We have come to love last minute adventures. Sunday night we found out that Brian had Monday and Tuesday off of practice, so Monday morning, to Budapest we went. I had never had a burning desire to travel here before, but my gosh I’m glad we did. They call it “The Paris of the East” but dare I say I liked it better than Paris? It was so enchanting, the people were so friendly, and I loved that there were “activities” to do during the day.
I love how gosh darn easy it is to travel over here. This seems to be a recurring theme for us when we travel- having less than a day to plan a trip to cities that have a lot going on how do you even begin to plan where to go. I ferociously stalk blogs and tour sites and wikipedia to find out the “must see” places, and improvise from there. Part of the fun is not having too much planned and just seeing where the city takes you. And sometimes, it takes you 26 miles on foot (ahem Paris).
From Brno (where we live), Budapest was only a 4.5 hour bus ride. We took Regio Jet which I would recommend for anyone traveling around Europe. It goes all around Europe and has wifi, movies and really comfy seats so ya girl can sleep the ride away. Not to mention you can book a ticket the day before you leave (depending on where you are going) for very reasonable prices. We got on the bus in the city center of Brno and it dropped us off about 15 minutes outside of downtown Budapest. At the station there was a line of cabs waiting to take people to the action of the city (only around an $8 cab ride and they all spoke English, praise for that).
My goodness the cab ride was stunning- around every corner there was a charming view and we were already in awe of this city within 3 minutes of getting there.
Our Air BnB was a block from the Parliament building so we got dropped off at Parliament, picked our jaws off the floor from the beauty of this building and found something to eat. Usually I like to have restaurants planned that I want to try, but we were so hangry that we stopped at one of the first places we saw, an Italian restaurant called Pizza Eataliano and carbed up for a day full of walking.
After checking into our apartment, the exploring commenced. One of the activities that came up on travel guide after travel guide was the thermal baths so we figured that was a must do (even though it semi-grossed me out…when in Rome, err Budapest, right?)
There are a few different baths but we decided on the Szechenyi Baths which a local told us was the best one to go to. We bought a package deal that included entrance into the baths, a cabin to change in and a ticket to a cocktail cruise later that night. You can get a ticket that lasts the entire day but we only stayed for a few hours cause ain’t nobody got time for that when you have limited time. Word to the wise, definitely bring flip flops (cause moist pool and shower floors- ew) and cash for drinks and snacks (they take HUF and/or Euro).
We made the rookie mistake of not bringing cash, so when hunger struck we wandered out to find food and found street food right across the street- Bri got a spicy sausage and I got a gyro. Some of the best parts of traveling are the tastes of new cities- a few unordinary meals ain’t gonna kill ya. So go ahead, revisit your college days, eat the street meat.
Next on the venture list was the cocktail cruise which sounds way more glam than it actually was, but I’ll look at this city from every angle possible. Just can’t get enough of it. The cruise was basically a boat ride down the Danube river and they told you about the history of the buildings. History lesson for ya, Budapest used to be two separate cities: Buda and Pest and in the late 1800’s they were united as one and built the Chain Bridge connecting the two.
We’re 20 year olds living in grandparent bodies, so it was bedtime for us after the cocktail cruise. The next morning we got up and walked to THE BEST breakfast place we have ever been to. Brian ranked it on his top five most favorite things in the world (right behind our niece). Without further ado, I introduce you to the Michelin recommended bistro 4 years in a row, Deryne Bistro.
We were greeted by an enchanting patio with string lights, vintage seating and a pastry house in the middle of the patio. Our waiter greeted us with fresh pressed juice, coffee and freshly baked bread from their in-house bakery. Did I mention their iced coffee had ice cream in it? Swoon. To all of the above.
Next up was Eggs Benedict. But not your average Eggs Benedict. This was set on a pile of crispy potato strings, pristinely poached eggs topped with hollandaise sauce and crispy onion rings. No surprise that Brian started singing “oooh heaven is a place on earth” mid-bite. When we were finished with that, our waiter came out with a tray full of their pastries for our choosing. You can’t make this stuff up.
Not only was it a beyond delicious meal, it was an exquisite experience. One that we never wanted to leave. And one that gave us the magical Paris feels that they speak of. But after likely overstaying our welcome and taking way too many pictures, it was time to go.
Wandering around aimlessly we came upon the most touristy part of Budapest- we were secretly really proud of ourselves that we hadn’t encountered it up until this point of the trip. Yet another view of this spectacular city, and again, not mad about it. She’s so photogenic.
Home of thousands of gift shop storefronts, the Matthias Church and stunning views, we got some pictures, and yes, a souvenir, and left. We usually try to stay away from the super touristy spots, especially when we have such limited time in a city we don’t want to waste it hanging out by Starbucks and tour buses.
The final destination on our list to hit was the Great Market Hall- for my Cbus peeps I would compare it to the North Market. Full of vendors ranging from produce to spices to meat and cheese to t-shirts. It’s not open on Sundays and vendors start shutting down in the afternoon so it was recommended to us by a local to not go any later than noon.
It was fun to explore and we got some delish fruit, but I wouldn’t put it as a must see in this enchanting city. If you have extra time, give it a whirl. If not, fear not you aren’t missing out on the best Budapest has to offer.
I’m always worried about what to wear to new cities, especially when you have to carry your belongings in a backpack most of the trip and do a lot of walking. The city was pretty casual, so I got away with wearing adidas the whole time which was a lifesaver walking around this magical place. Same outfit just a different shirt, 2 days in a row. And a bathing suit. Maybe throw in a selfie stick for good measure. And there you have your Budapest packing list!
You’re my favorite, Budapest. We’ll most definitely be back.