In October 2013 my photographer friends, Jona & Jerry, asked me to join them for Jona’s 30th birthday in Budapest. To be honest, I did not know them very well at the time but we knew that we absolutely had two things in common, a love for travel and photography. I looked at tickets that day and they were very modest European flight cost, $650 each. So I jumped on the opportunity to travel with them and a group of their friends. Budapest, while touristy to Europeans, seems to be less noticed by Americans which gave it a special charm. We were still exhausted from a red eye flight the first day of our arrival we still manage to eat amazing goulash from For Sale Pub, drink wine at Szimpla Kert, a ruins bar, and sing karaoke with locals at a bar we will never be able to find again. They sell carrots at the ruins bar, which is supposed to help with hangovers, I have yet to test this theory. We loved it so much that we decided to go back there during the end of our trip, during which, we were randomly interviewed for commentary about the bar by the Ukrainian television network 1+1.
We took the Big Bus to the citadella to see great views of Budapest (where the first photo was taken). We had dinner at the Citadella panorama, probably one of my favorite meals ever that I only have one horrible photo of, warm spinach salad with three 1 hour eggs and toasted banquette. After a side trip to Prague I got pretty sick and totally lost my voice for a few days so we took this opportunity to relax at the biggest thermal bath, Szechenyi thermal baths. The saunas and pools were great to heal my sore throat but given the opportunity I would have visited one of the other ones like Rudas or Csaszar Baths. We have also been to the best thermal bath of all time in Iceland, so we are a bit biased. We also went to the Hungarian state opera house to see the Flying Dutchman, for a classical music fan such as myself it was on top of my list to experience the opera house in eastern Europe. I only wish I had read a little more about the story before hand because the opera is all in German and was translated to Hungarian. I had no idea what was going on. Europeans also tend to update their operas with a ‘modern flair’ which made the story even more difficult to understand given the language barrier.
I really loved Budapest for the history, the sites, the food, the wine, and the price! Budapest is awesome, especially if you’re looking to experience Europe without spending a lot. Part of me hopes it gets more credit as a tourist destination location but part of me wants to keep it a secret so it won’t be spoiled. 🙂
Top Recommendations for Budapest :
Gelarto Rosa – it is close to the best gelato I have ever had, not to mention they make it pretty and put nutella at the bottom of the cone (per request).
Szechenyi thermal baths – I know it’s super touristy and in the cooler seasons it can be packed but considering we don’t have baths like this in the states, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Szimpla Kert – In the bar district of Budapest where many ruins were converted into bars and clubs. The bar is huge and likely one of the most popular. It has many different areas including an outdoor section filled with old cars, a wine bar, and even a girl that walks around selling carrots at night.
For Sale Pub – All the goulash and really cool vibes.
Kurtoskalacs – A butter sweet bread wrapped around a wooden stick of some sort baked and smothered in cinnamon, sugar, almonds, or a few other options. We called it a “dretzel” like a donut pretzel. You can find plenty of street vendors selling them.
Fröccs – It’s like a wine spritzer with more fruity wine, it’s perfect and refreshing. I really enjoy the wine in Hungary, especially the sparkling.
Heroes Square – (below) Total must of course. Try early in the morning. 🙂