our hidden treasure chest
We arrived in Budapest pretty late so we headed straight to our Airbnb which looked super sketchy from the lobby but the flat itself was adorable! We searched for the closest restaurant and there happened to be one directly below our flat, named Puder. It was DELCIOUS. Amelia ordered a pork dish which she claims was top 5 best meals of her life and I got pasta (even though we were headed to Italy shortly) and I’m glad I did because it was divine. We also ordered “nachos” which happened to be Doritos with cheese wiz dipping sauce. We just laughed. We also ordered mulled wine which tasted like the holidays and warmed up our insides.
We were blocks away from the Central Market so we decided to check that out first since it was on all the lists of places to visit. It was in this huge building with an adorable Hungarian roof. I think the market is way more packed during warmer months but it was nice to walk around and see all the paprika, trinkets and more paprika. We went across the street for breakfast at a little café called Ambers. Ambers had the BEST croissants I’ve ever had in my life. So much that we came back the next day for more.
Right in front of Ambers was a Hop On Hop Off stop so we bought bus passes. This was the best purchase because it covers two days and you get to see all the touristy spots without paying for taxis and can go at your own pace (note: there are no ubers in Budapest). The first day we did the whole route and mapped out where we wanted to hop off and what we wanted to save for the second day. Our highlights from that day were Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, the castle, the Parliament building and the shoes on the river. It was snowing while we were visiting so walking around Fishermans Bastion felt like we had stepped into a fairy tale. We also were freezing our butts off. I put my hand warmers in my boots so my toes wouldn’t fall off.
We stopped around Fashion Street and tried chimney cakes, which were like big round churros. Nom. Our bus pass also came with a boat tour so we ran to the river to catch the last boat of the night. We didn’t really know what to expect but our bus price was worth just this boat ride. We were on a large boat with only about 15 other people. Most of the other patrons stayed downstairs because it was enclosed and it was freezing but Amelia and I took our glasses of champs and roughed the cold to experience the most epic view of the Parliament Building lit up at night. It was exquisite. And just as we were passing the Parliament Building the George Ezra song Budapest came on and it was truly magical. This was the moment I fell in love with Budapest. We didn’t really know much about Budapest before we visited and kind of randomly chose it as one of our destinations but it was by far our favorite stop on our insane 10 day tour.
The next day was our “spa day” at Szechenyi, the most famous thermal bath in the City of Baths. It was quite an experience. I’m glad we checked it out. It was pretty expensive and weird. If you’re going I recommend bringing your own towel and shoes because they’ll charge you an arm and a leg to rent some and they’re required. You’ll have to pay your entrance fee and a fee to rent a locker and they were out of lockers by the time we got there so we had to rent a whole cabin. There are SEVERAL indoor baths that look like regular swimming pools and some that are fancy but the big attraction is the outdoor bath, which looks like you’re taking a bath with a thousand strangers in a castle. It was below freezing while we were there so putting your towel on a rack and running to the bath was quite the experience but the baths were warm and supposedly have lots of natural healing qualities or something. I don’t know. We just went for the gram. We did see a group of older gentlemen playing chess in the bath and Amelia says “omgosh look, water chess nuts” lol!
After the baths we hopped on our bus and wanted to check out New York Café because it’s on all the lists of things to see and do in Budapest. So we walked in, saw how beautiful and fancy it was and saw the prices and the long wait to get a table and walked out. Well, at least we saw it. Then we went to this little pub across the street and had another AMAZING meal. Seriously, Hungary has incredible food. Our waiter brought some pickled vegetables to eat along with our meals and those were almost the best part of the meal!
We wanted to check out some of the ruin pubs. Budapest has this whole district of bars in the old Jewish quarter that were created out of old run down buildings of which many were destroyed after World War II and had just been sitting since. Instead of demolishing them, they created funky bars and nightclubs. We stepped in to Mazel Tov, which was more of a restaurant than a bar but it was GORGEOUS. We also stopped by Instant, which was epic with a tree in the middle but it was really early in the evening so nobody was there so we moved on. We wanted to visit the most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. They were having an art show in the downstairs area when we arrived. We grabbed a few beers and checked out the art and the funky building. This bar was HUGE! Every room was extremely different but so funky and fun! We’re talking baby doll heads on top of bowling pins, weird. We settled in a cute nook of a room upstairs and decided that we had one last Hungarian tradition we need to try before we left; shots of Unicum and Palinka. Everyone said we HAD to try it. We asked the bartender what flavor she recommended and said something disgusting like bubble gum so we certainly didn’t order that flavor. We went with something more mild like cherry but it was still disgusting. But we did it! When in Rome! Then we had a lovely drunk walk home with a stop for noodles. We learned that there’s a large Chinese population in Budapest because Hungary was the first European country to offer visa-free travel and easy immigration to the Chinese in the 80s and 90s, so there’s a lot of great Chinese food options in Budapest.
Tootles Budapest. Next stop… ITALY.