into HUF, which aside from Morocco is one of the most confusing currencies I’ve had to use. £1 is equal to 369 HUF & everywhere is relatively cheap e.g. mulled wine 900 HUF and a beer 750 HUF. We used a change window near our hotel.
Food & Drink –
Smokey Monkies Bar-BQ
The most unreal pulled pork baguette I have ever had. The OH had beef brisket which was also just as good! We got mac & cheese on the side, which pretty average but for a lunch or snack break, you have to go! Like Red Dog on steroids!
New York Cafe
The prettiest breakfast/brunch setting, a woman was actually playing the flute while we ate & the staff walk around making you feel like you are truly in a palace! At roundabout £50 for breakfast, it’s not cheap, but it is beautiful for a treat! If you go with the girls/Mum/Nan etc. their afternoon tea deal is fair for what is on offer and the location & the cakes looked gorgeous! We ordered eggs benedict, French toast and the NY pancakes which were all great in flavour and to be honest the experience of the NY Café was worth every penny! (even if Mitch wore joggers)!
Vendetta – Pasta e Basta
Next door but one to our hotel, we stopped for a late lunch on arrival and tapas and pasta. Flavoursome & filled us both up and was reasonably priced and quick food. Perfect for a quick easy lunch located close to the shops.
Just WOW. If you like steak La Pampa is a must, decorated Gaucho style and they know their steaks! The staff were so friendly with recommending steaks and discussing your tastes too, I had the rib eye & Mitch had the La Pampa Steak and both tasted absolutely unreal! We had the steak trio chips & onion rings on the side and the garlic prawn starter was lovely too. It cost just over £100 ish for us both, so a lot cheaper than Gaucho too! But absolutely worth every penny!
We had French toast & freshly squeezed juices before leaving for the airport home & it’s served with fruit salad and berries. Really nice & cost literally next to nothing! Also a lovely setting for breakfast close to the bus stop for the 100E home.
Living out my childhood through an actual Unicorn Shake, layered with sweets, strawberry milkshake, marshmallows & cream and the doughnut had so much sweet flavour. I felt pretty sick afterwards but it’s certainly worth the visit for the Instagram post & a doughnut!
The prettiest ice cream I ever did see! The servers are basically sculpors, close to the Basilica & Smokey Monkees it’s worth a visit. Their white chocolate and lavender in the middle was to die for!
Cake Shop Budapest
Literally stumbled on Cake Shop on the walk back from seeing the Budapest Eye and picked up a hot chocolate. It was literally like an M&S fudge cake melted into a drink! Absolutely spectacular! Must go and try one for yourself if you are going!
St Andrea Wine & Sky Bar
Located at the foot of Hard Rock Café and the Christmas Market, the sky bar overlooks the Budapest Eye and views of the city. Cocktail menu is extensive and the setting is lovely too, a must go to if you like fancy cocktails in chilled settings.
Things to Do & See
St Stephen’s Basilica
I have a confession to make, I was told that Parliament Building was a must-see and after walking from Mr Funk, I saw the Basilica and assumed it was Parliament Building.. After paying to walk up almost 600 stairs to the top of the lookout and looking over Budapest, we overheard a couple discussing the views from Parliament Building compared to standing where we was and I realised my mistake.. BUT it is one of the top ten attractions to see in Budapest and the stairs almost killed me but we did it! & the views were lovely.
Danube River Cruise
We booked a Candlelit Dinner through our hotel on the Danube River, which was a lovely way to see Budapest at night. All the buildings including Buda Castle, Fishermans Bastion and more are all lit up as you circle up and down the bridges on the River. The setting was lovely, something we had never done before, the food was really good too, I had the shrimps, pumpkin soup, beef confit & panna cotta off the a la carte menu and they were all yummy! We paid around £100 for both of us including dinner and a welcome drink & the cruise lasted over two hours so it is well worth it!
Buda Castle & Fishermans Bastion
We crossed the Chain Bridge to Buda Castle and took the hill train up to explore the castle & beyond, we walked up towards Fishermans Bastion which have spectacular views of the rivers and city & if you are like me and like reading random notes of history, you’ll enjoy walking around. So many touts offering tours too for around £6ish which is worth it if you have the time & are interested but we had only allocated a morning and prefer to walk around ourselves. Hill train was £6-7 ish return.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
We pre-booked the Szechenyi Baths before we went, entry and a locker around £28 for both of us. It’s an old building further into Budapest but an absolute must do! There are two outdoor thermal baths & a lap pool and inside there are loads of different spa pools, saunas, steam rooms & more. We spent a few hours relaxing but opted not to do the massages and spa but wished we had!
Beautiful to walk over and take pictures on but didn’t see many locks, a lot of homeless people hide under the planks in the middle too and jump out and ask for money.
The Karacsonyi Vasar Christmas Fair was on just up the strip from our hotel boasting mulled wine, beer, chimney cakes, authentic Hungarian food & stalls with every craft imaginable! The atmosphere was fantastic and the whole Christmas Market experience honestly made my trip! I don’t think I would of loved Budapest half as much if it wasn’t for the singers & dancing in the evenings on the Markets!
I will never ever enjoy Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park again after experiencing Budapest!
Everything Else –
Ruin Bars are meant to be amazing but we just didn’t get time to go! Ice Bar Budapest, BEWARE, so the tout office is opposite the Mercure so we got hounded by the same bloke every night, it is NOT like the Ice Bar you have been to in London or other major cities, it is a room (possibly old walk in freezer) playing outdated Kesha music and the only thing made of proper ice is the glass the watered down drinks come in, everything else is glass coated and cold to touch. We had to laugh it off but it really was dire! The Philanthia Christmas Shop is open all year round and absolutely beautiful but so expensive! I ended up getting a bauble from a Christmas Market stall for a quarter of the price but it is so pretty to walk into!
Budapest Summary –
Would I go back? Not any time soon, I’ve seen and done it but I would wholly recommend it to couples & those wanting to go to the Christmas Markets for a great short city break! There is a lot of history and things to do and once you get onto the River it truly is a lovely little City.