The reasons for me visiting Budapest were simple… its currency isn’t the Euro. Thanks to Brexit we all know that the Pound is worth basically nothing against the Euro now so I was looking for a city break in a country with its own currency. Budapest was the obvious choice, only a 2-hour flight from London, cheap wine and lots to do. I spent four glorious days there and if you plan to visit then read my stylish guide for the lowdown.
WHERE TO STAY
Maverick City Lodge
I stayed at the Maverick City Lodge which is a hostel but with a very upmarket feel. There are super cheap dorm rooms but myself and my friend stayed in a private double which was £85 for 3 nights. The room was noting to write home about but was really clean and comfy and had an excellent shower and the best heating I’ve encountered in a hotel room. The dial went up to 40 degrees! Other than that there were towels, a hairdryer and 50% off drinks in the really rather good bar. We rented bikes here which are 14 euros a day but we haggled them down to 7 euros. The location was smack bang in the middle of the Jewish Quarter and close to lots of cool bars, clubs and pubs.
WHERE TO DRINK
This ruin bar which is the oldest and most well known in Budapest was actually on the same road as our hotel so wasn’t too hard to find at all. People had told me about this before I went but they did a terrible job of explaining this gem, so I’ll try and do better. It is a magical warren of about 20 rooms and crazy graffiti, fairy lights, bathtub seats, dolls heads stuck to the walls – it looks like the place the lost boys live in the film Hook. It’s such a cool building, the ruins of a large home (you can still see vestiges of what it used to be, parquet flooring and gilded framed artworks) with no roof and a number of bars and places to get food. It’s just damn cool.
WHAT TO DO
I was told by many friends to visit the baths in Budapest, of which there are many, but in the interest of following the crowd (and the school of thought that if it’s the most popular it’s probably pretty good) we visited the biggest and most well-know baths, Szechenyi. My day here was probably the highlight of my trip and I felt fabulous afterwards, the baths have upwards of 20 rooms with pools, saunas, steam rooms and plunge pools of varying degrees of hotness – all heated by the natural springs beneath. But it’s the large outdoor pool that is the jewel in this watery crown, the water is 38 degrees Celsius and feels like a bath, and the building itself is very rococo glamour. Plus, you can get food and drink there at a pretty reasonable price. The sun was shining when I went, so although the October weather was cold I got intense tan lines. Overall this was an incredible experience and the building is beautiful.
Tip: If you can bring a dressing gown to walk around outside in, it was so cold out of the water. And you can bring your own towel and food to save money. There are free lockers outside as well to store your belongings.
WHERE TO EAT
Central Cafe Budapest
One of the oldest cafes in Budapest is a stunning Art Nouveau affair that does fantastic croissants. Opened in 1884, the building is totally instagram-worthy.
A Table Patisserie Boulangerie
This was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had – the pastries were out of this world, as was the croque monsieur. Try the blueberry brioche and the pistachio croissant, just heavenly. This café was about 2 minutes from my hotel and did a very hearty (carby) and reasonably priced breakfast.
BUDAPEST ON THE CHEAP
Get On Your Bike
Hire a bike in Budapest, it’s cheap and a fun way of seeing the city. Although you can walk pretty much everywhere in Budapest – it’s small and very easy to navigate – cycling is way more fun. And if you plan to go to the zoo or the baths I went to it’s a pretty boring walk. We hired bikes from our hotel but there were plenty of places to hire them around the city. Don’t be scared about cycling in a city, it’s super quiet and the roads are as smooth as silk so I felt completely safe. The city park is huge and the perfect place to cycle around. There’s a castle, lakes and a zoo to look at while you pedal along.
I stayed in Pest but it’s super easy to cross over to Buda, just walk over one of the bridges which takes about 5-10 minutes. One day my friend and I climbed all the way to the top of the big mountain which was pretty hard but offered great views and there was a mini market for a mulled wine reward at the top. Fun and cheap.
If you don’t usually go to the opera then I would suggest trying it out in Budapest, my friend and I got the best seats in the house for £8 each and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We saw an updated version of La Boheme and it was excellent. Plus, the wine was great and very reasonable – although you weren’t allowed to drink it in the theatre.
The shopping is pretty good in Budapest, they have all the usual culprits – Zara, H&M, Marks and Spencer – as well as high end shopping – Louis Vuitton, Maxmara – I don’t shop when I travel really, but if you want to it’s all there. There’s lots of traditional markets to check out too.
The food is great here but very stodgy. I definitely gained about 4lbs in as many days. Try a traditional Transylvanian funnel cake – I urge you to, they’re just delicious. Of course you gotta eat some Goulash too, it’s basically stew… but I love stew. Hungarians love bread too, everything will either come in a bowl of bread or with a basket of bread the size of a small mountain.
THINGS I DIDN’T DO, BUT HEAR ARE GOOD
I didn’t go clubbing but then again I’m a flipping grandma, if you do want to go Tessla is meant to be the place – and it was directly opposite my hotel. Go to a ‘Sparty’ which is a party in a spa, I missed out on this but a friend since told me that he saw lots of people getting very amorous in the water, so perhaps proceed with caution.