I landed in the capital promptly at 1PM, exhausted, but too excited to care. I immediately ambushed my fellow passengers as I darted for baggage claim. I tend to get a little impatient when I’m visiting a country for the first time – every second counts. After collecting my luggage and engaging in a quick “freshen up” session in the bathroom (by law, you have to always look your best when in Europe), I made my way to the hotel.
I’m so used to renting apartments while traveling through Europe that it was quite awkward to get back into the swing of hotel dwelling. Novotel Centrum made the transition flawless. The hotel is located on the Pest side of the city and a stones throw away from the bustling city center – perfect for those who like to be very close to the heart of all the action, but not directly in it. It’s easy to walk to most sites from the hotel and if you have the Budapest Card (highly recommended) you can use all public transportation for free until the card expires.
Like most European cities, it’s hard not to get lost in the architectural beauty that’s embedded on every corner. Budapest exudes fascination and artistry, but still maintains a sense of homeliness. I quickly picked up on the influence of Baroque architecture that I fell in love with while in Rome. The buildings, bridges, tunnels, and cafes boasted an eclectic taste that left me in a daze several times. The city is split into two major areas that’s divided by the beautiful Danube River, Buda and Pest. The Buda side is situated in the hills offering breathtaking views of Budapest, providing residential style living. The Pest side is more flat, housing the business district with ample shopping for the born fashionistas.
Beyond the beautiful monuments, Budapest is know for their medicinal thermal baths. It was refreshing to wake up each morning to the stinging sensations from the steam baths and the rough, but soothing massages. This made getting up at 6:30AM worth it every single day. I now like to call Budapest the “Spa Capital” of the world. There are countless pool halls, steam chambers, olympic size cold plunge pools, Roman influence saunas, and some of the best massages known to man. Below are my favorite spa/bath houses:
En route to Szechenyi, I recommend ditching city transportation for a stroll along Andrassy Avenue to the bath – it’s a straight shot. Here you’ll find stylish mansions, Budapest’s Grand Opera House, high end shopping, amazing eats, and you’ll eventually run into Heroes Square for a little history 101.
For those that truly know me, I’m one of the biggest foodies out there. Sometimes, I think I eat for entertainment. I was a little unsure how great the food would be in Budapest. Luckily, the food was quite tasty. I began wishing my stay was longer so that I could indulge just a little bit more. There were many restaurants left untouched by my dangerous appetite.
Some of my favorite spots that I highly recommend are:
Trofea Grill: All you can eat and drink (Champagne, wine, beer, soda – you name it) for a small price tag.
Wasabi: An all you can eat Sushi and Wok restaurant. I was overly obsessed with the conveyor belt style presentation.
Karma: Their bacon wrapped sirloin is to DIE for. Also, be advised that their Mai Tai’s are lethal. After a few sips, I passed out at the table for a solid 15 minutes! It was amazing though.
Peppers: Located along the Danube River, Peppers offers a bright red ambiance, live music, and an amazing bucket list of food to choose from.
Sziget Klub: Situated at the top of Margaret Island, the options are unlimited and the vibe along the terrace is quite thrilling. Be sure to show up on a Friday or Saturday night for their amazing cocktails.
Cafe Dumas: Out of all the places I’ve been to, this has to be my favorite cafe ever! The food is impeccable, the waitress was super friendly, and the layout was just perfect for a laid back day of blogging, sippin’ wine and relaxing.
Most people often think of places such as Paris or Rome for the ideal romantic getaway. I would like to add the Castle District to this thought pattern. The cobblestone streets, panoramic views of the Pest side of the city, winding streets, and intimate dining spots offers an exotic feeling that reminds you that you’re not in Kansas anymore :-). There are several ways to get to the Castle District. I recommend either the Funicular or hiking. If you’re not in the mood to walk and would rather not pay for the Funicular, you can take the bus. Once up top, there’s plenty to do. You can explore the Fisherman Bastion, walk the grounds of the Budapest Castle, watch the sunset at the view point terrace, or visit the Faust Wine Cellar.
FAUST WINE CELLAR
I love, Love, LOVE this place! It was an amazing experience and a night to remember. The owner, Gabor, is such an genuine lad and the selection of wines were a hit. The food, paprika chicken over dumplings, an assortment of cheese (Hungarian cream cheese is frickin’ delicious), Hungarian scones, and a slice of Eszterhazy cake, will leaving you wanting more. The service is impeccable. I highly recommend you take part in this if you’re in Budapest. It’s affordable and truly a great experience. My favorite was the Mori Sauvignon Blanc!
Another great area worth visiting is Margaret Island. You can easily take a boat or walk across Chain Bridge to the island. Once there, the options for entertainment are endless. After walking the grounds for about an hour, I decided to hop on a bike/4 person cart (that I graciously fell out of) and capture the remaining beauty of the island. There’s a signing fountain, restaurants are plentiful, a magnificent Rose garden, and Platinus Beach. Although referred to as a beach, Plantinus is a massive water park with 5 different pools and a thrilling water slide. Luckily for me, the days I went were slightly chilly and attracted less people. Perfect!
I’m completely obsessed with nature and I love hiking. Since my arrival in Budapest, I’ve been eying Gellert Hill and was eager to hike it. Well, I should have kept my ass at street level and stayed the hell out of that hill. I’m not sure what came over me, but I thought it would be wise to gamble with some locals in a game of “guess which cup has the ball.” Long story short, I lost $80 messing with those fools. I’ve since learned gambling isn’t for me, and with that said, I digress.
I’m thoroughly satisfied with my experiences in Budapest. All the charms that goes with this city enhances it’s appeal – there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I’m proud to add Hungary to the Vagabonding Club. Until next time, cheers to the Vagabonding life and keep on living!