Brightened, Balanced, and Blissful in Budapest
The end of 2014 was not a great time for me. The holidays were fast approaching and with them brought a big move based on significant life changes. I met a dear friend in the pub for a drink, both of us were feeling pretty rotten at the time and after one too many wines we decided spontaneously that we needed to get away. We pulled out our calendars, contacted our girlies to see if anyone could afford a few days away in a week's time (one could), and then got to searching. We knew we wanted someplace new for both of us, cheap, and relatively near. Budapest ticked all the boxes and by the end of the day, I felt rejuvenated knowing that a new destination was right around the corner.
Tayah's Tip: No preference on location, just want to get away soon? Most budget airlines stock great deals, you just have to do the research. We found an awesome bargain via Easy Jet. The flights were on offer and once we locked those down, we decided to include a hotel via that booking. There were lots to choose from ranging in price but we ended up going for a nice hotel with strong reviews, and most importantly, it was right in the centre of town, got to be in the thick of it!
Budapest, ended up being the perfect destination for this much needed get-away for these reasons:
Exploration: it's beautiful, full of architectural masterpieces to discover.
Exhilaration: Supercool nightlife for the recently single me.
Relaxation: two words: Bath houses!
Oh and in terms of European city standards, it's super resonable!
So Budapest was originally two cities: Buda and Pest, split down the middle by the Danube River. Head to the hills of Buda to see some of the historical gems: Castle Hill, the Royal Palace which is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, and my favorite Fisherman's Bastion, because of its whimsical architecture, such fun to frolic from tower to tower.
Not to mention this whole area serves for some great panorama views of the plains of Pest including the neo-gothic Parliament Building.
And regardless of where you are staying in the city, please make sure you cross over the Chain Bridge, which was the first connecting these two cities as one.
I am a big believer in getting lost in a city, but Budapest is actually really easy to navigate through. Don’t get me wrong, you can build up a sweat on the cobble stone hills of Buda but Pest is flat. The metro is really simple to follow with just 4 lines interconnected with 5 railway lines and will help when jumping across the city from bath house to bath house. Trust me you will be too relaxed to want to move energetically. There are many ticket options that span the different modes of transport that you can choose from depending on your time in the city but just remember to validate before getting on the metro, tram, or bus as if you get caught, there will be fines. (Unless you like to live dangerously)!
Another great way to see the city is a hop on and off bus, now I don’t do this in many cities I'm visiting but after a crazy night out getting back to our hotel at 7am we did not want to waste our day...so after a few hours of shut eye, we jumped on a bus. Looking at the route, we decided the imperative stops. For instance a much needed coffee or dare I say, hair of the dog at New York Cafe, which recently celebrated its 120th birthday. And they give you a free postcard and will post it for you too!
For the rest of the tour, we sat back and took in the sights. There are plenty of companies stationed in an around Deak Ferenc Ter, the main metro hub, with reasonal pricing plus coupon books for attractions.
I have to admit that I wasn’t anticipating the amount of stunning buildings and bridges, that are truly all over the city and what is remarkable is how they are lit up at night. It's breathtaking, no wonder it is referred to as the Paris of the east. So you must see the city by night and a great way to do that is by getting on one of the dinner, or party cruises or if that's too much for you then have drinks or a meal on one of the stationary boats restaurants overlooking Castle Hill.
Tayah's Take: Skip the Goulash but you must try the Hungarian Street food Lángos. If you have read any of my other posts, you know I can always be found at a market, so have a wander down the main pedestrian street Váci Utca passing the tourist shops and restaurants to get to the Central Market Hall. The produce (be sure to pick up some Paprika), crafts, and homemade Hungarian kitsch is as far as the eye can see. Then find a stall selling this delicious dish. It is basically a deep fried flat bread that is topped with either savory or sweet toppings. Get both and experience a moment of culinary heaven.
Budapest is a happening city, the bars are full, the dance floors are jumping, and the drinks are flowing...cheaply from my pocket! The place not to miss: Simpla Kert. It was the original ruin-style bar opened in a dilapidated building in the VII district and its like nothing I have ever been to before! Winding rooms full of the weird and the wonderful, pop up bars, and Hookah/Shisha smoke, you must experience this place and the world of ruin-style bars!
Onto the bath houses, what can I say? If I haven't convinced you yet to get to Budapest (FYI: its called the city of baths), they surely will. Everyone: men, women, and children will love this experience. Budapest is the only capital city left that is full of thermal waters and some of the bath houses date back to the 16th century. We tried three out, one for each day!
Absolutely massive, I mean just look at this outside pool! There are 18 pools in total, plenty of saunas and steam rooms varying in temperatures and you can even play chess while bathing in medicinal waters-what fun!
A beautiful Turkish bath, if you love a relaxing and calm spa atmosphere, this one is most definitely for you! Its been around since the 16th century and the octagonal architecture is a must see.
Built in the early part of the 20th century, Gellért is ornate, grand, and elegant. Roman-style columns line the main pool and I couldn't quite get over the Art Nouveau architecture.
All are incredibly reasonable ranging from 3 100 Ft to 5 500 Ft depending on day, time, and spa. Remember to bring Hungarian Forint as many cashiers won't accept Euros!
Another nighttime activity? Many are open at night and some offer bath parties that go on all night long!
Tayah's Tip: Don't forget your towel, flip flops, and a shower cap for some of the swimming pools and remember to book right away if you fancy a spa treatment!
I knew I needed to get away and Budapest ended up being exactly where I needed to go: it brightened my spirits, balanced my centre, and made me euphorically blissful. I implore you to discover this gem of a city!