We landed in Budapest on a bright September day. The coldness of London was long forgotten as we exited our cramp RyanAir flight and stretched out into the fresh and warm central-European air. After a quick taxi into town, we dumped our bags at our stunning AirBnB and set off exploring.
We soon found our way up to 360 Bar, which is a beautiful rooftop bar near Oktogon. It was the perfect place to watch the sunset and celebrate the start of our weekend away for Ellie’s 30th.
As well as the delicious (and reasonably priced) cocktails and stunning views over the city, the bar played chilled house music which meant for a cool and chic but welcoming vibe. We loved it!
After wandering home we got changed and headed out for dinner. Eventually we ended up at ÉS Bisztró in the middle of town. A Hungarian/Viennese bistro specialising in grills, burgers, and traditional fayre. I had the duck and goat’s cheese burger which was absolutely delicious! A combination I’ve never thought of before but it really works. The salty cheese cuts through the rich duck beautifully. The staff were super friendly and a band was playing through the restaurant. It was really fun and I would recommend it for a chilled evening meal.
The next day we did some more exploring to the Central Market and wandered along the Danube to take in its restorative properties (allegedly!). After a lovely lunch and cake at Anna Café we finally headed to the spa, something we’d all be looking forward to.
We chose to go to Széchenyi thermal baths which is probably the most popular and famous of the spas in Budapest. It has 21 pools, four of which are outside and the ones we spent most of our time in.
The spa did not disappoint (apart from the comically pissed off reception staff). I would recommend opting for a cabin, it’s basically a private changing room where you can leave your things, it’s a pretty cheap upgrade and gives you peace of mind about your stuff. The outdoor pools are filled with jets and pumps, ready to work out the knots in your shoulders, and delightfully warm water that feels like you’re sinking into a hot bath. The crowd was a great mix of locals and tourists, a fascinating place to people watch! It was just the best afternoon.
On to dinner. We went to a gorgeous Italian restaurant called Trattoria Toscana which was one of the most delicious meals we had in Budapest. The staff were fantastic and surprised my friend with sparkler-topped dessert and limoncello shots as we sung her Happy Birthday.
After dinner we trotted into town to find another rooftop bar, this time St. Andrea’s. A chic cocktail bar which overlooks the city. I had the Ichi-go ichi-e, pictured, which was unique and delicious: gin, cherry blossom vermouth, and green tea syrup with cherry – heaven!
After that, things got messy as we headed into the main strip. We found a fun Hungarian club called Brooklyn where it was Latin night! Cue a lot of gin and a lot of dancing whilst hanging out with the locals; a really fun party night out.
Our final day in Budapest led us to Buda Castle which offers stunning views of the Danube, Chain Bridge and the city beyond. With our slightly fuzzy heads we trekked up the hill and once at the top, we felt an awful lot better. Home to the Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery and the National Széchényi Library there is something for everyone here. For a gentler approach, like us, simply take some time to reflect, breathe deeply and gaze over this remarkable city.
We wandered further along the river to the moving memorial of the second world war: the Shoes on the Danube Bank. “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45” reads the plaque beside the shoes but the real horror of the story is not explained. Over a period of four months, 10,000–15,000 Jews from Hungary were shot on the banks of the Danube by the militiamen of the fascist government in power at the time. They were ordered to remove their shoes before they were murdered.
The parliament building looks over the memorial and I like to think, serves as a reminder to those in power of the capabilities of humans.
For our final dinner in Budapest we pushed the boat out and headed to the Four Seasons. As you’d expect the service was as fantastic as the food and Ellie was surprised with another sparkler dessert (these seem to be a thing in Budapest!). It was a brilliant end to a brilliant weekend in Budapest.
Budapest is a fascinating city with an interesting past: I’d recommend this summary on budapest.com for an overview of its history. Everyone we met was friendly (except the receptionist at the spa!) and welcoming. I felt so safe and respected, it really was fantastic and I can’t wait to go back.