April 20, 2018 – April 22, 2018
Because of my tardiness in writing my blog post about our trip to Marrakech/Portugal (still in progress…), I’ve decided to try something new and start writing the Budapest post while on the plane back to Amsterdam. We’ll see how this goes.
Normally, I prefer Western European countries over the eastern ones. I can attribute it mainly to the fact that the Eastern European countries tend to have diets heavy in meat, which I generally try to avoid. Maybe also because they tend to drink a lot of beer and not the craft variety. And lastly because the ones we have been to are not on the Euro and it’s too hard to do the math to see how much a beer is going to cost (but also oppositely super cool to carry around 10,0000 bills).
Budapest changed my opinion of what Eastern Europe has to offer, and I can say I truly enjoyed the city. Also, the weather was incredible which always helps.
Unfortunately, it was a short trip to Budapest since I cannot take any vacation days during the quarter close (accounting problems), and we flew out late Friday night and returned Sunday afternoon. We made the most of the short trip, however, by immediately meeting our friends out at the bar upon our arrival on Friday night.
I have a coworker who is from Budapest, and she gave me a few recommendations of the hip spots to see, so upon her recommendation we checked out a ruin bar called Szimpla Kert. Ruin bars are built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, and apparently this one was the original and all others have copied it. The building was literally falling down around the big courtyard in the center.
When it opened, the owners invited all of the neighbors to bring whatever they wanted to get rid of to decorate the bar. There’s everything from old chairs and couches, to gnomes, bikes, an old communist car, a bathtub, and a huge dinosaur statue. It could seem, tacky especially with all of the random lights, but I thought it kind of worked. They also have Hookah to smoke if that’s your thing. We enjoyed a few beers with our friends, but didn’t make it too late since Saturday was really our only day to explore the city.
Saturday started off with the usual 10 am (or 10:30am in this case) walking tour, which has become somewhat of a joke in our friend group since it’s our go to activity. Budapest has two sides, Buda and Pest which are split in the middle by the Danube river. We stayed on the Pest (pronounced more like pesh than Pest) side which has more of the nightlife and hotels. The Buda side is on a hill and has the castle, several baths, and even the Hungarian “Statue of Liberty”.
The tour started off in Pest and we learned about the local cuisine (various types of meat) and drinks (palinka), while walking towards the river. The views to Buda were really beautiful since that area has more greenery and hills as well as the palace.
There are several bridges that connect the two areas, but the most beautiful one is the chain link bridge, inspired by the Tower Bridge in London. While we were still in Pest, we walked around in a few circles and saw the St. Stephen’s Basilica. St. Stephen was the first ruler of Hungary 1000 years ago and the people really like him. The basilica was built only 100 years ago, but is made to look older. We learned that pretty much all the buildings were built in the last 100 years and before that it used to be an agricultural area.
We also walked around in a few parks and saw a few fountains. There was one area where there was a big pool in the middle of a grassy area and apparently the pool is on top of an underground bar. So when you’re at the bar you can look up and feel like you’re underwater.
The tour was kind of a snooze fest, but we stuck with it as we crossed the chain link bridge into Buda and then peaced out to do our own sight seeing.
From Buda, you can see the beautiful parliament building on the rivers edge. We sat in the shade admiring it for a while before heading back to Pest for some lunch.
Right by our hotel in Erzsebet Square, there was a market (kind of reminded me of Christmas market) with lots of open air food options and small shops. We sampled some local favorites like chicken goulash in a pita and this fluffy doughy pancake looking thing called Langos that had cottage cheese and regular cheese on it. Both were delicious.
I would highly recommend our next decision, which was to head to the river to have cocktails on a boat. The particular one we went to was called Spoon the Boat, and we got to sit at the helm of the boat in these cool captains chairs. The Aperol spritz were phenomenal and they also brought out a bar cart of different palinka flavors to try.
I’ve been there done that in Romania and didn’t enjoy it, so I passed, but the group had the peach/apricot flavor which everyone seemed to enjoy. The weather was so great and the views of both sides of the river only added to the positive experience.
Because we enjoyed the ruin bar so much the night before, we went back once more to see what it looked like during the day. I think I preferred it during the day because you could really appreciate all of the random things gracing the walls. We grabbed some food at food trucks nearby and all headed home to get ready for the S’party.
On our way back to the hotel, Tyler and I ended up marching in a parade in protest of the current president. We didn’t really know what was going on and it was the only way back to our hotel, but I guess we still marched!
The most important event of the trip was the bath party, or S’party. On Saturday nights during the summer, the spa has a DJ and you can basically go clubbing in a huge hot tub with 100’s of other people. After I got over the fact that I had to walk around barefoot and could possibly contract a foot fungus, I really enjoyed it. We got the VIP package that included drinks and a locker storage which was vital since we were in our bathing suits.
My first impression of the party was that it was kind of a sausage fest, tons of dudes, and a few bachelorette parties. There were also people who did acro yoga while twirling fire batons, which was actually pretty entertaining. The pools were maybe a little too hot and I spent the evening alternating between getting in the pool, getting too hot, getting out of the pool, getting a beer, getting too cold, getting back in the pool, all night. At the end I realized I could sit on one of the steps and be half in and half out of the water with just the right temperature. The S’party was pretty fun, but maybe not totally my scene. I would have enjoyed going to the baths during the day for a more relaxing experience.
On Sunday we slept in and headed to the airport after waking up, wishing we had another full day to explore everything the city has to offer. Maybe we’ll be back.
Kempinski hotel – a nice 5 start hotel where Michael Jackson once stayed. It was reasonably priced when we booked it.
Otherwise, I’d also recommend staying in the Jewish quarter near the synagogue because there are a lot of restaurants and bars over there and it feels a bit more authentic and less touristy.
Szimpla Kert – the coolest ruin bar, please go here
Warm Up Cocktail Bar – had really good cocktails, but only go here if you’re in no hurry whatsoever and don’t mind waiting an hour for a round of drinks for 8 people. Actually, I’m not really sure I could in good faith recommend this place.
Spoon the Boat – bar on a boat with really good cocktails and views of both sides of the river
Szechenyi Thermal Bath – for a night DJ party or also during the day for a more relaxing experience
River cruise – either a night cruise or one with wine tasting. We did not have time to do this, but our friends who arrived the day before us did and enjoyed it so much they said they would do it again when we were there.
Hop on hop off tour – our friends did the hop off bus and it allows you to see more of the city in a shorter period of time than just walking around. If we would have done this we could have gone up to the top of the hill on the Buda side.